As a little girl, I adored Wonder Woman, and I always wanted to be a heroine. As an adult, though, the problems of the world have turned out to be a lot more complicated. I am not sure they could be solved even with metal cuffs, an invisible plane and a golden lasso (though I sure wish I had them to try). Maybe what the real world needs is fewer golden lassos, and more the actualization and use of our own gifts.
I had this in mind when I was writing my own Jewish version of the heroine’s story, my novel, The Prophetess (Bancroft Press, 2019). In the story, 17-year old Rachel is called to join a secret community of prophets – and as she learns their mystical and meaningful Jewish wisdom, she is also called to become the fullest version of herself. At first, her calling is bigger than she can imagine. One of Rachel’s teachers tells her, “When they say you are great, believe them.”
For some women, believing others when they grasp our own greatness can be a real challenge. For others, focusing on our gifts seems like a privilege we lack sufficient time or energy to try. Some women just don’t know where to begin.
Jewish tradition can provide extraordinary role models whose experiences can help us recognize our own special powers. The heroines of Torah and Tanakh demonstrate so many gifts we can emulate: curiosity, compassion, discernment, persistence, loyalty, gratitude, prophecy, defiance, courage, negotiation, and patience – just to name a few. These Jewish feminine superpowers are noticeably different from masculine superpowers we’re more used to recognizing: strength, dominance, confidence, nerve. But they are just as important.
These gifts are not only to be found in biblical heroines. Over the last several months I have been reaching out to Jewish women bringing their own gifts into the world – whether through a small business, a book, unique artwork, or activism – to be featured on my Instagram page (@heroinewhisperer). I’ve been struck by how each woman has her own special message to impart to others. If a certain woman’s gifts are not yet visible, I believe it must only be a matter of unearthing them, most likely from negative internal voices that distract and diminish her.
As we experience the Jewish month of Elul and prepare for the new Jewish year, we often focus on the mistakes we have made in the past year, and how we can do better in the future. That can be a helpful, time-honored exercise.
But maybe sometimes, we miss the mark because we have not taken the risk to venture forth and become our authentic selves. Maybe it is because we do not known ourselves or believed in ourselves enough. So it can also be valuable at this season to focus on who we truly are, what makes us special, and how we can use our strengths to bring our biggest visions – our personal mission – to life.
One thing I’ve learned from my study of Jewish mysticism is that a key purpose of life is to discover and express who we really are. When we come across a part of our own deep truth, it enables us to make authentic and meaningful contributions in the world. But how can we find out who that is? We are not necessarily what our parents, siblings or friends have told us we are. We may not be what our rabbis or teachers have asked us to be.
Recently I’ve been working on a new project to make these answers a little more accessible for women in their own journeys: a new Heroine’s Journal: A Jewish Mystical Journey of Growing into Your Gifts. The free printable booklet includes 12 short lessons incorporating Jewish mysticism and personal growth concepts to help women identify and grow into their gifts. It’s intended for personal and Jewish exploration, so Elul could be the perfect month to use it. The journey concludes with the opportunity to write a prayer or intention, something that will enable you to re-emerge powerfully, as heroines do, into a new beginning.
Each Rosh Hashanah, we have the opportunity to start anew. The books are open and our life is on the table. May this be the year we bring all of our heroine’s gifts into the world.