Attended a bris last week. Rather then use his shul, the baal simcha rented a catering hall. We men prayed in the front of the room. A mechitzah was set up behind us, with the women and the breakfast tables behind it. By the time we reached shmoneh esray, at the end of services, I estimate at least 75 women were present.
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If you've ever been to a bris in a catering hall, I'm sure you can guess what happened. During the silent recitation of the Amida the women chatted. Loudly. They were shusshed several times, to no avail.
Here are some of the thoughts that went through my head:
1) Don't women have what to daven for? Though I'm sure a few women were participating in the service, most were not. Why? You send your sons to yeshivot where they are taught that prayer is valuable. Don't you believe it? Or is there something unfeminine about praying during the week? (I'm not being factious here: I really do think some women feel its beneath their womanly dignity to pray in public during the week. Sort of like how some men won't wear pink or take out the trash)
2) Many of you are the sort of women who gather at each other's houses, with cake and fruit set our before you, to say tehillim. Has charedi Judaism decided that Psalm parties are appropriate for women but morning prayers are not?
3) Even if you're not interested in praying, don't you realize that the men are praying and that your chatter is creating a disturbance? (Basic bein adam l'chavero, no?)
4) And if you're too cool to pray, don't you believe in segulot? Well, davening with a minyan and answering amen and yehai shmai raba have for more than millennium been considered segulot of the first order. If you believe these things work, why don't you participate?
5) And even if you don't think prayer matters, and feel segulot are rubbish, and think its okj to disrtupt, don't you nashim tzidoknios reallize that your gabbiness during services is only confirming the male charedi in his notion that women, in the main, are flibbertigibbets? Show some self-respect charedi women. If you want your men to regard you as something other than lightweights, don't act like ill-mannered children. I guarantee you every second or third man in that room was thinking something along the lines of "Well, what do you expect from women. That's why God respects me more than He respects her."
Women are required by all authorities to say Shachris. I promise you every Rabbi in that room would have responded ferociously had a woman appeared with cleavage showing. In fact many of those present have signed on to the latest local campaign against a woman's right to choose her own clothing. Yet, there is no rabbinic campaign to encourage women to meet their minimum prayer obligations. Why not?
And finally, the sole coherent halachic argument against WPGs (Women Prayer Groups) goes like this: "Women are not obligated to pray with a minyan but if they are willing to put in the effort to do so but instead choose to pray without a minyan, they are essentially slapping the greater mitzvah in the face and saying "We don't want you." It is a quintessential [example of] ma'avirin al ha-mitzvos which is a non-halakhic (maybe even anti-halakhic) attitude." (Hirhurim, March 31, 2004)
Can't the same be said of women who arrive at a bris and ignore the minyan?