The Wicked Daughter

Sometimes, when I am feeling particularly reflective, I imagine my life as a boy.

I wonder if I would make the choices I make today, had I been a boy. I think that I would, because I believe my gender plays only a small part in my human make-up.

Maybe the road here would have been a little less painful, had I been a boy.

Had I been a boy, my questions would have been refuted, my doubts debated and my commentary dubbed “interesting, although off-point”.

Had I been a boy, my jeans would have been tolerated, my hairstyle overlooked and my language unchecked.

Had I been a boy, my home would have been open, rules would have been bent, and flexible schools found.

Had I been a boy, I would have hung out with my friends and crashed on their couch. I would have worked in a pizza shop or bagel store and had enough money to buy my own drugs.

Had I been a boy, I would have grabbed a beer at Shul and been given a shot or two or three Friday night after the fish.

Had I been a boy, I would have felt no fear in the dark hours of the night and would not have had to learn to keep my guard up.

Had I been a boy, I would have had a slew of caring people working in the many different organizations and schools that would have been available to me and would not have had to fight to try to save the only place that could teach me to live.

Had I been a boy, I would have been asked how the program I was in helped me therapeutically and would not have been asked when I started dressing ‘appropriately’.

Had I been a boy, my accomplishments would have been celebrated and I would not have had to keep proving myself through marriage and childbirth.

Had I been a boy, my frustration with the system would have led to a leadership position where I would have a chance to make real change and my emotions would not be considered when I offered my constructive criticism.

Had I been a boy, I would have been exactly who I am I today with the addition of a voice.

Had I been a boy, I would have been the wicked son.

Had I been a boy, I would have taken my place at the table.

Had I been a boy, I would have asked my question.

Had I been a boy, I would have then walked away, teeth intact.

Had I been a boy, I would have been invited back.

But I am not a boy…and there was never room for me at the Seder anyway…

Source: The Wicked Daughter


The words of my youth ring in my ears as I meticulously scrub the leavened bread from the inside of my drawers, the corners of my floors…the confines of my soul.



I make my lists and feel the pleasure of checking off tasks and listen to the tap, tap, tapping at my memory’s door as the words write themselves across the inside of my skull.



I remind myself that my journey has taken me away from my roots and that I do not believe I must do what I am doing, even as I pull the closet away from the wall and feel my heart jump at the sight of a long-forgotten piece of pretzel. I scoop it up and sweep the dust and sing “Dayeinu.”

I no longer believe…I think I no longer believe…

I take inventory of my pots and decide to go with aluminum pans and maybe invest in a microwave.

I cannot live in the world of my past and yet I cannot seem to leave it.

I startle myself when I yell at my kids for walking towards their room with possible biscuit crumbs innocently trailing them. I smile at them and apologize and explain that it’s almost Pesach…and can they please be careful?

They can’t wait…will there be presents this year?

I remember the afikomen and add to my list…

We will pick up our matzot tomorrow and I will put them on a high shelf, just like my mother always did.

I will take out the kittel and iron it, bring the Haggadot out of their chametz-free hiding place and polish the silver.

I will pour boiling water on my counters and I will sit on my kitchen floor and I will make Pesach because I will always be tethered to the words…the songs…the smells…the bitter tastes that are marching through my entire body as I prepare my home…my flesh…my blood…my soul for a redemption I am absolutely certain is not coming.

Source: Redemption?

Someone Called the Rabbi on Me…

I debated writing this post…I thought that maybe I shouldn’t stir any trouble…that if I did say something, I would only be hurting myself more.

But I have to write how I feel and I have to put it out there where it will be seen. This is who I am; this is how I can keep going through all the twists and turns of my life.

So here it is…here is how I felt when I found out that the Rabbi of the community I am currently living in was called about me and my family…how we had left Orthodoxy…and the subsequent tangible murmurings and distance we’ve felt.

Making this decision was agonizing for me and my husband, and extremely challenging with children old enough to understand the process. We never really felt a deep connection with this community, but we had built friendships within it and had a surface-level kinship with most of the members as coreligionists.

