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Jewish Womans Prayer
Explored at AFBIU
Event in NYC

Dr. Aliza Lavie to Receive National Jewish
Book Award


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To Be a Jewish Woman
By Lavie, A., & Cohen, T.
(Eds.). (2005).
Jerusalem: Kolech



 


 


 



 



*Pictures under the auspices of
Gross Family Collection

   

Articles, Books & Publictions

My God
By Aliza Lavie, Yedioth Aharonoth, Shavot, 2006

God has been part of my life since I was born. He was always with us: in celebration and in sadness, in our cooking of meals, in Shabbat and festival songs which went on late into the night. I never had to find my way to God; I didnt arrive at Him by some mysterious path, nor through suffering. His Presence flowed in my blood from my earliest childhood. Perhaps it was religious naivete that accompanied my childhood; perhaps there was a model for emulation in the form of the elders of the tribe; perhaps it was fate. Gods place in my heart was a place of emotion, of warmth, of play, of a whole tradition of magical customs. Not a place of strict discipline; not a place of lashes or prohibitions that would invite rebellion.

I first sensed Gods Presence among the elderly women who gathered at the Moussayof synagogue in the Bukharian neighborhood in Jerusalem. As I walked with my grandmother through the picturesque streets and in-between the courtyards, I felt His Presence. When I listened to the prayers that rose up from the circle of women worshippers, I sensed His certain existence. He was there. Eventually I came to learn that the tremor that I felt inside every time I was in their presence, breathing in their fragrance, inculcated a profound inter-generational connection and commitment. The colorful women worshippers who sat outside of the synagogue on those old wooden chairs, very close to the tall, grey windows, knew that God was with them. They prayed by heart never having been offered the gift of literacy but sought to listen and to hear. Time after time they sought to repeat and murmur the words and sentences which they had imbibed since the moment they were born. They transmitted their wondrous knowledge and their absolute faith to their children and grandchildren with great sensitivity. With the simplicity arising from faith in who and what they were, and from the certain knowledge of their ability to maintain day-to-day contact with God, with no need for any intermediary. In language strongly spiced with a mixture of words in Bukharian, Afghan, Persian, and the Holy Tongue they maintained an enlightening and fertile feminine dialogue. They were a constant presence: on days when the sun blazed down on their heads wrapped in fine scarves, on frozen mornings they were there, out on the grey asphalt yard, leaning on the wall of the synagogue of this old neighborhood which had been founded by Jews of Bukharian origin in 1891. There, with the regularity and discipline of all the seasons of their lives, they lived their world, whose essence was: God sees everything that we do, and we must perform His will. I came to know my God from the religion of the women in the Bukharian neighborhood. Despite their marginal status in the synagogue (a definition which I learned to use much later and which I am certain that my grandmother, who was one of the leaders of the group if not the most prominent among them, would have objected to most vehemently) they continued that which they had received from their mothers and grandmothers, adding to this heritage in the spirit of the times. In my imagination painted there with bold, bright colors, and in my memories, there was etched an awareness of the existence of a feminine Jewish chain, with the power and ability to conduct dealings with God. It was this closeness to God that elevated the group as a whole, as well as each of the women individually, to a place of honor within the community and within the family. To this we must add that many of the women were widowed over the course of the years, some living on for many years after their husbands had passed away. Their new family status as elders of the tribe served to blunt the traditional patriarchal structure. In effect, the death of the head of the household highlighted the uniqueness of these women and of their strength.

Armed with this world-view and with an understanding of my place as an individual with the ability and capacity to maintain dialogue with God, I embarked on my adult life. It was then that I first encountered institutionalized religion and its outgrowths. As a young woman I slowly began to discern distress and torment. I learned of the preference shown for the world of study and exegesis over the existential Divine Presence. I saw how growing fear of secularism and of laxity in the commitment to observance of the commandments limited and blocked openness and freedom of choice. I discovered that punctilious observance of the tiniest details of the laws could come to cast a shadow over Jewish feeling that flows naturally from the heart, and could weaken the personal, private capacity for spiritual life.

I am not willing to be bounded; I do not agree to being robbed of my heritage, of wondrous knowledge and of absolute faith. We all still need that accessible God.

 

 
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