Activating Our Power

I had a very special, soul-changing, life-shining opportunity to lead a learning this week on how may we, as Jewish women, Activate our power. During this time, a question came up about what does “power” mean.

Boy, is that a loaded question.

Throughout the years (and I mean thousands of years), women have been assigned a very specific role in the world: creators of life, keepers of the household, and bearers of the spiritual soul of the home. We are entrusted to light the candles for Shabbat, leading the spiritual light into our homes and creating the sacred space that will usher the neshama yetera, or additional soul into our lives. Shabbat allows us to create two connections with our space. A connection with our outward space, the practice of connecting with God through ritual practices and prayer, and the inwards connection, which is the time we take to rest and connect with our soul (I guess it’s a good thing we get two souls during this time!). We have from sunset on Friday, to sunset on Saturday, to do all of this spiritual work that will lead us to the week to come, only to prepare our souls for the next Shabbat. And again, as women, we are entrusted with this holiest of moments yet again.

And because this blog talks about being comfortably uncomfortable, here is my confession: I rarely, if ever, light shabbat candles in my home. Why am I admitting this to you? Because I am activating my power.

So how does me admitting that I am failing at that one spiritual responsibility mean I am activating my power? One of the themes that came up during this learning was taking action and recognizing my space, recognizing my needs, and finding my role.

Let me explain, because your head is probably spinning now.

I grew up in a conservative home. Shabbat candles were a staple, shabbat services a must, and our Saturdays would end in a beautiful Havdalah service with our youth group. Once I moved out of my house, I regretfully stopped practicing any of these things, and became disconnected with my Judaism. It wasn’t until my son was born, and he started going to a Jewish nursery school, that I found a way to reconnect with my Judaism. I slowly started looking for my place in my Jewish community, taking him to the Sharing Shabbat activities once a month. I have to admit, he wasn’t nearly as excited as I was about this opportunity, but for me, it was more than just sharing a shabbat space with my son; it felt like going home.

If you know me personally, you might find this hard to believe, but I consider myself an introvert. Going to these shabbat experiences, sharing the space with other families, and joining a congregation that wasn’t my own, was a challenge. I grew up knowing only about the conservative movement, and with preconceived notions about what being a “reform Jew” meant. I had to readjust all of my understandings and practices in order to find my place in this new environment. And I am so glad I did.

Here’s where the power conversation comes in. I didn’t have to speak up, do this grand gesture, or make this radical change in my life. My power came from looking inwards, recognizing what my soul needed. In a way, I did light a metaphorical shabbat candle; I ushered a spiritual light into my soul. Now, this is not to say that I have reconnected to a more religious sense of self. What this little candle did was to ignite a fire that has lead me to understand why my purpose in life is. I became involved with my congregation, became a Jewish educator, got a once in a lifetime chance to spend eight life changing days in Israel at the Nahum Goldman Fellowship through the Memorial Foundation for Jewish Culture (and if you haven't heard about it, and work in the Jewish world, I strongly recommend you follow the link!), exploring the true meaning of what Jewish identity really is, and I am now working towards becoming a DEI facilitator in order to create more inclusive Jewish spaces. And all it took was a kids shabbat service, and a special moment with my son.

In our world today, women are constantly being challenged. Whether is the right to choose over our own bodies, equal pay, equal treatment, and constant fear of keeping ourselves and our bodies safe. We live in a constant state of defensiveness because we are wired to always be looking out for the worst possible scenario. So, when we are asked what activating our power means, we go straight into the idea of speaking up and taking radical steps. The problem with that is (in my humble opinion) that we are looking in all the wrong places. We don’t need to jump 100 feet out of our comfort zone to find that power; we need to start from within. We need to find that “shabbat light”, and see where that light takes us. We all have a voice, a role to play that goes beyond of what is expected from us. We can literally be anything we want to be, do anything we want to do, but to get there, we need to start from within. We can be a mom and work outside the home, or stay at home with our children. We can choose to not marry and not have children, or have children without being married. We can fall in love with whomever we want to, or not believe in love at all. Whatever we choose to do, that is our power.

And because we are about to enter into American Thanksgiving, I am going to take this time to thank you all for being a part of this journey with me, and for taking the time to read this. I will share with you the same wish I had for the wonderful women that joined me in our learning this morning. May you find the spark within you, ignite it, and let it take over all the space that you feel it needs the light. May it allow you to find and grow in your role, and may it inspire you to inspire others.


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