Sunday, June 12, 2016

Omer 2016 Recap

Honorable Mention
How many women could I name from the Tanakh before this Omer? Not nearly 49, but I am pleased to report that in the end I had women to spare! Here are some that I just couldn't place in the Omer, but who are nonetheless fantastic and have very interesting stories:

  • Keturah, Abraham's second wife after Sarah's death (Genesis 25). Rashi suggested that Keturah was another name for Hagar, but others disagreed.
  • Timna, Esau's son's concubine (Genesis 36:12). Feminist Judaism makes a big deal about her, because she is singled out among Esau's son Eliphaz's wives as just his concubine, instead of a full wife like the others (WRJ Torah). Another midrash suggests that she wanted to convert to Judaism, but was denied.
  • Elisheba, Aaron's wife (Exodus 6:23) was mentioned only once in passing, but as the wife of the high priest, her life must have been fascinating. She also endured the tragic loss of her sons, Nadab and Abihu.
  • Moses' second wife, the Cushite woman was a source of discord between Moses and his siblings, particularly Miriam, who was very upset that he would marry an outsider.
  • Peninnah, Hannah's rival wife (1 Samuel 1) taunted Hannah for being barren.
  • Solomon's 700 wives and 300 concubines (1 Kings 11:1-5). We think of Solomon as a wise and great king, but these 700 wives and 300 concubines managed to even lead him astray and in his old age he worshiped their gods.
  • The concubine from Bethlehem (Judges 19) quite possibly has the saddest story that I read in the Tanakh. She was taken as a concubine by a Levite man, but she ran away from him back to her father's house. He then went after her and took her back from her father. He showed no regard for her on their journey back his his home and when his life was threatened by an angry mob, he threw her out into the street, where the mob raped her to death.
In preparing for the Omer this year, I didn't get through the entire Tanakh (I read up to 2 Kings), so I'm sure that there are even more women who would have made great additions to the blog this year.

Below is a list of all the women of the Omer this year. I have put a * next to the ones I am most proud of.
Day 1: Naomi*
Day 2: Shifra and Puah*
Day 3: Rachel
Day 4: Hagar
Day 5: Sarah
Day 6: Rebecca
Day 7: Abigail
Day 8: Michal
Day 9: Potiphar's wife*
Day 10: Jezebel
Day 11: Yael*
Day 12: Lot's wife
Day 13: Yocheved
Day 14: Zipporah
Day 15: The women with the baby
Day 16: Hannah
Day 17: Abishag*
Day 18: Samson's first wife
Day 19: Manoah's wife
Day 20: Zilpah and Bilhah
Day 21: Vashti
Day 22: Rahab
Day 23: Leah
Day 24: Sisera's mother*
Day 25: The woman who killed Abimelech
Day 26: Miriam*
Day 27: Tamar, Judah's daughter-in-law
Day 28: The clever woman of Abel of Beth-maacah
Day 29: The widow who fed Elijah
Day 30: Zelophehad's daughters
Day 31: Deborah, Rebecca's nurse*
Day 32: Jephthah's daughter
Day 33: The clever woman of Tekoa
Day 34: Asenath
Day 35: Bathsheba
Day 36: Orpah
Day 37: Delilah
Day 38: Esau's wives
Day 39: Lot's daughters
Day 40: Eve
Day 41: The sorceress in En-dor
Day 42: Naamah
Day 43: Huldah the Prophetess
Day 44: Deborah
Day 45: Pharaoh's daughter
Day 46: Esther
Day 47: The Queen of Sheba
Day 48: Dinah and Tamar, King David's daughter*
Day 49: Ruth*

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Omer 2016 Day 49: Ruth

Day 49: Malchut in Malchut, Leadership in Leadership
We made it to the end of the Omer! Tonight is Shavuot, the holiday that celebrates our receiving the Torah at Sinai after the exodus from Egypt. But before we celebrate our physical and spiritual freedom with cheesecake and late-night learning, we have to reflect on the 49th day of the Omer, leadership in leadership.

At our Passover seders 49 days ago, we all sat around our tables and read from the haggadah, "In every generation, each person must see himself or herself as if he or she personally experienced the Exodus from Egypt." Over the past 49 days, we have counted the Omer as if we were on a personal journey from slavery to freedom. It is also said that every Jewish person who had ever or would ever exist was present at Sinai when God gave us the Torah. Much of Judaism is about the collective - praying together, studying together, eating, mourning, and celebrating together - but I am reminded today that it is also an intensely personal experience. Each Jew understands Judaism in his or her own way. Each Jew embodies the seven sephirot of the Omer differently. Each of us comes with our own lens on the world which causes us to interpret the Omer differently. Even from year to year, my perspectives on the days of the Omer have changed as my experiences have changed.

Leaders must be able to balance the personal and the communal, their personal goals with the welfare of the people they lead. As the first convert, Ruth stands as the model on which conversions are based a perfect example of leadership in leadership.
"Wherever you go, I will go; wherever you lodge, I will lodge; your people will be my people, and your God my God." (Ruth 1:16)
She is leadership in leadership, because her choice to convert shows an understanding and acceptance of this fundamental piece of Jewish life and leadership. She not only undertook a new personal identity and life, but also embraced the fact that doing so would make her part of the collective Jewish people.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Omer 2016 Day 48: Dinah and Tamar

Trigger warning: Rape

Day 48: Yesod in Malchut, Connection in Leadership
There has been a lot in the news recently about the Stanford sexual assault case, which ended with a unanimous guilty verdict for the rapist and a disappointingly short six-month prison sentence, which will be only three months with good behavior. Since last weekend, the the moving letter written by the survivor has been widely shared on social media. You can and should read it in full here if you haven't already. It ends with this:
"And finally, to girls everywhere, I am with you. On nights when you feel alone, I am with you. When people doubt or dismiss you, I am with you. I fought everyday for you. So never stop fighting, I believe you." -Stanford survivor
Today, Vice President Joe Biden published an open letter to her supporting her and praising her strength and Texas Representative Ted Poe reiterated to the country that "no means no," because, for an unfathomable reason, that concept still eludes some people. 

Of course, this got me thinking about Dinah and Tamar (King David's daughter, not the Tamar who was Judah's daughter-in-law), who both survived rape in the Tanakh. They are important female figures with painful stories, who I had been struggling to incorporate into the Omer this year until I read the Stanford survivor's letter.

Dinah was raped by Shechem, the son of the chief of the land (Genesis 34: 1-4). Tamar was raped by her half-brother, Amnon (2 Samuel 13:10-15). After both incidents, neither woman is heard from again. I can't help but wonder what they would have said if given the chance to speak out against their attackers and against the injustices they faced in their societies. I can't help but reflect in horror and anger on the persistence of this evil in the world. But we cannot despair, because as leaders we must be called to action. We must reach out to each other, build connections where there is isolation, and "never stop fighting" for a world free of rape and violence.