Monday, April 7, 2008

Inner and Outer Torah

The wise women of Safed, like the Torah, itself, teach us that our inner voice must, at all costs, be discerned and listened to. And like the women of Safed, we also know that it would be foolhardy to ignore the ethics, laws, and practices of our ancient traditions, for they are based upon deep principles of truth that deserve our reverence and study. The ancient tradition must be brought into a conversation with what women know on the inside, for we can no longer forsake the clear and resounding voice of wisdom that arises from our bodies, our feelings, and our intuition.

Both voices are vital: the Torah understood by the outer tradition and the Torah received from within. To follow either one to the exclusion of the other is dangerous for men as well as women. But holding these two authorities in tension is not for everyone. It requires the hard work of listening and mediating and a taste for ambiguity. Nevertheless, when we listen to the inner feminine voice, we can hear more clearly how to open the doors of the tradition to our modern sensibilities and needs. The women of Safed model this approach for us.

The ancient traditions are begging for new life to be breathed into them, so that we can bring them into the world in fresh, relevant ways. This can only happen through those who are knowledgeable of the outer tradition, attuned to receiving their inner truth, and willing to grapple with the ambiguities of modern life.

Rabbi Tirzah Firestone, The Receiving: Reclaiming Jewish Women's Wisdom

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