February 14: Kotel arrests

Is there any halachic difference between a man’s tallit and a woman’s tallit?

Letters 370 (photo credit: REUTERS/Handout )
Letters 370
(photo credit: REUTERS/Handout )
Kotel arrests
Sir, – In light of your February 12 front-page article “10 women arrested for wearing tallitot at Kotel,” is this a bad joke? This does not seem like publicity designed to boost Israel’s image in the world.
Is there any halachic difference between a man’s tallit and a woman’s tallit? If I wore a “woman’s tallit” in the men’s section would I get arrested? I suggest that in the future, the women sit on the floor and sing “We shall overcome, we shall not be moved,” and that the Jerusalem police dedicate their time to fighting crime.
DAVID WILLIG Safed The writer is a rabbi
Sir, – We proudly proclaim that we are a true democracy and we decry the criticism leveled at us that we are not.
How, then, can we claim that indeed we are a true democracy when people praying in a public area are discriminated against purely on the basis of their gender?
Sir, – It’s sad that some women think they must imitate men in order for God to accept their prayers when in fact women are naturally more spiritual than men.
A man must pray with a minyan in order to attain the level of connectedness to God that a woman can attain by herself! Women don’t need a minyan, a tallit or tefillin to rise to spiritual heights.
They have their own special mitzvot that are designed to develop their spirituality. Men were given the mitzvot that they need to develop their connections to God because, yes, men and women are different in their essential natures.
It’s not a question of equality.
We have equal access to God.
He created us and has determined the best way for each of us to develop our relationship with Him.
It’s about what He wants us to do. We need not pretend to be what we are not.
Sir, – Your headline “10 women arrested for wearing tallitot at the Kotel” absolutely shocked me. Arrested? Like common criminals? Where are we living? I thought this was the “only democratic country in the Middle East.” But I am mistaken. It looks a lot more like Iran.
I cannot understand what is wrong with those tallitot. They have different stripes? Different colors? So what? Pretty soon they will make laws about the size and shape of the Magen David worn on a silver chain around one’s neck. Look out!
Sir, – It should be noted that the story concerning women being arrested for praying at the Western Wall was also carried by The New York Times. Are we to become the world’s laughing stock?
Sir, – The issue is not one of religious freedom. As everyone knows, anyone can hold any kind of prayer service in Israel without fear of arrest or harassment.
The issue here is where they are holding their service.
The Supreme Court has already designated the Southern Wall as the place for Conservative and Reform prayer services, and the Western Wall as the place for Orthodox prayer services. Both sections of the Wall are equally holy, and there is no discrimination.
However, the facilities at the Southern Wall are not as comfortable as those of the Western Wall. In their attempts to force the public to accept holding Conservative and Reform prayer services in the same place as Orthodox services, the Women of the Wall are impinging on the rights of Orthodox worshipers.
Instead of impinging on the rights of others, these women ought to be using their protest movement to force the upgrade of facilities at the Southern Wall so that they will be equal to those available to worshipers at the Western Wall.
Sir, – I am not a rabbi or an authority on Jewish law. I am a lifetime Orthodox Jewess, 70 years old, who prays at least once a day. I have not ever felt the need to wear a tallit.
It seems to me, though, that if the men at the Western Wall were davening with real dedication and kavana (intent) they would not be gawking across the barrier between the men’s and women’s sections to see how women pray to God.
There would be no way for them to know or care if the women prayed with prayer shawls or not. Let the men work on improving their worship of God and qualities of character, and allow us women to do the same.
Misplaced trust
Sir, – With regard to “Netanyahu’s coalition options seem to be closing” (February 12), we were all sure that Yair Lapid and Naftali Bennett would join the government, and in this way limit the participation of the haredi factions.
We trusted these young leaders.
Now my trust and the trust of many has been misplaced because of their arrogance, particularly that of Lapid, whose apparent aim is to put Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu in such a position that he will be forced to ask the haredi parties to join the government, which would be a catastrophe.
Way to go, Lapid
Sir, – Very nice. Yair Lapid, in his maiden speech as a member of Knesset, talks about a future Israel of mutual respect and tolerance, where “every haredi child learns English and every secular child knows what a page of Talmud looks like” (“Lapid: No need to fear civil war in pursuing ultra-Orthodox enlistment,” February 12).
But when it came to walking the walk, he walked right out rather than sit through the traditional congratulatory speech by a veteran MK.
Absolutely, it’s sad that the congratulatory speech – given by United Torah Judaism’s Menachem Eliezer Moses – included low personal gibes at Lapid. Alas, nobody ever expects courtliness in the Knesset.
But if a man authentically wants to exemplify how a better future can be brought into being, Lapid’s example just bespeaks a future of more of the same.
 Top-10 Israel
Sir, – With regard to the February 12 columns by Shmuley Boteach (“The Jewish Billy Graham, the Israeli Martin Luther King,” No Holds Barred) and Barry Shaw (“How not to win friends and influence people,” Original Thinking), for many years friends, columnists, pundits, academics, politicians and other advocates for Israel have called for better hasbara (public diplomacy). The constant message is that we should do better, we could do better if only....
But what if our hasbara was effective and Israel and Jews didn’t need defending? What would Israel be like if everyone liked us? What if we had 20 million tourists? What if we ourselves were greeted at foreign airports with, “Welcome, we are honored by your visit because Israel is truly a light unto nations on all levels.”
What if we had to endure permanent praise? Instead of devoting massive resources to hasbara, maybe the government should just publish an “Annual Top-10 List of Israeli Accomplishments” and be done with it. The annual unveiling would be a major media event; the world would wait with bated breath and then say, “Oh really? Israel did that?” It may not be easy being a Jew and an Israeli, but despite our imperfections we can be proud and are surviving in the crucible. Amen!