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Sharansky to Suggest Women’s Kotel Prayers Away from Main Plaza

Tuesday, April 9th, 2013

Jewish Agency chairman Natan Sharansky is preparing to suggest that women pray whenever they want, complete with prayer shawls and a Torah scroll, at the southern edge of the Western Wall, known as Robinson’s Arch.

The proposal was reported by the Forward, and afterwards the Jewish Agency released a fudgy statement that “Sharansky will present his recommendations to Prime Minister Netanyahu upon the chairman’s return to Israel from his visit to college campuses in the United States.”

“One Western Wall for one Jewish people,” Sharansky said, adding that he hopes his recommendations will allow “the Kotel will once again be a symbol of unity among the Jewish people, and not one of discord and strife.”

“Strife” is a police war. “Hatred,” ”jealousy” and “stiff-necked” are closer to the truth.

The Women of the Wall argue that the Haredi rabbis in charge of the Western Wall are insensitive to their needs and treat them as second-class citizens.

Although many if not most Orthodox rabbis in the United States have no problem with a women’s prayer minyan, the Chief Rabbinate as well as  and many non-Haredi Orthodox rabbis in Israeli have a problem with it, based on their application of Jewish law.

They charge that a women’s prayer minyan, complete with their own Torah reading, would offend their religious sensitivities.

An unstated but obviously huge difference is that there is no place for prayer in the Diaspora that has the holiness like the Western Wall, and there is no public area for prayer that is attended by both women and men.

The conflict will probably hit the headlines again Wednesday and Thursday, the two days that are the beginning of the Hebrew month of Iyar. The High Court has allowed the Women of the Wall to hold their own minyan at Robinson’s Arch, but the women demand they be allowed to pray at the more widely attended portion of the Western Wall.

Every Rosh Chodesh, they try to break the ban at the Western Wall and frequently are arrested. Pictures in  American media of a policeman struggling with a woman holding a Torah scroll have helped rip to the seams the fragile relationship between the Diaspora and Israel.

Sharansky has come up with a compromise that would give the women half of what they want and would spare the Western Wall rabbi and Haredi worshippers from having to pray at the Kotel while knowing a women’s minyan is taking place next to them, despite a partition, and being exposed to hearing women’s singing, which they consider a violation of Jewish law.

Anat Hoffman, leader of the WOW movement, previously has rejected what she calls a “separate but equal” solution.

Her position has been that having the right to pray in a separate minyan is only part of an overall goal, in her words, “to dismantle the Western Wall Heritage Foundation,” the Haredi Orthodox entity that oversees the Western Wall.”

After Sharansky’s proposal went public, she backed off and said she welcomes the compromise.

The idea is “very ambitious,” Hoffman said. ”You don’t always have to be right; you have to be smart — and compromise is a sign of maturity and understanding what’s at stake here.”

Neither side can get it wants without grossly offending the other, but the Haredi community cannot be expected to accept her agreement without suspicion.  If WOW want to pray as they wish, there is nothing to stop them from claiming they have the right to pray together with their husbands or male friends in a mixed minyan, which is totally prohibited in all Orthodox circles and would offend Orthodox worshippers.

But Hoffman appears to be smart enough to accept the Sharansky solution, putting the Western Wall rabbi in a position that he might as well agree gracefully rather than pitting himself against the entire political establishment outside of Haredi circles.

If he does agree, there is a good chance that the power of prayer can exceed political power.

Feiglin Davens with Minyan on Temple Mount, Arabs Silent (Video)

Tuesday, December 4th, 2012

MK to be Moshe Feiglin, who made the number 14 spot on the Likud Knesset list, on Monday morning managed to surprise many yet again when he showed up on Temple Mount with a minyan and conducted a prayer service.

For years, Israeli governments, police and, naturally, the Arab Waqf, have been preventing Jews visiting Temple Mount, warning that such an attempt on the part of Jews to connect with their father in Heaven would surely start never-before-seen riots that would sweep the Middle east in rivers of blood.

Nevertheless, despite those apocalyptic warnings, there are no actual laws on the books explicitly prohibiting prayer – because that would be a blatant violation of several Geneva conventions and UN human rights declarations, to say the least. And so the prohibitions against Jews praying at the site of our forefathers’ Temple hide behind ordinances against disorderly conduct, with the cops on the spot empowered to interpret the rules as they see fit.

