Navonim - The Ramblings of Garnel Ironheart

Navonim - The Ramblings of Garnel Ironheart

Thursday, 18 April 2013

The Second "W" Isn't For Wrestling"

Years ago I met a Reform convert who told me that she liked putting on tefillin every day because it made her feel closer to God while praying.  Shortly after I had the opportunity to see her in her gear and made some observations.  For one thing she wore the head tefillin nice and low on her forehead.  When I pointed out the mistaken position she assured me she was doing it correctly because the Torah said it should be "between your eyes" and the Rabbis came along later and changed it so she was doing what God really wanted.  She had also wrapped her arm strap eight times instead of the customary seven as she didn't feel the first loop, which in her view only served to stabilize the others, counted.
(She also enjoyed bringing her guitar to her synagogue on Shabbos so she could lead people in the group prayers, but I think my point was made).
Tzedek-tzedek, over at his blog, recently put up a post describing his feelings when he sees pictures of the Women of the Wall in their attempts to be manly in their prayers.  Clearly this post evoked a great deal of negative reaction because he's now taken it down and replaced it with an apology.
On one hand, having read the post, I did find it quite strong.  On the other hand I can understand why Tzedek-tzedek had such a response.  One need not look exclusively into the world of traditional religion to see that people with strong beliefs can have strong responses when things they care about are challenged.  Consider the screaming that occurs when anyone in Canada dares say words like "limits on abortion" or "private health care".  How about the insults that begin to fly when someone in a university setting starts a sentence with "I disagree that global warming is occuring..."?  Is it therefore so unexpected that someone who takes his religious faith seriously and with great passion would be deeply offended when he sees a group of people who are, in his eyes, mocking it for their own selfish purposes?
On the other hand I did disagree with his description of the negative emotions seeing the WoW's brings out in him.  I don't think the WoW's should be looked at with hatred, disgust or other derogatory feelings.  Allowing oneself to feel those things does nothing to build up personal character but, more importantly, that's exactly what the WoW's want.
We should stop pretending that this group is about religious freedom.  The recent Sharansky plan for the Kotel in which the main plaza would remain al pi halacha while the Robinson's Arch area would be renovated and egalitarian showed this clearly.  That the frum response would be that no area of the Wall should be non-halachic is not surprising.  The response from the WoW's, that they would take the Robinson's Arch suggestion but still had plans to show up and disrupt prayers at the main plaza, showed what their true intentions have been all along.
There is a fundamental difference between Orthodoxy and non-Orthodoxy when is comes to accepting the legitimacy of other views.  Non-orthodoxy is famously tolerant while Orthodoxy is the diametric opposite.  No Reformative Jew out there I am aware of looks at an Orthodox shul and feels that its form of worship is illegitimate.  They may disagree with separation of the sexes during worship and the limitation of public honours to men but they don't say it's not Judaism.
Orthodoxy, on the other hand, has a relatively rigid system in which right and wrong are defined with precision.  Eating kosher is right.  Eating non-kosher is wrong.  Observing Shabbos as defined by the Shulchan Aruch and subsequent decisors is right.  Driving to shul on Shabbos is wrong.
It is this difference that seems to rankle the feelings of the non-Orthodox and this is understandable.  No sincere person wants to be looked at by a comrade who is doing things differently and be told "You're not doing it right so it doesn't count".  Unfortunately for the non-Orthodox this is exactly what a rejection of Torah observance and the authority of halacha has led to.  You cannot expect to walk up to someone Orthodox, say that you intermarried, eat pork on Mondays and bread on Pesach and get him to say "Well fine, your Judaism is just as real as mine."  It simply will not happen.
It is this resentment that seems to be driving the WoW's.  Their whole presentation is not about religious freedom but about interfering with Orthodoxy.  It's not that they want egalitarian Judaism for themselves.  They can't stand that the Orthodox over on the other side of the mechitzah will not recognize that their religious expression is just as legitimate in the eyes of God as the expression of the shomrei mitzvos.
That is why they have grabbed what Sharansky offered them but without giving up on the reason he had to be called in to broker an agreement in the first place for.
We should feel pity for the Women of the Wall, not anger or hatred.  Here are a group of intelligent, well-meaning women who are looking for a genuine connection with the Ribono shel Olam that have been diverted onto a path in which self-worship and the need to disrupt the prayers of others while hurting their feelings have become principles of faith.


E-Man said...

Totally agree. In fact, this is why women were banned from wearing tzitzit by the rabbis, because of yehora.

ahg said...

I think there are some whose main objective has been to be a thorn in the side of the Orthodox; they are the activists. Nobody likes an activist. Activists take extreme positions to get noticed. It's no different than the charedim who paraded their children for the media wearing yellow magen dovids. Incredibly distasteful, but the activist mentality doesn't care.

However, as you acknowledged, there are also some who just want the right to show up to pray in a manner their accustomed to, at the wall, without harassment. It's this group we should care about, and not their activist sisters.

(1) If the group were left alone, the activists would dwindle. The ones who come out for the protest element would have no reason to show up if they couldn't make a spectacle.

(2) They would not be disrupting anyone's prayers. The ones who have a sincere interest just want to pray, not make noise.

(3) The Sharansky proposal of building a platform by the Rabinson's Arch will take a couple years to complete. In Israel, that's an eternity. In the gov't falls apart and the chareidim regain their influence they'll withhold funding and the project will be delayed indefinitely. I can understand why they feel the need to continue their monthly appearances to keep the pressure up and the issue in the public eye until the construction is complete.

4. IMHO, In matters like the Kotel, where it serves the entire Jewish nation, we should look to rely on opinions that offer the most tolerant views. The Rambam says we let women wear a talit, and I think it's safe to say he never saw a feminine one, so we should rely on the Rambam and allow it at least until the alternate site is prepared.

Chana said...

ahg--כל הכבוד! Also, having lived in Israel for nearly 30 years, I have seen how civil authorities have let haredi violence pay off. I think we have to stop rewarding the side that throws chairs and rocks."Feelings" are all very well, but they are not on the same level as violence.

And really, I've seen jeans-wearing women literally attacked at the kotel, at night, on the women's side, totally surrounded by other women, and out of the visual field of any men.

SJ said...

Why can't there be a stream of Judaism that isn't liberal and cares about spirituality instead of chumras? With fair prices for kosher food?

I'd even be on board for that type of Judaism.

SJ said...

Oh and handles modernity intelligently?