Americanized Judaism takes a stab at Jerusalem sanctity

By ALIZA BAT-MENACHEM
July 17, 2013 22:02

I would be appalled if men started to demand a share in one of the women’s mitzvot... like if they demanded the right to share in the mitzvah of being mikveh lady.




Women of the Wall prayers at the Western Wall

Women of the Wall370. (photo credit: TOVAH LAZAORFF)

To the Women of the Wall, I present an excerpt from one of Abie Rotenberg’s cherished children’s tunes: Do you want to know what’s wrong with that? Chorus of Children: Please tell us.

You’re not happy with your share, you’re being jealous.

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Shall I tell you what the Torah says? Chorus of Children: Yes we wanna know.

Aizeh hu ashir hasameach b’chelko.

To be rich this is what you gotta do-oo, Be happy with the share Hashem has given you.

The sects of Americanized Judaism have a male standard. Consider: Traditionally girls have a Bat Mitzvah at 12 years old and a boy has a bar mitzvah at 13. The age difference recognizes that normally girls mature at an earlier age than boys. But in Americanized Judaism, the girls have their bat mitzvah at 13. It’s a male standard. If the sects wanted to erase the uniqueness of the genders, and do so on an equal basis, the age would have been set at 12 and a half. But no, the benchmark goes according to the male.

In traditional Judaism, women have led the way in prayer. According to tradition it is our mother Rachel’s prayers that will stir Hashem to bring the Jews home from exile. It is Chana, mother of the prophet Samuel, who set the example for proper protocol in prayer.

There is no reason to be ashamed of women’s prayers. No reason to be jealous of the prayer rituals that the men have instituted for themselves.

Men have an obligation to pray with a minyan, in tallit and tefillin. The obligations include a separation from women and being out of earshot of women’s voices, especially women singing. Some of the obligations are halacha. Some are tradition.

In observing their obligations, customs and traditions have developed over the years and have been meticulously observed over time and are found the globe. You might even say that some of the rituals are more like a men’s club than a religious obligation. But this is how they did it. They did not develop the traditions to be hostile to women. They were making their obligations pleasant and meaningful.

I definitely think that women have a right to their own associations and, more simply put, to have their own space. I respect a man’s right to do the same. But in Americanized Judaism, where the women have to be like the men in order to have meaning in their life, women are driven to encroach on the world of men, or the women feel unfulfilled.

I am making two points here. One, that men’s space is not being respected. And two, that some women feel that in order to have a spiritual experience they need to be like men.

At the Kotel, the Women of the Wall have not tried to hold their ceremonies on the men’s side. However, they do pose a problem with loud singing, which men are not allowed to hear.

I did read that when the Women of the Wall performed their ceremonies at a different place, there were men together with them. This is worrisome, because if the Women of the Wall were given space by the Kotel, would they then argue for the right to have men together with them? And it might even be allowed in halacha because the women are allowed to see and hear the men during prayer. But it’s not fair.

I like to pray on the women’s side and I get extremely annoyed when men invade my space. I am trying to communicate with Hashem and I find men on the women’s side distracting. They just don’t fit in.

The traditional way of praying has also been adopted by women. Traditional women have expressed their concern – outrage and fury, in fact – about changes the Women of the Wall want to institute on the women’s side of the partition. Although the media predominately confers victim status on the Women of the Wall and the status of aggressor on the angry mob, I disagree.

I think the angry mob are victims fighting back. When a women is a victim, she screams, kicks and bites. The angry women believe in the sanctity of the Kotel as a site where Jewish women have prayed and cried for thousands of years. They cannot tolerate blatant disrespect for that sanctity. They are in pain. They feel they are being attacked.

They are victims fighting back and being labeled aggressors.

Getting back to my second point, about women wanting to be like men. This has been reinforced by Americanized Judaism and I think it is tragic, because it is a sign of unfulfilled women being jealous of their brothers. By stripping women of their unique identity, Americanized Judaism has robbed them of a rich heritage. Keeping a kosher home, keeping the laws of family purity, organizing Shabbat and living modestly.

Praying appropriately and studying the vast wisdom of our sages. Mentoring and nurturing. A traditional life is full of feminine roles.

Six mornings a week I join a local minyan.

My day goes better if I start by davening and saying chitas. (Praying and saying the daily portion of the Torah, Psalms, Tanya and Hayom Yom.) My favorite part of the services is Zos Hatorah, when someone lifts up the Torah for all to see. I love how each person who lifts the Torah does it in their own way.

But I have never felt jealous of the men.

I would be appalled if men started to demand a share in one of the women’s mitzvot... like if they demanded the right to share in the mitzvah of being mikveh lady.

Okay, I’m joking. (But I am sure I could find candidates.) And what about Hashem? In our prayers, especially on Rosh Chodesh, we praise Hashem and thank Hashem. To go to the bother of getting to the Kotel – where there is no parking – and then praise Hashem in a way that negates the values of generations of faithful Jews... I don’t get it.What are you saying? We do it our way whether Hashem likes it or not? One of my favorite experiences is when I attend a program at the resting place of Rebbitzen Menucha Rochel. A group of women go there on a regular basis. We daven together outdoors, while one of the women plays the flute. Then we go into a rustic building that is reconstructed from an ancient structure with huge stones. We enjoy pita, soup, salad and chocolate chip cookies. All homemade.

We study together, laugh together, sing together with keyboard and harp accompaniment, and we join hands and dance together. It is one of those times that makes it easy to be sameach b’chelko. Boruch Hashem. Thank you for not making me a man... or a woman who wants to act like one.


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