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I HOLD YOU, TORAH by Ruth Broyde Sharone

Photograph by Ali Brauda
As a Jewish woman and conscious inheritor of the legacy of the feminist movement in America...
...I have been able to do what many Jewish women in the world still cannot do: hold the Torah, our sacred scripture, in my arms. In the majority of Orthodox communities, women are not permitted to hold the Torah and they cannot be ordained as Rabbis--at least not yet.
While making the film "Today I Am A Rabbi,"  I had a profound and stirring experience. I was documenting three women, all in their 50's, who became the first graduates of the Academy for Jewish Religion (AJR) in Los Angeles.
The author with Torah on Mt.Sinai
I remember the ecstatic look on the face of Rabbi Tsipora Gabai, when she was ordained as the first Moroccan-born female Rabbi in the world, breaking the gender taboo after nine consecutive generations of male Rabbis in her family.  Tears glistened in the eyes of Rabbi Alicia Magal as she lovingly enveloped the Torah in her arms, and we all heard the tremor in the voice of Rabbi Miriam Hamrell as she confessed to the audience how all her life she had longed to hold the Torah, but tradition had prevented it.
The film I made was a conscious ode to women spiritual leaders everywhere, but it also was dedicated specifically to Jewish women who aspire to get closer to the Torah and become full partners in celebrating Judaism alongside of Jewish men.  The poem, however, was not about equality of men and women in religious life.  Instead it reflected my personal realization at how challenging it can be--even as I was clinging to the physical Torah in my arms--to embody and integrate Jewish wisdom into my life.  One's commitment to that embodiment becomes a daily decision, at times a welcome one and at times too heavy to bear . . . until the next moment when we may get to experience the "sweet lightness of being."
Photography by Lars Vandergoor




I  HOLD YOU, TORAH
by Ruth Broyde Sharone

Nestled in my eager arms,
your soft velvet robe against my cheek,
your short legs supported in my lap,
like my own babies, not so long ago,
I sense the longing we all have felt
my sisters and I,
our mothers and grandmothers and their mothers before them,
to hold you, Torah
to know you, Torah
to feel your wisdom as close as our breath.

You are our locus, Torah, our history and our future.
You are our desert guide,
our North Star in the moonless sky.
Your yellow wizened skin bares the evidence of Ha-Shem,
the holy words that formed us and brought us to this day.
Your elegant script ascends and descends, in chapter and verse,
carrying us on eagle wings
to our refuge and our salvation.

Your melody is the bittersweet music of our ancestors,
curse and blessing,
drum and flute,
despair and jubilation,
harp and tambor.
I hold you, Torah
I know you, Torah
I feel your wisdom as close as my breath

As I bask in your strength,
hoping this intimate moment will never end,
slowly I become aware of a rising discomfort.
How much effort it takes to hold you tight, Torah,
to support your insistent wooden legs,
now heavy in my lap.
I try to find a place of ease.
It is no use.
You have become a burden.

How long must I hold you so tight, Torah?
How long must I support you
to make sure you will not fall?
My delight has become dismay, my joy an ordeal.
Is there no time to rest from this yoke?
No respite?  No relief?
How difficult it has become
To hold you, Torah
To know you, Torah,
To feel your wisdom as close as my breath.

My arms ache
My shoulders sag
I am weary from the effort.
I want to release you and not feel guilt.
I shift my legs back and forth
to ease the pressure I feel.
But there is no easy place I can find
without feeling your demands.


Why did I take on this task, Torah?
Why did I commit to this responsibility?
How could I have foreseen the difficulties
To hold you, Torah
To know you, Torah
To feel your wisdom as close as my breath.

And then, just as slowly,
Without warning,
I watch my discomfort slide away.
My tired arms feel new strength
as they encircle you and
draw you even closer to my heart.
My lap accommodates the pressure
of your powerful legs
For they have found the perfect resting place.

The softness of your blue velvet robe
comforts my cheek
I hear the melody of your scripture
in my innermost ear.
I taste your love for all of us
on my lips
and in the meditations of my heart.

I hold you, Torah
I know you, Torah
I feel your wisdom as close as my breath.


Ruth BroydeSharone is an international inspirational speaker, filmmaker and freelance journalist passionate about generating grassroots interfaith work and teaching peace-building. Highly active in interfaith dialogue she lectures around the world from the UN in Geneva to churches, mosques and college campuses presenting her award winning film “God and Allah Need To Talk”. Broyde Sharone received a gold medal for her contribution to “cultural education,” from Fete D’Excellence, an international organization that recognizes the promotion of justice and peace globally. Her book MINEFIELDS & MIRACLES: Why God and Allah Need to Talk, is a captivating interfaith memoir  (May, 2012.)  She currently serves as a correspondent for the interfaith monthly e-zine, The Interfaith Observer. Formerly a Partner Cities Associate for the Parliament of the World’s Religions, Ruth is Co-Chair for the Committee for the Parliament in LA where she recently spearheaded a popular city-wide event called "Seeds of Peace," to bring together 16 diverse communities to share and demonstrate meditative and contemplative practices. Her love of poetry and songwriting began when she was 18 years old. Even though film and prose are her primary forms of communication, she turns to song and verse "when nothing else will quite do," she says. You may e-mail her at rabsharone@gmail.com.

~If you are interested in seeing your poetry appear in this blog, or submitting a poem by a woman that has inspired you, please send your offering to catherine@secretyoga.com Please include a short bio about the author and photograph.  (If you pick to submit a poem by an other other than yourself, please include a little introduction telling us how and why the poem speaks to you.) I greatly look forward to hearing from you!~ 

Comments

  1. This poem struck an inspiring chord in my heart, to feel the passion and connection she expresses for her Torah. Thank-you for sharing.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thank you for your lovely comment.

    It is sometimes a challenge to remain devoted and faithful even when I know how much I cherish my religion and the source of my inspiration. That's why it is important to re-commit and re-dedicate ourselves.
    Warmly
    Ruth
    rabsharone@gmail.com

    ReplyDelete

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