On Monday morning, as documented by the Channel 10 News camera, Feiglin davened with a minyan on Temple Mount and the world did not erupt in flames. Even the Muslims preferred to keep mum about it.

Feiglin’s statement regarding the event was posted on his Facebook page after his primary election a week ago: “This is just the beginning, until we arrive at building the Temple on top of Temple Mount, and accomplish our goals in this land.”

Looking forward to joining him next time!

Tel Aviv Parents Decry Use of Preschool for Temporary Synagogue

Sunday, December 2nd, 2012

Parents of students from the Raqia preschool in the Nofei Yam neighborhood in north Tel Aviv have expressed outrage that their children’s school will also serve as a synagogue on Shabbat and holidays.

According to a report by Haaretz, the Tel Aviv city council gave the Ohel Yosef Yitzhak community center association the right to use the children’s school for five years, or until the establishment of a permanent synagogue.  Land for the synagogue has already been allocated.

Parents, who say they discovered the arrangement by chance, demanded the right to voice objections and said the municipality decision should be suspended pending the response of the parents.

Specifically, the parents complained that adults should not be allowed to use a building dedicated to children and that religious activities should not be held at an educational institution.  They say one of the school’s rooms has become a storage facility for prayer items, and that the electronic toilets which are disconnected prior to Shabbat are not being reconnected for use by kids during the week.

A few weeks ago, Tel Aviv residents forced the closure of a temporary synagogue in the Merom preschool next to the YOO Towers in north Tel Aviv.

The Secret To Defeating Our Enemies

Wednesday, November 28th, 2012

Events have been unfolding so rapidly. First it was Hurricane Sandy, which attacked with merciless fury and left multitudes homeless, their cars and belongings swept away. Power failed, not for a day, or for a week, but in some cases for several weeks.

When I was told I could safely return to my house, the power was back on and the poisonous water mixed with sewage that invaded the lower level of my home had been removed. When I reached my community it was evening and before I even arrived to my destination the lights went out again. You couldn’t see anything.

I’d had experience with power failures in the past but this darkness that now enveloped us was totally different. Imagine driving on a street where the streetlights are off and you cannot even see little bright lights flickering from windows.

“Where am I?” you ask yourself. “Is there a car coming toward me? Am I backing into something? Where is my street? Where is my house?”

My regular readers know I connected Sandy, as I have several other unusual occurrences, to the ten plagues that befell Egypt. Our Sages taught us that the manner in which we departed from Egypt would be replayed in the pre-Messianic period. As I was trying to make my way home it occurred to me that this dense darkness was reminiscent of the darkness that enveloped Egypt in the ninth plague. The Torah teaches us that the darkness was so thick it was almost tangible – you could actually feel it and didn’t even know who or what was standing before you.

As I was contemplating all that was going on around me, the news from Eretz Yisrael reached us of deadly rockets and missiles raining down on our brethren. While in the United States many lost their homes, in Israel – may Hashem have mercy – not only were homes destroyed but the very lives of our people were on the line. And then we heard the so-called good news of a cease-fire.

But isn’t that really good news, you ask? I invite you to consider why a people bent on annihilating Israel would desire a “cease-fire.” And why would Prime Minister Netanyahu agree to it? Surely we Jews know that in no time at all the savage murderers will resume their attacks.

The answers are simple. Hamas needed a small break to replenish its deadly arsenal. On the other hand, Netanyahu, like so many of Israel’s past prime ministers, felt he had no choice but to succumb to the pressure exerted by other nations. Some of you are no doubt asking what else Israel could have done – one nation versus the world. Logically speaking the objection makes sense, but there is nothing logical about Jewish survival. From the very genesis of our history we have been attacked by virtually every nation, every great empire, of the world. We were and are “one little lamb” lost among seventy ferocious wolves. What chance did we have for survival?

Was it not just yesterday that Hitler proclaimed his “final solution”? He harnessed 20th century know-how to build gas chambers and crematoria. But as always, we, the Jewish people, defied the odds. Hitler is long gone but we are here and shall always be here, for that is the will of our G-d.

What is our secret weapon? I’ve written about it frequently but it bears repeating – for we simply don’t get it. It is all found in one easy word: “Torah.”

The voice of Jacob, of Israel, is the voice of Torah and the voice of prayer. Yes, the power of our people is in our voice and in our supplications. It is found in our Torah studies, in our observance of mitzvos and in our commitment to Hashem.

