Much of the almost seven years’ worth (!) of this blog’s subject matter is about how I find the whole religious deal more than a little intimidating. I may be a heretic and unapologetic shrimp-eater, but I am always drawn to learning more about Judaism and those who practice it in its observant form. I am also curious about the administrative realities of two sets of dishes and getting the toothpaste on the brush in the dark on Friday nights.
I hold a deep respect for Jewish women who make and keep religious homes. The observant women I know in our community are always so lovely and patient with my questions, and it’s wonderful when we can transcend our differences and talk about spiritual matters. It’s not an easy to cross the bridge, and I was honored to receive an invitation last week to attend a women-only talk at someone’s home with Aliza Bulow, educator, author and “spiritual midwife.”
With her broad smile, stylish glasses and self-assured manner, Ms. Bulow bears more than a passing resemblance to a frum Sarah Palin, but her message, thank heavens, had nothing to do with tea or grizzlies. She leads the Jewish Experience program in Denver, Co, and mentors women all over the country in the laws of kashrut; she is also a “Jew-by-choice” who has taken Torah study to its highest scholarly levels. I was delighted to learn that the meaning of her lecture, “Fine-Tuning Your Receiver,” could apply to me, even if I was the only one in the room with bare knees.
Quoting from the Talmud and reciting obscure (to me) prayers in Hebrew, Ms. Bulow constructed a case for “turning down the physical to hear the spiritual,” which she asserts is the true reason behind tzunis, or the modest dress required of women. I liked that she announced herself as a feminist right away and spoke against tzunis to keep women held back. She spoke of blasting through ego to reveal one’s true self, of bringing down the clamor of our needs and wants in order to hear the Divine will, of using Torah as a beacon that guides us towards that will.
It was captivating, interesting, applicable and authentic. I had no idea this was going on the other side of mechitza (the partition that separates the men and women in Orthodox synagogues.) All I could think was, “If this was what was being talking about on the bima in Reform shuls, they’d have a packed house.”
Make no mistake; I am a long, long way from kashering my kitchen or wearing a sheitel, but I can dig how following the laws of the Torah and the wisdom of the sages can bring us closer to God. I hope I’ll get another invitation to hear Ms. Bulow speak if she ever passes this way again—I promise I’ll cover my elbows this time.
Though I wasn’t able to find any videos of her lectures, here one’s about her path to Judaism:
You can read more by Aliza Bulow at Aish.com.