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November 22, 2014 / 29 Heshvan, 5775
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Women Behaving Badly

The Sound of WOW

Photo Credit: Miriam Alster/FLASh90

Here is a WOW member wearing talit and tefillin blowing a shofar during prayer outside a police station in Jerusalem’s Old City where police detained four other WOWs at the Wailing Wall this summer.

WOW stands for “Women of the Wall.”

Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu of Arutz 7 reported on the August 19 incident:

Police arrested three “women of the Wall’ after they violated High Court limitations and wore prayer shawls in a protest marking the beginning of the Hebrew month of Elul. Police warned the women before arresting them.

The protest movement, led mostly by Reform and Conservative Jews, has campaigned against Jewish law and centuries-old customs.

The Women of the Wall often choose “Rosh Chodesh,” the first day of a Jewish month, to stage a provocation under the guise of prayer.

The biggest problem with women dressing like frum men and reading from the Torah at the Kotel is “kol isha,” a woman’s voice, which a Jew is not supposed to hear during prayer because it is sexually seductive. So, while as great a posek as Rav Moshe Feinstein permitted women’s private gatherings for prayer and reading from the Torah (not sure he approved of the talit and tefillin part) – there’s no posek I know of who approves of women’s Torah reading right next to praying men.

It’s a huge problem religiously, because, obviously, this is a group of spiritually inclined women who simply don’t wish to live within the boundaries of Jewish law, and they’ve been at it for decades. They may be mothers and wives and grandmothers, but in prayer they prefer to be men. To date Jewish law has not found a way to accommodate that.

It’s also a judicial problem, because telling a segment of the population they are not entitled to something another segment may partake in every day, three and four times a day, is inconsistent with simple democratic values.

The Israeli Supreme Court and a succession of Israeli governments and Knesset sessions have been vacillating over the tricky balancing act of “Jewish” versus “Democratic” components in the strange hybrid known as a “Democratic, Jewish State.”

The women of WOW and their supporters abroad are, by and large, not Orthodox. But they’ve been fighting fervently for their spot under the sun next to the Wall since 1988, so they’re feverish about it. This is not a fad, this is a bunch of dedicated and quite incensed ladies, who seem to spend much of their spiritual time in police stations and court rooms.

Is something going to give? I have no idea. Maybe there should be a Rosh Chodesh break, when guys are asked to stay off the Kotel for a couple of hours, to let the women have their holy moment. Bad idea? Possibly. Also, it would require compromise, and compromises are tough to do. Jews didn’t stay Jews all these centuries because they compromised a lot.

Is there an energy, a sense of connection to the Divine, which these women could be taught to express while embracing their roles in Jewish law? That would involve an even deeper kind compromise, where Feminists seek their optimal place in Jewish tradition, as both equal and different. Not gonna’ happen in a million years.

What if they told us that as soon as we resolved this conflict, Mashiach will come?

About the Author: Yori Yanover has been a working journalist since age 17, before he enlisted and worked for Ba'Machane Nachal. Since then he has worked for Israel Shelanu, the US supplement of Yedioth, JCN18.com, USAJewish.com, Lubavitch News Service, Arutz 7 (as DJ on the high seas), and the Grand Street News. He has published Dancing and Crying, a colorful and intimate portrait of the last two years in the life of the late Lubavitch Rebbe, (in Hebrew), and two fun books in English: The Cabalist's Daughter: A Novel of Practical Messianic Redemption, and How Would God REALLY Vote.


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9 Responses to “Women Behaving Badly”

  1. Gary Morin says:

    Is this how it really is for the Women, or how it's being portrayed, as a "provocations:" The Women of the Wall often choose “Rosh Chodesh,” the first day of a Jewish month, to stage a provocation under the guise of prayer." Journalism should be more objective and unbiased.

  2. Nancy Morin says:

    It definitely wasn't objective reporting

  3. Michael Lizardo says:

    From the description of his "education", it doesn't say at all that he formally went to school for journalism. Seems like they just gave a kid a mic and told him to start commenting. XD

  4. Yori Yanover says:

    Lizardo — I’ve been paying the rent with my writing since age 17, published three books, worked in radio, film and, mostly, journalism. But if I can still look like a kid to SOMEONE I suppose I’ve kept some of it fresh after all these years.

  5. Yori Yanover says:

    The "provocative" thing is a quote from Arutz 7. You need to read the piece before you trash the author…

    As to "Journalism should be more objective and unbiased" — also, winters should be mild with just the right amount of rain, and summers sweetly warm with a good breeze.

    There is no objective journalism, never was, unless it's performed by bots.

  6. I believe "equal and different" is an excellent notion. Of course the "equal" part must include equality on the bima and the wall. Equal access to pray at holy sites, to read from the Torah, to lead services.

  7. Chaiya Eitan says:

    What an awful article…this country is beginning to look more and more like some Islamic country….women can't get on buses and if they do they have to sit in the back…..little girls are spit on….pictures of women are forbidden in Jerusalem. It is this kind of behavior that pushes me further and further away from Judaism.

  8. Rafi Goodman says:

    Don't let a few misguided individuals turn you away from true Judaism. You know better

  9. Chaiya Eitan says:

    Well, THEY say they are the 'true' Judaism. I found the whole article insulting.

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