Given the present day focus on gender abuse, the story portrayed here about Judith and the Maccabees seems to have particular contemporary relevance. In the book of Judith, she is said to single-handedly and courageously mobilize the heretofore passive Jewish men, who submissively watched brides being snatched by Syrian Greeks from under the wedding canopies. When Judith challenged the Jewish males to action, they finally began to rally against their abusers and regain the sanctity of their lives.
May I begin to speak with the permission
of the One Creator and sustainer of all worlds,
And with deep respect
address those who claim to carry out His word-
Oh men of Torah, where is your Torah
that so protects the honor of your brides?
Oh men of prayer, where is your prayer
for those feminine faces of Shechina?
Oh men of charity, where is your charity
for those whose gentle kindness restores life?
True, a battle was won on uncommon ground;
One bottle of oil was found intact,
burning far beyond time’s boundaries.
But not all battles have yet been won;
not all the lights have been safeguarded.
The oppressors are still at our gates, upon our necks,
and upon our women, our living sanctuaries;
Where is your fight for that clear light,
whose pure essence may soon be snuffed out?
You wise men say
Sarah added to the heavenly luminaries.
How then can you let earthly reflections
now suffer threats of annihilation?
You say that young Rivkah
brought the fire back
as soon as her feet skipped past the door of Sarah’s tent.
How then can you allow
our direct currents of holiness to be defiled?
And was it for nothing that Yaacov crossed the Yabok
to retrieve from the Shamen of the future,
a tiny cruse of oil,
found in wonder when twelve stones merged?
Could his sons embedded in those stones
Have even begun to grow
without four maternal flames
Whose tongues brought forth tribal names
in flares of prophecy?
Did father Yaacov wrestle in vain
with an angel of this worldliness?
Perhaps his nerve was weakened,
but yours appears to be more than dislocated!
Still, who am I to rise up
where no man of valor takes a stand,
no Ish Chayil there….
but is an Eishet Chayil no flammable match
for a faltering Ish?
However, I am no Devorah or Yael
(though Kabbalists say I am her reincarnation).
I have no holy namesake
except for one woman
named by a man with a head so disconnected
that smoldering embers trapped within
had no way out
until they reached the holy cave of Machpeila,
where heaven and earth embraced.
Could it be that my name given in deceit
Would like a phoenix rise from ashen sparks,
To challenge those who come with mighty chariots?
Yet, dare I, daughter of Aaron, model of love and peace,
perform an act so violent, so unladylike…
But dare I NOT also act like a prior scion of Levi,
to take weapon in hand and restore taharah to my sisters?
My brothers, dear grooms,
are you not ashamed to be circled seven times
by candles cradled in the hands of your bride
After she’s been violated?
Would it not be better to first surround the enemy camp
Like Yehoshua, the first head of the armies of Israel
Ah, yes, that’s it, that’s how!
The head is the solution!
And if the heads of Yisrael have forgotten their power,
then the heart of a high priest’s daughter
with a name like Yehudah and a vision of Tamar,
must rise and stir more than pots and stews;
A hand that moves a spindle
can also wield a sword to save the cherubim.
can also rekindle the courage of tomorrow,
can banish the dark to the crevices of oblivion,
and can once again and forever
restore her people to their destiny-
A menorah for humanity.