Skip To Content
JEWISH. INDEPENDENT. NONPROFIT.
Life

On Simchat Torah, Boredom Is Catalyst to Religious Change

Simchat Torah begins in Israel tonight, a day before it starts in the Diaspora. It’s the festival that is notoriously dull for women. If it’s an Orthodox synagogue you’re in, as the vast majority of Israeli ones are, women sit there for hours and hours while every man in attendance is called to the Torah, as-per the tradition of the day. Then comes the supposed climax of the service — the Chatan Torah and Chatan Bereishit (“Bridegrooms of the Law”) are called up — both men. Many women wonder from behind the mechitza if the name of the day Simchat Torah, which translates as “Rejoicing of the Law,” is meant ironically, concluding that they experience more simcha in the bus queue.

This boredom is acting as a catalyst for change. In dozens of locations across Israel, Orthodox women will hold their own, female-only Torah readings. While women’s services are happening increasingly year-round, on Simchat Torah they appeal to women who wouldn’t usually go near. And many mainstream synagogues, which don’t have any option of women-only prayers during the year, hold women-only Torah readings on Simchat Torah.

While community leaders seem unworried about women feeling uninvolved most of the year, the prospect of their female congregants becoming positively bored seems to catapult them in to action. And judging by the large crowds, what the promise of religious empowerment can’t bring about among Orthodox women, the fear of boredom can.

The women’s Torah readings tend to be relaxed in atmosphere, with different women reading different sections of the Torah portion, each women in attendance getting an aliyah (call-up) and two women taking the role of Kallat Torah and Kallat Bereishit, equivalent of the Chatan Torah and Chatan Bereishit.

I hope you appreciated this article. Before you go, I’d like to ask you to please support the Forward’s award-winning, nonprofit journalism during this critical time.

Now more than ever, American Jews need independent news they can trust, with reporting driven by truth, not ideology. We serve you, not any ideological agenda.

At a time when other newsrooms are closing or cutting back, the Forward has removed its paywall and invested additional resources to report on the ground from Israel and around the U.S. on the impact of the war, rising antisemitism and the protests on college campuses.

Readers like you make it all possible. Support our work by becoming a Forward Member and connect with our journalism and your community.

Make a gift of any size and become a Forward member today. You’ll support our mission to tell the American Jewish story fully and fairly. 

— Rachel Fishman Feddersen, Publisher and CEO

Join our mission to tell the Jewish story fully and fairly.

Republish This Story

Please read before republishing

We’re happy to make this story available to republish for free, unless it originated with JTA, Haaretz or another publication (as indicated on the article) and as long as you follow our guidelines. You must credit the Forward, retain our pixel and preserve our canonical link in Google search.  See our full guidelines for more information, and this guide for detail about canonical URLs.

To republish, copy the HTML by clicking on the yellow button to the right; it includes our tracking pixel, all paragraph styles and hyperlinks, the author byline and credit to the Forward. It does not include images; to avoid copyright violations, you must add them manually, following our guidelines. Please email us at [email protected], subject line “republish,” with any questions or to let us know what stories you’re picking up.

We don't support Internet Explorer

Please use Chrome, Safari, Firefox, or Edge to view this site.