Chanah’s Voice:

A rabbi wrestles with gender, commandment, and the women’s rituals of baking, bathing and brightening (Ben Yehuda Press, 2014)

By Haviva Ner-David


As an Orthodox feminist, Rabbi Haviva Ner-David had adopted and privileged rituals that were considered primarily for men…

As an Orthodox feminist, Rabbi Haviva Ner-David had adopted and privileged rituals that were considered primarily for men, breaking deeply engrained taboos and communal norms, but in the process, neglecting rituals that were considered for women and therefore less important. The year before Ner-David received rabbinic ordination and became the first woman publicly ordained by an Orthodox rabbi, she spent the year delving into her relationship with the three Jewish rituals that are traditionally considered primarily for women. Chanah, the Biblical figure who prayed for a son by moving her lips but not raising her voice, is a symbol of Jewish women’s modesty, and it is her name that is the acronym for these three women’s rituals: Challah, Nidah, and Hadlakat-haner (CHaNaH).

In Chanah’s Voice, Ner-David sets out on a journey to discover Chanah’s voice through delving into the deeper meaning and practice of these three rituals, but in the process, she does more than create a relationship with these rituals. The voice she hears challenges her to be true to her egalitarian worldview rather than contort herself to fit a more traditional one. After this transformative year, Ner-David went on to accept the ordination but call herself a post-denominational rabbi instead of an Orthodox one, despite the years she had devoted to fighting for Orthodox ordination. As opposed to her first memoir, which weaves memoir with Jewish legal texts, Chanah’s Voice weaves memoir with Kabbalistic and Hassidic texts, which she associates with a more feminine side of Judaism.

About the Author

Haviva Ner-David is a writer and rabbi. In 2006 she became the first woman to publicly receive Orthodox rabbinic ordination, only to leave Orthodoxy and call herself a post-denominational rabbi. Ten years later, she received interfaith ordination from the One Spirit Interfaith-Interspiritual Seminary and now goes by post-denominational inter-spiritual rabbi.

She writes both fiction and non-fiction and is the author of three spiritual journey memoirs, a novel, short stories, essays, a blog on Times of Israel, scholarly articles and a guidebook for engaged couples. Her short story, “Blame,” won the 2016 Lilith Magazine short fiction contest.
Link to short story.

Her rabbinic specialties are spiritual companionship, water immersion rituals, wedding and marriage preparation, coming of age ceremonies and other ritual and ceremony creation and innovation. Founding rabbi of Shmaya: A Mikveh for Mind, Body and Soul on Kibbutz Hannaton in the Lower Galilee, she officiates and helps create on-site personalized immersion ritual ceremonies and facilitates group mikveh workshops. As a spiritual companion, she works with individuals and couples and specializes in dreamwork, inner child work and nature soul work, as well as general sacred listening.

Photo credit: Carmel Avivi

Other books by the author

Life on the Fringes:
A Feminist Journey Towards Traditional Rabbinic Ordination

Hope Valley:
a Novel


Getting (and Staying) Married Jewishly:
Preparing for your Life Together with Ancient and Modern Wisdom

Dreaming Against The Current: A Rabbi’s Soul Journey

Yonah and the Mikveh Fish