Sometimes we may feel as if we know all we need to about a certain story or practice; we’ve heard a story so many times, read about a Jewish law or custom so many times, that there is no new way to look at it. More often than not, we are doing ourselves a disservice by assuming that we have complete understanding of a given topic. CU Boulder Chabad Rebbetzin, Leah Wilhelm reminded women engaging in her lecture about Adam and Chava, that we may all know the story but we need to ensure that we look at it time and time again with a different set of lenses. There are degrees of understanding and with every look we allow ourselves the privilege to become more informed. After having taken a second, or third, or twentieth look at this story, women in the lecture were allowed to feel empowered as opposed to objectified.
Other workshops included a demonstration of challah baking, mosaic Shabbos candle design, a Kabbalistic discussion about the essence of the Jewish woman, an exploration of Tu B’Shevat through art, and an in-depth explanation about the beauty of mikvah lead by keynote speaker, Tova Hinda Siegel.
Tova went into great detail during her keynote speech as to why society needs to overcome their preconceived notions about women in religious communities. She admitted that at one point, she believed that women in religious communities appeared to be othered or made to be second-class citizens, kept captive in their homes, but she clarified that she could not have been more wrong in this assumption. Tova went on to explain why Jewish women are the strength behind Jewish law, nurturers of their families, and the light of the world. To anyone listening, it was clear that Tova Hinda Siegel had experienced many transformations in her life, but she would never shed herself of her Judaism and desire to practice certain obligatory mitzvoth for the Jewish woman.
No Jewish event would be complete without every guest completely stuffing his or her face with delicious kosher food. Almost as incredible as the lecturers was the smorgasbord of food including varieties of pita spreads and dips, chicken or vegan options served with rice and mixed vegetables for lunch, and flour-less parve chocolate brownies for dessert. Not to mention that yours truly walked away having won one of the generous raffle prizes in addition to the goodie-bag that came standard with attendance.
Certain practices can seem confusing to an outsider. If misunderstood, mikvah and the laws of niddah can be seen as a way to ‘other’ a woman for being ‘impure’, but after having attended Spa for the Soul, one can understand these laws as uplifting and powerful. Spa for the Soul reminded Jewish women in the community that we should never stop asking questions, never stop seeking knowledge, and never stop believing that we are essential to human life (as illustrated by the dozen women cradling or nursing their infants). Spa for the Soul was more than an event to mingle with other Jewish women, it was an opportunity to experience the feminist qualities of Judaism and feel valued and cherished among a group of like-minded women.