An Alternate View on Women Dancing with the Torah

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Sometimes, I feel normal; sometimes I feel so separate. I am part of a silent group…perhaps the majority; perhaps a minority. No one knows. Perhaps, no one wants to know. And so, I offer a different view – perhaps not a popular one. Certainly one that many women keep buried deep inside rather than risk the anger, disappointment, and even insults of others.

I am deeply in love with a book/scroll/body of knowledge known as the Torah. The wisdom, the beauty, the integrity, the lessons learned. It is timeless. It is everything. In it our past is chronicled and so is our present and our future. Many of our names are there…perhaps in one form or another, all of them are there. You could learn it 120 years and still now learn all it has to teach you.

It was a gift given by God to the People of Israel and though others try to claim it, it remains eternally ours.

And yet, I don’t care about dancing with the Torah. I have no emotional need to do so. Really, I don’t need a man to hear me sing or see me wave a lulav in his face. More, I don’t need a man to enable my davening. And most importantly, I am not less when he is more; nor is he less when I am more. We are equal but different in the eyes of God…that is what I believe.

Daily, I know that I have that which I must do and it is enough. And if we were to place his mitzvot on the table and mine there as well, you would quickly see how lucky I am. Mine are everything. The future comes from me, from the womb and the heart God gave to me. I held our children, nurtured them before they were born, before he could help shape them…I still do.

What do I care of myrtle and palm and willow or how high is the wall that separates men and women? Nothing separates me from God and only God can make me feel less.

I don’t want to join a women’s minyan or hear a woman reading from the Torah and I certainly don’t want to be obligated to put on tefillin every day…OMG, no.

A man needs to daven three times a day. How many of the woman who demanded the right to dance with a Torah on Simchat Torah daven three times a day? Some do, most don’t. How do I know? I know because I know women on both sides of this huge emotional divide. And I will tell you that the vast majority of women aren’t ready to obligate themselves to the chores/tasks/obligations while still demanding the reward.

My feed was filled with women praising or cursing their Simchat Torah experience. Each presents a viewpoint, one that I don’t share. Many started with complaints. The men didn’t let them do this…or they were <only> allowed to do that. And after reading each viewpoint, I ask the simplest of questions, “Can you only dance with joy if you are holding a Torah?”

Most years, I go to a synagogue [shul] on all the chagim [high holidays and as much as possible on Shabbat]. And there, I listen as others read the Torah and let the words enter my soul.  Quietly, I speak with God (and as you can see, He answers me). With complete faith, I believe that when I talk, He listens. I sing and feel Him singing with me.

This year, I have missed all the chagim. I didn’t make it to shul even once.

On Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, I sat with my two of my lovely daughters – one by birth, one by choice…

Then, on Sukkot, I sat with my daughter and watched two of my grandchildren )children of the one by choice), who were in the hospital with their new baby girl, my granddaughter.

On Hoshana Raba, I sat beside my daughter as she brought twin girls into our family. Three babies within weeks; blessings that fill my life with such joy. For all these occasions, there was no mechitza and I prayed when I could. Happily, I sang in my heart and in my soul. Just before sunset, I lit candles in the hospital, helped a young mother say the prayers over the candles. Mostly, I thought about what I had, not what I didn’t. I thought about what I could, not about what I couldn’t. I looked out to view the beautiful hills that surround Jerusalem, and I davened very little.

It’s true – I didn’t hear them finish reading the Torah this year and I didn’t watch as they started it again.

But I have no doubt that the prayers I barely had time to say are more not less and most important, they are enough. Nowhere am I commanded to dance with the Torah…who would have had time?

This is the ultimate power of women. This moment more than any other. Why do I need more? Why do I need other? And really, why would I be more complete if I had danced with a Torah rather than with my new granddaughters?

Ultimately, I had a wonderful Simchat Torah in the hospital, holding the girls one by one, watching them and thanking Hashem for the miracle of these new babies.

Honestly, I’m sorry if you feel less or if you believe others make you feel less…but rather than blame them, why not look inside of you? Why not take back the power to feel more if that’s what you need?

Yes, I really know women who refuse to go to shul because the mechitza is this way or that way. And each time, I restrain myself from asking – Are you praying to God or to the men? If you are praying to God, do you believe He is more on the men’s side than on the women’s side?

Do you think God looks and says – “that man danced with the Torah for 10 minutes and that one only 3…and so I’ll bless the man who danced for 10 minutes more”?

I do not understand.

It’s nice to dance with the Torah? Maybe. But who do you think gets more “points” in heaven…the one who dances with the Torah, the one who studies it, or the one who lives it?

Live it to show your love. One of my young grandsons complained because the piece he had received was less than the piece his brother received. Don’t look at his plate, my daughter told him gently…look at what you have. Look at what you have – that is the essence here. What a good parent should say; what a good person should believe.

Hate-Mailer Response

So what’s my view on this whole issue: Stop looking on the other side of the mechitza. You have things they will never have, things they can never do. They can daven and dance with the Torah. But OMG, we can hold in our bodies the future of the nation, of the people. We can mold them, teach them, love them.

Yes, their fathers should help with some of those things and I’m sure they do…but it is in our bodies that they are nurtured. What do I care about how see-through the mechitza is when what I really need to view is right here beside me.

The power of women is incredible – and women can have it all…maybe not all at once or maybe yes…but OMG, why do you have to make yourself less by hinging your actions to theirs, to their dreams, obligations when we have so many of our own.

Look at what you have. That was what I did on Simchat Torah and for all, I thank Hashem…for the blessings of being too busy with my husband, my family – children and grandchildren to miss or even care about dancing with the Torah.

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One Comment

  1. Esther Revivo

    Absolutely magnificent, Paula. This sums it up: “The power of women is incredible – and women can have it all…maybe not all at once or maybe yes…but OMG, why do you have to make yourself less by hinging your actions to theirs, to their dreams, obligations when we have so many of our own…..Look at what you have.” BRAVO!

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