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October 25, 2016 / 23 Tishri, 5777

Posts Tagged ‘WOW’

Tolerance at the Temple Mount

Wednesday, November 5th, 2014

{Originally posted on the author’s website, FirstOne Through}

The Temple Mount in Jerusalem has become the focus of much debate both between religions and between different segments within a religion. At its core, the debate is whether the most fervent believers continue to dictate the religious decorum of everyone at the Temple Mount, or whether there is a place for a pluralistic approach to prayer.

 The Temple Mount The Temple Mount is a 35 acre platform built by the Jewish King Herod over 2000 years ago. The platform held the second Temple, built around 515BCE until it was destroyed by the Romans in 70CE. The site of the two Temples (the first one lasted from around 954BCE to 586BCE), is considered Judaism’s holiest spot. It is now occupied by the Dome of the Rock, a gilded shrine built by Caliph Abd al-Malik in 691, and later richly adorned in 1561 by Suleiman I into the building we recognize now.

Al Aqsa is the only mosque on the Temple Mount. It is considered the third most holy site in Islam. It was built in its current configuration in 754CE, and sits on the far southern edge of the platform, in an area that did not exist until Herod expanded the platform southward 800 years earlier.


Jews and the Temple Mount In 1948, five Arab armies invaded Israel in an attempt to destroy the nascent Jewish State. Jordan seized Judea and Samaria and much of eastern Jerusalem including the Old City which contained the Temple Mount. The Jordanians then expelled all Jews from the territory it conquered (including the Old City) and renamed it the “West Bank”.

In 1967, the Jordanians and Palestinians attacked Israel again and lost all of the West Bank including the eastern part of Jerusalem. Rather than take full control of the Temple Mount, the Israelis handed religious control of the Temple Mount compound to the Waqf- the Islamic religious order run from Jordan, and assumed security control. The Jordanians continued to prohibit Jews from worshiping anywhere on the Temple Mount, even in areas far removed from the Al Aqsa Mosque, in areas Muslim families used for picnics and football.

Many Jews are unhappy about the ban on Jews worshiping at their holiest spot on earth. People such as Rabbi Yehuda Glick made many arguments to Israeli authorities to loosen the anti-Jewish restrictions. For those efforts, he was shot in October 2014 after acting-President of the Palestinian Authority Mahmoud Abbas, incited his followers to “defend Al Alqsa by whatever means possible”, even though Jews who visited the Temple Mount never entered, nor attempted to enter, the mosque.

Liberal media outfits branded the Jews who sought the right to pray “right-wing extremists”. The New York Times referred to Glick and others as “agitators”. The “agitators” call for equal prayer rights were considered outlandish. The opening paragraphs of a 10/30/14 New York Times article:

An Israeli-American agitator who has pushed for more Jewish access and rights at a hotly contested religious site in Jerusalem was shot and seriously wounded Wednesday night by an unidentified assailant in an apparent assassination attempt.

The shooting of the activist, Yehuda Glick, compounded fears of further violence in the increasingly polarized holy city, where tensions are already high over fears of a new Palestinian uprising against Israeli occupation.”

Glick was not alone in seeking greater religious rights for people in Jerusalem.

Women of the Wall The “Western Wall” or the “Kotel” is part of the western retaining wall that Herod built to increase the size of Temple Mount. For many centuries, the Kotel was one of the areas closest to Judaism’s holiest site, which Jews could access. While several other spots on the retaining wall were closer to the site of the Jewish Temples, they were either very small, hard to access or considered unsafe. As such, the Western Wall achieved the status of Judaism’s holiest site because Jews could practically use the site for prayers.

Paul Gherkin

Women of the Wall Smuggle Tiny Torah Scroll to Western Wall

Friday, October 24th, 2014

The Reform-led Women of the Wall group managed to sneak a miniature Torah scroll to the Western Wall Friday morning and used it celebrate the Bat Mitzvah of a girl who had to use a magnifying to read the letters.

An attempt earlier in the morning to enter the Western Wall with a regular-sized Torah scroll was stopped by officials. The Western Wall is operated as an orthodox synagogue, where women have no requirement to attend and where they have no obligation to read from the Torah.

The WoW group’s numbers have dwindled to only a few dozen in their monthly spectacle on Rosh Chodesh, the beginning of a new month that this month falls on Friday and Shabbat.

The Torah scroll that they smuggled this morning was only 11 inches high, including the handles. WoW said the scroll was ‘kosher,” meaning that it meets all requirement of Jewish law, and that it was loaned to them by someone whose ancestor had taken it from Lithuania 200 years ago.

There is no prohibition from using a Torah scroll that is so tiny that it requires a magnifying glass to read, but it is not known if the scroll has been in use in recent years. If it is not read during the year, there is no way of knowing whether there is no deterioration of even one letter, which would make it unfit for reading.

