Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Barbie's Dilemma?

As much as I love the Tefillin Barbie photos from my last post, I wonder if she has the same dilemma I face as a Jewish woman who follows the positive time bound mitzvot (TBM), such as wearing tallit and tefillin.

Traditionally, women are exempt from TBM. In many Orthodox and even some Conservative communities that women are basically forbidden to perform the TBM, along with davening and chanting Torah. For a great scholarly explanation on why this is not halachically correct, check out Danya Ruttenberg's post "I am postive that my time is bound by mitzvot"

But for me the dilemma is about feeling at times that I am an outcast in my own religion. Yes, I'm lucky to live in this day and age when there are many places where women who follow TBM are welcome. I belong to a very traditional Conservative synagogue which is completely egalitarian. I wouldn't have returned to the practice of Judaism without this community. And there are many such communities of varying denominations in the San Francisco Bay Area where I live.

Yet there are times I hear of different learning or davening opportunities that sound wonderful, but I know that I will not be welcomed. If it's a morning minyan, I will be an outcast as I start to put on my tefillin. If it's a Shabbat service, I will be an outcast as I put on my tallit. If it's a class, I will be placed in a separate section not close to the action, just because I am a woman.

Sometimes, I can just say "screw it," I have my community and I can concentrate on all the places I can go. Other times, this discrimination makes me sad.

One good piece of news is that there is now a listserve for women who follow TBM. If you're interested, you can click here to join.

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