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Sep 24 2013

New Series: Reading the Torah As a New Mom

By at 12:00 pm

alicia jo rabinsAs Simchat Torah fast approaches and the new Torah reading cycle begins, Kveller is very excited to announce the launch of a new weekly series–Torah commentary from a new mother’s perspective. The series will be led by Alicia Jo Rabins, a multi-talented musician, writer, teacher, and mother.

So what will make this Torah commentary different from all other Torah commentaries? Here’s what Alicia has to say:

My daughter Sylvia is 16 months old. Everyone said having her would change my life, and it wasn’t that I didn’t believe them, but… I didn’t realize becoming a mother would change ME so much. Life looks different from this vantage point.  

I grew up in a pretty secular Jewish home in Baltimore (not the Jewish part of Baltimore, but the Protestant part) and though I had a bat mitzvah and confirmation, I didn’t really get deep into Judaism until college, when I got very curious about the traditions and especially the texts they were based on. I went to Jerusalem and studied at Pardes–it was supposed to be one year but turned into two–and that also changed my life (and me) in a similar way to having Sylvie!

Since I was a writer and musician already, I really fell in love with the Torah and Talmud, the incredible stories and condensed wisdom in those books, as well as Jewish music and the traditions of chanting, singing, and instrumental music.

Ever since I left Jerusalem (13 years ago) I’ve been combining those paths: I am a writer, a musician, and a Jewish educator. I specialize in tutoring bar and bat mitzvah students (often online, often unaffiliated students who I help to create and officiate a ceremony of their own). This means I am always reading the Torah portions through my students’ eyes and experiencing them anew.

I love the way that the Torah changes and expands to match our lives. Every year, every week, every parsha has a different meaning–one of my teachers compared it to a spiral staircase, so each year you return to the same place, but on a higher level.

Because of all these things–my love of Torah, my teaching, my art, and the transformative experience of being a mom, which has really sort of deconstructed my identity and I am now rebuilding it–I want to take a year and read the Torah through the eyes of a (relatively) new mom. To look at the parshas through the lens of motherhood, to read them as a manual for how to survive, and thrive, in this new Mama Land.

Keep your eyes out for Alicia’s first Torah chat tomorrow, all about Parashat Bereshit. In the meantime, you can read the summary of the Torah portion here and gather your thoughts and questions–come tomorrow, we’ll want to hear them!

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