Looking at your front-page photo “Change at the Wall” (February 8) made me smile.
All five women who came to teach others how to put on tefillin at the Western Wall put them on incorrectly! Perhaps they should first learn. If not, they should give up the whole idea and let the men do it.
Men can’t do much on their own, but at least let them be the tefillin wearers – they have many years of practice! EALLAN HIRSHFELD Ra’anana Your caption says: “Members of Women of the Wall... teach people how to put on tefillin.”
You should have said how not to put on tefillin.
None of the five did the arm straps right; at least three had hair that was too long for the tefillin to be kosher on the back of the head; and the place of the head box was completely off for at least three of the women. Also, if they said the blessings, the majority must have said them in vain, which is a sin against the Ten Commandments.
Last week, an opponent called these women “clowns.”
Frankly, that is what they look like in your photo, and sadly so.
If they want to strengthen respect for their group, they should learn before they teach.
MOSHE-MORDECHAI VAN ZUIDEN Jerusalem
In “Fire Deputy Minister Porush” (Observations, February 5), Dov Lipman takes Deputy Education Minister Meir Porush to task for not fighting the hatred in his heart for the stranger, and for calling from the Knesset podium for members of Women of the Wall to be “thrown to the dogs.”
Porush has suffered a setback and has the unpleasant task of having to explain to his constituents how they lost control of parts of the Western Wall.
You shouldn’t kick a dog when it is down.
DANIEL ABELMAN Jerusalem
“Not a victory but a bitter defeat” (Comment & Features, February 4) by Shmuel Rabinowitz, the rabbi of the Western Wall (is this function even necessary?) is pure chutzpah.
Rabbi Rabinowitz’s haredi interpretation of Halacha is the reason for the new prayer space at the Kotel. After all, women reading from a Torah scroll when among women is a practice at numerous Orthodox minyans, as sanctioned by modern Orthodox rabbis who are no less well versed in Halacha than he is.
The Kotel belongs to all Jews, and it’s only natural that those who think differently are allowed to practice their way of prayer.
Due to the current dysfunctional political system in Israel, nothing is more divisive than the overbearing power of the haredim.
HENRY WEIL Jerusalem I am always astounded at Jewish chutzpah. Reform Judaism does not believe in a Divine Torah or Talmud. Even the qualified belief of Reform Jews in a higher power (similar to the “force” for them) leaves Him out of our daily lives.
So please tell me: To whom are these people praying? Why do they pray? The commandment to pray is derived from the Torah by the sages. No sages? No Divine Torah? Then no prayer, no tefillin, no tzitzit et al.
This reminds me of the Hassid who became an agnostic and then anti-religious. He sat at the Shabbat table with his shtreimel, long hassidic garb and woven belt, the Shabbat candles, wine for Kiddush and hallot.
A friend who had come to visit watched as the former Hassid made Kiddush, washed his hands, recited the blessing over the hallot, ate the fish, sang Shabbat z’mirot, ate the meat and dessert, and then recited prayer after eating. The friend was astounded.
“Why did you do all that for the last hour and a half? You don’t believe in all that anymore!” The former Hassid said: “Of course not, but I do it because I love it. There’s nothing like it in the world.”
The friend said: “Okay, but at least do one transgression to make Him angry!” The former Hassid asked: “Who?”
YOSEF TUCKER Jerusalem
I can describe reader Leah Rubinstein’s letter (“Women and the Wall,” February 3) only as a hysterical outburst of exaggerated non sequiturs.
She is wrong and insulting to say the Women of the Wall and Reform Jews are “crowing.”
These women want to pray at the Western Wall just once a month, on Rosh Hodesh. If she feels that their presence is a danger that threatens “time-honored values,” it is she is who is mistaken.
Attacking sincere people who also have strong Jewish values, albeit different from hers, does not give her or anyone else the right to dictate who can and cannot pray at the Wall.
Ignore them, dear writer. Go home, wash your soldier-son’s clothes, clean his boots and feed him cholent on Shabbat, which is exactly what I did for my two combatant sons. Our sons – and our Reform and religious traditions – respect Torah and Judaism just as yours do. It is their strength that will lead to victory, not that of crowing religious women who cannot see beyond their own self-righteousness.
JUDITH LUDER Rosh Pina
It seems that in every generation, there arises a group that wants to change or uproot traditions and customs that over the millennia have maintained us as a people.
First, at the exodus from Egypt, we had the mixed multitude, whose constant complaints in the desert caused us so much strife. Next, we had the Gibeonites, the Samaritans and the Hellenists in our midst. During the Second Temple period, there were the Sadducees, Ebionites, Nazarenes, Essenes and others.
The Middle Ages ushered in yet more groups, such as the Karaites.
Where are they today? In more recent times, we have had Reform Jews, Conservative Jews, Reconstructionist Jews, progressives, pluralists, multiculturalists, egalitarians and inclusionaries. Now, another group wishes to be in the limelight.
Unhappy with their feminism, the Women of the Wall want, to paraphrase Henry Higgins, to be more like men. But they disregard the teachings of our sages who discouraged women from doing so, the very same sages who received the oral tradition from Moses at Mount Sinai as to what tefillin should look like. They wish to don an artifact whose shape can be conceived only through the oral tradition transmitted by our sages, yet they ignore the sages’ counsel not to wear them.
I place my bet on those who uphold Torah-true Judaism, that only they will endure long after all the other streams of Judaism have vanished.
AVRAHAM SCHONBRUNN Petah Tikva
Just my two shekels’ worth: I don’t see what benefit or sanctification of God’s name either side in the battle over the egalitarian prayer section at the Western Wall hopes to attain.
Women wearing tefillin and those against it are engaged in a struggle. To what purpose? As God said to Samuel: “The Lord sees not as man sees, for man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7).
The heart of the matter is our hearts, as in Micah 6:8: “He has told you, O man, what is good, and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice and to love loving mercy and to walk humbly with your God?” Like I said, just my two shekels’ worth....
ARIELLA LEVARKO Kedar