Rabbi’s Corner: Celebrating the Legacy of the Women in Our Lives

 

My mother was a nurse by vocation and a committed Jewish volunteer by avocation. She used her special gifts to nurture the gifts in others and she modeled by example the notion of “Sisterhood.”

Tonight, our bima will be graced by many special women as they lead our Erev Shabbat service and as we celebrate the wonderful women in our Temple Beth Sholom lives with our Sisterhood Shabbat service. We reflect on what we inherit from the women who help enhance our communal life at TBS. These women leave a legacy that goes beyond the external. We’ll also pay tribute to our “SHAYNAHs.” (She Has All Your Needs AHeart.) The SHAYNAH award is similar to a “Woman/Women of the Year” award and is bestowed upon those who have truly gone above and beyond in serving TBS and our greater community.

It is very appropriate that we celebrate the Women of TBS Sisterhood and our SHAYNAHs this week during Shabbat Beshalah, Shabbat Shira. In this week’s Torah portion, we read the “Song of the Sea” from the Book of Exodus. It highlights that epic moment after the Israelites finally experience complete freedom from Egyptian slavery after crossing through the Sea of Reeds. They celebrate their new-found freedom by singing and rejoicing. Miriam, who is Moses’ and Aaron’s sister and a prophet in her own right, takes on the mantle of leadership by encouraging the women to rejoice as well. She is not content to see only the men commemorate this pivotal moment for all the Israelites. Our text tells us: “Then Miriam, the prophet, Aaron’s sister, picked up a hand-drum, and all the women went after her in dance with hand-drums. And Miriam chanted for them: ‘Sing for the Eternal, for He has triumphed gloriously; Horse and driver He has thrown into the sea.’ (Exodus 15-20:21)

I am proud to continue the legacy bequeathed to me by my mother, grandmothers, great-grandmothers, and all who came before me. I am proud to be part of a wonderful congregation who celebrates and highlights all those who bequeath to our community the gifts of their loving hearts, minds, and hands. The gifts we receive only come to life when we invest them with deeds and actions of love on behalf of others.

This light is mine.
It was given to me in love.
It was given to me in Peace.

This light was hers,
That mother in our past
Who held it with pride.

This light was theirs,
Those sisters of ages past
Who held it in awe.

This light will be theirs,
Those daughters of our heart,
May they hold it with care.

A light won by strength,
By suffering,
By selflessness.

We praise You, Oh God.
And pray that for all time
We will kindle our light
With blessed freedom.
The flame a constant,
A beacon in our lives.
(from Covenant of the Heart: Prayers,
Poems and Meditations from the
Women of Reform Judaism,
pp. 78-79. New York, NY, 1993)

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