Comment Nishmat a décidé d’avoir une lecture de la Megilat Esther par ses étudiantes et pour ses étudiantes

Il y a quelques jours, les filles de mon programme (Tochnit Alisa) ont eu une petite introduction sur ce à quoi Nishmat ressemble lors de Pourim (la fête des sorts). Il s’agit apparemment d’une expérience à ne surtout pas manquer. Ce qui a attiré mon attention, lors de cette présentation, est le fait que Nishmat n’a pas toujours organisé une lecture de la Megilat Esther par ses étudiantes pour ses étudiantes mais a créé une telle lecture après quelques années d’existence. La mise en place d’une telle lecture, telle qu’elle nous a été présentée, est intéressante et je me suis dit qu’il serait enrichissant de la partager avec vous.

Au début de son existence, la midreshet Nishmat n’était pas établie dans le quartier de Pat à Jérusalem, près de Katamon, mais était domiciliée à Beit Vagan, cependant le niveau d’étude était tout aussi élevé. La rabbanite Henkin a demandé à un rabbin de Beit Vagan s’il connaissait quelqu’un pouvant venir lire la Megilat Esther pour les étudiantes de Nishmat. Le rabbin a assuré la rabbanite Henkin que quelqu’un viendrait.

Le jour de Pourim arriva et, en effet, un jeune adolescent d’une quinzaine d’années s’est présenté à Nishmat pour faire la lecture de la Megilat Esther. Une petite précision avant de continuer : les étudiantes de Nishmat étudient la Megilat Esther en profondeur tout comme le traité de Talmud du même nom, Masechet Meguila, autrement dit, elles sont, entre autres, parfaitement versées dans ce texte et savent le lire sur le bout des doigts. Cette précision est importante pour la suite.
Ainsi, ce jeune homme commença sa lecture et… ce fut apparemment un désastre. Il n’était apparemment pas entièrement prêt et faisait beaucoup de fautes, et se faisait corriger par les étudiantes de Nishmat qui, sur ce point, il semble, en savaient bien plus que lui…

Il n’y a pas besoin de dire que la rabbanite Henkin était très gênée par cette situation et très embarrassée. Après la lecture de la Meguila, elle rentra chez elle et raconta ce qui s’était passé à son mari, rav Henkin. Elle lui demanda si une autre solution était possible, car une telle situation ne pouvait pas se reproduire; est-ce que la lecture de la Meguila pouvait être faite par des femmes pour des femmes ? Rav Henkin étudia la question et se prononça favorablement en ce qui concerne une telle lecture. Depuis, chaque année, la lecture de la Megila est faite par les étudiantes de Nishmat pour les étudiantes de Nishmat.

Depuis plus d’un mois j’entends des jeunes femmes s’entraîner tous les jours pour cette lecture dans le Beit Midrash.

Purim Sameach à tous !

Tefilat hashachar : ideal world vs real world

A bit more than two weeks ago, I finished studying the first mishna and the whole gemara discussion that goes with it in masechet brachot, perek revihi. We had a little siyum with my whole Gemara class to celebrate this achievement and here are the thoughts I shared with my class and that I am now sharing with you dear readers.

Learning the Gemara about Tefilat Hashachar is comforting because we all know how it’s supposed to work, we all know that there is a halachic time for prayer, but what happens when you study the Mishna Tefilat haShachar in depth and realize that praying on time is way much trickier and way much up to discussion than what you thought ? You then enter in this picture where you want so much your praying time to be ideal but you get caught up by reality way more often than what you’d like.

Tefilat haShachar : being caught between an ideal world and the reality.

You would like to be a Vatikin and pray as early as possible i.e. saying Kriat Shema before day, so you can start your day with Shmonei Esrei. This is the ideal world. But in the world you’re really living in, it’s an exception if you manage that. Being a true committed student at Nishmat you study Torah more than only 10 hours a day and you often go to sleep passed midnight and waking up at 6 a.m. to be able to daven at the earliest time is jeopardized not only once but everyday to be honest, since you also belong to the category of people who need at least 7 hours of sleep per night to be able to function more or less normally.

So, since you don’t succeed to be Vatikin, you comfort yourself by telling yourself that, at least, by being fully rested after a good night of sleep, your davening will be deep and you’ll experience a real connection with Hashem. You’ll be praying on time, never have to make up the time. This is the ideal world. In reality, you’re often exhausted and it happens that you oversleep and have to rush into davening without the best mindset you shoud have for one of your daily connections with Hashem.
It could go on. The make up tefilot, the fact that now you know that rabbi Yehuda is the strictest but never followed and rabbi Yochanan is the one you have to rely on.

