The Nature of Ritual

I heard this story this morning- about an exhibit at the Jewish Museum in New York:

An exhibit at the Jewish Museum in New York looks at some of the many ways people are re-imagining Jewish ritual. From “green energy” synagogues to a prayer shawl that doubles as an apron, many of the works are influenced by environmentalism and feminism.

Here is a blog entry about part of the exhibit by the artist, complete with a photo of the art installation.

Unfortunately the NPR article summary is missing the most interesting part of the exhibit, to my mind.

The article described an video of a woman who dressed up as a man to participate in Orthodox Jewish ceremonies. Women are traditionally forbidden from participating in these ceremonies, although the article mentioned that this is changing.

Bringing it back to the faith I was raised in, I was thinking about what it would be like to dress up as a man and participate in so many of the rituals of the mormon faith. Such a thing would be shocking and scandalous.

A woman, dressed as a man, blessing or passing the sacrament (bread and water) – making sure she got the words to the prayer right. And sounded enough like a teenage boy to not give herself away.

A woman standing in the blessing circle for a new baby, giving the new baby a name and a blessing. Even so simple as a woman staying in the chapel for priesthood meeting instead of leaving for the relief society room. A woman baptizing a child or a convert.

In truth, upon further reflection, there aren’t any rituals in mormonism (the LDS faith) that are performed by women in public; just prayer. The thought certainly gives me pause.

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7 Responses

  1. Measure says:

    I believe that women are the most oppressed class within mormonism, even more so than gays.

  2. Madam Curie says:

    Fascinating post, aerin. It reminds me of the movie Yentl, in which Barbara Steisand plays a Jewish girl who dresses and masquerades as a boy to attend a yeshiva and debate the Talmud.

    I never considered doing that myself in a Mormon environment, perhaps because of the overwhelming emphasis on marriage. I would have cut myself off from my “eternal potential” to be a wife and mother in Zion :rolls eyes:

    Even in Catholicism, the religion of my youth, there is considerably more room for women to engage in ritual than there is in Mormonism (and that is saying ALOT). For example, women can be Eucharistic Ministers, nuns, or chaplins. I believe that the Mormon Church now allows female LDS chaplins (is that correct?). I’d be curious, though, as to what extent they can engage in ritual. Catholic female chaplins can administer Eucharist (the Catholic equivalent of the Sacrament).

  3. aerin says:

    Thanks Measure!

    #2 Kuri – I love the Life of Brian. That is awesome – I wonder if the artist was even partially thinking of that scene from the movie…

    #3 Madam Curie – I’ve never seen Yentl (believe it or not), one of these days. I don’t know if LDS female chaplains are allowed or not either – I wonder if they are currently under the radar.

  4. chanson says:

    I believe that the Mormon Church now allows female LDS chaplins(is that correct?).

    What do you mean by LDS chaplins? I’ve never heard of chaplin as a calling or office in the LDS church.

    In the Community of Christ (formerly RLDS) women have the priesthood. I attended a service where a couple blessed the sacrament — the husband blessed the bread and the wife blessed the wine.

  5. Madame Curie says:

    Ok, I looked it up. You can find more information here:

    The basic gist is that Mormon women can be civilian LDS chaplains and perform “compassionate service” but NOT ritual. They CANNOT do anything that requires PH authority. They CANNOT be military chaplains, who are in charge of things like directing Sacrament Meeting, giving PH blessings, etc.

    So, basically, Mormons can’t be “chaplains” in the sense of the word that I was thinking. My bad.

  6. Madame Curie says:

    Mormon women can’t be chaplains, I meant in that last sentence.

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