Now that we have even less in common with so many of the people in our small community, the emotional baggage of our childhoods has resurfaced along with the need to fit in or blend in so that we can avoid the pain of living on the outside. We’ve worked on that, and we have embraced our decisions and our truths and no longer feel shame or fear about who we are.

I write this for that person hiding in the pack, afraid of someone finding something out and having the shame of the protective blanket of lies wrapped around them ripped away in unwanted exposure.

You may be feeling alone right now, but feeling alone with a truth you can live with is far better than feeling alone with a truth you cannot face.

I don’t know how old I was when someone told me telling the truth was shameful and should be avoided at all costs.

I did not want the shame I already felt to be seen by anyone else so I made lying my truth.

When I was 12 years old, someone called my mother to tell her that somewhere along the way, I had not learned to read. My skin burned red and no one wrapped me up in comfort and told me I did not have to lie.

When I was 13 years old, someone found a packet of my lying truths I wrote to test the waters of friendship and trust and returned them to sender. My parents read my spun tales and believed me when I said I had lied but the shame washed over me like he had said it would so I dug the truth deeper under my skin.

When I was 15 years old, someone thought I had disappeared and searched all over for me, finding me walking back to safety with a boy who had bought me pizza and listened to my hopes and aspirations without judgment. I was dragged back to the security of taped mouths and bound bodies and saw shame in my parents’ eyes. It felt like daggers stabbing a dead corpse and I knew that my heart had been stolen.  

When I was 16 years old, someone called my father to tell him about something I had done in a dark garage at the end of a long driveway where my heart was pounding and fear was forcing my eyes shut and my body to learn the fine art of floating into the trees outside. We didn’t speak about it because I no longer existed.

When I was 17 years old, someone called someone every time I came up for air.

When I was 20 years old, I found something deep within that felt like a truth and everyone I loved was able to breathe again because they could bear the truth I wore.

When I was 30 years old, I could no longer let that truth that had been a lie drain my soul. I decided I was going to learn to love that little girl who was so afraid of shame.

When I was 32 years old, I found that I had absorbed all shame and could finally live a truth that was mine.

Then someone called the Rabbi on me…

And now I am 10 years old again and I am nodding my head and promising that I will never tell.

I Am Woman — Please Don’t Make Me Roar

I am woman; I am tired of roaring.

For as long as I can remember, my throat burned from the constant constriction of my vocal cords fighting to be heard in a world where I was made second.

From his rib, you were formed, by his side you shall stay…

If it helps you accept it, you can think of it as opposite him…

He needs you to make a better him even though you don’t need him to do anything except plant his seed…

I knew the word he before she.

I saw his accomplishments as ultimate goals and was shown how to play a supporting role.

I was taught to speak softly, walk gently, keep my hips from lilting.

I was told to be still, stay low, be less woman, be more girl and not to share my song.

I was shown his desires and told to shut up, sit down and take it.

You are a woman…it is your place…

I fought it.

I fought it so hard it made me bleed all over the smooth foundation of everything I thought I should be building on.

I scratched my skin with knives to see if the blood matched his and when I saw it flow I knew he could never understand because life didn’t expect him to bleed.

I roared so damn loud, it tore my voice from me and almost made me mute.

I am woman.

I am tired of roaring.

So I teach my daughter that she is human first.

I teach her she can do anything she sets her mind to.

I teach her that her shape is not her definition.

I teach her to stand up and speak clearly and firmly.

I teach her how to listen.

I teach my son the exact same thing.

I am woman and I am so damn tired of roaring.

I am woman; hear me.

Source: I Am Woman — Please Don’t Make Me Roar


I have worn my face behind something other than my skin for so long I don’t know if I can recognize my reflection.

At first, I wore the way I felt outside my heart. I didn’t know not to do that. I didn’t know that hearts exposed make people feel uncomfortable.

I learned to hide my heart when one too many people wore it down.

Instead, I took my anger and hate and wrapped myself up in loneliness and presented me to the world.

When I couldn’t bear myself anymore, I found belief to peer out from under, and I made myself shut down.

I wore a skirt and then a headscarf. I looked down and kept quiet. I blended in.

I was miserable.

I was lost.

I thought there was no one left behind the face I put on beneath the years of expectations and the demands of my past dictating each step I took.

