Jews gather to pray at the Western Wall during Succot.
(photo credit: AFP PHOTO)
On Sunday, the government voted to establish a third section of the Western Wall.
Imagine walking into the Western Wall Plaza and facing the Wall. Before you, spanning north to south, three major sections – a grand expanse. Orthodox men at the northern end, as it is now, women in the next section, as it is now, and at the southern end a new “openhearted” space for all streams of Jews.
As you picture this in your mind’s eye, you can feel the millennia of generations of Jews from the four corners of the earth. They walked toward, prayed in the direction of, and longed for this place in waves of hope, love and courage from Temple times to the generations of wandering to this moment, and onward, in the sovereign State of Israel.
This southern side of the Western Wall will have its heart open to everyone, freed from the bondage of shtetlthink, of the idolatrous clinging to the idea of a zero-sum God, of the dangerous amalgamation of political power and piety.
There, at the southern end, in a world of bold colors and open hearts, prayer will emanate from the human soul and no one will try to drown out another, to cover another, to shove or threaten or spit at another, to judge another. For in that space, God is the true judge. The dangerous notion that God, Judaism and Torah have only one authentic way to be expressed, and that the way is owned by a few will fall away. As will the assumption that we must fight for God’s ear – that God is somehow a zero-sum entity and the prayer of one threatens the prayer of another.
The more northern end of the Western Wall will be left to inhabit the psychic space of Poland and shtetls and fear. Live and be well, all who pray there, but not through diminishing others.
And in the communal plaza IDF events honoring our soldiers will no longer be forced to silence the female soldiers who protect those who seek to stifle them! Civil ceremonies will proceed freely, openly, with all soldiers and participants fully engaged.
But for me, a sadness still lingers – a broken-hearted pain. For today, in our government – in the Knesset of the State of Israel – there was a discussion and a vote about whether Jews should be allowed to pray freely in our holy spaces. That conversation in any government – even an oppressive one like Iran – would be a disgrace.
Never mind in a democracy, and never mind in the Jewish state.
But from that broken-heartedness we will grow and continue to reach toward heaven with all the souls of Israel calling out our pain and our joy, our fear and our hope, joining freely with the covenanted generations of longing.
Min hametzar karati yah, anani bamerchav yah. From the narrow space I called to God; from the expanse, God answered.The writer is a rabbi and a member of Women of the Wall.