Tonight, I sat around a table with five other young Jewish women, and we spoke about our Jewish female role models. We started off in a very Jewish way, with a blessing and a question: “May G-d make you like Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel, and Leah.” Why? Why are they our role models? Why do our parents want us to be like them?
We talked for a minute. They were good people, they were leaders, they were caring, and they were giving. The answer I shared was one I had prepared for tonight, a quote I came across during my internet research:
“Each one lived in recognition that the ultimate in fulfillment is enabling others to realize their potentials as individuals and as members of the Jewish people. The Torah is filled with accounts of these women, recording their insight, their giving nature, and their sensitivity, leadership, and special ability to inspire others.” — Mrs. Lori Palatnik
Our matriarchs were giving, insightful, sensitive, leaders, and able to inspire others.
Our conversation then moved to the following question: even though our parents have given us role models by blessing us like this, we probably look up to role models of our own. Who are our role models?
Each of us went around the table and shared her story. We spoke of our mothers and our grandmothers, women we’ve read about, and women we’ve seen in the media. Names like Beruriah, Mayim Bialik, and Natalie Portman were tossed around. The ladies we talked about embody nashot chayil, women of valor: they are wise, witty, generous, spiritually mature, classy, and, most importantly, they are open and proud about their Judaism and their support for Israel.
As the volunteer discussion leader, I took the morning to draft plans for our conversation. In my research, I drafted a list of Jewish women we traditionally see as role models: Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel, Leah, Devorah, Esther, Chana, Beruriah, and Rachel (wife of Rabbi Akiva). I stared at the list for a couple minutes and tried to choose my role model. Though I immediately jumped to Beruriah, for many personal reasons, I realized that there were aspects of each woman I want to embody.
After sharing my thoughts with a true friend (despite our current long distance situation) and woman of valor in her own rite, Juliana Isaac, we came up with a prayer of our own. Through it, we ask G-d, on a more personal level, to help us in our aspirations to become like the women we so admire. After all, in my research, I found another quote that we both fell in love with:
“It is said that women took nine measures of speech out of ten. This means that, when it comes to prayer, women have tremendous power. G-d wants our hearts; He wants a connection. As women, we can identify with that feeling, because that is what makes us tick.” — Samantha Barnett
So through this prayer, we give to G-d our truest aspirations and the meditations of our hearts.
Let me give like Sarah and Rebecca, and let me dance and sing like Miriam. Give me the wisdom of Beruriah and Devorah; make me patient and supportive like Rachel. Let me be brave like Esther, and let me pray like Chana. Let me be a mother like Yocheved and a wife like Tzipporah. Give me faith like You gave Ruth, and guide me as You guided my mothers before me.
תן לי הנדיבות של שרה ורבקה, ותן לי לרקוד ולשיר כמו מרים. תן לי החוכמה של ברוריה ודבורה; ועשה אותי סובלני ותומכת כמו רחל. תן לי הגבורה של אסתר, ותן לי להתפלל כמו חנה. עשה אותי אם כמו יוכבד ואישה כמו צפורה. תן לי אמונה כמו שנתת לרות, ותדריך אותי כמו שהדרכת אמהות שלי לפני.