The Laryngitis Of Jewish Women

It was the bris
which broke the camel’s back.

I was another skirt
at the outskirts
of another ritual act.

Standing en pointe
straining my ears
while some distant ceremony
was unfolding something holy
left me running
for refreshments
while the women sat & chatted
and I hated
their lack of focus.

Like a plague on our purses
left us voiceless
in the chorus.

Disinvited to the very recital
we were best equipped to lead.

All of us suffering from a certain type of laryngitis
known specifically to women
in Orthodoxy.

I diagnose it
a dire case of
‘Misplaced Modesty’
and I,
I just wanted relief…

So I shook my fists
at the mechitza
and cursed any Jewish belief
that cheats women
out of our participation
our punctuation
of public speech.

All I wanted was a woman’s voice
a woman’s vision
at that instant
as that infant
was handed over
the lacy division
from his 9-monthed mother
to be sculpted
into our honorable tradition.

But all that was given
was silence and stifling
and the crying of a child
somewhere on the horizon
of the men’s section
which I could hardly hear
could barely see.

Starved of my senses
and sensibilities,
I slipped outside
to bleed out my disbelief
on the street.

Called together my closest sisters
bewildered,
“How can you stand there consensual
and invisible
and still call this sacred community?”

And forgive me if I seem angry.
It is merely the sound of my soul banging
against a box too small
to contain me.

It is merely the moan of wheels moving
for the first time in millennia.
Churning out the momentum
for a direly needed
direction change.

For this silence blasting
from the women’s seats
is a testimony
to that which lays woefully
Incomplete.

*

For women in Orthodoxy
are like a vast forest
of redwood trees
planted neatly in flower pots
from the time they were seeds.

We are a force of nature
holding itself back
– politely –
like a box of lightning.

We are potential – unmet, long-trapped,
untapped and gasping to be freed.

So brothers in power
The time has come to give your sisters
their earned place
and rightful say.

We are gifted with voice & wisdom
– let us speak.
Listen careful to the maggid that teaches from
between our teeth.

The time has come for women
to be essential players
in life-cycles & ceremonies.

Let us be redwood trees
Not lumber,
But luminaries.

And this will be the bris
that broke the camel’s back
– a point of no return
to the status quo of ‘held back’.