Wednesday, August 07, 2013

Women FOR the Wall are causing a disgrace to the kotel and a national embarrassment

Can we agree that the people turning the kotel into a circus are the young men and women who were there this morning sounding whistles and carrying insulting signs? Where are the police? Why are they permitting the kotel plaza to be disgraced and disrupted by these mini-ayatollahs?

Can we agree that whatever good intentions the women FOR the wall may have had, what they've actually accomplished is a disgrace and a disaster? For 20-odd years the women OF the wall have met at the kotel without incident. No one noticed. No one cared. Now, thanks to the women FOR the wall every Rosh Chodesh is riot day. Every charedi carrying pent up rage against women now knows that on the first day of the month he can go to the most sacred place in Judaism and vent his anger without consequence.

Can we agree this controversy makes us, all of us, the family of Israel,  look stupid? The kotel plaza is big enough for everyone, and no other group or sect - not Messianics, not Christians - is prevented from gathering there for prayer. The attempt to ban women makes us all look small and hateful.

Can we agree that there is no halachic issue at stake? Jewish law expressly permits women to wear a tallis. The women OF the wall can rely on authorities like Tosfot and the Rambam who permit women to wear talitot and tefilin. The language the Rambam uses is especially pertinent: “Women are exempt from the biblical law of tzitzit. Women who want to wear tzitzit, wrap themselves in it without a blessing…if they want to perform them without a blessing they are not prevented.” Why can't the women FOR the wall follow this directive? Why are they attempting to prevent women from performing a voluntary mitzvah, when the Rambam says "…if they want to perform them without a blessing they are not prevented" Other authorities may disagree with the Rambam, but his ruling makes it clear that there is no real crime here.

Of course, I understand that we can't agree that the women OF the wall merely wish to pray. Some of you won't hear of it. You are certain that the women OF the wall wish to overthrow the authority of the Rabbis and turn Judaism into something unrecognizable. Perhaps there is some truth to this. But can we agree that motives are not actionable? Can we agree that the secret things must be left to God alone? Can we agree that our responsibility is to follow the law, a law that allows women to pray, and to pray wearing talitot, and that above all bids us to treat each other with kindness and respect?

Like all fanatics, the women FOR the wall and their supporters are missing the forest for the trees. They are focusing on a minor issue and on something that is entirely unknowable. We won't ever know what the women OF the wall are thinking in their heart of hearts, but as a result of the woman FOR the wall and their attempt to impose on all of us a particular interpretation of a particular law, the kotel is being disgraced and the Jewish people are being embarrassed.


Every month we have to read about Jews acting like beasts? Every month we have to wonder why the WOW can't be left alone, like the Carlbachians are left alone, like the Christians are left alone? Every month we have to put up with newspapers calling us misogynistic.  Every month women haters need to be given an opportunity to vent their rage?

This is the fruit of w4w's labor.  This is what they've done. Make no mistake about it. And for what? So women can't do something the rishonim say they are allowed to do?

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