Monday, April 22, 2013

She is Bat Yisrael

She is Bat Yisrael, a Daughter of Israel. She is representative of every Jewish woman, living and dead and not yet born.

Bat Yisrael was the Jewish women of yesterday, the women who influenced the future of Judaism. She was the Matriarchs, giving future women the strength to uphold God’s word. She was at Mount Sinai to receive the Torah, whether in person or in spirit. She was the women documented in the Prophets and Writings, as well as every woman forgotten by male-dominated history. Bat Yisrael was every woman who has shaped the rich past of the Jewish people, whether a revolutionary like Sarah Schenirer or an average Jewish housewife dedicated to taking care of her family. She was called Bas Yisroel in the dark ghettos of Eastern Europe, Bat Yisra’el in the lush kibbutzim of Israel. It doesn’t matter how you say her name. All that matters is that she has one.

She is the Jewish women of today, from rabbis leading Reform congregations from the pulpit to Hasidic rebbetzins leading their communities’ women from the sidelines. She is secular, Haredi, Reconstructionist, Modern Orthodox, post-denominational, and everything in between. Her clothing adheres to the strictest interpretations of tzniut (modesty) and she wears a bikini top and denim cutoffs. She lives in the ultra-Orthodox enclave of New Square and the predominantly Protestant fields of Kansas and in the secular neighborhoods of Tel Aviv. She prays fervently at the Western Wall, skirt swaying in rhythm with her body, and she wears traditionally male tefillin (phylacteries) and tallit (prayer shawl) while she prays with Women of the Wall. She eats from the fruit of her hands; sometimes that fruit is triple-washed to get rid of all the non-kosher bugs, and sometimes it is not.

She is the Jewish women of tomorrow, those that will continue time-honored traditions and add their own, pray the prayers that the Sages wrote and add their own heartfelt requests to their Creator. She will delve into the sacred texts and create new interpretations, discover that Judaism is truly a timeless religion. She will be able to accomplish so many things that modern-day Jewish women (and men) are not able to even dream of.
She is Bat Yisrael because she is both woman and Jew. Call it an accident of birth, call it a God-given mission; it doesn’t matter. Her status as Jew and her status as woman qualify her as Bat Yisrael. Regardless of her practice, the title of Bat Yisrael cannot be taken from her. You can try, but you won’t succeed. The Egyptians tried to enslave her. The Greeks tried to assimilate her. The Spanish tried to expel and burn her. The Nazis tried to exterminate her. None of them succeeded. And neither will you. Because she is Bat Yisrael.

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