New Initiative Launched by Up and Coming Women Spiritual Leaders
Four years ago, Rabbanit Moriya Taasan Michaeli embarked on a journey: she enrolled in the Susi Bradfield Women’s Institute of Halakhic Leadership (WIHL) with the goal of devoting herself completely to Torah learning on a level she had never previously experienced.
At that point, Taasan-Michaeli had already spent several years in the world of politics, most recently as assistant to former Knesset MK and Minister of Culture, Miri Regev. But she felt that it was time to take a step back from the intensity of that life and refocus on the things that mattered most to her. “I didn’t know enough Torah,” she recounts. “I felt I needed to fill myself up with the knowledge that is at the core of our values and the road map for how we live our lives. And now, because of my learning at the WIHL, I’m truly privileged to be able to serve as an address for other people who have halakhic questions.”
When she talks about being a resource for others, Taasan-Michaeli is referring to the brand-new initiative that she has just launched together with three of her peers at the WIHL: Midraisha, a play on words incorporating both “Midrasha” – meaning seminary of Torah learning – as well as the word “isha,” meaning woman. The name accurately reflects the goal of the four female founders, to make Torah and halakha accessible and understandable to Israelis across the country.
As fellows in the intensive five-year WIHL program, the four women – Rabbanit Atirat Grenovitch, Rabbanit Bat-El Picar, Rabbanit Hila Naor and Taasan-Michaeli – spent hours together in the beit midrash poring over ancient texts, debating rabbinical perspectives throughout history and exploring halakhic discourse and its relevance to contemporary living. Naturally, in sharing such an intense study experience they also formed a strong friendship, based upon their similar ideals and goals – all of which led to the creation of Midraisha.
“Moriya [Taasan-Michaeli] and I are chavrutot, dedicated study partners in the beit midrash, and over the years we spent countless hours discussing how we can parlay the knowledge we are amassing to make a difference in Israeli society,” Naor says. “There is a huge knowledge gap, even among religiously observant Jews. We live our lives according to halakha and yet so many people, especially women, are unfamiliar with the halakhic process.
“Whereas boys learn Gemara from a young age, many girls have no exposure to the texts and rabbinic discourse that influence how we live our lives – how we eat, dress, pray, and celebrate holidays,” she continues. “Through the Midraisha, we want to bridge this gap, to provide people with an understanding of why it is that we do what we do.”
Spreading Torah knowledge to as many people as possible
The Midraisha offers both series and one-off classes on the halakhot related to everyday topics such as Shabbat, Kashrut, modesty in dress, and the laws of Family Purity. “The fact that we live in different parts of Israel means that we have the ability to personally reach people in most of the country,” explains Taasan-Michaeli. “And through online classes, we can teach anyone who is interested, anywhere at all.”
Rabbi Aviad Sanders, the WIHL’s Employment Coordinator has helped the fellows develop a business strategy and is continuing to guide them as they grow. “The initiative is definitely filling a void,” he says. “They announced the launch just a few weeks ago and already have requests from schools, communities and seminaries across Israel who are anxious for them to come teach. It’s very exciting, on many levels: the fact that they are the first such organization in Israel, the fact that they are already making an impact. And of course, the fact that they met and hatched the idea right here, on the benches of the WIHL’s beit midrash.”
Taasan-Michaeli says that even when she made the fateful decision to begin studying at the WIHL, she didn’t know, ultimately, what she was going to do professionally. “All I knew was that I wanted to learn Torah, and that I wanted to find ways to spread Torah knowledge to as many people as possible,” she relates.
It seems that she and her colleagues have found their calling.