Sadly, we have forfeited these precious gems. We no longer know how to sing to our G-d and have allowed Yishmael to seize our weapons. Yishmael prays five times a day. How many times do we pray? The answer should be at least three – but to our shame we pray zero.

I imagine many readers are asking, “Rebbetzin, how can you say that?” Just look around and be honest. Ask yourselves, how many Jews really pray three times a day? How many Jews go to minyan? Yes, the Orthodox do, but how many are they? The Orthodox are just a very small minority. If we are to survive the seventy ferocious wolves we – all of us – must take our weapons into our hands.

Tefillah L’Shlom Medinat Yisrael: A Plea For Prayer

Wednesday, November 21st, 2012

Minutes after candle-lighting, sirens rang out in Jerusalem, disturbing the peace and tranquility ushered in by Shabbat. Earlier that day, my wife and I assured our parents that we are far from the rockets in our home in Har Nof, a quiet suburb nestled in the Jerusalem Forest.

But in the middle of Kabbalat Shabbat I found myself taking cover, together with other members of my community, near the stairwell of our shul. When the tefillah resumed, the tone was intense. Before Ma’ariv we recited Tehillim, a prayer for the IDF, and the Tefillah L’Shlom Medinat Yisrael (the Prayer for the Welfare and Security of the State of Israel).

Overnight, members of our kehillah were called up for reserve duty. And when we said the Tefillah L’Shlom Medinat Yisrael again Shabbat morning, it was with more kavanah than is usually the case.

After Shabbat we learned that rockets had fallen near Mevaseret and Gush Etzion, just miles from the heart of Jerusalem. Baruch Hashem, no one was hurt – but that is not the case elsewhere in the country. And while we can’t possibly imagine what our brothers and sisters in the South are going through, the feeling that no one is immune persists.

How can it be, I wondered over Shabbat, that some communities here in Israel and abroad do not recite the Tefillah L’Shlom Medinat Yisrael?

The text of the prayer first appeared in the religious newspaper HaTzofe on September 20, 1948, less than half a year after a nascent nation declared its independence. Written by Chief Rabbis Herzog and Uziel, together with author and Nobel laureate S.Y. Agnon, it was adopted by many congregations in Israel and abroad. Even the famed rabbinic journal HaPardes (October 1948) published it and encouraged readers to adopt it.

Praying on behalf of the government is not a new practice. The prophet Yirmiyahu instructs the Jewish people, “Seek the peace of the city to which I have exiled you” (Jer. 29:7). And throughout Jewish history, we have. Halachic works from Kol Bo to Abudraham to Magen Avraham to Aruch HaShulchan codify the practice of praying for the king. Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch writes that it is an obligation and mitzvah to express gratitude for the place where we live, and to pray for it.

We Jews have composed texts on behalf of everyone from the king of Spain to Napoleon. Sometimes, depending on how a ruler treated the Jews, the prayer took an ironic turn, asking for protection from the king. (As when the rabbi in “Fiddler on the Roof” asks God to “Bless and keep the czar – far away from us!”)

The Mishnah (Avot 3:2) stresses the importance of praying on behalf of the government: “Rabbi Hanina, deputy high priest, said: Pray for the welfare of the government, for were it not for fear of it, people would swallow one another alive.”

So why doesn’t everyone recite the prayer for the state of Israel?

Some object to the fact that the prayer calls the state the “first flowering of our redemption.” They are uncomfortable with the notion that a secular government, founded by secular Zionists, can be part of the redemptive process. But a little research reveals the truths of history: In the early years, following the founding of the state, many rabbis (not all of them Zionists) indeed believed that the state of Israel was the “first flowering” of redemption.

A letter titled “Da’at Torah,” later published in Rabbi M.M. Kasher’s HaTekufah HaGedolah (pp. 424-429), begins, “We thank Hashem for what we have merited, because of His abundant mercy and kindness, to see the first buds [nitzanim] of the beginning of redemption [atchalta d’geulah], with the founding of the state of Israel.”

This letter, encouraging participation in elections for the first Knesset, was signed by the leading gedolim of Eretz Yisrael, among them Rav Tzvi Pesach Frank, Rav Yechezkel Sarna, Rav Zalman Sorotzkin, and Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach. In fact, as David Tamar noted in a Jan. 2, 1998 article in HaTzofe, Rav Shlomo Zalman would stand during the recitation of the Tefillah L’Shlom Medinat Yisrael.

