Cantor’s Column – March 2017

The Power of Words and Actions

Cantor Ilan Davidson

When I was blessed with two daughters, my lens on the world shifted dramatically. I became more aware of the inequality between men and women in our world. When Mary Richards, played by Mary Tyler Moore, z” l, was making us aware of inequality with her boss Lou Grant, we started to believe that this was less of an issue in our more “modern” and more “inclusive” society. It seems unfathomable that in a world of female Prime Ministers, women running for President, powerful female CEO’s, some of the greatest minds in modern medicine and science, that women still face discrimination and unequal pay in the workplace.

Jews have always been in the forefront of social issues. Even in our patriarchal history, women found and developed their voices, from Miriam to the daughters of Tzelophehad, who openly questioned Moses about equality, to Deborah, the first female judge, to our modern heroes like Hannah Senesh, Golda Meir, and Anat Hoffman, my girls have great examples of women with strong voices. But even with such strength, there are still some walls between men and women which need to crumble.

This month, we must look to the strength and example of one of the greatest female fighters of our history, Queen Esther, for our guidance and pride. In the Purim story, she risks her life and status for what is right to save her people. What she learns, as did Mary Tyler Moore’s character and all of the other great women, is that she had great power with her words and actions. Even as Esther dawns the sackcloth of mourning and fasts in preparation for what will either be her greatest moment, or the moment of her death, she knows that if she remains silent, she benefits nobody and sacrifices her identity as a human being.

No matter how we may have felt recently about the peaceful protests for equality, we must all be proud of the fact that people are standing up for their beliefs and convictions. While I was on sabbatical, and in residence at Congregation Shir Ami in Castro Valley, I was asked to move my Shabbat morning meditation service to the afternoon, so that the women of the community could join with 50,000 women in Oakland to march for equality. That afternoon, as we meditated and prayed together, I was awed by the heroism of those women, still sweaty from their march. Like Esther, they stood for their values and when they prayed, their prayers were more fervent than ever.

May all of our girls grow up in Esther’s world. One where their voices are heard. One where their values are uplifted. Most of all, one where the men in power, like King Ahashverosh, offer them equality. Then all of us, men and women, will know the value and benefit of equity in our world.