Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Reclaiming our Stories

היום אחד וארבעים ארבעים יומים שהם חמשה שבועות וששה יומים לעמר
Today is the forty-first day of the omer - five weeks and six days
יסוד שביסוד

A day of foundation in a week of foundation

This weekend, feeling the approach of Shavuot, I read some poems and essays from the anthology Reading Ruth: Contemporary Women Reclaim a Sacred Story. In her essay "Growing Up and Older with Ruth," Sylvia Rothchild mentions that her grandmother would sit in the women's balcony of her Williamsburg, Brooklyn shul, ". . . praying loudly, to help the women around her who couldn't read." Reading that, my mind jumped to Maggie Anton's Rashi's Daughters books in which Rashi's mother, wife, and daughters served that same role in their shul, leading the women in prayer. And then, it hit me.....

For years I've been saying that in a former life, my soul lived as a yeshiva bucher--a yeshiva student. Of course, I had to be a male--there were no women equivalents, as far as I knew. But now I see where I was within my Eastern-European Jewish community. I was one of those women like Rothchild's grandmother and Rashi's mother, wife, daughters. I was the women who lead the others in prayer. I sang loudly, sharing the spirit within me through the melodies.

And so, through my study of Ruth I reclaim my own sacred story. The mantle of the yeshiva bucher never felt quite right, but it was the only place I could go. Now I can feel the flow of my maternal ancestors within me as I continue to share my spirit through prayer.

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