In these days when so many are afraid and aching for the people of Ukraine, and concerned about the lasting impacts of this war around the world, I cannot help thinking of the wise women of ancient Israel. These wise women, unafraid of confronting dangerous men, used their intelligence and storytelling skill to defuse violent situations between powerful adversaries and restore peace. May their wisdom be felt in the world now.
The institution of “wise woman” appears several times in the Bible. In the Book of Samuel, a wise woman (chachamah in Hebrew, from chochmah, wisdom) steps in when there is a war, or political conflict, to promote peace. In II Samuel 14, after King David’s son Amnon rapes David’s daughter, Tamar, the king does nothing. Tamar’s full brother Absalom takes matters into his own hands and kills Amnon, then flees to another country. David grieves for Absalom but won’t send for him. The wise woman of Tekoa appears before King David, pretending to be a woman whose sons fought, and one killed the other. The story she tells helps to reconcile King David with his son Absalom, at least temporarily.
I imagine many of you share my feelings of anger, grief and dread about this invasion of Ukraine. It is hard to know what to do and terrible to feel so powerless. I would like to offer a practice which I am finding very helpful: to meditate on Ukrainian Goddess embroideries as a prayer for peace.
Goddess figures are ubiquitous in Ukrainian folk art, in woven and embroidered clothing, ritual textiles, pottery, painting, and pysanky, ceremonially decorated Easter eggs (which I will explore in a future post). Goddess embroideries are also found throughout the entire Slavic world, Eastern Europe, the Near East and North Africa, and even farther afield, as Mary Kelly and Sheila Paine have diligently shown.
It has been over a year now that I haven’t been actively a part of my interfaith community. I find that especially odd since I graduated last May from the Claremont School of Theology with a Masters in Religious Leadership. I had hopes that I would be empowered by new education to go out and do more for my community, be invited to be a guest speaker at local houses of worship, or sit on panels; all the things I used to do more frequently and now have all stopped.
I am mostly to blame. Although my personal life has definitely changed with the birth of my son, two new businesses for my husband and me, and the ongoing pressure I put on myself to study for the bar exam any free moment I get (I really don’t have any leisure time to study, but thinking about it takes a lot of energy!), and now expecting my second child, I stopped attending my monthly meetings– whether it be with the Interfaith Youth Council of Orange County, the Muslim-Jewish forum of Los Angeles, or my own beloved organization “I Am Jerusalem.”