One day, broken, misunderstood and fed up with how I was seen, I tore my hair covering off my head and felt the wind.

It was as if I tapped myself on the shoulder and turned around in surprise as I met someone I used to know.

We are getting to know each other, she and I.

I think I like her.

I am standing on a wire now, between skins. I am slowly peeling off the layers.

What I find brings me comfort and peace, even while it hurts the ones I love.

I know you wish I could accept the mask I was handed at birth and learn to embrace it.

I want you to know that I tried, I really did.

This mask didn’t fit me. I squirmed beneath it until I felt like I had died.

But I haven’t died…I have just discovered that I am alive.

The mask is coming off now…

I am about to shine.


The corners came undone long ago.

Slowly unfurling from where we tuck them in


so incredibly tight…

The place where we come to a point pulls in all four directions.

Reaching out…

white fabric flapping softly in the breeze…


But we refuse to pick up speed

and white only stays white for so long

and winds change rapidly…


We feel our souls exposed to an unfamiliar cold

one that means banishment


and a wave of anger.

We pull in our corners

tuck them under our waning faith

promise them they’ll see the light again someday

and dye the fabric black…

then blue…

then the colors of pain…

and repression.

Until it turns an ugly shade of brown

that can’t hide us anymore.

We pull at the corners

rip them out from under the weight of our childhood

the expectations of our families

the judgment of our neighbors

the fear of a false messiah

and let the shit colored fabric free from the heavy rocks we stoned ourselves with.

And then it’s done.

We have left the fold.



525,600 Minutes

a year.

it wasn’t supposed to be like this.

it was supposed to be a fairy tale ending.

it was supposed to all work out.

there was going to be this moment where it all came together.

and we’d be whole again.

there was hope

that even though it seemed so damn black we could find a light.

we almost found it.

you believed in it.

you said you would make it happen.

this time, i will thank god…this time i will thank god…


here we are



ripped at the fragile seam we had left

never able to be whole

and we are hurting so badly

in so many different ways

and there is nothing anyone can do to fix this one

except hope

and pray

if you still believe.

but some of us



17…just off the plane and I’m miserable.

I call my eldest brother.

I haven’t seen him in years.

He went to yeshiva when he was 13…I was 8…I got his room.

When he came home for the occasional weekend or chag, I had to join my sisters in the attic.

I don’t really know him but I don’t have anyone else to call.

He’s there within the hour.

We walk around and around the mountain because he smokes and can’t do stairs and I smoke and haven’t told him yet.

I tell him I hate it.

And also that I’m not really religious and that I drink…and stuff.

He listens.

He tells me he also hated it…even though it wasn’t like he had a better place to go.

I suddenly know him.

And then I’m in the hospital and he’s there because he’s the only one I have and I realize that he’s the only one I want there.

He tells me to lie to the social worker so I don’t get locked up in an institution.

He helps me get better.

Then he spends time with me.


Sometimes it’s on a bench on the side of town he’s not that comfortable hanging out in.

Sometimes it’s with him and his friends…jamming in the Yellow Submarine.

Sometimes his friend brings him by on the back of his moped…his friend smiles at me even as he averts his eyes because the black and white uniform he wears dictates that he must.

Sometimes it’s in front of the dorm.

Sometimes we go away together…to my people…or his.

Always, I talk…in my baggy pants…my cut t-shirts falling off my shoulder…

Always, he listens…in his white shirt…black pants…

We share Marlboro reds…lights when he’s trying to quit.

He never judges.

18…he comes to see me in another place.

I am wearing wrap around skirts that sweep the streets.

He’s added a scarf.

Sometimes we cook together.

Sometimes we walk.

Sometimes he talks.

I have learned to listen.

19…I want him to meet a boy.

Then he wants me to meet a girl.

20…we spend so much time together.

My head is wrapped like his wife’s.

His beard is growing in like my husband’s.

We are almost equal now.

We are both having babies.

Mine dies…

His is 10 already.

30…we drifted apart.

Now I meet him on the streets of Jerusalem again.

I haven’t seen him for a long time.

I am with my family…and I am so different.

I am scared of what he will say…how he will react.

