“Women of the Wall”: As if we Don’t Have Enough Problems Already
A group called “Women of the Wall” is in the news again. For some time now they have been demanding the “right” to conduct feminist prayer services in the women’s section of the Western Wall. This includes the wearing of tallit, tefillin, and reading from a Sefer Torah (Torah Scroll); all of which violate Orthodox Jewish standards and are contrary to normative Orthodox prayer practices. It seems that for these women it is not enough to reach out to God with other Jews at the Wall in a way that does not cause friction and controversy. They are under the delusion that they can best serve God by offending other Jews, engendering disunity and disharmony, and most important of all: getting their pictures in the newspaper and on the nightly news. Who can argue with that logic? Everyone knows that what God wants most of all is for his children is to get good press by kicking up dust and provoking others to anger.
I personally witnessed the following incident that occurred at the Wall late one night. A priest was leading a group of French tourists down to the Kotel. Emblazoned on the front of his cassock was a large, embroidered red cross. There were not that many people standing at the Kotel at such a late hour but slowly, one by one, everyone – including myself – turned around and stared at him. It was clear that at first he did not understand what was going on and then suddenly realized the problem; he nonchalantly crossed his arms over his chest and everyone went back to their business. How pathetic and perverse that these women use a place of worship – a place of worship that is precious and holy to all Jews – to advance their ideological agenda. What a shame that the Women of the Wall don’t have the understanding, decency, consideration, and manners of this priest. Allow me to elaborate further for those who still don’t understand.
The Jewish Federation of Chicago is housed in a beautiful building on Wells St. in Chicago’s Downtown/Loop area. They also have their own kitchen and a full-time chef . Actually they have two kitchens; one meat and one dairy. This is because eating or cooking milk and meat products together is a violation of Jewish dietary laws. One member of the kitchen staff is a full-time working mashgiach (kosher supervisor) certified by the Chicago Rabbinical Council, which is the official body of Orthodox Rabbis in the city. The job of the mashgiach is to make sure that all the food served is kosher by Orthodox Jewish standards.
Question: In light of the fact that there are only a small number of Orthodox Jews who work at the Federation, why must the kitchen be kosher by Orthodox standards?
Obvious Answer: The Jewish Federation is for all Jews. Reform, Conservative, Reconstructionist, Agnostic, and even Atheist/Humanist Jews can all eat kosher food. If the food was not kosher, Orthodox Jews would be excluded and it would mean that the Federation was not for all Jews.
When I was an independent trader in the S&P pit at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange I attended the Jewish United Fund/Commodities Traders Division dinner. Although I was only one of a handful of Orthodox Jews attending, it was understood that the food would be kosher and supervised by a mashgiach from the Chicago Rabbinical Council.
Question: In light of the fact that only a few Orthodox Jews were in attendance, why was the whole event kosher?
Obvious Answer : A Jewish United Fund dinner is for all Jews. All different types of Jews are allowed to eat kosher food; if the event were not kosher Orthodox Jews would be excluded.
Question: What simple principle can be derived from these examples?
Obvious Answer that only self-absorbed publicity-hounds like Women of the Wall do not understand: The Western Wall is a place of prayer for all Jews. That means that the protocols must be acceptable by Orthodox standards or Orthodox Jews are excluded. There is no reason why a Reform, Conservative, Reconstructionist, Humanist, or Radical Feminist Jew cannot abide by these standards while praying at the Western Wall. In fact it is a golden opportunity for unity that seems to elude us in so many other spheres.
If these women have a “right” to conduct prayer services in accordance with their personal preferences, why can’t Jews for Jesus do the same thing? What about the Jewish Nudist Society whose central dogma is that the only way to get close to God is to approach him “naturally?” Should we discriminate against them also?! In their self-righteous zeal the Women of the Wall have directly violated the prohibition in the Torah of “Thou shalt not be like Korach and his followers.” This is the commandment that forbids us from provoking unnecessary controversy.
Let us pray that all who provoke unnecessary controversy, strife, contentiousness, and discord among Jews either repent and change their ways to the “ways of peace” or disappear like Korach and his followers.
Rabbi Moshe Averick is an orthodox rabbi, a regular columnist for the Algemeiner Journal, and author of Nonsense of a High Order: The Confused and Illusory World of the Atheist. It is available on Amazon.com and Kindle. Rabbi Averick can be reached via his website. If you wish to be informed when new articles appear, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with the email address and the word “Subscribe” in the subject line.