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August 30, 2014 / 4 Elul, 5774
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WoW Miss their Chance for Equality at Kotel Priestly Blessing

If the Women of the Wall want equality with men, why don’t they try to perform the Priestly Blessing at the Western Wall? Do tribal distinctions contradict “equality?” If so, who needs a Reform "rabbi?"
Worshippers cover themselves with prayer shawls at he Western Wall in Jerusalem during the Kohenim Benediction priestly blessing

Worshippers cover themselves with prayer shawls at he Western Wall in Jerusalem during the Kohenim Benediction priestly blessing
Photo Credit: Flash 90

Tens of thousands of Jews prayed at the Western Wall Sunday, the fourth day of Sukkot, and received the traditional priestly blessing of dozens of Kohenim, but no Women of the Wall tried to join.

Kohenim are of the priestly tribe traced to the Biblical High Priest Aaron.

The Women of the Wall have campaigned vigorously the past year to pressure for the same religious standing of men to read from a Torah scroll and wear tefillin at the Western Wall. They have succeeded in winning the right to pray as they wish at the southern section of the Western Wall, known as Robinson’s Arch and not adjacent to the more widely-known section of the Wall.

So why didn’t they try to prove again that “equal” mean the “same” and presume they are Kohenim. Don’t Reform Jews deserve their blessing?

The Reform movement generally maintains a policy of “equality” and rejects the distinctions between Kohenim and other Israeli tribes, but some Reform and Conservative prayer groups allow the daughter of a Kohen to perform the Priestly Blessing.

The same prayer groups also call a daughter of a Kohen to the reading of the Torah, in place of the traditional recognition of a Kohen for the Torah portion that is chanted in Israel on the Sabbath, holidays, Rosh Chodesh (the beginning of the month and on Mondays and Thursdays.

The Kohenim were active in sacrifices in the Holy Temples, and Reform and Conservative thought concludes that since the Temples have been destroyed and there are no sacrifices today, the designation of a Kohen is either out of date or is not restricted to men. The Conservative movement is split with two opposing opinions on whether a daughter of a Kohen can perform the Priestly Blessing.

Most Reform and Conservative congregations omit the Priestly Blessing, which in Orthodox congregations in the Diaspora are performed only on the three festivals of Passover, Shavuot and Sukkot. The blessing is recited toward the end of the additional Musaf prayers. Reform Jews usually don’t bother themselves with praying too much, and they delete Musaf.

Reform Rabbi Jeffrey W. Goldwasser posted on a website “More liberal communities, those that insist on thorough gender equality, do not observe the distinction of Kohanim and Levi’im at all.”

Reform Jews, with their 11th Commandment of equality, declare that all Jews are equal in their functions as Jews. All of us are the same. Everyone is a priest, everyone can wear tefillin, everyone can read from the Torah, and everyone can do pretty much as he or she pleases.

That begs one question: If all are equal, if Jewish law rejects the Torah as the living law of today, and if every Jew can understand the Torah as he wants, why is there such a thing as a Reform “rabbi”?

So much for equality.

About the Author: Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu is a graduate in journalism and economics from The George Washington University. He has worked as a cub reporter in rural Virginia and as senior copy editor for major Canadian metropolitan dailies. Tzvi wrote for Arutz Sheva for several years before joining the Jewish Press.


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31 Responses to “WoW Miss their Chance for Equality at Kotel Priestly Blessing”

  1. Dan Silagi says:

    How about a little accuracy in journalism, Tzvi? You say the Women of the Wall succeeding in winning the right to pray at Robinson's Arch. What the Women of the Wall succeeded in accomplishing was winning, by court order, the right to pray at the Kotel proper while wearing tefillin and phyllacteries, much to the chagin of the ultra-orthodox who falsely believe the Kotel belongs to them and them alone.

    Before you start your usual Reform-bashing, get your facts correct.

  2. Dan Silagi says:

    How about a little accuracy in journalism, Tzvi? You say the Women of the Wall succeeding in winning the right to pray at Robinson's Arch. What the Women of the Wall succeeded in accomplishing was winning, by court order, the right to pray at the Kotel proper while wearing tefillin and phyllacteries, much to the chagin of the ultra-orthodox who falsely believe the Kotel belongs to them and them alone.

    Before you start your usual Reform-bashing, get your facts correct.

