These are my tefillin straps.
– A religious woman’s tension
over how to act.
Bound & taut
with what we’ve been taught,
we wear our paradox upon our heads
– like a bright black box.
But these tensions
are heavier than leather.
and we know it better
than any brother
for we are tied-up & tethered
by this inner conflict of the modern era.
We are mothers of invention.
Tending fires of the ancients.
We pay rapt attention
to each injunction
yet feel the rub of our impatience.
Finally given space
for us to question
mark our caution
ponder long and hard and honest…
What is a Jewish woman’s mission?
And when is preservation progress?
For, yes, my soul has lept
– with wild abandon –
into this religion’s sacred trap.
And I do not for a second
to bear the contradictions
that mark the marble of this path.
Rather wrap me deep in the tension
and I will bless those very straps.
And as for the issue at hand
of what we wrap round our hands…
I, for one, am not called to spin
tefillin’s web around my limbs.
This is not my call to arms
– and yet, I must contend –
that if a sister’s soul should feel so moved
to that service
then by all means
do I endorse it.
Grant us equal access.
Do not make us outcasts
for adding ritual to our practice.
– If we want it, then allow it,
uplift it, endow it.
And instead of inquiring what a woman’s motives are…
Inquire of yourself –
what binds you closer to God?
And if it be little black boxes of parchment
that keeps you tight with your Maker
then so be it
and so don it!
And if it be through arguing and debate
and own it!
And we will gaze upon the seventieth face of Torah
as it peers through the curtain.
And we will stand together
to shoulder the grandeur
of this tradition
with shared purpose.
May we wake in the morning
and be filled with a yearning
to bind ourselves to something higher
something wholly worth serving.
Let us make a sanctuary of our days.
Be bound, firm and unswayed
by distractions and debasements
in the basement of our being
but rather be uplifted by holy words
that crown our heads with meaning.
Whether through parchment or simple prayer,
– this morning,
brush something holy through your hair.
Sanctify the contradictions
for the sake of heaven.
to something majestic
feel the tensions
and then bless them.