Men have had 3000 years or so to match up Jewish rituals with their felt needs, whereas we women are still babes in the woods. Here is a simple three-part recipe for experiencing holiness, hi these pages, three women model for LILITH readers what it means to (1) begin one’s spiritual path with a visceral moment: Gee, I need to do something with this placenta; whoa, I’m not ready, after a year of saying kaddish, to stop praying every day; yipes, who could have guessed that breastfeeding would turn out to be a profound religious experience?
Next, all three of the women you are about to read realize, contrary to our faith’s minyan fetish, that they love to (2) be a spiritual solitary—like many women and very few men. Digging a hole all alone on a September eve; laying tefillin after everyone has left the house; entering a state of being Mother Nature. Having only ourselves as witnesses often works beautifully for us, though it disorganizes religion.
Finally, each of these women discovers (3) how to experience one’s body as directly linked to the sacred: breasts; afterbirth; “the soft bite of cool leather straps” on our skin. Women’s bodies are often where we meet God. Beyond nursing or birthing or menstrual taboos (that are products of male envy and have rendered our bodies more difficult for us to read) are unmediated doorways to the sacred. In contrast, the ritual of circumcision gets a D+—it’s not the miracle of a child, the absoluteness of maternal attachment, the dangerous magic of a body that bleeds and feeds.
In This Feature
by Ruth HorowitzBound for Glory: Females in Phylacteries
How an otherwise non-religious woman finds herself transformed by tefillin
by Aurora MendelsohnNursing in Shul
God-the-Breast: why isn't this image as familiar [and hallowed?] to us as God-the-King-of-the-Universe?