Friday, June 21, 2013

Whose Torah?

This piece was first published at the Jewish Futures blog.
Blessed Yah,
A long time ago
I lost Torah.

I even know what day it happened.
After ten years of Westbury Hebrew Congregation Hebrew School
And in my final year, Thank God!
I was 15
And the Rabbi,
Who shall remain nameless,
Taught the senior class.
He was dull and pedestrian
But he was the rabbi
So I treated him with respect
Which at that point I mostly withheld
From everybody else.

I was 15.

And the rabbi,
“Everything in the Torah is true.”
He said,
“If it’s in the Torah then that’s exactly how we should live.”

And so I raised my hand, and asked,
“Rabbi, does that mean that when we win a war that we should kill all the enemy men and rape all the enemy women and enslave all the enemy children?”

He stared at me, I stared back at him.

And finally he said,“yes”


And then he said, “No more questions from you, young lady.”

Why did I lose Torah?
Well yes, because I was a girl
Back in the day
Oh sure I had a Bat Mitzvah
But It was on a Friday night
(And entre nous, I got a lot fewer presents
And had a much smaller party
Than the boys)
And I led the service
And chanted the complete haftarah

But I wasn’t called to the Torah
I wasn’t allowed to have an aliyah
I wasn’t even allowed to touch it.

Sure that’s one reason I lost the Torah,
Basically I never had it.

But really it was that rabbi
Who wouldn’t answer my question,
Who wouldn’t even let me ask any questions.
When I really wanted to know.

That rabbi was an idiot.

So how did I get Torah back?
Long story short:

I met a rabbi who told me that,
Doubt could be an act of faith.
I had a teacher who said,
The study of Torah was about the questions and not the answers.
I had a spiritual advisor who asked me about God’s presence.

And check it out
Some forty years after that shitty Hebrew School class,
I’m in rabbinical school!
Go figure.

And someday, when I teach Torah?
And some wiseguy kid
Asks of me a question,
Genuine and/or smartass,
A question that I don’t want to answer
Or I cannot answer,
Or a really complicated answer,
Or has multiple answers
What will I say?

I hope I will say,
This is your Torah:
What do you think?

Blessed Yah, giving us so many opportunities for questions
And for this we are so grateful.


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