Even if the scroll is kosher, the WoW”s constant demand to read a Torah scroll at the Western Wall Plaza when rabbis already have agreed to allow the women to use a Torah scroll in another section of the same Wall but in a less visible area, makes a mockery of itself.

The women no doubt were all excited over themselves for being able to “fool” the rabbis, the ones who are real rabbis, and call Sasha Lutt, the daughter of a Russian immigrant to read from the scroll, with a magnifying glass.

They certainly were wildly singing Hallel, consisting of several Psalms recited on Rosh Chodesh, with every muscle in their mouths. They surely were dancing in celebration, but in celebration of what – that they tricked the rabbis and got some more publicity or in celebration that they were praying? That they felt so much holier than yesterday?

We will let God answer those questions, but the extravaganza does not absolve the WoW from the judgment of others, such as a counter organization called Women for the Wall.

“I find the use of a Sefer Torah as a PR prop extremely painful,” said Leah Aharoni, co-founder of the group. “The Sages have taught us not to use the Torah as a spade with which to dig, yet this is exactly what is happening here – an insensitive group co-opting religion to promote a political agenda.”

I have repeatedly written that the Women of the Wall should be allowed to make fools out of themselves. They are not innocent and harmless people, but they harm themselves more than anyone else.

Tzvi Ben-Gedalyahu

Reform and Conservative Jews Upset over Plans for Robinson’s Arch

Wednesday, February 26th, 2014

Reform and Conservative Jewish groups are upset with a reported draft agreement that would  put the City of David Foundation in charge of the Western Wall’s Robinson’s Arch area, where they can pray in a women’s minyan with a Torah scroll.

The tentative agreement calls for the government to transfer control of the Jerusalem Archaeological Park and Davidson Center to the City of David Foundation, Haaretz reported. The foundation runs the extremely popular City of David tourist site in Jerusalem’s Old City and works to settle Jews in the Silwan neighborhood, across the road from the entrance to the Western Wall Plaza.

Avoid conflict at the widely-visited area of the Western Wall.

Israeli Conservative movement CEO Yizhar Hess told JTA that the draft agreement concerning the Davidson Center caught non-Orthodox groups by surprise.

“We were negotiating the final details of how it would be managed,” Hess said. “It was never mentioned that the City of David Foundation would be the one to actually run the place.”

Hess said that the Reform and Conservative do not take a stance on the foundation’s political leanings, which they claim are decidedly rightwing, but explained that if implemented, the draft agreement would depart from a compromise on the Western Wall outlined by Jewish Agency for Israel Chairman Natan Sharansky last year. Sharansky’s outline proposed creating a pluralist council to manage the site.


There’s No Ban on Women’s Tefillin, Ban on Stupidity Still Holding

Wednesday, January 22nd, 2014

A couple nights ago, my friend Larry Yudelson posted a link to a Jewish school paper in LA reporting on a Jewish school in the Bronx, where, back in December, the principal permitted two girls to put on tefillin during the girls-only morning prayer. We ran it as a news brief (with the appropriate hat tip to Larry) and didn’t think much more about it. But then the competition, Forward and Times of Israel, avid Jewish Press readers that they are, picked up our lead (no hat tips, though) and regurgitated the student paper’s original report and then some.

So, first of all a big Yishar Koach to the writers and editors of the Boiling Point, the online student newspaper of Shalhevet High School in LA. First, for catching and reporting the story, and second for not going crazy about it, such as depicting these two girls’ teffilin thing as a victory for womankind over male rabbinic repression, which is what the grownup papers inevitably did. To date, they’ve called the story Orthodox girls fight for the right to don tefillin (TOI), and the somewhat less combative Modern Orthodox High School in New York Allows Girls to Wear Tefillin (Forwrd), that the Forward quickly followed with the heroic war poem My Fight To Lay Tefillin At an Orthodox School by strapped combatant Eliana Fishman.

JewishPress.com will be covering more of this story in the next few days, God willing. But meanwhile, I believe we should extract the entire issue from the area of controversy, where it just doesn’t belong.

Women have been a challenge to rabbinic Judaism since Rivka called her kid Yaakov over to pull a fast one on her husband, Yitzhak. And feminine rage has been with us for about the same length of time.

The Talmudic sage Ulla (latter part of the 3rd and beginning of the 4th centuries) once stayed at the house of R. Nahman in Babylon. They had a meal and Ulla said grace, and handed the cup of benediction to R. Nahman. R. Nahman said to him: Please send the cup of benediction to Yaltha (his wife).

So Ulla said to him: Thus said R. Johanan: The fruit of a woman’s body is blessed only from the fruit of a man’s body, since it says, “He will also bless the fruit of your body” (Deut. 7:13). It does not say the fruit of her body, but the fruit of your body.