I prepare an explanation.

He is here.

Now he has an electric bike with a child’s seat on the back.

He still wears black and white.

I walk towards him.

He smiles.

He looks at me…with my hair uncovered…my jeans back on…

He talks…I talk…

We listen.

31…almost…scared of losing my family…scared my hair…my jeans…mean more than they should…

But he smiled…and he did not avert his eyes…

So I can turn 31 and say I don’t care.

A Day of Atonement

I wonder where you are now.

Or maybe I don’t really care.

I don’t know.

You are on everyone else’s minds…as they prepare to stand before you…

You fill their hearts with trepidation…love…and I guess a healthy fear.

Not me.

My heart doesn’t really let you in that much.

When it does it is in anger.

I don’t think I care to ask you to forgive me.

I am outside the camp now.

Before…I was on the line…trying to figure out where I fit.

Now I’m out.

You sort of pushed me out, you know.

Because I tried to see you…to feel you…

But you kept this great wall around you and wouldn’t let me in.

I don’t know where I’ll go after this.

I don’t know what I”ll do.

But I can offer you one last chance.

There’s this wonderful little book I read.

About Good and Evil…

About a Day of Atonement…

and two lists…

Here are mine.

This year, I challenged you.

I was ungrateful and needed more.

I asked you to change people’s hearts.

I didn’t try to get too close to you.

I spent a lot of time thinking of you negatively.

I wasn’t as kind as I should have been.

I was impatient.

I was petty.

I was hurtful.

This year, you challenged me.

You turned away when I cried out.

You wouldn’t change the things I wanted changed.

You made me live in my past.

You strangled me.

You didn’t answer me.

You hurt me.

You hurt the ones I love.

I now stand before you with these two lists.

I have stated the sins I have committed  against you.

I have stated the sins you have committed against me.

“I have been unjust towards you, and you have been unjust towards me.  However, since today is the Day of Atonement, you will forget my faults and I will forget yours, and we can carry on together for another year.”

~ Paulo Coelho, The Devil and Miss Prym

How about it, God?

Can we move on?


Let it go, let it go

Can’t hold it back anymore

Let it go, let it go

Turn away and slam the door

I don’t care

What they’re going to say

Let the storm rage on…

“It just makes me not want to be religious anymore,” I said.

She couldn’t handle it.

So she had him call to clarify the things I was confused about.

He explained how he was just as confused.

And somehow that made it all much clearer.

At one point I told him how I felt.

I told him how hard it is for me.

How every time I do something I don’t fully understand, I have to choose to believe that it’s right.

How I need to accept the yoke of God every single day for the burden it is…because it’s a burden for me.

How, when I see thousands of people screaming together about the God I think I recognize and the Torah I assume is the one and only there is, I am tempted to throw the yoke off because I will never be validated for my struggles.

He listened.

He sighed.

He heard.

Then he had to hang up.

“I love you,” he said.

I burst into tears.

“I could have used this 15 years ago,” I sobbed as I put down the phone.

“It all could have been so different!”

I cried and I cried…

Because my father taught me how to question but forgot to tell me he was still looking for the answers…

Because I thought there must be something I was missing if everyone else seemed to be happy just accepting things…

Because there was an entire world that was collapsing into itself and no one else thought to care…

Because I wanted so badly to connect to the religion and the culture I was born into but just couldn’t…

Because I felt so isolated in my quest to find God…

And also…

Because they should have sent me to that school that wasn’t religious enough for my family…

Because they should have shown me grey in a black and white universe…

Because I didn’t have to fight it so fiercely when there was another, legitimate way…

Because I didn’t mean to hurt them by rejecting what I thought was their belief…

Because all I ever wanted was to be as satisfied with life and religion the way I thought they were…

My father is the most brilliant man I know.

He has never stopped learning and changing and growing.

And I am watching him muddle through things I can’t navigate…and it doesn’t seem to shake his belief.

So for today…I will stay strong.

I will stick to my code…the one he taught me…and I will follow the law I believe in.

Because no one has the right to take that away from me.

It’s funny how some distance

Makes everything seem small

And the fear that once controlled me

Can’t get to me at all

Let it go!