Thursday, November 4, 2010

Women in Prayer: Part 10, Shemoneh Esrei

Traditional prayer has been criticized by feminists as being male-centric. They’re right; prayer is dominated by mentions of the Patriarchs and mitzvot (commandments) that only apply to men. However, it can be easily be reclaimed by women and turned into a feminist connection to God.

Sound the Great Shofar for our freedom, raise the banner to gather our exiles and gather us together from the four corners of the earth. Blessed are You, God, Who gathers in the dispersed of the people Israel.

תְּקַע בְּשׁוֹפָר גָּדוֹל לְחֵרוּתֵֽנוּ, וְשָׂא נֵס לְקַבֵּץ גָּלֻיּוֹתֵֽינוּ, וְקַבְּצֵֽנוּ יַֽחַד מְהֵרָה מֵאַרְבַּע כַּנְפוֹת הָאָֽרֶץ לְאַרְצֵֽנוּ. בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְיָ, מְקַבֵּץ נִדְחֵי עַמּוֹ יִשְׂרָאֵל

This brakha, identified as Kibbutz Galiot, prays that the Jews should be speedily restored to their homeland, Israel. Jews can only reach their full potential when living in Israel. “If that concentration of the cunningest brains in the world were going to be made in a free country (bar Scotland), I think it would be politic to stop it. It will not be well to let the race find out its strength. If the horses knew theirs, we should not ride any more,” Mark Twain wrote in his essay "Concerning the Jews."

Throughout the women’s movement’s history, there have been dozens of splits within feminist organizations. The American Equal Rights Association (AERA), created in 1866, split in 1869 into the National Woman Suffrage Association (NWSA) and American Woman Suffrage Association (AWSA) over support for the Fifteenth Amendment. They merged in 1890 to the more-familiar National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA). After women’s suffrage was passed in the Nineteenth Amendment in 1920, NAWSA was renamed the League of Women Voters. The National Woman’s Party (NWP) was a splinter group from NAWSA that actually got the Nineteenth Amendment passed. That’s only in America! British and other feminist movements also had dozens of internal breaks.

The feminist movement is still fraught with infighting. Radical feminists pull their hair out over conservative feminists, who hate separatists, who wish that moderate feminists would just choose already, and…well, you get the point. Nobody gets along anymore.

As we say this brakha, we should pray that the feminist world will unite. We all have one common goal: elevate women’s status in society. We’re all fighting for the same rights. The feminist community just needs to sit down, talk over the factions’ differences, and start fighting together. One huge army fighting for the same purpose is better than a bunch of small battalions who fight against each other when they’re really on the same side.

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