Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Preparing for Tishrei

 I always feel empowered when I am surrounded crowds of Jews in Israel. How much more exciting can it get than two thousand Jewish women converging on the site where the woman who taught us all what prayer is all about. The  T'filat Hannah at Shilo featuring the Rabbanit Yemima Mizrahi was an excellent prelude to Rosh Hashana which is after all about reaffirming God as our king, doing tshuva (repentance, but the English lacks flavor) for our sins, recalling our past and praying for our future. The chapter of Hannah's prayer is read as the haftara on Rosh Hashana.
Rabbanit Yemima is an interesting phenomenon and this was my first direct encounter with her stand-up sermonizing. She is knowledgeable and well versed in sources and in between her jokes and impersonations she has deep and serious messages. She keeps the crowd interested and the time passes quickly. It was a moving experience and I was overcome by emotion by the time she had finished speaking and we had come to a moment of silent prayer. She challenged us to take the opportunity to single out three things on which to focus our prayers; one personal, one for another individual close to us and the third for Jewish people. It was an exercise in soul searching which I am still mulling over. Batya tells me that Rabbanit Yemima also gives talks in English but I wasn't able to find an example of this.

There are many fine programs here in Israel and everyone has something special going on leading up to the high holidays. My personal favorite shiur is a podcast from Yeshivat Har Etzion's KMTT (ki mitzion tezei torah) series given in April 2007 by Dr. Yael Ziegler which you can listen to here. Rabbanit Ziegler addresses what we associate with the Yom Kippur ceremony done in the Temple by the Cohen Gadol (high priest) of sending one goat away and sacrificing the second goat on the altar. In less than half an hour she teaches us how this ceremony, while associated with Yom Kippur is really a paradigm for the different kinds of tshuva required by different situations. She brings ideas from Rabbi Soloveitchik, Rav Kook, Rav Bruer and Talmudic sources tying it all to our patriarch Abraham's experiences with his two sons. On the first day of Rosh Hashana we read about how he must distance Yishmael from his household and on the second day we read of his taking Yitzhak to be bound before God as a sacrifice on Mt. Moriah. This parallels the two goats, one driven away and the other brought before God. [The word קרבן translated as sacrifice in English actually reflects the Hebrew root krv which means closeness.] These two actions can be related two ways of viewing tshuva. One is by distancing the bad deeds and inclinations from ourselves and the other by harnessing the energies and using them to become closer to God and to the person we want to be. Each way is appropriate in certain situations and probably totally out of place in others.

You should really listen to Rabbanit Ziegler because she says it much better than I do. You can find more of Dr. Ziegler at Matan an institute for women's Torah studies in Jerusalem, where she teaches.

And if you're still with me here's something to help me wish you all a happy and sweet new year!


Leora said...

I just gave a donation to Matan in memory of my friend's mom, Rachelle Isserow, z"l. Glad to read I am supporting such wonderful learning.

Batya said...

I really enjoy Matan, especially Yael Ziegler. Risa, I'm pretty sure I posted a link to Yemima Mizrachi in English on Shiloh Musings.

David Tzohar said...

Is Yemima Mizrachi called "Rabbanit" by virtue of being married to a Rabbi? (a rebbitzin in mamaloshen) If not this is an interesting end run around the question of women as Orthodox rabbis. (see extensive, often exhaustive treatment of this issue in Jewish blogs such as "Hirhurim"). It seems that in Israel the term rabbanit, not rabbah or maharat has come to mean a woman in her own right teaches Torah to thousands of women. There are no tzniyut issues and no feminist agenda. I have been known to be on the conservative (small c) side of the issue of Orthodox feminism, but here I say to Rqabbanit Yemima-YASHER kOCHECH, MORE POWER TO YOU.

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