Today is day 2 of the counting of the omer.
One of the most surprisingly pleasant and meaningful moments of my life was my first Aliyah…
I was raised traditional, went to Hebrew school, could read and write basic Hebrew, and even had a Bat Mitzvah. My Bat Mitzvah, as was done those days, was on Sunday morning and along with some prayers, I chanted the haftarah. Being a woman, I wasn’t allowed up to the bima, wasn’t allowed to touch the Torah and wasn’t allowed an Aliyah. At the time I accepted it, and while I didn’t like it on purely feminist grounds, I honestly didn’t think much of it. I didn’t think I was missing anything; I just wanted to be able to do anything a ‘boy’ could do.
Now jump ahead 20 or so years. I was at a cousin’s bat mitzvah, on a Shabbat, when my family offered me an Aliyah. I had had honors in the past- responsive readings, open and closing the ark etc. However this was the first time I was offered an actual torah blessing Aliyah complete with being called up by my Hebrew name. I was pleased, but honestly didn’t think much of it other than making sure I wouldn’t trip on the way up the bima, for how different could this honor be….
However, standing there, in front of the crowded congregation and the open torah scrolls themselves, being able to recite the same blessings I knew since childhood – it was an amazing, almost intoxicating experience. While I understood the mechanics before – at that precise moment – being physically present at the torah, during a service, hearing the congregations’ murmured responses, touching the scroll with the tzitzit after the cantor finished chanting – I felt included and part of something so much larger and more powerful than me. I wasn’t just going through the motions, participating in this act wasn’t just another task or accomplishment to be checked off. I was truly awed and humbled – not just by my family’s offering me the opportunity – but with the power of the experience and the ability to have such a visceral connection to my heritage, my past and our future.
Tomorrow, Nava Herzog.