This Shabbat, I had the immense privilege of leyning from the Torah. It was only three lines from Deuteronomy 3, 1 – 3, but counter to all of my expectations back then, it was the first time I’d leyned since my adult bat mitzvah in 1996 — almost exactly 20 years ago. I had actually hoped to read my bat mitzvah parsha which is Ekev, but this particular minyan doesn’t meet that week. So I read from Devarim (Triennial/3), instead.
Maybe for you, this might not qualify as a privilege, if it’s a regular part of your Jewish life. Maybe it’s so much a part that it’s more like a duty, or maybe even a complete non-event. But for me, it is a privilege.
Why do I consider it a privilege? First, because it is reading from a sacred text the way Jews have read from that text for over two thousand years.
Second, it’s a privilege because leyning has not always been something women were taught to do. I learned to be Jewish in the Conservative or Masorti movement, where women are taught to leyn and to daven (pray) in the same way men are. And the Reform movement, of which this minyan is a part, took those strides long before.
But third, and perhaps most important to me at this point in my life, it is a privilege because it is a role in the lifecycle of a particular Jewish kehilah or community. The Gesher minyan is actually so small that everyone’s participation is necessary for its continuity. And that makes me feel important.
I had not chanted Torah in years and could at this point only learn my lines from a recording whereas initially, I had learned the trope itself — the specific sequence of notes that relate to each word or phrase of the scroll. But I rose to the occasion and did what I could. Dayenu.