Message to My Mother MAG

May 6, 2013
By Naomi Eisenberg SILVER, Newton, Massachusetts
Naomi Eisenberg SILVER, Newton, Massachusetts
6 articles 0 photos 0 comments

I'm proud of you. Of the work you've done for 25 years leading thousands of worshipers. When people ask me where my father preaches, I say, “No, you've got it all wrong.” But Mom, when I tell them who I really am, who you really are, they look at me like I don't quite belong anymore. I go from being the epitome of religious imagery to an unnerving case of absurdity.

“Your mother?” they ask. “Your mother is a rabbi?” As if this fact were so hard to grasp. As if a woman could don a prayer shawl and stand on the bima. As if a woman could teach the Torah. As if a woman's voice could speak out loud. As if anyone would listen.

Yet I never thought twice about your voice. It sang me to sleep at night, and it sang to hundreds bathed in Sabbath light. That voice prays with the might of ten thousand men. That voice leads with the strength of an eternal fire, with the desire to prove that the song that has been sung for centuries is one ready to change, ready to rearrange the hierarchy of intellect, ready to say that just because I can create life doesn't mean that any part of it should be taken from me.

One day I woke up with the body of a woman living in a world of men. And on the streets of Jerusalem a man said to me that my bare forearms were the reason that our temples were burned thousands of years ago, that my bare knees – my “immodesty” – were the reason that hate grew like mold in the Jewish community.

My whole life, it had never mattered that I was not male. I denied the notion that sexism could even exist. Maybe it's my generation, or maybe it's just me – because I grew up knowing that women could be powerful, watching my main female role model speak and teach what it means to bring meaning into life.

It is only now that I think twice.

I think about the abused wife with no voice, the women who are submissive or complacent simply because they think that their place is as high as they could achieve.

“Don't strive to be the cashier,” you tell me. “Own the store.”

“Don't be the nurse; be the head surgeon.”

“Don't be the secretary; be the CEO.”

You tell me this because once upon a time you wanted to be a social worker. And someone told you, “No, be the rabbi.”

And so you stand for every woman in generations past who could not achieve what you have. Women who strove
for excellence but were only allowed mediocrity.

You have taught me and all the other women who look up to you that we are qualified for any opportunity out there. Why can't I be the one to change the world? You did. F

The author's comments:
For my mom, for being the light in the eyes of hundreds.

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This article has 1 comment.

Soumya A. said...
on May. 13 2013 at 8:14 pm
Love it! Bless you and your mother, it was beautiful!


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