From this we understand that Ms. Yalta, who normally received the kiddush cup from her husband, on this particular occasion did not. And so she got up in a rage and went to the wine cellar and broke four hundred jars of wine.

At which point R. Nahman said to Ulla: Let the Master send her another cup. He sent it to her with a humorous message: All that wine that you spilled can be counted as a benediction. She returned an answer: Gossip comes from peddlers and vermin comes from rags. Which means she was in no mood for humorous remarks from traveling rabbis. (TB Brachot 51b).

In my opinion, after a little over 100 years of suffragists and feminists, it’s high time rabbinic Judaism came to terms with its women, before we lose any more wine barrels. And, indeed, we’ve done a lot in that direction, especially in shuls associated with the National Religious movement in Israel and the Modern Orthodox shuls in the rest of the world.

The problem is that it’s impossible to unload two millennia of rabbinic scholarship and halachic decisions in 100 years. No matter how hard we try, there are always going to be competing and adversarial streams that undermine the ideally smooth process of integrating our women into the Orthodox milieu.

It would have been much easier if religious women all decided to become deeply versed with Jewish law, and started pushing for a more equal, or at least a more prestigious role in the life of their religious communities. Then we would have seen a similar, ever increasing process of women’s integration as we’ve seen in the professions since about WW2.

Yori Yanover

200 WOW Drowned Out by 10,000 Seminary Girls

Friday, October 4th, 2013

The first day of Rosh Chodesh Cheshvan (which is, really, the last day of Tishrei) was yet another eventful installment in the lengthy and often repetitive saga featuring:

The Kotel (a supporting wall for the King Herod-renovated temple)

The Women of the Wall (a group of largely Reform and Conservative women who have been attempting to conduct their distinctly unorthodox services at the site practically since the crusades)

Rabbi Shmuel Rabinovitch, the Kotel Rabbi, who, after having fueled the WOW campaign and giving it life for years has finally decided to leave them alone—about a decade too late

And 10,000 lovely, cheerful, sweet seminary girls, who told everyone they were there to pray for the recovery and well being of the ailing mega-scholar Rav Ovadia Yosef.

Look at the funny ladies with talitot and teffilin…. Photo by: Miriam Alster

“Look at the funny ladies with tallitot and teffilin…” Are the onlookers amused, angry, or both? Photo by: Miriam Alster

According to Haredi reports, the WOW just disappeared in the enormous crowd of youthful young ladies. Talk about integration!

According to Israel Radio, things had gone a little out of hand near the end, and the WOW had to sneak out of there through a side exit, as Haredi men were cursing them out and one man was arrested on suspicion of spitting and throwing stuff at them.

Religion brings out the best in people.

The email from the WOW read: “Nearly 200 Women of the Wall prayed this morning in the women’s section of the Kotel—out loud and as a group, with tallitot (prayer shawls) and tefillin (phylacteries). The multi-denominational prayer group prayed without police enclosures and restrictions, for the first time since April 2013.”

OK, very positive, so far. Not for long, though:

“This great achievement was tainted by the incited, abusive behavior of some of the women and girls who came to pray at the Kotel this morning,” the email continues. “Of thousands who came to pray for the health of Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, there was a large group of women and girls who surrounded Women of the Wall, cursing, spitting and yelling throughout the prayer.”

Also: “A mass prayer was led by Sephardi Chief Rabbi of Israel Yitzhak Yoseph, over loud-speakers, drowning out women’s prayers.”

They should join forces with Jerusalemites who are exposed to Mosque loudspeakers drowning all other sounds five times a day, every day. Let’s ban all megaphonic religions!

“Despite the provocations of the girls and the loudspeakers, out of great respect, Women of the Wall stopped their prayer to listen and join Rabbi Yoseph’s prayer for his father. The women added “amen” and continued the prayer only when his was finished.”

That’s a hopeful sign, then. Let the man go first, especially if he owns the decibel machine…

“It was a trying and emotional morning for the women many of whom left the Kotel in tears, saddened but also resolved to continue to pray at the holy site,” says the email.

Yori Yanover

Kotel Rabbi Gives Up and Tells Haredi Girls: Ignore Women’s Minyan

Thursday, October 3rd, 2013

Western Wall Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz has requested that Haredi girls not fill the women’s section of the Kotel plaza the next time the Women of the Wall arrive to pray, perhaps on Friday.

“When Jews fight with each other at the Western Wall, there is no greater desecration of God’s name,” a statement from his office read.

A fragile compromise on multidenominational prayer has been taking shape through a committee convened by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and headed by Jewish Agency chairman Natan Sharansky.

