Navonim - The Ramblings of Garnel Ironheart

Navonim - The Ramblings of Garnel Ironheart

Tuesday, 22 March 2016

Get Serious Or Stop Complaining

The two big changes being contemplated in the religious status quo in Israel these days are the building of an egalitarian section at the Western Wall and the fight over who gets to control the mikveh experience at State controlled ritualariams across the country. 
With the former there seems to be little worry that the current situation will change, less with every passing day in fact.  For one thing, the Chareidi parties in the government are threatening to bolt the coalition if the changes go through.  For another, the women you'd think would be thrilled with the new layout are not excited since giving them a section to daven away from the Ultraorthodox they thrive on antagonizing fails to help them achieve their primary goal, making the newscasts.
With the latter situation the Chareidi parties area once again using their position in the narrow majority government to push through a bill that will ensure Chareidi control and standards in State mikva'os.  On one hand that's frustrating since it's well understood that the Chareidi position is that only their understanding of ritual practice is acceptable.  That means fully observant Torah positions in non-Chareidi communities are as illegitimate as those in the Reformative group and that many frum women will be forced to abide by interpretations of laws that might be at odds with their own practice and custom.
On the other hand, I can't take the complaining from the Reformative group terribly seriously.  Yes they are correctly anticipating that their women will receive second class treatment, if they're lucky.  Yes, there will be humiliations and many women who are sincere, if unaware of their Torah obligations, will be taught to hate Torah Judaism by the treatment they receive.  And no, no women showing up to immerse in the mikveh anywhere should be treated with anything less than dignity and respect regardless of her religious standards or lack thereof.
If that's the case then why am I less than sympathetic?  Mostly because once you push away all the fluff about pluralism, these women are coming to the mikveh because they want to and not out of a sense of obligation.  While that sounds nice it's important to remember that Jewish law respects the person who fulfills an obligation more than the one who does the same action voluntarily.  There are reasons for this, primarily the one that the person fulfilling the obligation is fighting their yetzer which adds a higher level to the action.  The bottom line, however, is that if these women decide one day that another ritual is what they need to connect to their spirituality they will drop the mikveh like an old Kleenex.  The frum women, on the other hand, will keep coming no matter what.
Thus it seems to me that all this fuss is similar to the one the Women of the Wall kept making, at least until they got what they wanted.  One solution is to try kiruv on these women, treat them with respect while encouraging them to accept hilchos taharas mishphacha as an obligation rather than a fad.  The other might be to simply start opening Reformative mikva'os which would, like Robinson's Arch, prove whether or not these women are as serious as they say they are.


LTC said...

You are an ignoramus. Do you live in Israel? Do you know non Orthodox Jews there who want to use the mikveh?

I do (on both counts).

You know nothing - or just choose to ignore what doesn't suit your world view. For the record, I'm an Orthodox Jew. Charedi control of these institutions is a far greater chillul hashem then any non Orthodox woman can perpetrate.

LTC said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Mr. Cohen said...

Mighty Garnel Ironheart said...

Too late, it was taken down.

Chana said...

Personally, I can't imagine wanting to daven with tallit and tefillin at the Kotel, especially not with the violent reaction it draws. I have enough trouble with kavannah as is.

Having said that, I think that the Kotel is at least as much of a national site as it is a holy one (being just the retaining wall, after all), and these ladies have every right to pray there. They are not more materially or substantially disruptive than little kids racing around the Kotel, using the area as a playground, or women trying to sell pamphlets, or aggressive beggars interrupting people who are trying to actually pray. (Yes, yes, there is indeed a time for giving charity. It is not while one is in the midst of the tefillot, thanks very much,)

I do find it offensive that the women's area is so very much smaller than the men's, so that unless one comes at odd hours or during inclement weather, it can be crowded.

As for the mikvaot here, the ones in my yishuv are immaculately clean and lovingly maintained by women who are, thank G-d, the soul of tact and discretion, as well as warm and welcoming. But we don't have many haredim here, there are quite a lot of Sefardi women who don't look or dress "religious", but who have an obvious love for the mitzvah. Plus, the mikva ladies are mostly Sefardi, and as I said, mikva was never something ugly, unpleasant, or vaguely scandalous, as it is in so much of Ashkenazi culture.

However, I have heard some really nightmarish stories from friends about what goes on in other places.