New A-Gender

by Anna Bergson, rebbetzen at Pinner United Synagogue

I’M DELIGHTED and honoured to write the very first article in this new column, dedicated to the modern Orthodox Jewish woman’s point of view. I hope many other women will be encouraged to follow suit and share positive and inspirational insights.

THERE IS no denying that we live in a rapidly changing and ever-evolving complex society.

Anna Bergson

Anna Bergson

Every day brings advances in technology, medicine, communications, and many new inventions and discoveries. This is all very exciting and can be hugely beneficial to us, especially when new medicines and treatments are developed to deal with illnesses that until now were incurable.

So how do I feel as an Orthodox Jewish woman, whose life is guided and ruled at every moment by stead-fast, non-compromising Halacha prescribed and accepted by the Jewish people more than 3,000 years ago? Do I find my life and lifestyle archaic, ancient, limiting and/or restrictive?

In a word: no! In fact, I find the rich and varied Jewish year with Shabbat, festivals, rules that dictate all my inter-personal dealings and behaviour, what I wear, that I cover my hair and keep kosher meaningful, fulfilling and refreshingly wholesome.

Observing Halacha in daily life provides ongoing structure. As a family unit, we are confronted by so many influences from the outside world. The boundaries that Halacha creates actually provide a reassuring and securing anchor to our family – a sense of direction and continuity amid the chaos of life.

The Torah lights up my life. With Torah wisdom, I am constantly challenged to work on my character traits and my marriage, to guide and teach my children its ways and instil in them both a love and fear of God. The Torah is not something totally abstract beyond our reach.

As Moses taught: “The matter is very close to you, in your mouths, and your hearts to do it” (Deuteronomy, 30:14). Many of the basic things we all pursue are actually mandated by the Torah and just given a holy context. For example, the quest for happiness: “You shall rejoice with all the good Hashem has given you” (Devarim 26:11).

Daily prayer helps me feel connected to Hashem, which gives me inner peace and strength to cope with life’s unpredictable challenges.

Inside us all is a soul that yearns for higher things. However dormant it is, with the right nurturing, we are able to awaken this soul and achieve and grow in ways that we could have never imagined.

• Anna Bergson is the rebbetzen at Pinner United Synagogue