Regendered Torah now on Spotify

Regendered Torah now on Spotify

Yael Kanarek and one of her Toratah-inspired artworks (Gili Getz; courtesy Yael Kanarek)
Yael Kanarek and one of her Toratah-inspired artworks (Gili Getz; courtesy Yael Kanarek)

What if the first book of the Hebrew Bible had a female God who created the world? And what if the first human created was a woman, not a man?

What if the story of the near sacrifice of Isaac by Abraham was flipped, and God told a mother to sacrifice her daughter?

If the Torah were centered on women rather than on men, would we understand these holy books, and ourselves, differently?

Israeli-American artist Yael Kanarek, 56, has spent eight years asking questions like this. The result of her musings is Toratah, which means “her Torah,” a project that is creating a “regendered” version of the Hebrew Bible. Over the years, Kanarek and her associates have reversed the genders of all characters in many books of the Hebrew Bible. The result is that divine inspiration expresses itself through matriarchal, rather than patriarchal, lineage, unearthing new possibilities for people of all gender identities to examine their Judaism.

“I looked around in our huge library of Jewish wisdom, and we don’t have books, canonical books, that codified women’s experience as sacred,” Kanarek said. “My goal is to build the missing library of women’s experiences codified in sacred terms.”

And now, Kanarek’s project has assumed a physical shape in Manhattan: Ten Toratah-themed prints — some sparkling with hand-applied gold leaf — and two works of ink on parchment are now on display through June in an exhibit, “Toratah: The Artistry of Transformation,” at Manhattan’s Central Synagogue.

Kanarek also has overseen the creation of an album of original music based on the gender-switched Toratah texts. “Zimratah: Songs of Toratah” features songs written and composed by musicians including Alicia Jo Rabins, Basya Schechter, Yuli Yael Be’eri, and Naomi Less. It was launched with a concert at Central Synagogue last month, and now it’s available on the usual streaming services. With its gender-bending rewrites of well-known biblical texts such as the Shema and Oseh Shalom, the album provides an excellent introduction to the project.

New York Jewish Week
Jewish Telegraphic Agency

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