Dedicated to Kohenet Andrea Jacobson of blessed memory, a deep practitioner of priestess presence
I have always loved obscure biblical women. My wife, who was educated in a yeshiva, marvels at the names and tales I mention to her; she’s never heard of them. Telling their stories, for me, is a form of resistance. They may be minor to the text, but to me they are main characters. As a feminist midrashist, I love digging into a text to find out more, to discover a radical take, to imagine a first-person perspective. As a contemporary spiritual teacher on the trail of the ancient priestesses, I find priestess role models in these hints of story. As the Jewish holiday season ends and we return to finding the sacred in the mundane, I want to share about a character I love, who doesn’t even have a name, but who, to me, teaches about being present, and meeting the mystery wherever we go.
Judges 13 begins with a traditional biblical scene of annunciation. The wife of Manoah does not have a child. An angel appears to her to say that she will bear a son. He must be a nazir or nazirite and will be a hero, delivering his people from their enemies. A nazir is a kind of self-appointed priest, who has taken a vow not to drink wine or cut one’s hair, and who, like the high priest of the Temple, is forbidden to be near dead human bodies. Such a person’s hair is holy and, at the end of the nazirite service, will be offered on an altar. Both men and women could be nazirites; indeed, the nazirite vow seems to be an avenue where women can become holy. We can see there is patriarchal anxiety about this avenue to priestesshood; Numbers 30 is full of laws about how fathers and husbands can annul the vows of daughters and wives, which likely is partly concerned about women becoming nezirot (sing. nezirah) of their own volition.Continue reading “Facing the Angel: Samson’s Mother as a Model for Feminist Spiritual Practice by Jill Hammer”