I grew up in Buenos Aires, Argentina in a tight-knit Jewish community from Syria. Some, like my father and his family, emigrated directly from Syria to Argentina; others, like my mother’s family, emigrated to England before going to Argentina; even others came from Egypt, Lebanon, and Turkey. Wherever they came from, they all brought with them the Jewish-Syrian culture of their ancestors. We ate Arabic food, listened to Arabic music, and spoke Arabic mixed with Spanish, French, and English. But we all prayed in Hebrew.
In that community, a girl like me was not bat mitzvah, did not go to college, or have a career. I did what was expected of me: I married a boy from the community. But by age 36, I was divorced and living in California. It was the time that the civil rights and women’s movements were in full swing. Needless to say, I joined the marches and rallies for equal rights (women’s right to education, employment, sports, and so on), became the first coordinator of NOW (National Organization for Women) in Santa Monica, and helped create one of the first women’s seders.
In the early 1970s, when I was driving down Wilshire Boulevard in Santa Monica, I saw a bumper sticker on the car in front of me that read “Question Authority.” Those two words did for me what the burning bush did for Moses: they changed my perception of reality. I began to ask myself: What authority asserted that I could not be bat mitzvah, could not attend college nor have a career simply because I was female?
For years I had fought and struggled for other women’s rights, not my own; “Question Authority” changed the course of my life. I went to college, received a degree in ancient Near East Studies, and turned my dissertation into a book, Sarah the Priestess. I was invited to teach all over the country, in synagogues, women’s groups, and universities. I was at the height of my career – but also about to turn 60 years of age, nowhere near my idea of retirement.
I felt I still needed to participate in that part of Jewish ritual that had been denied me as a woman. In lieu of a bat mitzvah, I decided to create a rite of passage to celebrate the beginning of the last phase of my life, rather than the end of it. I called the ritual Simchat Hochmah (the Joy of Wisdom). The ceremony reflected events in the life of the Matriarch Sarah but also included my leading a Shabbat morning service, embracing the Torah scroll, reading from the Torah, and wearing a tallit (prayer shawl). I also changed into a kittel (white robe used as a shroud) during the ceremony because I wanted to acknowledge that I was on the journey to the end of my life. Since that time I have written and lectured on women in the Bible as well as about the importance of leading a vital and fulfilling old age.
My Simchat Hochmah became the template for women’s eldering ceremonies all over the country, so much so that, 14 years later (2000), a documentary called “Timbrels and Torahs” was released at the Jewish Film Festival in San Francisco that recorded some of the ceremonies that women had created during that period.
Savina Teubal was an accomplished biblical scholar and the founding president of Sarah’s Tent: Sheltering Creative Jewish Spirituality. Sarah’s Tent is an organization that offers Shabbat dinners, retreats, classes, and holiday festivities such as Pesach seders and Rosh Chodesh gatherings. With Rabbi Drorah Setel and prominent Jewish singer/songwriter Debbie Friedman, Teubal created the Simchat Hochmah (“Joy of Wisdom”) ceremony, which celebrates the rite of passage from adult to elder. The ceremony is based on biblical stories and includes a blessing, a name change, tree-planting, a covenant, and acceptance of mortality. Teubal offers do–it–yourself guidance for women who want to perform this ceremony. She has written articles for numerous magazines, as well as published innovative works on women in Genesis, including: Sarah the Priestess: the First Matriarch of Genesis and Ancient Sisterhood: Lost Traditions of the Matriarchs.
How to cite this page
Jewish Women's Archive. "Savina Teubal." (Viewed on June 3, 2023) <https://jwa.org/feminism/teubal-savina>.
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Predating the "his"toric period, the Goddess Hathor was associated with
all aspects of fertility and motherhood as "she welcomes the unborn into
the next life". With some observation, we notice Hathor's infundibulum
or uterine tube looking ears, how some are banded for birth control. Her
necklace seem to indicate the end of the cervix. The contouring leg
shaped hair and the fundus looking hairline all clearly suggest that
Hathor was a pre-dynastic anthropomorph of the female reproductive
system.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J0m0zJSEFK0 --- It's undeniable
and observable that the birthing process of both the physical and the
spiritual have their experience through the Goddess or Mother. The
founding religious patriarchs were, in truth, practicing "matriarchal"
spirituality (direct spirituality regardless of gender), which is the
trans-personal awakening process known as "baptism"; a re-birthing of
our divine nature... a union with Consciousness source... from within. -
Nicodemus asked. “Surely they cannot enter a second time into their
mother’s womb to be born!” Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no
one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the
Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the spirit gives birth to spirit
- John 3:4. --- As above so below/as within so without, the womb of
womankind reminds the observer of the sacred feminine Creator quality
and as re-birthing temple setting within. --- The snake and woman
connection is also worth clarifying. The snake or serpent is the
simplest natural form to denote the threefold process of a beginning, a
gradually diminishing middle and a tail end... better known as a Cycle.
When it comes to ancient sacred art, matriarchal spirituality was and
always will be the most high because like the woman (to be mother), she
has everything to do with the direct experiencing of birthing, or in a
spiritual sense, the re-birthing (baptism) of the divine self from
within. Her most high position within the snake's de-evolutionary
matrilineal Cycle is at the head.. the opening.. the beginning.. the
Genesis (Gnosis). The patriarchal experience (regardless of gender) is
indirect and deals more specifically with the closing.. tail end Cycle
of faith based beliefs (End Time prophesies), written accounts (The Word
of God... the Father) of the birthing/re-birthing matriarchal
experience. --- Deep within our gnostic/wombcentric ancestry, Goddess
Sekhmet still stands today as a timeless reminder of high matriarchal
spirituality. The visible lioness bust along with the less visible
reptile bust (ears becoming eyes and eyes becoming nostrils) are the two
predators of choice reminding us of the death fear transcendence
associated with trans-egoic illumination. Under the egg halo crown, the
sanctity of both Set and Setting is expressed through the lioness's
internal egg fertilization process (Mind Set) while the reptile's
external egg fertilization process (Setting) are paramount when
plant-inducing a baptism ceremony. The leg shaped hair which end at the
breasts artistically encapsulates a superimposition of feminine
qualities all for the re-birthing of the self. --- Ganesha (elephant
headed deity of wisdom) was an ancient Hindu symbol of high matriarchal
spirituality. In the elephant kingdom, the Matriarchs lead the way and
are at the hub of a complex, multilayered social network carrying with
them a treasure trove of crucial information for the sake of the
well-being and success of the family. It seems not only fitting to have
chosen the elephant as representative of a once high society, but also
to assume that this is where we get our word Gnosis (direct experiential
knowledge) from. If we were born under the Genesis of the Father, it is
so we can be reborn through the Gnosis of the Mother.