Voices of WRJ

This weekly blog series, published on Fridays, features insights from WRJ leaders on the Torah portions from a women's perspective. Enhance your Torah learning and understanding by adding Voices to your reading list.

Parashat Mikeitz

Phyllis Strasberg
What really stood out to me as I was reading the Contemporary Reflections in The Torah: A Women’s Commentary by Judy Schindler was her reminder of Joseph’s children’s Ephraim and Manasseh becoming part of our tables for generations – the Sabbath Prayer. “May you be like Ephraim and Manasseh.” It reminds me of the many Shabbats I spent hearing the Fiddler on the Roof version of the Sabbath Prayer at Henry S. Jacobs Camps. I remember how comforting it always is to hear, “May the Lord protect and defend you.” After hearing, “May you be like Ruth and like Esther,” I am instantly taken back to wearing white and sweating (it is hot in Utica, MS!).  

Parashat Vayeishev

fredi Bleeker Franks
Over the years, I have heard so many stories of women who had big dreams for themselves, their families, and yes, even their women’s groups, but had let them go because they were told to be realistic and get their heads out of the clouds. They were told that their dreams would never come true. During those conversations, I encouraged those women to revisit their dreams. I told them that, as with our friend Joseph, dreams could be connections with God and our most authentic selves, and we owe it to ourselves to try to make them come true.

Parashat Vayishlach 

Jane Taves
How many family rifts have we witnessed in our lives, over far less serious wrongs than those suffered by Esau, and how often are the family members unable to find this forgiveness? And in our larger world, how many conflicts are we witnessing between nations, political beliefs, religions, and even streams of Judaism? Forgiveness and reconciliation are in short supply right now. What can we learn from the decisions that Esau makes in this parashah?

Parashat Vayeitzei

Karen Sim, WRJ First Vice President, Isaac M. Wise Temple, Cincinnati, OH
For me, Jacob's ladder is the connection between heaven and Earth, which we travel in life, as contemporary Jews, with the guidance of Torah and the wisdom we garner from personal experience to act in an ethical and moral fashion. Our “house of God” is the Earth we inhabit, the arena where we balance good and bad, and seek to bring divine inspiration to daily life. This is our challenge and guides our choices as individuals and as members of Women of Reform Judaism.

Parashat Tol'dot

Sharon Zydney
In the US, slavery and segregation meant that Blacks and whites lived as ‘2 peoples’ where whites prevailed over Blacks. While laws have been passed to remove barriers to equal justice, centuries of racial subordination and discrimination do not end just because laws are passed to prohibit them. There is still much work to be done to ensure that all persons have their civil rights and that, unlike the blessing Isaac conferred on Esau, they can live freely wherever they wish to reside. We can help affect change through participation in any number of social action and social justice initiatives.