Now, after having learnt this entire Mishna and discussion, your life could get more stressful, more complicated, because you now know the halacha you have to follow in-depth, you can’t pretend to be ignorant anymore. But oddly enough, life isn’t more stressful than it was three months ago, even if you don’t manage to reconcile the ideal world you wish you could live in and the real world you’re actually living in, because at the buttom line what matter is : צלותא רחמי היא

To show who you are and not to show off

A few days before Yom Kippur this yea,r I was talking with two friends who  told me they didn’t want to go to shul on Yom Kippur. They gave me several reasons to explain their position. One of those reasons was that they thought a lot of people were coming to shul on Yom Kippur not to pray but to show off.
I could relate to that feeling. Not because I do go to shul on Yom Kippur to show off but because I also have this feeling way too often. I’m not judging but I have eyes and I see.
What a sadness. Yom Kippur is a day about everything and mostly about asking forgiveness towards G-d, doing Teshuvah and acknowledging the mistakes we did. This holy day – Yom Kippur – that most of the Jewish people respect and sacralize in one way or another is certainly not about showing off and bragging.
The link with the parasha Ki Tavo (and with other parashiot but we read Ki Tavo recently that’s why I mention it) has to be underlined. This parashah shows us that what counts before G-d is what we do, in other words our deeds, our mitsvot and not our lineage or where we come from, especially on Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur and the ten days between those two holidays.

Coming to shul on Yom Kippur all parfumed, with a bag (or a suit for that matter) that clearly was truly expensive just to talk and really not to pray or really think of who we are or of all the things (bad and good) that we did during the year is not only against the laws of Yom Kippur (that is also called the Shabbat of Shabbaton), it’s clearly disrespectful.
I know many of you will point out that lots of people going to shul on Yom Kippur aren’t that religious or even not religious at all  and are dragged to shul by their families « because it’s the tradition in our family ».

I truly think everyone – religous and not religious – would gain on holiness if people coming to shul only to show off  would start coming to shul  to ask themselves who and where they are and why they are coming to shul on Yom Kippur and what they gain for this very particular experience.
It’s true that spending the whole day of Yom Kippur concentrated on praying and asking G-d to forgive ourselves isn’t easy and is a real challenge that we don’t always succeed. But it’s a real experience that brings so much by doing it (and reading all the explanations written in the Artscroll Yom Kippur Machzor). By this experience you gain clarity on what Yom Kippur truly means.

To conclude this article of reflections about Yom Kippur, we are all human beings, that means we all fall one or several times and we do mistakes. The most important to memorize is not the list of all the mistakes we did last year or already this year, but that it is important to get back up after having fallen or having made a mistake. Thanks to this fall or this mistake we know our capacities and our limits and know who we are better.
Learning how to ask forgiveness, how to do teshuvah and how to live with the mistakes we have done without denying them is the real challenge of knowing who we are. By acknowledging it on Yom Kippur we show who we are way more clearly than just by coming to shul to show off.

May this new year 5774 bring you all clarity, joy and prosperity. May G-d answer all your prayers and give you what you need and ask for.

Nouvelle année et nouveaux buts

Shana tova umetuka à tous !

Qui dit nouvelle année dit… nouveaux buts. Je ne parle pas de résolutions car cela rime avec améliorations et implique que de toute façon ces résolutions ne seront pas tenues donc autant se fixer des buts qui eux ont une véritable chance d’être respectés.
De quels buts parle-t-on ? Des buts du blog d’Esther. En effet j’aimerais que le blog évolue, tout d’abord en publiant plus d’articles, autrement dit m’engager à publier au moins un article par semaine, pour que le blog en soit enfin un digne de ce nom.
J’aimerais également, durant cette année 5774, étendre un peu mes domaines d’écriture. Ce blog était jusqu’à maintenant plutôt un blog de réflexions personnelles en lien avec les différents blogs et articles que je lis mais j’aimerais écrire des articles ayant un peu plus de profondeur et permettant de donner une véritable identité au blog (soyons honnêtes pour le moment c’est un peu confus…).
J’aimerais également proposer durant cette année proposer plus d’articles de réflexion sur la Torah, le judaïsme dans son ensemble, en proposant de manière régulière des réflexions sur les parashiot, sur différents sujets d’un point de vue juif religieux et présenter certains ouvrages et personnages clés (ou inconnus) de la religion juive.
Enfin, j’aimerais profiter de mon année d’étude à la Midrasha Nishmat pour écrire régulièrement sur cette institution, en présentant les sujets étudiés et comment ils sont abordés.
De nouvelles rubriques seront créées prochainement pour que tous ces nouveaux buts prennent forme et soient visibles sur le blog et un re-design complet de celui-ci n’est pas à exclure !

‘Hag sameakh à tous et à toutes et le prochain article sera publié durant ‘hol hamoëd ou juste après Sukkot.

Stay tuned !

