Liora was supposed to be my Hebrew name. He even put it in his contacts book; Liora, followed by a string of numbers, somehow linked to that beautiful name. But they were out of place. The numbers belonged to me. And I’m not Liora. Dial and I will answer. Sometimes. Often it goes through to voicemail. But no one telephones me anymore, ano I don’t see why they’d want to. Maybe if I was Liora- eydel, wonderful Liora- rather than plain old me- I’d be getting calls by the dozen. Maybe Liora fits in. I think she does. She’s who I was supposed to be. But somewhere along the way, I got lost. And I ended up back where I started. I. Me. Despised, alone, struggling with her emunah. Just me. With more faults than the rest of my kehillas combined. Fighting to be that perfect woman; to be Liora.
Liora doesn’t mind the mechitza in shul. Neither do I, really, only sometimes I long to touch the Torah. Liora doesn’t. She knows her place is not at the bimah, but rather hidden beneath black and thick stockings and of course, the latticework of the mechitza. She never has to stop herself from kissing the Torah, never wants to scream in frustration, never recalls the days at the reform shul… Instead she dreams of the future.
Liora has planned a future like any other baalas teshuvah. Married by twenty two, she will raise a house with six children. Maybe eight. She knows her only worth is through her offspring. At first, when she was being mekareved, the rabbonim denied that. They spoke of her kedushah, her worth. As a woman, you’re important, they said. So important you have to remain hidden indoors, or behind a barrier, your whole life. But Liora doesn’t think of any of that. The glory of the King’s daughter is within- locked inside, she thinks. And she sees no wrong in it, blissfully happy surrounded by children and dependent on a man. But I don’t want to marry and I hate children and I’ve had enough of being locked inside. So I’ll never be Liora.
Reading this they shake their heads and form arguments of inspirational women. They talk of my rebbetzen, or my old rebbetzen, or some woman in the Torah. Or maybe, worse still, they don’t bother. They close the window. They stop reading right here. Because they so desperately want me to be Liora when the truth is staring right at them. That I’m not her. I don’t think I ever will be her. And I don’t think I want to anymore.
I’m not reform, chas v’sholom. Of course not. I try. I study chitas, though I admit Liora probably doesn’t. Marriage is her priority, and after marriage, she certainly won’t study, for children are her priority. I dress in a tzniusdik way, maybe just because it’s easier. Liora does that, too, but she isn’t careless like me. She doesn’t wear too much makeup and she would never, ever wear a shell. I keep kosher, but for me, it’s just another mitzvah. Not so for Liora, who throws herself into it, heart and soul, as is a woman’s duty. Of course she is careful with hescherim! Of course she makes a brocha before she eats! Me, I find it hard enough to just eat. Even on shabbes. Especially on shabbes. Maybe if I was slim like Liora, maybe then people would like me. Maybe then I’d be welcome. Even happy. Or maybe it’s just my mind that’s wrong.
I’d love to say I’m happy being wrong. But I’m not. I’m desperately unhappy. Lost. And alone. A failed project. I wonder if they say that in kiruv… And I wonder if I’ll ever find my place. Between the Reform Jews and feminists I decry and the true Torah Jews who decry me.
Published by Lily Smythe