I Am Rachel, And I Have Questions

The following is part of the Hevria series “Truth And Dare”, in which Hevria writers have pushed themselves to write about topics they find uncomfortable to share publicly.


“You’re born naked, and the rest is drag.”

I am afraid

of being a Jewish Woman and all that that signifies,
of gender,
of expressing myself fully through my art,
of offending or alienating,
of blossoming into that which I am,
of ripping parts of my self away,
of making myself less-than for the comfort of others,
that no fleshly vessel can contain me,
that there is no space for my strangeness,
that my DNA will—and does—betray,
of revealing the full spectrum of my being,
of banishment,
that modesty and shame are conflated,
of being a woman in the secular world,
of being a woman in the Jewish word,
of sending the wrong message,
of all this pressure on my identity,
of stepping into my greatness,
of being shunned
that there is no Jewish man who can embrace the totality of me,
that I will sacrifice my soulmate in devotion to some tribalism that can’t love me back,
of turning away from true love from one who does accept and celebrate me,
that I will die alone and unloved in the gutter,
that my fellow mystic is right,
that I can be and do whatever I want,
that I’ll peel back the final page of sacred text only to find a cabal of men deciding everything,
that the Shekinah whom I hold to my heart is no more than a male fantasy object,
of displeasing the ancestors,
of abandoning the descendants,
of misaligning myself with any of my tribes,
of kol isha,
of mechitzas,
of my body,
of hating my body,
of loving my body,
of long sleeves in 100 degrees,
of predatory men,
of hungry men,
of thirsty men,
of men,
of men not respecting me,
of men not wanting to talk Torah with me any longer,
of disappointing my beloved rabbanim,
of self-neutering for the comfort of others,
of raising a daughter in exile,
of exile,
of all whom I will offend with these questions,
of getting it wrong,
of staying silent,
of staying silent out of fear,
of not speaking up on behalf of those who cannot speak,
of not being me,
of making a mistake I cannot un-make,
of embracing the paradox,

of G-D.

**PLEASE NOTE: What follows is a photographic representation of my exploration of the questions of identity, gender and cultural roles. If you are offended by women engaged in such behavior (or dressed in less than you find appropriate), STOP SCROLLING NOW.**


Photo-By-Tess.-Lotta-7866Photo-By-Tess.-Lotta-7610This photographic essay is the result of deep conversation with—and encouragement from—the creator of Hevria, Pop Chassid himself, Elad Nehorai, and collaboration with my artistic soulmate, polymath Tess. Lotta of Tess. Lotta Photography. Elad and I spoke in depth regarding what I would find most terrifying to reveal here on Hevria, and where the stakes were highest for me in terms of my own vulnerability and having a lot to lose. I am truly afraid that I will be alienating myself from many people that I truly love, including many rabbanim and teachers I deeply admire. I apologize in advance.

It is crucial I express at this point that my intention with this post is in no way to be offensive for offense’s sake, or to be provocative or inflammatory, or trade in on shock value. I have questions. I know of no other way to ask them than to move through them. To physically move through them. They live in my body, my first language is that of gesture and movement. I am a dancer.

Please forgive me if I have offended or hurt you in any way. That was not my intention.

I am trying to help myself and others with the same questions, and to provide healing.

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This post is a collaboration with Tess. Lotta of Tess. Lotta Photography.
All photos are by Tess. Lotta.

Tess.Lotta’s Artist’s Statement: An LA-based photographer and feminist, I use art as agitprop and for exploration. Portraiture is one of my favorite photographic mediums. I am grateful for and cherish the collaboration with the folks I photograph, as it is a vulnerable act to put the self forward in front of a camera. I respect this vulnerability and work with it to reveal our collective humanity. In this way, the attempt to capture an absolute representation becomes an opportunity to reveal what binds us to each other in some way, a chance to illustrate the condition of being human beyond the selves we show to the world of form. For more images, including my Eve Mandate Series, see my website at www.tesslotta.com.


If you have made it this far and you are not offended by photographic representation of the female form, I would like to invite you to explore more of my collaboration with the visionary photographer, Tess. Lotta. I am one of her subject for her series, The Eve Mandate. Mine is Eve Freak: We are Shekinah.


And now…your EMOJI DVAR TORAH! Special Gender Edition!

For this one, I reflected on the mapping of the Tree of Life as presented in Daniel Matt’s definitive translation of the Zohar, Volume I. I have included a photo of the section I translated below: