Monday, November 8, 2010

Women of the wall, take 2

Hey World!

So after my fail last month at going to women of the wall, I managed to get myself up early enough to go celebrate rosh hodesh at the wall. So last night marked the new moon and the start of Kislev, which is the month that Chanukkah is in. woot. We sang a few songs in hallel (prayers that you recite on rosh hodesh and certain other holidays) to tunes of chanukkah songs. Def got me in the Kislev mood.

One more side note before I start on my thoughts about women of the wall...Since it is now kislev that means that sufganiyot are popping up around Israel. A sufganiyah is a jelly doughnut that is customary to eat on chanukkah. This is because it is customary to eat foods fried in oil to recall the miracle of the oil lasting for 8 days. So today I went out with some friends and celebrated kislev by getting a sufganiyah. Mine was darn good. It kind of tasted like dunkin donuts, but also it kind of tasted better. (I got mine from roladin, I recommend it if you are in Israel. I will keep you posted about other sufganiyot that I find around Israel).

So yeah, women of the wall...This month it was much quieter than the last time I went, way back in Elul (like 2-3 months ago). There was only one or two men yelling at us and they weren't really that distracting. I think this was partially because most people don't actually care that much, women of the wall prays towards the back of the women's side and I would say are pretty respectful about it. Also there were a bunch of guys supporting us on the men's side which helped. I think the police were also doing a good job at keeping things in control.

I don't know if I explained this last time, but women of the wall has two components. The first is davening by the wall on the woman's section. We do most of the morning service (shacharit) and also sing hallel (not too loudly though). The second part is the Torah service. Since women aren't allowed to read Torah or have a Torah on their side of the wall we have to relocate to robinsons arch, which is close by and along part of the southern wall.

Anyways, I have been having some thoughts about women of the wall. While I 120% support this cause, I don' t know if it is MY cause. I (obviously) believe in gender equality in all aspects of life including religion. I think it is ridiculous that women are now allowed to wear a tallis (prayer shawl) at the wall or read Torah there. I think it is ridiculous that women need police guards while praying quietly together...At the same time I don't feel complete ownership of this cause for a couple of reasons.

1. I'm not so into the wall. Like seriously people it was an outer retaining wall of the temple, no NOT a wall of the temple it was a wall around the courtyard and the temple was in the center of this courtyard thing. So the fact that it is now given so much holiness is a bit uncomfortable for me. I do think it is a very special place, especially because of the significance it has been given and how many Jews have come to this place and also as it being an artifact from the history of the Jewish people, but really all the politics surrounding it make it a place that I don't really have so much of a desire to go to. Maybe this is partially an expression of me feeling alienated by all the restrictions and politics surrounding the wall, but it is not totally because of that.

2. Kind of connected, but...I don't live in Israel. Yeah I am here now, but I am not a citizen. Yes I am a Jew and I feel very connected to this place, but at the end of the day how much right do I have and should I have to affect change in this place. I haven't done much to help Israel, I haven't served in the army, I don't pay taxes to Israel, etc etc. This is definitely something I am struggling with, the amount of say/influence I and other Jews in the diaspora should have over Israel's politics and where lines should be drawn or not...

3. While women of the wall does not say anything about being a particular denomination, and actually after a closer look at the website it says that women of the wall is pluralistic they do daven in a very traditional way. Obviously I do like more traditional services, but some things they do in services don't quite jive with my personal ideology/theology. When whoever leads the service does so she doesn't include certain things that women aren't "supposed" to do by more orthodox standards. For example we didn't say the call to prayer (the barchu) because you need a minyan, a group of ten people, or more traditionally 10 men to do so. There were wayyyy more than 10 women, but we didn't do it. Also the kaddish was not recited, and the repetition of the amidah for similar reasons I think.

While I totally respect this decision, and can see where the people who decided this were coming from, it is not my beliefs. I feel like we are approaching this struggle from different places and while we both want more rights for women, they seem to be coming at it from a more strictly halachic viewpoint, whereas I am coming from one that can be based in halacha but is also more simply about ethics and the freedom to reinterpret halacha in a way that is more congruent with our modern sensibilities.

It was definitely obvious for me at the Torah service that there was some clash, not clash is too strong a word, maybe a slight tension, between the different factions within women of the wall. For example what to do with the men "allies" who were there. For some people it was important for them to be separate because they were not comfortable with having a mixed gender prayer environment, for others it seemed silly or even rude that the men were pushed off to the side. I guess this also just points to the difficulty of trying to be pluralistic and inclusive. It is hard. Especially when you are dealing with prayer and observance. Everyone believes in the cause, but not everyone is going to agree with the way people are carrying it out.

I want to end on a positive note because I don't want to be so negative towards women of the wall. I really don't mean to be, I think I've just been taught to be critical of everything, so I am doing that. Again I repeat that I totally support women of the wall, and I think it is a great and important thing they are doing. I am just having trouble relating to and feeling a part of the cause. I think it is important for women to fight for religious equality, but I am not so naive to think that my voice will be one that is respected in the orthodox world in this issue. I can sign as many petitions as I want for the inclusion of female rabbis in the orthodox movement etc, but I don't think they would care what I think. Maybe they would care, but my opinion wouldn't be what would convince them because the way we view Judaism and halacha is just too different. Does that make any sense, I've been up for too many hours and I am trying super hard to be articulate.

Apparently I am feeling a little angsty...I think it is because I am tired.

I would love to hear your thoughts on women of the wall, or anything. Yay for comments :-)


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