Today is the opening day of Yeshivat Mahara”t, a day I believe, that will go down in history. It is the first program open to Orthodox women that is willing not only to train, but to ordain women as spiritual leaders— as rabbinic leaders— in the Orthodox community. This is the message that I hope to impart to the inaugural class:
At the conferral ceremony just a few months ago, where I became a Mahara”t, almost everyone who rose to speak declared with joy, “zeh hayom asah Hashem, nagila v’nismacha vo.” This is the day God has made, let us rejoice and be glad on it. And it truly was an inspiring moment, a day to rejoice and be glad. But for me, this day, today, September 10, 2009, 21st day of Elul, 5769, carries far more import. This is the dream that I have been waiting to see come to fruition. It is the dream, to quote this week’s parsha, of “kulchem:” “Atem nizavim hayom kulchem lifnei Hashem.” You are standing today, ALL of you, before God.” Kulchem includes all people, elders, officers, men, women, and children all standing together to accept and be included in God’s covenant.
The Alshich, a Biblical commentator living in the 16th century in Safed, notes that everyone—kulchem, were standing “equally in the presence of the Lord, simultaneously.” What an idyllic image, where one’s gender or status was irrelevant; for men, women and children, old and young, rich and poor, alike were standing together, in partnership before God.
Women’s learning and leadership has made tremendous strides over the past century. This space, this place that we are sitting in now, Drisha Institute for women, has been on the forefront of fortifying and nourishing women with knowledge, courage and confidence to become Jewish scholars. But, we cannot stop there. The time has come, the day has come, for women to transform their knowledge into service, to be able to stand together, with our male counterparts, as spiritual leaders of our community. And not because women should have the same opportunities as men – although they should – and not because women can learn and achieve on par with men – although they can. But because women, as Jewish leaders, have so many singular and unique gifts to offer, so much to contribute to the larger Jewish community.
So let us not let this day pass by without taking a moment to acknowledge and celebrate how much we have actually achieved, and to look forward to the achievements and milestones to come.
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