“Therefore we should await the decision of the committee, so that we can create order that will return calm and brotherhood to the Western Wall,” according to the rabbi’s statement.

The WoW may arrive to the area on Friday, the first of the two days marking the new Hebrew month of Cheshvan, although they have been granted their own prayer area at Robinson’s Arch, at the southern end of the Western Wall but less popular among tourists and visitors than the section at the plaza.

WoW spokeswoman Shira Pruce told The Jewish Press Wednesday that the agreement to allow women to reads the Torch and pray at a minyan at a more remote area is a solution that smacks of “separate and unequal.” She said that the women are adopting a “wait and see” policy on whether to accept the compromise since the government has not yet built the promised facilities for the women.

Regardless of where they pray on Friday, they will be without a Torah scroll, which is read during the morning prayers on the new month, because their scroll has been damaged by mold. The Jewish Press reported here on Wednesday that the Women of the Wall blame the government for the damage because there are inadequate storage facilities at Robinson’s Arch.

Haredi girls have swarmed the women’s section of the Western Wall Plaza in recent months to make it almost impossible for the smaller WoW group to organize, let alone sing out loud.

Following raucous protests from the men’s section, whistles, catcalls and even chair-throwing, Rabbi Rabinowitz has concluded, although very belatedly, that a “provocation” could upset the “sensitive security situation at the Temple Mount, which is now at its zenith.”

The JTA contributed to this report.

Tzvi Ben-Gedalyahu

Women of the Wall Blame Gov’t for Their Damaged Torah Scroll

Wednesday, October 2nd, 2013

Women of the Wall now are blaming the government for inadequate storage for their Torah scroll that the group said sustained damaged due to dampness, making it unfit for reading.

Women will gather at the Robinson’s Arch at the Western Wall on Friday, the first of two days that mark the beginning of the Hebrew month of Cheshvan, but they will pray without a Torah scroll.

After years of being banned by the police and the Western Wall rabbi from changing the status quo that preserves Orthodox Jewish tradition at the Western Wall (Kotel), authorities earlier this year finally arranged a compromise whereby the women can pray in their minyan and with a Torah scroll, but only at the Kotel’s southern section, known as Robinson’s Arch.

The women’s own Torah scroll is stored there, along with other scrolls that belong to the Conservative movement of Judaism, but it was lent out for use during the recent Jewish holidays and was found to be unfit to use because of mold.

“The Torah is being carefully cleaned and fixed by the leading authorities in Torah scroll repair and maintenance,” according to Women of the Wall spokeswoman Shira Pruce.

She placed the blame for the damage squarely on the government and Western Wall Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz. His “discrimination against women’s prayers and the lack of an appropriate immediate government response in the matter has cause damage to a Torah scroll, an escalation from the previous blatant disrespect, shown by Rabinowitz and Haredi protesters, of Jewish ritual items, including siddurim, prayer shawls and tefillin,” she said.

After being told about the damage to their scroll, The Women of the Wakkl notififed the Conservartive Movement to schek their scrolls to see if they aslo has been damaged, Pruce told The Jewish Press Wednesday.

Pruce unintentionally made a comment that raises an interesting question about whose ox is being gored.

In her argument that women should be allowed to pray in the women’s section of the main Western Wall Plaza, on the women’s side of a separation barrier, Pruce noted that men are not allowed in the Women of the Wall minyan. One primary reason is that there are many Orthodox Jewish women in the movement and they abide by the tradition that the sexes should not mingle during prayer.

Isn’t that discrimination against men? How can the Women of the Wall rightfully complain that Haredim are discriminating against them by barring them from the  more popular part of the Western Wall, while they discriminate against men who might want to join their minyan?

Pruce  answers that there is a difference. She argues that the main plaza is a public place and not a “synagogue” and that it must be open to everyone, regardless of sex.

Granted that there really is no reason to forbid the women form praying as they wish at the main part of Western Wall, except for their being a nuisance to other women who object to the whole concept of a women’s minyan and Torah reading.

Granted that Rabbi Rabinowitz should have kept quiet and let the women who object to WoW chase them our out, or simply let the Wow pray and as they wish and be done with it.

But if it is a public place open to all, and the Women of the Wall can keep men out of their minyan at Robinson’s Arch, what happens if a group of Muslims decide they want to pray to Allah at the Wall?

Or perhaps a bunch of Christians want to pray to “you know who” at the Kotel?

Or maybe some  “cultural Jewish cult” wants to express their faith in God by a belly dance?

Is it kosher to keep men out of a women-only minyan but not kosher for the authority over the Kotel to keep out women who do not respect  a centuries-old tradition?

Tzvi Ben-Gedalyahu

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/women-of-the-wall-blame-govt-for-their-damaged-torah-scroll/2013/10/02/

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