Mea culpa! Women’s History Month which was celebrated during March, has come and gone and I did not know. Nostra culpa! As American Jews, we have dropped the ball. Rabbis and Jewish educators alike, should have seized this opportunity to bring to light the contributions of Jewish women – there are so many from which to choose – who contributed more to our people, than could possibly be imagined. Borrowing the adage “better late than never,” below are three remarkable women, well deserving of study during (Jewish) Women’s History Month.
Fifty-two years ago, 42-year-old Shmulik Rosen composed one of the numerous songs that came to the fore, as a result of the many miraculous victories of the Six Day War. Entitled Rachel (in Hebrew it is known as “Re’i Rachel, Re’i), Mr. Rosen implores our matriarch Rachel (our patriarch Jacob’s true love) to see how her children have returned to her, in that Rachel is buried in Bethlehem. Shmuel Rosen’s sentiments are well founded. Our rabbinic sages tell us that during the destruction of the First Temple, Rachel appeared before HaShem and said “Do I have more compassion than You, Hashem? Should a person have more compassion than Hashem? Yaakov worked for me for many years and at the end, my sister stood under the Chuppah and married my husband. And I remained quiet. Am I to have more compassion that You?” Moved by Rachel’s words and won over by her logic, Hashem said to Rachel, “It is right what you say and because of you and the signs you gave your sister, I will return Am Yisroel or the Jewish nation to the Holy Land.” And so, HaShem did. Not just to Israel, but also to Hebron, Bethlehem and Jerusalem.
Among the many loose-leaf binders on the shelf in my office, there is one that contains a course that I developed in the mid-eighties for High School students. Given my background in Yiddish, I transformed a small text called “T’chines” into an entire course in liturgy. T’chines is a compilation of prayers expressly for women. Unlike the prayers found in the siddur, T’chines reflect the history of the era, the sociology of the shtetl, and the psychology of the self-image of the typical Jewish mother and housewife of the time. It is widely believed that T’chines may very well have been authored by Sarah Bas Tovim, who lived in the late 17th and early 18th century in the Podolia region of Ukraine. T’chines are neither a translation nor a feminization of the prayers found in the siddur. In addition to dealing with specific topics such as a request for the well-being of family members, appeals for meaningful celebrations of festivals and pleas prior to the immersion into the mikvah, T’chines reflect thoughts and feelings that come not only from the heart, but from the soul as well. If Sarah bas Tovim did in fact author T’chines, she ought to be held in the highest esteem for affording the often-overlooked Eastern European woman, the ability to connect with HaShem in a most human and humane way.
“She’s the only man in the government,” remarked a frustrated David Ben Gurion, Israel’s first Prime Minister. Ben Gurion was referring to Golda Meir, who two decades later would go on to become Israel’s first female Prime Minister, following the untimely death of Levi Eshkol. After asking Eliezer Kaplan, Israel’s newly appointed Finance Minister how much money could be raised for the newborn but bankrupt Jewish State, if he, Kaplan were to embark on a whistle stop tour of the United States, Ben Gurion decided to send Golda instead. Meir boarded one of the first flights out of what was soon to become known as Lod and headed for the United States, where she raised $50,000,000 – over seven times the amount projected by Eliezer Kaplan! Thanks to Golda Meir’s efforts, Israel was now able to purchase desperately needed arms in Europe, enabling the nascent country to fight for its very survival. And that was only the beginning of her astounding service to the Jewish State.
Three remarkable women. The first successfully pleaded her people’s case. The second successfully connected the masses with their heritage. The third did everything in her power for her people’s safety and security. If only these same three concerns were on the minds of those seeking to be elected Prime Minister, next Tuesday in Israel!
Yet another remarkable, never to be equaled, Chili Cook-Off this past Sunday! Tiferet does it again! A big Yasher Koach to all who made it happen!