And it was Rabbi Moshe Feinstein who ruled that women wishing to pray while wrapped in a talit did not do it for the sake of Heaven, but, to the contrary, because of their resentment towards Heaven.
Not nice? Not fair? Welcome to the harsh world of halachic rulings, a world with few sentiments and a great deal of long-term thinking regarding the fate of an entire nation, particularly the Orthodox community, wherever it may be.
THE MOST DANGEROUS WOMEN IN ISRAEL
We’re dealing with the politics of divinity, and in the case of the Kotel this is a bona fide territorial battle. Both sides—the women claiming their portion as well as the Kotel rabbi and the Haredi worshippers, are out every Rosh Chodesh to fight over a prized possession. The prize is not the ladies’ section in front of the Kotel. Rather, it is the very spiritual identity of the State of Israel.
Eretz Israel [Hebrew: The Land of Israel] was the birthplace of the Jewish people. Here their spiritual, religious and national identity were formed. Here they achieved independence and created a culture of national and universal significance. Here they wrote and gave the Bible to the world. (First paragraph of Israel’s Declaration of Independence).
This is the very justification of our life here. Without it, we are merely a bunch of European colonialists, just as our pals the Palestinians are suggesting. And whoever gets to define the spiritual identity of the state will rule here.
Over the past decades there have been local skirmishes between foreign invaders from the Reform and Conservative movements and the various religious authorities, over the governing of the state of Israel. Due to the huge numeric difference that currently exists between the invaders and the Orthodox communities in Israel, there may be a tendency to downplay the danger the former impose on the rule of Rabbinic Judaism here.
I believe wholeheartedly that, despite the myriad cultural and social difficulties it presents before Israeli society, Rabbinic Judaism remains our authentic connection to the lofty intentions of the authors of our Declaration of Independence.
The challenge of the Reform and Conservatives against the Rabbinic identity of religion in Israel is also, necessarily, an attack on the Jewishness of the state. It can’t be helped. The moment we have religious pluralism in the state of Israel, we’ll lose our exclusive rights to rule this place. The rabbis understand it, as do, for certain, the Reform-Conservative. But the public doesn’t really get what all the fuss about, because, the way the media present it, it looks like a David and Goliath conflict, with the Orthodox in the role of Goliath.
I see the Women of the Wall as a fascinating media phenomenon, which reminds me a little of the scene in Monty Python and the Holy Grail, when King Arthur’s knights attack a cave guarded by a cute, little bunny, but in the end the bunny bites their throats with its fangs.
The media show us pleasant women, who look just like me and you, and some among them even cover their hair with modest scarves, and all they want is just to pray once a month by the Kotel, like every Jew. Why should we care that they want to pray? So they feel like covering themselves with a talit and playing at being men—why should I bother?
On the other side, the media show a small, highly unattractive looking band of mostly Haredi men and women, who are (separately) cursing and yelling in their black uniform, as well as the Kotel Rabbi, Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowich, who is screaming his head off about how these women are a threat to Judaism.
Today, on the first of Iyar, and last month, on the first of Nissan, 5773, the Women of the Wall were joined by female MKs from Labor and Meretz, a fact that raised the political bar by a couple yards. Those MKs certainly did not get there out of a yearning to commune with their father (or mother) in heaven. Those MKs were the realization of Rabbi Moshe Feinstein’s nightmare scenario of “alternative” Judaism taking over every good portion in the nation of Israel.
Rabbi Rabinowich did not spare the women and the MKs, warning: “The prayers of those female MKs could bring on a civil war.” But even the Haredi public isn’t convinced. Despite prominent posters that are pasted on the walls all over Jerusalem’s Haredi neighborhoods, few show up to protest.