A Teachable Moment
I’m a girl and by me that’s only great.
I am proud that my silhouette is curvy,
that I walk with a sweet and girlish gait,
with my hips kind of swively and swervey.
~ Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II
Flower Drum Song
It’s true; I really do enjoy being a girl.
A bookish girl.
A brainy girl.
So when I saw the headline for this article, I was surprised by my initial reaction.
A Midrash Manicures club? Are you kidding me?
But woman does not learn by headlines alone. [In fact, I have it on good authority that the headlines are rarely written by the author of the article but by the copy editor. So it’s a good idea to actually read an article before passing judgement. I’m just sayin’…]
What do manicures have to do with midrash? Quite a lot, as it turns out. Rabbi Yael Buechler first used her nails as an empty palette to explore insights from the Torah portions when she was an undergrad at Brandeis University. One of her professors, Dr. Jonathan Sarna, in sharing his thoughts in the NYT article, remarks, “this is a woman rabbi who is prepared to take what has been a female art form and use it as a teaching tool — but also make clear that as a woman rabbi she loves painting her nails and she can really merge that passion with her way of teaching.”
I love the idea that an ordinary activity can be elevated to something extraordinary. Taking the time-honoured tradition of polishing nails and creating an environment that encourages Torah study is an amazing gift.
There are those who will regard Rabbi Buechler’s method as a trivial gimmick. Or worse. But when I think of how she is inspiring a new generation of text-wrestling girly-girls, I can’t help but wish Poppyseed was sitting in her salon.