The wall between us: Egalitarian prayer at the Western Wall

A personal view on a controversial subject.

By JAMIE HALPER
August 13, 2017 18:16
Jamie Halper with Women of the Wall

Jamie Halper raises the Torah with Women of the Wall on July 24, 2017.. (photo credit: KAYLA STEINBERG)

 
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I COULD clearly feel the well-worn leather straps of my tefillin slide between my fingers as I wrapped them seven auspicious times around my arm. I knew that the deep black straps of this Jewish ritual object showed their age in small spidery cracks as they stretched across my skin, but on this day, they were nothing more than a blur through my tears. I never let the drops fall past my eyelashes, but over the course of the hour that I prayed in tefillin at the Western Wall in Jerusalem with the feminist prayer group Women of the Wall, I could never quite get them to stop welling up.

I have wrapped tefillin every time I’ve said the Jewish morning prayers for the past four years, and I have been to the Western Wall before, first with my family, and a few years later with my youth group. I have even worn my tallit, a religious prayer shawl, at the Western Wall before. But wearing tefillin in that place, and praying aloud there with more than a hundred women, was something entirely new.

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