A Real Hoot

Growing up I was told the story about the young boy who didn’t know how to read and write, and was unable to follow prayers. Eager to take part, he came to pray on Yom Kippur, and blew the shofar wholeheartedly, but at the wrong moment. The worshipers were aghast and started yelling and reprimanding the clueless boy until the rabbi interfered. This boy’s shofar, he said, just opened the gates of heaven to our prayers.

As a girl, I never knew women could blow the shofar, or pray wrapped in a tallit. Praying with a tallit felt strange the first time, but now I feel the holiness when I wrap it around me. I feel a connection to the prayer and to its meaning. The same feeling came over me the first time I sounded the shofar. Here was something from which, as a woman, I’ve always been excluded without reason, and here I was blowing the shofar and sounding the Tekia, Terua and Shevarim.

As women, connecting with our rituals creates meaning in more than one way. By stepping in and participating, we take on a bigger role in being Jewish. We are no longer passive participants. When we read Torah, when we blow the shofar, lead the Seder and bless the wine and bread, we claim what’s ours, we connect to the chain of tradition and thought that is Judaism.

When I see women read Torah or wrap a tallit or tefillin for the first time, I am moved beyond words.  This is what I see as Women of the Wall’s mission: To connect women with their Judaism and empower them to claim what’s theirs and ours.

On Monday August 14th, Women of the Wall will hold a Women’s Shofar Sounding Workshop in Park Hayarkon. We’ll start at 5:30pm, and by 6:30 those who participate will be able to blow the shofar, and to connect in a much deeper way to Selichot and the High Holidays. The shofar, an animal’s horn used for survival, has been used by generations of Jews as an instrument of worship. It is pure, unadulterated and unmodified. It’s tough, just like us.

For most of Jewish history, only men blew shofar. Similarly, for much of vehicular history, only men operated automobiles. But women learned to drive, and they can learn to sound the shofar. Claim what’s yours. Join us.

Lesley Sachs Sounding the Shofar
Lesley Sachs Sounding the Shofar. Claim what’s yours!
About the Author
Lesley Sachs is the 2014 recipient of the NCJW Jewel Bellush Outstanding Israeli Feminist award and was one of the founding members of “Isha L’isha – Haifa’s Feminist Center” and worked for 10 years in the Israel Women’s Network. Lesley served as executive director of the Israel Religious Action Center (IRAC), vice president of the World Union For Progressive Judaism and founding director of Project, Kesher Israel. She is currently working as the executive director of Women of the Wall. She served on the board of directors for the Jerusalem Women’s Shelter, board of directors for the JNF-KKL and currently she is chair of the pre-army mechina Michmanim in Jaffa.
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