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"She Becomes Tradition"

Each week, the Union for Reform Judaism publishes commentary on the weekly Torah portion on their website. Rabbi Eliana Fischel's "She Becomes Tradition," a  davar acher on Parashat T'rumah, will be published on this Shabbat. It draws on Naomi Shemer’s “Father’s Song” (Shiro shel Aba) and Exodus 25 as punctuation and inspiration to trace the evolution of a woman’s life from childhood to adulthood. We are delighted to share her words with you here.

She races home from school to meet her mother. She helps put the china on the white table cloth, feeling pride as she sets the silver in their Shabbas homes.

Hours later, she watches as the match hits the box, igniting in flame. The hands that hug and comfort make one, two, three circles around these lights. As the hands lower, her mother smiles over the table she has set, over the family she has created, over the house she has built: “Shabbat Shalom.”

Older than wine and sweeter than honey.

She pulls into the driveway a half hour before sun down, angsty teen melodies blaring out of the windows. She is greeted by her mother’s aggravation, “Our friends will be here soon.” She makes excuses, then pleads to be set free. “They are your friends. Can’t I go spend time with mine?”

An hour later, she waits for her mother’s head to lift from her hands, a sign that soon the blessings will be over and she will be allowed to leave.

Sing a new psalm.

She wanders around campus at sunset. She knows Shabbat is happening. She thinks she hears L’cha Dodi across the quad. But those voices are not her voices, those people are not her people. Everything is new here. New schedule. New friends. New. She yearns for something…

Older than wine.

She enters Shabbat angry. She’s been studying. Learning about how men were the builders. Builders of Torah, communities, tradition. Their hearts were moved, not hers. She never realized learning could come at such a price – an erasure of her Torah, her community, her tradition. Where was she?

Sing a new psalm, which is older than wine.

She frantically cleans her home. Her mother is coming for Shabbat, and her children are running late. She puts out the white tablecloth. She contemplates the china and her d’var Torah for the evening. She sets out the silver.

With the lights underneath her hands, she looks out onto her family. Across the table of her ancestors, she sees her daughter. She smiles. The first circle – older than wine. The second circle – sweeter than honey. The third circle – the new psalm she sings as she becomes tradition:

Make for Me a sanctuary,
A sanctuary built from your heart,
And your heart,
And yours.
Bring your gifts,
Bring your story,
Bring your Torah.
Bring you.
So that I may dwell,
Comfortably,
Among you.
Sing a new psalm, which is older than wine and sweeter than honey.


This post originally appeared on ReformJudaism.org.