Today marked a special day of celebration and a bittersweet ending to a Wednesday morning ritual I'll remember fondly: Rabbi Sue Levi Elwell's Torah study at Washington Hebrew Congregation.
If you are wondering how I got to Torah study at temple ... I admit I am too. But like every kind of heart journey I've taken, one thing led to another and to the temple I traveled. I am a very lucky soul to travel this way so often.
By way of a brief intro, Rabbi Elwell is Washington Hebrew Congregation's Scholar-in-Residence. She led a Wednesday Morning Torah study using her wonderful book, Chapters of the Heart: Jewish Women Sharing the Torah of Our Lives.
The book, which Rabbi Elwell co-edited with Nancy Fuchs-Kreimer is fascinating. I highly recommend it to anyone interested in women's stories. According to Rabbi Elwell:
My friend Amy, a member of Washington Hebrew Congregation, was my link to the class. Although I was a bit nervous entering the group, I had read several chapters of the text prior to my first meeting and was excited to be part of the discussion. Even as a non-Jewish woman, I quickly resonated with the narratives and questions the text put forth. How can we overcome grief and loss? How can we become the mothers we yearn to be? What are the prayers and ancient stories of healing power that are most helpful during deep challenges? I admired the creativity and honesty the stories portrayed.For much of history, women’s histories were not recorded, but women’s stories were still being told. They may not have been the conversations of record, but women have always been sharing their stories with each other and with their children. So this is not new. What is new is the number of women with access to the study of classical Jewish texts. We represent the first generation of women who can easily acquire the necessary tools. So our book is composed of stories, but stories inflected with a sophisticated understanding of foundational Jewish texts. (Read the full post here)
Most women reading Chapters of the Heart will feel at home in the stories, regardless of faith and tradition. But if you had asked me ten years ago -- make that just one year ago -- whether I would enter a temple to study sacred texts with a Rabbi and a group of Jewish strangers, I would have assured you that it would be highly unlikely. I hadn't been called or made curious yet. But being a seeker, I am forever opening up to learning, whenever the season comes. What I didn't expect is to takeaway a curiosity to keep learning more. ... We shall see.
So, thank you Amy and Rabbi Elwell. The warmth and intelligence of the group, the stories, the teachings are forever mapped into my heart. I hope our paths for peace and justice in the world cross again soon, at temple and beyond.