Readers weigh in – once more – on the Women of the Wall

Sir, – With regard to “Women detained at Western Wall again, as more details of Sharansky’s proposal emerge” (April 12), isn’t the women’s section of the Kotel designated for women? Why can’t women congregate there monthly, don tallitot (prayer shawls), sing the Hallel prayer and chant from the Torah? After all, they are behind a huge mehitza (gender barrier) where they cannot be seen by men.

They certainly can’t be heard over the din of all that noise in the men’s section. Besides, any man with X-ray vision or supersonic hearing who finds the women’s presence distracting can certainly take himself over to the opposite end of the expansive men’s section or enter the tunnel, where he can pray totally undisturbed.

The so-called Women of the Wall don tallitot, not bathing suits. They are dressed modestly.

As an observant woman, I think it is admirable that so many women of whatever persuasion take the time and trouble to daven at the Kotel on Rosh Hodesh mornings. They should be welcomed with loving-kindness, flowers and perhaps a kiddush.

Instead, they are greeted with insults and subject to arrest.

Creating a special space for them out of Robinson’s Arch is to set them apart from all the other women praying at the Kotel on Rosh Hodesh. That is intolerant and wrong.

Let us not forget the teachings of the rabbis. The Second Temple was destroyed not because of a lack of observance of mitzvot – it was destroyed because of baseless hatred.

It is time for all women who pray at the Western Wall to practice Tikkun Olam – embrace their sisters, welcome them, wish them a good month and pray together for the rebuilding of the Third Temple.

SARAH PEARL Jerusalem

Sir, – I am very puzzled about the uproar over women wearing tallitot when they pray at the holy Western Wall.

Is it halachically forbidden for them to don tallitot? From my limited understanding, women are free from any positive commandment that is time-bound.

Since donning a prayer shawl is a day-time mitzva, women do not have to wear them. Similarly, women are not commanded to eat in a succa or pray within a certain hour, although they are allowed and even encouraged to. Why is a tallit different? Even more puzzling is the reaction of the men at the Western Wall. If these very sincere and pious men are offended by women wearing tallitot, how in the world do they know what the women are wearing? If they are praying with intention and depth, how can they peer over and through the mehitza? Further, what constitutes a “female” tallit? If a man has a tallit with light colors and perhaps a border of flowers or plants, or an embroidery of Jerusalem or other lovely scenes, should he be arrested for wearing a female tallit? I don’t think so.

I do to some extent understand the possible challenge to men to concentrate on their prayers while hearing the beautiful voices of women singing.

There might even be some who are not only distracted, but very sexually aroused. I believe that women should be protective of them to not cause them shame.

TZILIA SACHAROW Jerusalem

Sir, – One must marvel at the insistence of some Orthodox circles to alienate the rest of Israel, even when no halachic principle is really involved.

True, the 12th-Century ascetic Hasidei Ashkenaz, contrary to Halacha, objected to menstruating women even entering the synagogue. Nevertheless, a woman can wear a tallit and tefillin (phylacteries), even if she is exempted from commandments that are time-related.

Tradition claims that Princess Michal, daughter of King Saul, wore a tallit (See B. Erubin 96a).

Rashi’s daughters almost certainly wore tallitot, and down through the ages there have been pious women who wore tallitot, and even tefillin.

The general attitude seems to have been that such unusual practices were not to be encouraged, but if a woman was moved to do so, the rabbis did not make it an issue and even felt she was rewarded for performing the mitzva voluntarily.

For example, see Sefer Hahinuch, Commandment 426.

I admit that I would feel better if the Women of the Wall were moved more by piety than by a feminist effort to “stick it to the rabbis.” As an observant Jew I wish that all those ladies from Meretz would really be there to daven. However, as our sages felt, let us wish that their performing a mitzva for some ulterior purpose leads to their performing mitzvot for their own sake.

Let them wear the garb of haredim, if it pleases them. It should not be anyone’s business, as long as they are appropriately dressed for a holy site.

The objections are just more stringencies that are superfluous in light of the black eye inflicted on the image of Torah observance.

HAYIM GRANOT Petah Tikva

Sir, – How ironic that The Jerusalem Post uses “Solomonic solution” as the headline for its April 12 editorial, in which it decries the political machinations of the rabbinic authorities who are the custodians of the Western Wall, and then describes the Kotel as “the holiest site to the Jewish people.”

What utter rubbish! It was Solomon himself who wrote: “Mavet ve’haim be’yad lashon“ (Death and life is in the power of our tongue; Proverbs 18:21). By calling the remnant of a retaining wall built in 20 BCE by an Idumean murderer “the holiest site to the Jewish people,” the Post – and regrettably many others – gives the enemies of Israel and the Jewish people the very tool to deny us the Temple Mount, the true holiest site in Judaism.

The primacy of the Temple Mount’s importance must be vigilantly protected.

ALEX HORNSTEIN Allentown, Pennsylvania

Sir, – Shortly after his release from imprisonment in the Soviet Union, our synagogue in London hosted Natan Sharansky, and we all expressed our admiration of his fight for freedom against unfair discrimination. But now he wants an “egalitarian” area at the Kotel (“Sharansky proposes adding egalitarian section at Western Wall,” April 10).

Some years before my aliya I was dining with friends at a restaurant in central Jerusalem and we noticed the smell of tobacco smoke in a non-smoking establishment. It was coming from a smartly-dressed man leaning against the bar – whom our waiter informed us was the proprietor.

I asked the waiter to ask the man if he wouldn’t mind my swimming in his pool at home and peeing just in one corner. The man stubbed out his cigarette.

Sharansky doesn’t get it, or next he’ll be proposing a nudist section in the name of egalitarianism.

STANLEY COHEN Jerusalem

Sir, – Collins English Dictionary explains the word stupid as “lacking in common sense, perception, or normal intelligence.”

Let us therefore consider: The Women of the Wall wish to wear tallitot but cannot articulate why.

The men at the wall do not want these women to wear prayer shawls at the site and cannot articulate why not. The government instructs the police to arrest the women (as though the police have nothing better to do) and cannot explain what for.

The rest of us are writing or thinking about this matter! Are we all stupid – lacking in common sense, perception, or normal intelligence – or what? Hopefully, the Sharansky solution will be adopted and turn us from stupid to smart persons of common sense, perception and normal intelligence.

ARNOLD EPSTEIN Herzliya

CLARIFICATION The photo accompanying “Aliya and activism” (Comment & Features, April 14) was taken by Gloria Deutsch.

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