The Prayer for the State of Israel was not composed strictly for the Religious Zionist camp – it was composed for all Jews to recite. Perhaps it was written during a simpler time in history, when Jews of every stripe and political or religious affiliation fought for an independent Jewish state. They did not have the luxury of sitting back and being sectarian. How things have changed.

Special Prayers Today at the Kotel

Sunday, November 18th, 2012

A special prayer session will be held at the Kotel on Sunday at 3:30 PM.

After a meeting on Thursday between Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar and Rav Ovadia Yosef, it was decided that a special public prayer session will be held to pray for strengthening the citizens of Israel’s south and the IDF soldiers.

Rav Amar said, “I call upon the people of Israel from all ends of the religious spectrum to cry and pray for mercy in light of the difficult events that has befallen us in recent times. Am Israel Chai, and our success depends on unity and faith. I send a blessing of healing to all the wounded, and my condolences to the families of the victims, our duties at this time to strengthen the residents of the South and our hero soldiers with our prayers.”

What Does It All Mean?

Wednesday, November 7th, 2012

The continuation of my column on the power of prayer was ready to go – but then tragedy hit. Tragedy of a magnitude none of us could have envisioned.

New York City, the capital of the world, is shaken to its core as buildings tumble, electrical power is lost, highways and neighborhoods are flooded, bridges and tunnels are closed down, cars float away, people lose their homes and even their lives.

What are we to do? How are we to understand this?

As readers know, whenever suffering befalls us I search our holy books to find illumination and guidance. I turn to my most loyal friend – a friend that has always been at my side and given me comfort and strength and never betrayed me – my sefer Tehillim, my Book of Psalms.

The psalms were written by King David, who experienced every type of pain and suffering that can befall mankind, and so each word is drenched with his tears and speaks for all eternity and for all mankind.

The devastation of Hurricane Sandy began on Monday, October 29, the 13th day of the month of Cheshvan. The psalm designated for the 13th day of the month is Psalm 69. I opened to it and the words jumped out: “Save us, oh G-d, for the waters have reached onto my soul.”

There is more. This psalm does not leave us in the cold – it also provides our remedy, our answer: “But as for me, my prayer is to You, Hashem.”

Yes, we must turn in heartfelt prayer to our Heavenly Father and beseech His Mercy, His Salvation.

I looked at the weekly parshah and read how our father Abraham, whose hospitality had no bounds, opened his home to strangers. That which our forefathers experienced and shaped their lives has become part of our DNA.

I think of all those who lost power or were left homeless. I know of a woman who stood in her home, waist deep in water, desperately searching for photographs of her father and mother who are no longer here. Who can comprehend the pain?

And I think of all the wonderful people who opened their homes just like our father Abraham. I am one of those people who had to evacuate and I too have benefited and continue to benefit from that hospitality.

The Rambam taught that when suffering is visited upon us we are commanded to cry out and awaken our people with the sound of the shofar. Everyone must be alerted. Everyone must engage in self-examination and ask, What is my life all about? How would I rate if I were given a “neshamah checkup”? What does my Judaism, my Torah, really mean to me?”

The Rambam wrote that if we regard the tragedies that befall us as simply the way of the world, natural happenings, we are guilty of achzarius (cruelty). At first glance it is difficult to understand why Maimonides would choose the term “cruelty” to describe those who see trials and tribulations as the way of the world. They may be unthinking, apathetic, foolish, obtuse or just cynical, but to accuse them of cruelty seems rather farfetched.

The answer is simple. If we regard our pain and suffering as “mere coincidence” and feel no motivation to examine our lives, abandon our old ways and change, then indeed such an attitude is cruel, for it invites additional misfortunate upon ourselves and others.

Great Torah luminaries of recent generations told us we were entering the final stages of history, a period called ikvsa di Mashiach – footsteps of the Messiah. So how can we remain silent? Would that not be the ultimate cruelty?

Ours is a generation that has been challenged again and again. We have had so many wakeup calls – some terrifying, some more subtle – but we have remained indifferent to them all.

I will not go back to the time of the Holocaust, though by every right I should – for if that didn’t shake us up, what will? Even the terrible events of 9/11 are no longer vivid in our minds and the fellowship and the kindness that ensued in its wake are all long gone.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/judaism/rebbetzins-viewpointrebbetzin-jungreis/what-does-it-all-mean/2012/11/07/

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