  3. Dan Silagi says:

    How about a little accuracy in journalism, Tzvi? You say the Women of the Wall succeeding in winning the right to pray at Robinson's Arch. What the Women of the Wall succeeded in accomplishing was winning, by court order, the right to pray at the Kotel proper while wearing tefillin and phyllacteries, much to the chagin of the ultra-orthodox who falsely believe the Kotel belongs to them and them alone.

    Before you start your usual Reform-bashing, get your facts correct.

  4. Well the author didn't miss a chance to make a fool of himself! Women of the Wall is a multi-denominational group of women whose sole aim to achieve the social and legal recognition of their right as women to wear a tallit, tefillin, pray and read from a Torah scroll out loud and collectively in the women's section at the Kotel. As such, the priestly blessing is not and cannot be within our group's activities. I must add that in all probability members and supporters of Women of the Wall attended the traditional gathering on Sukkot for the priestly blessing – but as individuals.

  5. Well the author didn't miss a chance to make a fool of himself! Women of the Wall is a multi-denominational group of women whose sole aim to achieve the social and legal recognition of their right as women to wear a tallit, tefillin, pray and read from a Torah scroll out loud and collectively in the women's section at the Kotel. As such, the priestly blessing is not and cannot be within our group's activities. I must add that in all probability members and supporters of Women of the Wall attended the traditional gathering on Sukkot for the priestly blessing – but as individuals.

  6. truthseekr says:

    Everyone can’t be a Cohen. There are traditions passed down from father to son, presumably which trace back to the Temple times. But not all Cohenim want to be involved in Orthodox settings. I’ve known at least one in a Conservative shul, one in a Reform congregation,  and also one who was not affiliated with any denomination after he’d had some hard times. Both the Conservative and Reform Cohenim were known by the congregation to be Cohenim and no one even considered putting themselves in a similar role. The info passed down is not known to outsiders; this to me is a miracle, as the “secrets” have been handed down for thousands of years without being lost, and Cohenim know who they are. When the 3rd Temple is built, Cohenim will be ready to perform their priestly duties. How awesome is this!

  7. My grandfather, of blessed memory, was proud of being a Kohen, and was the very proud father of three daughters. I am sure he would have been bothered if my mother, of blessed memory, or either of her sisters, had been called to the Torah as Kohenim. The author should get over himself.

  8. This piece is just plain nasty and shows no understanding of non-Orthodox views. It is intended to cause further harsh feelings, demean certain individuals, and be exceedingly divisive in a world where Jewish unity and peaceful cooperation is desperately needed. If we can not find unity and peace among ourselves, then why should we expect others in the world to do so? We are being a lousy light unto the nations and a terrible role model to other nations. Judaism teaches that no one should be excluded from the community, that all should be spoken to and about with respect, that no one should be embarrassed [especially not publicly], that lashon haRah is to be avoided with great diligence… Despite being right after Yom Kippur, we are not acting any better towards our fellow creatures. Boosha v'klima!!! B'vrachot, Rabbi Adele

  9. Joseph Colen says:

    These liberal movements are just trying in hidden ways have all Jews accept lesbianism or any any sins of these perverts. Look at what they done with kosher laws and the Sabbath.

  10. Ch Hoffman says:

    tzvi-ben-gdalyahu, whoever he really is, has a lot to learn about journalism and a lot more to learn about derech eretz

  11. Dan Silagi says:

    You, in 31 words, have demonstrated exactly what's wrong with ultra-orthodox Judaism.

  12. Myriam Obadia says:

    That was an uncalled for bit of nastiness with no journalistic value. Frankly, why bring WOW into the picture when they aren't doing anything offensive? At any rate,we already know we're all equal: we are all descendents of Adam and Eve so not one of us can say: "my parents were better than yours". Being a Cohen isn't an elevation above the rest of Israel anymore than being a Jew puts a person above the goyim. Being a Cohen is a dedication to a specific role, one that is not readily escapable and which contains as many drawbacks as priviledges.

  13. Myriam Obadia says:

    That was an uncalled for bit of nastiness with no journalistic value. Frankly, why bring WOW into the picture when they aren't doing anything offensive? At any rate,we already know we're all equal: we are all descendents of Adam and Eve so not one of us can say: "my parents were better than yours". Being a Cohen isn't an elevation above the rest of Israel anymore than being a Jew puts a person above the goyim. Being a Cohen is a dedication to a specific role, one that is not readily escapable and which contains as many drawbacks as priviledges.

