Thursday, October 07, 2021

Is What WoW Does What God Wants? Or What WoW Wants?

MK Reform Rabbi Gilad Kariv with WoW (VIN)
Whenever this subject comes up, I can predict the responses based on one’s religious orientation. Which exists in equal measure even among Orthodox Jews. But I feel strongly about it, so I will once again attempt to make my case.

As has been the case for quite some time now, every Rosh Chodesh the Women of the Wall (WoW) come to the Kotel Plaza and form a female version of a Minyan – which is  a Halachic non-entity. In the past this included reading out of a Sefer Torah – as is required by men in an actual Shachris Minyan that day.

Many of WoW’s women are Orthodox. And claim that they do nothing Halachicly wrong by doing so since they follow the letter of the law. (e.g. they do not make a Bracha on their ‘Aliyah’).

But WoW’s leader is Anat Hoffman. She is a Reform Rabbi whose denomination believes that  Jews could fully serve God while being Mechalel Shabbos or eating a Cheeseburger. And are certainly not required to pray or read from the Torah on Rosh Chodesh.

For Hoffman, women’s rights is the issue and what God wants most from His people. (…if she even belives in God – not a requirement in her denomination.) Her openly stated goal is equality of the sexes.  That many (most?) of WoW’s members identify as Orthodox and are observant serves Hoffman well.  It lends credence to her claim that she is fighting for all Jewish women. Not just for Reform Jewish women.

The Western Wall Foundation - the religious body in charge of the Kotel - has opposed WoW from the very beginning. They require ‘services to be held in accordance with religious tradition’. WoW services are at the very least a breach of tradition. And in any case - a disruptive distraction to the traditional worshippers that have been praying at the Kotel long before WoW was even a dream.  In fact most Orthodox Rabbis aside from the extreme left oppose WoW. Some vehemently so - having in the past caused some young religious zealots to physically attack them. Which was a Chilul HaShem in its own right. Fortunately - to the best of my knowledge this has not happened in a while.

The big breach of tradition by WoW was women bringing a Torah and reading from it. Which men do at their Minyan on that day. That was a breach too far. And has been prohibited by the Western Wall Foundation. That has not stopped WoW and their supporters from trying to smuggle one in. Which has generated conflict between WoW, their supporters and the police.

That has apparently not been tried in a while. Until this morning. From VIN

Reform MK Gilad Kariv desecrated the Western Wall’s sanctity Thursday morning when he  attempted to bring a Torah scroll into the women’s section using his parliamentary immunity to prevent police from stopping him. The provocative act occurred during Rosh Chodesh prayers which were attended by hundreds of religious worshipers as well as some 20 Women of the Wall. 

Kariv, a Reform rabbi, somehow succeeded in transferring the Torah scroll into the women’s section, a clear violation of the status quo at the Western Wall… 

He then continued the provocation by reading from the Torah scroll in the women’s section while angry worshipers tried to prevent the desecration of the holy place. 

That triggered an angry protest by MK Rabbi Meir Porush: 

“The fact that Gilad Kariv uses his immunity and entices others to violate the Western Wall’s rules, to denigrate and trample the sanctity of the site, is crossing a red line and is intolerable. This is a disgrace which must end.” 

Porush sat down on the Knesset committee floor and recited Tehillim in protest against Kariv’s actions Thursday.

 I’m not sure I like MK Porush’s grandstanding. But I mostly agree with his sentiment. 

The idea that equality of the sexes is what drives WoW tells you all you need to know about why this is not a Jewish value. As I have said numerous times. Judaism is not compatible with the concept of equality of the sexes. While both sexes are loved equally by God, He does not consider men and women to be equal. Although most Mitzvos required of men and women overlap – there are many that do not. Each having Mitzvos unique to their own sex.. Which by definition makes them unequal. This does not make one sex inferior to the other. It just makes them different. 

That women may – if they so choose - participate in Mitzvos that are not required of them, does not mean they can just become female versions of men. Yes, many Mitzvos required by men (and not by women) have nevertheless traditionally been adopted by women anyway. But many have not.

Tradtition is the key. Breaking tradition usually requires an existential reason. The feminist ideal of equality of the sexes in all things is not existential. That some women truly believe they can serve God better by praying with a female “Minyan’ at the Kotel every Rosh Chodesh and consider reading from the Torah an enhancement of that does not make it so. Especially when so many mainstream rabbis object to it and doing so upsets so many people at the Kotel as it apparently did today. Do the Orthodox women of WoW really believe that God wants them to continue doing so under these conditions?