After millenia of relative silence, the singing voices of religious Jewish women are being heard more and more. This explosive growth is a sign of impending redemption.
In the 18th century, Rabbi Shneur Zalman Baruchovitch, known throughout the Jewish world as the Ba’al HaTanya, wrote about why the bride’s voice is not traditionally heard in a Jewish wedding. Although she’s a central figure in the ceremony, she has no speaking role.
The Ba’al HaTanya teaches that the Jewish bride is likened to the Shechinah, the feminine aspect of God. While the Jewish people are in exile and the redemption is far off, the Shechinah remains silent. We can extrapolate that when the redemption is close at hand, the Shechinah, and women by extension, will have their voices restored.
This is exactly what an observer of the Jewish women’s music scene today would conclude.
By illustration, there is a relatively new Facebook group designated as a “place for Jewish women and girls to post themselves singing and dancing and sharing creative expression for other women and girls to enjoy.” The group has over 5,000 members.
Next month in Jerusalem, there will be a multi-day conference called ATARA, expressly for Torah women in the arts.
Also, religious Jewish women are writing, performing and recording music in record numbers.
“Since the time of Gan Eden (the Garden of Eden) and the eating from the Tree of Good and Evil, there has been a ‘collapse’ of the feminine, which has been going through a rectification process since then,” said one such woman, Tziona Achishena to Breaking Israel News.
Based in Tzfat (Safed), which is located in Northern Israel, Tziona has released 10 CDs of her original music.
“The rise of the feminine can be seen in all areas” including the development of women’s music, she continued.
“The Song of Songs gives over this process throughout its development. The feminine has to go through a maturation process, which ultimately results in a face- to-face meeting between masculine and feminine, and the admonition to the female character of the book to make her voice heard.”
O my dove, in the cranny of the rocks, Hidden by the cliff, Let me see your face, Let me hear your voice; For your voice is sweet And your face is comely. Song of Songs 2:14
The Talmud teaches that the sun and the moon were originally created equal to each other in size and illumination but that the moon’s size and light were eventually diminished. The Zohar, the treasury of Judaism’s mystical tradition, likens the moon to women.
Referencing these teachings Achishena said, “Geula (redemption) [is when] the brightness of the moon is like that of the sun. Feminine light [is] revealed. Inner light [is] revealed. [And the] hidden songs of generations of women [are] revealed in the generation of geula.”
Annie Orenstein, manager of the Israel-based Spotlight on Women organization, told Breaking Israel News, “I feel that women are starting to understand the power that music has to influence the soul and comfort other women with messages of strength and empowerment.”
“Women who dream of geula have a vision of a world that celebrates each and every individual’s purpose and mission in the world,” she continued.
“Many religious artists connect to the verse ‘Miriam took a timbrel in her hand’ which is found in the book of Exodus.”
“Singing is connected to prayer, so through song, we are praying for a world that is more complete and healthy,” Orenstein explained. “I feel that the closer women are to their core, the more they see the power of geula and feel a part of that process.”
Rifka Harris, one of the heads of the upcoming, Jerusalem-based ATARA conference for women in the performing arts, spoke to Breaking Israel News about the growth of women performers being a part of a larger redemptive process. Harris posited that holiness comes into the world when a woman has “the ability to actualize [her] neshama (soul) in the direction HaKadosh Baruch Hu (God) wants it to go.”
“The phenomenon of women being given a platform to express creativity in the form of performance is only one possible direction that actualization can go – but some women were created by HaKadosh Baruch Hu to actualize in that way,” she added.
Toby Klein Greenwald, veteran director of Jewish musicals, said that “geula has to do with returning to our natural state, and I think women coming out of the shadows and finding their voice is strongly connected to the return to who we are.”
The great women of the past, the women who led the way, [including] Sarah and Devora (Deborah) and the daughters of Tzelafchad (Zelophehad) and all the women who led the way, they were Biblical women,” Greenwald continued. “We, the women of today, should return to that confidence and that leadership.”
“Devora was a military leader and a judge and a teacher of Torah and she was a prophetess,” Greenwald noted. “(Devorah) was all these things and she was accepted by all of Am Yisrael (the Jewish people) including all the men in Am Yisrael, as a leader.”
“For women to once more take their leadership roles and have their voices be heard – this is a sign of the geula,” Greenwald asserted.