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Jun 25, 2012

Women Of the Wall Monthly Fight Now Revolves Around Whether Wearing Mens Or Womens Tallit

The fight over women's prayer at the Kotel continued this Rosh Chodesh with the Women Of the Wall trying to get their monthly Rosh Chodesh services in at the main part of the Kotel rather than at the designated area further south.

The story is generally pretty dull by now, as the same thing happens every single month - they try to meet and pray, some protest, some get arrested, and the world moves on. This time though, I learned something new.

One woman, Deborah Houben, was arrested because she was wearing a male-style tallit, a black and white tallit, rather than a woman-style tallit which is colorful and worn draped around the neck. According to the police, it is illegal for women to pray by the Kotel wearing a male-style tallit, but they can wear the female-style tallit.

I never heard of such a thing before. Men's tallit vs womens tallit? I know plenty of men that wear a colorful tallit - are they wearing women's tallit? Is it dependant on draping it around the neck? What if she had worn a black and white (aka mens) tallit but draped it around her neck?

Anyways Rav Shmuel Rabinovitch, rav of the Kotel, denies this and says it is illegal for them to wear any tallit. He says all the women wearing tallitot should have been arrested, and not just Houben.
(source: Jpost)

I sometimes wonder if the more extremist groups/people at the Kotel would, instead of fighting them every single month rather embrace them and welcome them, if perhaps their group would shrink instead of grow. With all this fighting, they are motivated to keep coming back every month. the group continues to grow. Perhaps conflict is a bad tactic from the haredi point of view, in this instance. Maybe if they would be allowed, many of them would lose interest...

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  1. This is ludicrous. I know they do and once I used to care as well, but serious why should anyone care what talit she's wearing?

  2. Good point , however I'm afraid some people only thrive when there's scandal.

    Harmony and acceptance are boring.

  3. Why would you want their group to shrink? Dont you want active and proud and connected Jews in general? And specifically, don't you want jews to live and visit Israel and the Kotel and make all streams of Judaism stronger?

    Also, the women wearing a talit at the kotel came before the law. The law was a haredi reaction to women at the kotel wearing a talit. So this is not some 5 year old tantrum reaction to get a rise out of harediim... Jewish women were expressing themselves at the Kotel by dressing modestly, praying, and wearing a religious prayer shawl to enhance their religious experience. I am dumbfounded by the idea that this activity has been banned and I am disgusted by the implication that these women are the ones reacting petulantly. When they were there before the law and their group was growing, not shrinking.

    The kotel is a Jewish cultural heritage site and a Jewish religious monument, the idea that all jews don't have access to the most unifying symbol of worldwide Jewry, and is instead ruled by an extreme form of Judaism is just plain yuck. How can they be right? How can people follow and believe in such mean-spirited people. I guess this is what they meant when they talked of Sinat Chinam destroying the Beit Hamikdash. titbayesh!

  4. Not sure about color, but I've read that the law was written as to how the Talit is worn. It's "illegal" if it's worn the way orthodox men generally wear it. It's ok if worn more as conservative and reform wear it. Should be relatively easy for a seasoned blogger to find out. :)

    Whatever the case, any such law is inane.

  5. I dont care what they do. It doesnt bother me. I am saying from their perspective instead of fighting it, they'd probably be better off welcoming it

  6. Rafi - Titbayesh that you let these people lead and guide you. They don't deserve you. You are better then them.

  7. Menachem: So, if they wore taleisim wrapped around their shoulders and arms in the classic sefaradi style they would run afoul of the law, but if they wore their taleisim around their necks am-ha'aretz style, they would be ok? Agreed that this is all inane.

    The Way: For better or for worse, WoW being at the main kotel has always been a disaster. Their presence at the southwestern corner was never an issue. Surely, restricting them to that area is not the biggest injustice in Israel, or even that neighborhood today. (ie- Elli Fischer's writings comparing WoW to the Temple Mount Faithful.)

  8. Oh sure.. NOW you support R. Lipman's suggestion :)

  9. The reason the rule about what tallitot are "legal" for women to wear sounds confusing, is that it is so transparently a red herring. The issue here is not about a "tallis" - it is about the battle to keep proponents of freedom and civil liberty from breaking the Orthodox monopoly over religious affairs in Israel.

    The Women of the Wall do not "want a fight", but they will fight the fight because it's a fight for freedom. And when it causes a "stir", that's not altogether a bad thing either, because this brings attention to their cause.

    I say "their cause", but as Orthodox Jews we might pause for a moment to consider whether in fact it's also "our cause" to champion freedom and democracy in Israel. While we wait for "Atid Lavo" and whatever that brings, would we prefer an Israel which concentrates religious authority in the hands of Orthodox rabbanim/askanim, who demand exclusive power over religious affairs, or one which protects people's freedom to embrace Judaism in the way they so desire, makes space (including at the Kotel) for pluralistic streams of Judaism, and does not "force" Orthodox norms on anyone? Do we want to live in a free society or not? That's the question.

    If the answer is "yes", then rather than sit idly by while groups like WoW do all the heavy lifting for us, we should stand up and join the cause. And if we remain silent because we don't want to align ourselves with "them", then we'll have to live with the consequences of our own inaction.

  10. I second Menachem's comment.

  11. Menachem and Baruch - thanks for the encouragement.

    Well, maybe it's time folks like ourselves put our heads together and try to move this from "blog comment" mode to something more tachlis-oriented? How about this - if you're interested, send me an email at davidmeir80 at gmail.com, and we'll go from there. (Other similarly motivated readers can feel free to do the same!)


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