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Those Subversive Women’s Voices

When G-d parted the Red Sea and let the Hebrews pass, the Torah tells us that Miriam, Moses’ sister, took up her tambourine and led all the women in dancing and song in praise of His holy name.

I suppose if Rabbi Porush and Rabbi Gafni had been there, they would have had her put in jail for seven years for the crime of “violating holy places” by daring to let women’s voices be heard -– not to mention the dancing bit, which would have brought out the Modesty Patrol with billy clubs.

I am referring, of course, to the new law that they and their colleagues are trying to pass in order to overturn the recent Supreme Court decision upholding the right of the Women of the Wall prayer group  to sing their prayers together at the Western Wall.

Let me be perfectly sincere.  When I was asked years ago what I thought of Women of the Wall, I said that if one really wanted to pray, one should do so any way one pleased in the privacy of one’s own home. I was also uncomfortable with those who showed no sensitivity to the problem of introducing new religious rites into an established congregation (the Kotel is a synagogue with its own customs, and has been for many years).

However, by supporting this bill,  Knessest Members from the so-called “religious” parties (we see very little of our Torah in anything these people ever support), have managed to change my mind.

They doubt the women’s sincerity, Rabbis Porush and Gafni complain.  It’s just a Reform provocation. These women aren’t really interested in prayer.

Now if I were to suggest that all of those men and boys in yeshivot and kollelim were only warming seats in order to dodge the draft and get their monthly government hand-out, I would be drowned in a flood of vitriol.

But I won’t say these things, for the simple reason that they are not true. There are a number of yeshiva men out there who deserve to be exempt from army service, who deserve to be supported by the community because they are really sincere and dedicated to their studies and bright enough to make a unique contribution to the Jewish people.

Jewish women who have created new rituals for themselves, like wearing women’s prayer shawls and donning teffilin, acts permitted by some of the greatest Jewish lawgivers, deserve the same benefit of the doubt as to their sincerity.  In general, one cannot help but wonder at the fat-cat arrogance and lack of respect shown by these men, party functionaries in saintly guise, in the name of our holy Torah. After all,  people with the extreme delicacy to cover the challah bread so as not to shame it when we bless the wine first, show a shocking disregard for the feelings not only of Women of the Wall, but of Jewish women in general.

Because I have a hot flash for you, fellows. The rules have changed. When you mock women for daring to have their own opinions, or trying to enrich their religious experience in ways that they find meaningful, look behind you: you’re not leading anyone in the Jewish world but men like yourselves.  Certainly no one from the modern Orthodox world. In fact, we can’t even tell if your own wives agree with you, voicelessness being a quality nurtured in your women from early childhood through old age.

I understand you better than you realize,  Rabbi Porush and Rabbi Gafni: it’s not the prayer shawls, or even the teffillin. It’s those women’s voices rising out of obscurity; those women’s voices speaking to Hashem without your permission.

For what might they tell the Holy One, Blessed be He?  How their marriage contracts are not honored?  How the Rabbinical courts oppress them? How the whole society rejects them if they dare speak out about their husband’s abuse or infidelity?

Women thinking and praying independently are the most dangerous thing in the world for the society you represent. Just imagine if those women get to stand there at the Kotel in the women’s section, providing your women with an example of independent thinking, giving them the courage and fortitude to take on all the injustices that are now considered social norms in your world.   Why, if that ever happens, your  whole society — a society built on inequality, on women’s acceptance of an unfair burden of backbreaking work — would come crashing down like a house of cards.

Yes. They should be put in jail.  As Tommy Lapid wryly suggests, not for seven years, but for life.  Because there is nothing more subversive than a woman capable of opening  her mind, her heart, and then her mouth.  If our generation of Jewish women ever do get together and allow themselves to cry out to Hashem and He  hears what they have to say, then you guys, and all those who fund you and lead your cheerleading section — poms poms flying —  will have a lot to answer for.  And you all know it.

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