On Shidduchim when you’re not frum from birth

One of my friends discussed the issue of dating and shidduchim on a recent blog post. This blog post issued a discussion between the two of us. The main topic and question was : is it hard to date and find a proper shidduch when you’re not frum from birth (FFB) ? i.e. when you didn’t grow up in a religious family either because you’re a baal teshuva (an originally non-observant Jew who returned to Judaism and became orthodox) or because you’re a convert.

Generalizations are dangerous and we can’t say evil is everywhere but it’s true that dating and finding a shidduch when you’re not from a religious family can be hard. Indeed, for some communities, especially chareidi, yeshivish and chassidish, yichus i.e. the prestige of a family, the lineage, is extremely important. For some parents, letting their son and their daughter marrying a baal teshuva or a convert would be seen as a social decline. Moreover it would be extremely degrading for this family and the whole community in those circles.

It’s written in Midrash Bamidbar 8,2 that Hakadosh Baroukh hou really likes converts because they left their family and the house of their father to be closer from Him. People often say gerim have more credits than frum from birth Jews, but when it comes for converts to find a suitable match it’s a whole different story and they often become « second class citizens ». Why such an hypocrisy ? Why saying one thing and doing the exact opposite ?

Does it bother me ?

Yes it does. This conception or should I say this misconception angries me and makes me want to scream and revolutionize the world.

No I don’t think yichus or origins of a family are that important to build a solid marriage. Don’t get me wrong, some people need similarities of backgrounds to feel safe like being from the same minhag, coming from the same social class, being both college educated and so on but it’s not necessary to have a succesful marriage. What is necessary is to be on the same track, to share the same values and the same goals and to have several or lots of things in common. As rebbetzin Esther Jungreis, may she have a long life, often writes in her columns about shidduchim, the fact that your future husband likes to play tennis and you don’t, doesn’t mean you can’t build a solid relationship and home together.

Another issue is also how is dating in some communities. It’s a secret for no one that the divorce rate among religious people is higher nowadays than it was before. I sadly haven’t any survey to share here.
Why does the divorce rate grow ? Probably because in some closed religious communities marriage happens way too early to very young boys and girls who are hardly no teenagers anymore. Shidduchim are quick. In some communities, boys ands girls meet each other one, three or six times before getting engaged and then married. How is it possible to know if someone suits you in six dates ? How can one know someone in six dates ? I’m not sure parents (even if they went through this also) realize marriage is the union between to people who have to share the same vision, to be able to live together for the next 70 years. Also, it may be that people slowly realize the ideal life of a chareidi/yeshivish/chassidish couple i.e. the husband learning in kollel and the wife supporting the family isn’t suitable for everyone and maybe shouldn’t be the only possibility. Some men aren’t suited to learn in the Kollel, some women aren’t suited to work very hard to support their husband and their family and letting him keeping learning for an undertiminated number of years. Letting people believe that being at the kollel for the husband and working around the clock for the woman is the only ideal marriage is simply a lie.
Baalei batim are also good people who do their best to find the balance between Torah learning and working to support their family, and this way of life should also be an ideal conception of marriage. Everyone should be able to choose what suits them the most.
This blog post isn’t the place to discussion about the necessity of education, but it’s an issue I would love to develop in another blog post.

To conclude, I would like for everyone to keep in mind that background checks, investigation may be necessary in the shidduch system but it won’t determine absolutely if two persons are suitable for each other. Sometimes, it seems perfect on paper but in the real life it doesn’t work. Keep in mind that marrying someone is one of the most important decision you’ll ever have to take. You marry someone for who they are and not for what they are.

L’année prochaine à Jérusalem

La vie étant un véritable tourbillon ces derniers mois, je n’ai pas eu l’occasion de partager avec mes lecteurs une nouvelle extrêmement importante et réjouissante :

L’année prochaine je serai à Jérusalem en tant qu’étudiante à la Midrasha Nishmat, centre d’études avancées pour femmes.

La nouvelle est arrivée il y a un peu plus d’un mois dans ma boîte e-mail. J’ai déjà expliqué ici les raisons pour lesquelles j’avais choisi en septembre dernier de passer trois semaines à Nishmat et ces raisons n’ont pas changé. Je sais que Nishmat est le meilleur endroit pour moi, jeune orthodoxe féministe, d’étudier la Torah et de grandir personnellement et spirituellement.

Restez en contact avec le blog qui dès septembre prochain sera écrit depuis Jérusalem.

Next year in Jerusalem

Life is like a whirwind lately so I didn’t have time to share an very important and wonderful news with my readers.

Next year I’ll be the happy and proud student at the Midrasha Nishmat, advanced studies center for women in Jerusalem.

I got the news a little more than a month ago in my mailbox

I have already explained in some articles in french why I chose to spend three weeks last September studying at Nishmat and it hasn’t changed. I’m still convinced that Nishmat is the best place for me to grow personally and spiritually as a young orthodox feminist.

Stay tuned, from next September this blog will be written from Jerusalem !