Navonim - The Ramblings of Garnel Ironheart

Navonim - The Ramblings of Garnel Ironheart

Tuesday, 7 June 2016

A Wall For All Jews, Not All "Judaisms"

One of the recurrent sources of conflict at the Western Wall is between the Ultraorthodox community and the non-religious egalitarian activities, the Women of the Wall.  The Ultraorthodox position is that prayers at the Wall should be conduct in as Chareidi a fashion as possible.  The WoW's want to turn a chunk of the Plaza into a Reform "temple".  The irony of a "temple" beside where the real Temple once stood (may it be speedily rebuilt) should not be lost on us.
An argument frequently mentioned by the WoW's and their supporters is that before 1948 when the Old City fell into Jordanian hands, there was no mechitza at the Wall.  Therefore there is a precedent for mixed prayers and, if the mechitza today can't be removed, a section should be set aside at the Plaza for mixed services.  What's more, government attempts to find a compromise by renovating a separate section of the Wall, Robinson's Arch, are unacceptable since it isolates the WoW's from the main plaza and is therefore unfair.
Let's deconstruct these arguments to reveal how shallow they are.
Firstly, it is true that there was no mechitza at the Wall before 1948.  There is ample film and photo evidence of that.  However, there is a simple reason: the Wall was not a site of organized prayer.  This was forbidden under the British and before them, the Turks due to the fear of agitating the Arabs perched on the har haBayis above.  Jews could approach the Wall in small groups and pray individually and for that no mechitza is needed.  After 1967 the Plaza quickly turned into an outdoor synagogue.  In order to accommodate all Jewish worshippers it needed a mechitza.  After all, there is no law in Reformative "Judaism" that prayers must be mixed, just a strong preference while in Torah Judaism there is a law against mixed prayers.  A mixed plaza would exclude the Orthodox.  How ironic that those who claim to be excluded are the ones pushing for it.
Secondly, despite its commercial success we must recall that the section of the Wall overlooking the main plaza is just that: a section.  The section overlooking Robinson's Arch is just as genuine a part of the Wall.  Why don't the WoW's accept that?  Could it be that they're more interested in garnering attention to themselves and infuriating the Chareidim in the Main Plaza than really wanting to pour out their hearts to God?
The official rebuttal to these weak claims is simple.  The Wall is open to all Jews but not all "Judaisms".  A Judaism in which God approves of lifestyles His Torah declares to be forbidden, a God who approves of all secular liberal principles while frowning on those that have been the hallmark of Judaism for millennia, a God who thinks that the outside world encouraging equality for men and women along with the blurring of the distinction between the genders means He has to change His Torah, that Judaism is not welcome at the Wall.  Prayer at the Wall is not about pushing an agenda but approaching the Creator with humility within the parameters of halacha.
Once you drop the authority of Torah, once you change Judaism to fit your views, the holiness of the Temple departs and the Wall becomes just a wall.  If that's the case, they can pray anywhere else.  Why cause a fuss for us?


Mr. Cohen said...

Please read my short articles about Reform Judaism on the Shiloh Musings blog:

Mr. Cohen said...

Harvard Law Professor Alan M. Dershowitz grew up Orthodox but later became secular.

He said this about Orthodox Judaism:

“I cannot leave my progeny any legacy comparable to the Orthodox commitment to, and intimate knowledge of, Jewish tradition and practice that my predecessors left me.

Though I have not abandoned my Jewishness – far from it – I have also not carried on the tradition of daily religious observance and total immersion in the sources of the tradition.
Sometimes I regret not having done so.”

SOURCE: Chutzpah by Alan M. Dershowitz (introduction chapter, page 12) published in year 1991 by Little Brown and Company ISBN: 9780316181372 ISBN: 0316181374

Mr. Cohen said...

Jews Attacked Again by the New York Times: