|MK Yinon Azoulay speaking fro the Knesset podium (TOI)|
It happened again. This time by Shas Knesset member (MK) Yinon Azoulay. From the Times of Israel:
Lashing out at Reform and Conservative Jews, an ultra-Orthodox lawmaker said Wednesday that a minor earthquake in the north of the country may have been caused by their ongoing efforts to build a pluralistic prayer area at the Western Wall.
“Today we heard there was some sort of earthquake,” Shas party MK Yinon Azoulay told the Knesset plenum during a debate over the prayer area. “Perhaps we should consider that this earthquake was because someone is trying to get at what is holy to us.”
Adding insult to injury he has added his voice to those who made the outrageous claim that Reform and Conservative Jews – are not even Jews.
I do not suffer fools gladly. (Yes, I know the origins of this phrase – but it fits.) MK Azoulay has decided to open his mouth and confirm his what we might have otherwise just speculated about.
First of all the vast majority of Conservative Jews are Jewish. And I dare say that the vast majority of Reform Jews still are Jewish. (Although that may change in a generation or two for reasons beyond the scope of this post). What is true, however is that their movements are not legitimate by Orthodox standards. And the vast majority of them are for the most part - not observant.
That is the reason that I agree in principle that they should not be allowed to pray at the Kotel in non Halachic ways. I hasten to add that every Jew, indeed every human being should be allowed to pray at the Kotel. Provided they respect traditions that have been established and have been in place there for decades. This is in fact how the Kotel operates. Which is why the Pope was able to pray there with the full cooperation of the Orthodox rabbi charge.
Allowing Jews to pray as they wish in non Halachic ways is at the very least distracting if not upsetting to those who come there to pray in traditional Halachic ways.
The sad fact is that most non observant Jews in America don’t even visit the Kotel to pray there. They see it as a tourist attraction – an archaeological remnant of ancient Jewish history. The only people agitating for non Halachic prayer there are Conservative and Reform rabbis and some of the more left wing modern Orthodox rabbis.
And even they would have to admit that the vast majority of non observant Jews that are in any way affiliated with Conservative and Reform Judaism have never even been to Israel, let alone the Kotel. And even of those that have - most (as noted) saw it as a tourist attraction. The space already dedicated to non Halachic prayer remains virtually empty most of the time. How many times have I seen images from there showing it to be vacant on days where the Kotel is packed (like on Tisha B’Av)?!
The desire for a non Halachic prayer space at the Kotel is a thinly disguised attempt by Conservative and Reform leaders at getting official recognition. All their screaming and shouting about it is for purposes of getting support from their non observant members - casting their quest in terms of pluralism being denied. Making it sound like non Orthodox Jews are being denied the right to pray at the Kotel. Which - as noted - is a huge lie.
That said, I have nevertheless been supportive of a compromise that would give them a piece of the Kotel removed far enough away from the traditional site so that it would not be disruptive to those praying there in traditional ways. I support it because it would end the anger and divisiveness as well as the the angry protests and counter protests that are equally upsetting if not more so. That compromise has been delayed due to disputes over the details (also beyond the scope of this post) which are unacceptable to Orthodox legislators.
But none of the Orthodox legislators that I am aware of have made the kind of foolish statement MK Azoula did - suggestion that an earthquake that happened in the northern regions of Israel is a message from God. A message warning us that He is upset at Reform and Conservative Jews (and others that support their agenda) and wants us to prevent any attempt at giving those movements their own space at the Kotel.
Well... if he wants to play the game of trying to figure out the Godly message to us about a natural disaster let us see some of the other sins God might be addressing.
As in the number of sex abuse victims that have resulted from a culture of denial and cover-up still happening in some cases.
Or the advocacy of a way of life in certain Orthodox circles that has caused the vast majority to rely on government financial assistance making it ripe for committing fraud.
Or the number of Orhtodox Jews that have already been indicted and/or convicted of fraud.
Or the the creation of a cookie cutter school system that leaves far too many students falling through the cracks – which contributes to the increasing number of OTDs.
Or the increased incidence of divorce.
Or the increased number of suicides.
Or maybe even to warn us about people assuming to suggest Godly messages based on a particular agenda.
Maybe it’s God Himself that does not suffer fools gladly. Maybe that is what Azoulay should have thought before he opened his mouth.