I’ve been hearing about the women of the wall thing for years now, the gut reaction of any frum Jew is to be outraged. These women are just picking a fight, how can they use the holiest place of the Jews to stage their public protest? Did they expect that we would just give up and let the kotel become just another free for all Reform Temple? I understand these reactions because I and almost all of friends feel exactly the same way. The problem is that I cannot ignore the fact that no one really owns Judaism, my mind is confused because I don’t “hold” that anyone should have a monopoly on prayer at the Kotel, it’s almost scary in the way that the Charedim try to provoke violence in the name of the Torah, when the women of the wall aren’t actually violating any halacha. They are merely violating social norms.
It’s a hard discussion to have because when you throw in religion, you usually get extreme point of views. Both views make perfect sense, the classic “why do you need to ruin our party” is all over this issue. The underlying fear is that this will lead to other violations of social norms within orthodoxy. Next thing you know it, the nudist of the wall may appear and why should we stop them. What about the transgender people of the wall who demand to daven without a mechitza? Then on the other side you have the fear that Charedim will begin to monopolize the wall, what happens when they start to ban birthright groups, Christians, and women not dressed according to their extreme standards from visiting and praying at the wall.
Who really knows what the proper way to pray is? Is there any halacha against women doing mitzvos they are not commanded in? Is a woman in talis and tefillin that offensive? Who decides what is offensive? Then again we have the slippery slope issue. Are these women merely demanding a once a month minyan or will it become daily? How can you have kavannah when you know that you are disturbing so many people?
I’m not sure it can be solved, the worst way to fuel the fire is what the Charedim are doing – giving it publicity and attention. It makes it look like a publicity stunt, when in reality it’s been going on for 25 years. The frum community may think these women are being spiteful, picking a fight, or not having true kavannah, but how can you say that. They are just as extreme in their views as you are, they want to pray just as much as you want to.
Of course, we’re now back at square one. The only issue is that everyone is judging everyone and no one will come to a conclusion anytime soon.
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