We’re finding inspiration for today from the Jewish-American poet, Rebekah Hyneman. Born in 1812 to a Jewish father and gentile mother, Hyneman married a Jewish businessman at the age of 23. Just five years into the marriage, her husband disappeared on a business trip to Texas and was presumed murdered, leaving her to raise their two sons on her own in Philadelphia.
Although it was brief, her marriage cemented her Jewish faith, and her writing frequently focused on the role women and mothers play in the Jewish-American culture of the 19th century — sometimes evoking themes that feel out of kilter with our twenty-first century understanding of women’s role in society and religion.
Here is a poem by Hyneman titled “Woman’s Rights.”
By Rebekah Hyneman
It is her right, to bind with warmest ties,
The lordly spirit of aspiring man,
Making his home an earthly paradise,
Rich in all joys allotted to life’s span;
Twining around each fibre of his heart,
With all the gentle influence of love’s might,
Seeking no joy wherein he has no part –
This is undoubtedly – a woman’s right!
It is her right to teach the infant mind,
Training it ever upward in its course,
To root out evil passions that would bind
The upward current of his reason’s force;
To lead the erring spirit gently back,
When it has sunk in gloom of deepest night;
To point the shining path of virtue’s track,
And urge him forward. This is woman’s right.
It is her right to soothe the couch of pain;
There her pure mission upon earth to prove,
To calm with gentle care the frenzied brain,
And keep her vigil there of holiest love;
To watch untiring by the lonely bed,
Through the bright day, and in the solemn night,
’Til health ensues, or the loved form is laid
To rest for ever. This is woman’s right.
She is a flower that blossoms best, unseen,
Sheltered within the precincts of her home;
There, should no dark’ning storm-cloud intervene,
There, the loud-strife of worldlings never come.
Let her not scorn to act a woman’s part,
Nor strive to cope with manhood in its might,
But lay this maxim closely to her heart –
That that which God ordains is surely right.
FOR ADDITIONAL READING: See The Leper, and Other Poems by Rebekah Hyneman.
Here are some more inspirational nuggets for today
- On this day in in 1493, Columbus first sighted manatees near the Dominican Republic and mistook them for mermaids. In his journal, he described them as “not half as beautiful as they are painted.” In fairness to Columbus, mermaids have captured our fascination for centuries. In Assyrian mythology, the goddess Atargatis accidentally killed her human lover and transformed into a mermaid out of shame. In western mythology, mermaids are often associated with the sirens of Greek mythology, celestial creatures who lure sailors to their death by way of shipwreck or other calamity. In 2009, locals in the Israeli town of Kiryat Yam raised a stir when they reported multiple sightings of an alleged mermaid at sunset. According to one onlooker, “… Suddenly we saw a woman laying on the sand in a weird way. At first I thought she was just another sunbather, but when we approached she jumped into the water and disappeared. We were all in shock because we saw she had a tail.”
- Today is also the feast day of Adrian of Canterbury in the Roman Catholic tradition. Born around 637 in North Africa, Adrian was serving as the abbot of a monastery near Naples when the archbishop of Canterbury appointed him abbot of the monastery of St. Peter and Paul. Under his leadership, he transformed Canterbury into an important center of learning. When renovations were made to the monastery centuries later, his body was disinterred and allegedly found in an incorrupt state, attracting crowds of people in search of miracles. Based on Adrian’s love of learning, it’s reported that school children who were in trouble with their teachers were especially fond of visiting his tomb.
That’s today’s spiritual almanac — thanks for listening.
For more of Rebekah Hyneman’s work, take a look at the book, “The Leper, and Other Poems” by Rebekah Hyneman. You’ll find a link above.
Be kind, take good care and we’ll see you soon.