  14. Menachem Rephun says:

    Why is his usual "reform-bashing" bashing forbidden but your incessant Torah Observant Judaism bashing perfectly acceptable?

  15. Menachem Rephun says:

    he's allowed to criticize anything he wants to. simply challenging something does not equal a lack of derech eretz

  16. Menachem Rephun says:

    are the "women of the wall" showing derech eretz by flagrantly undermining thousands of years of Jewish tradition and deliberately upsetting the religious sensibilities of people davening at the Kotel?

  17. Menachem Rephun says:

    The women of the wall are the ones intentionally creating divisiveness. Stop springing into self-righteous mode every time some one dares to criticize their actions and motives

  18. Menachem Rephun says:

    Nobody is being publicly embarrassed or excluded. They are seeking attention and attention is what they're getting

  19. Menachem Rephun says:

    Any shred of credibility you might have had was lost the moment you proclaimed yourself "chief apikorus of america" back in that reform rabbi thread

  20. The only reason they get attention is because people like you try to force them to pray in a different way or a different place. They are not trying to change the way you pray or move you away. You are trying to impose your values upon them. So if you were to not give them attention and just go about your business, and others like you would do the same, then there would be no reason for them to make headlines and they would get no attention outside their own group! Moadim L'Simchah! Be Jewish! Welcome ALL ushpizim!

  21. ps it is only divisive if you choose to make it so. if you follow live and let live without passing judgements on others – then you choose not to make it divisive… otherwise you disregard the well known Jewish teaching of not excluding anyone from the community regardless of how much or how little they practice…

  22. By the by… the only one allowed to pass judgements [ie critique others] is HaSHem!

  23. Abraham Malz says:

    I agree this article has no merit and only shows contempt. Therefore I declare it Loshon Hora..

  24. Stewart Schwartz says:

    chief fool is more accurate.

  25. Ira L. Jacobson says:

    To paraphrase Myriam Obadia, "Being a woman is a dedication to a specific role, one that is not readily escapable and which contains as many drawbacks as privileges."
    Well stated, Ms. Obadia.

  26. Ira L. Jacobson says:

    Dan Silagi :
    What do you think the Refromers have done the the halahkot of kashrut and Shabbat? Isn't Joseph Cohen right on?

  27. Ira L. Jacobson says:

    If JAdele Plotkin is going to show us how well she knows Hebrew, she perhaps should have written "UCHELIMA." Such are the Reform "rabbis."

  28. Robin Birdfish says:

    You actually have the nerve to say "Reform Jews usually don’t bother themselves with praying too much" in this most disrespectful and nasty attack on Reform, Conservative Jews as well as women. Yes we believe in equality in our prayers, in our ability to read from Torah, in who can wear kippot and prayer shawls and who can become a rabbi…and how dare you put rabbi in quote when you refer to a Reform rabbi. Your piece is disrespectful and ignorant and shows that you have no idea of the world you presume to speak about and judge from small minded smug hole that you should crawl back into.

  29. Ira L. Jacobson says:

    They are provocateurs who pray once a month and disturb people who pray 90 times a month. Some have been heard to refer to a tallit as a schmateh.

  30. Joseph De Soto says:

    The idea of the Conservative or Reform movement having Kohanim perform the blessing is ridiculous/ Why, we know from DNA evidence that less than 20% of the Conservative movement Kohanim are actually Kohanim, that is descendents of Aaron-FACT for the Reform movement it is less than 10%. Then when one considers the very few remaining who are descendants of Aaron it is near 0% those who have not been disqualified by marriage or prohibited marriage of their parents/grandparents ……the later making them not Kohanim at all.

  31. Joseph De Soto says:

    The idea of the Conservative or Reform movement having Kohanim perform the blessing is ridiculous/ Why, we know from DNA evidence that less than 20% of the Conservative movement Kohanim are actually Kohanim, that is descendents of Aaron-FACT for the Reform movement it is less than 10%. Then when one considers the very few remaining who are descendants of Aaron it is near 0% those who have not been disqualified by marriage or prohibited marriage of their parents/grandparents ……the later making them not Kohanim at all.

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