Every Sabbath I participate in a weekly parashah group. The parashah is the Torah portion assigned to that Shabbat so that we read the entire Torah in order throughout the year. Ths is Orthodox custom. Other groups divide the parashah into three - reading the first third of each parashah one year, the second the next and final third of each parashah the third.
We take it in turn to give a talk. Yesterday was my turn. The parashah was "Mishpatim", which some people consider very difficult because it's basically a list of laws. I found it wonderful, and my husband insists that I write my talk up, so I probably will.
The talk went well, I have to say. I started talking at 4:10, and finished after 6PM, and there was a lot of focused discussion and it was amazing and energizing and everyone seemed to enjoy it.
I finished with an announcement and a bit more discussion. I've mentioned before that I was learning a seder of mishnah - One of the six sections of the Mishnah, the codification of Jewish law. In TRANSLATION, I have to add.
I'm about finished. I have two mishnyot to go, and that will take me a half hour.
When someone finishes a course of study such as this, it's appropriate to have a celebration called a "siyyum." Even if women aren't required to learn Torah, it is still worthy of siyyum when we do.
We're having this siyyum next Saturday afternoon in our synagogue at the ritual third meal.
I told the ladies of my group this - why I wouldn't be there next week. What was their response?
"Okay, instead of meeting here like we always do, we'll meet at *my* house, which is closer to Yavneh, and we'll meet *on time* at 4 and then we'll maybe even go to mincha."
And that was that. I can't tell you how overwhelmed I was. I've been meeting with these ladies for two years now. They're friends. But I in no way expected this. It didn't occur to me that anyone would be there but the normal bunch of men and two or three women who normally go to mincha.