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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