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Today is Rosh Hodesh, the celebration of the new moon. As long ago as the fourth century, the rabbis declared that this is a women's holiday. From the Jewish Virtual Library:

Rosh Chodesh has long been recognized as a women's holiday. In the Talmud [tractate Megillah 22b], we read that women are exempt from work on Rosh Chodesh. Rashi, on commenting on this passage, delineates the activities from which they may refrain: spinning, weaving, and sewing, because these are the skills which women so enthusiastically contributed to the building of the Mishkan (Tabernacle). Why do women merit a special holiday once a month? In midrash Pirke DeRabbi Eliezer, chapter 45, we are told that in the incident of the Golden Calf, the women refused to relinquish their earrings to the men who were building the calf. As a reward, God gave them an extra holy day each month, free from work. It is customary to wear new clothing on Rosh Chodesh, in celebration of the day's special character
In 1967 when the Israeli Army entered Jerusalem (no I/P political comments, please) soldiers prayed for the first time at the Kotel, the only remaining part of the Second Temple, part of the western retaining wall. The Wailing Wall is considered the holiest place in the world for Jews.

In 1988 there was a feminist conference in Jerusalem. A group of women from the conference went to pray at the Wall, and were attacked verbally and physically by ultra-Orthodox men and women. The plaza in front of the Wall is set up with a screened-off section for women, and these women prayed in the Women's section.

When I was a child, women were not allowed to be part of the Torah service, were not allowed to read from Torah or to be up on the Bimah, even in synagogues where men and women sat together. This had changed by the 1980's for Conservative Jews; perhaps somebody can give the history for Reform Judaism.

Women of the Wall continued to hold services at the Wall and continued to be assaulted verbally and physically by ultra-Orthodox men and women; I know of women who have been spat upon. Eventually the organization was formed, and holds services every Rosh Hodesh. Years of lawsuits followed. Only last April was a decision reached that women were indeed permitted to hold prayer services there and could not be held responsible for any disturbances of the peace that resulted from their peaceful prayer. In earlier suits, women singing prayers had been considered disturbing the peace.

Another issue is women wearing prayer shawls (tallit) and phylacteries (tfillin). Women are exempted from performing mitzvot constrained by time, such as daily prayers. But we are not forbidden to undertake these mitzvot, nor the wearing of tallit and tfillin, and some have done so. Many of the women of WOW wear tallit and tfillin, which is another bone of contention. Recently they have been searched as they enter the  to the wall. Many men supporters who join the services have begun carrying in extra tallit or even giving theirs to women taking part.

Women of the Wall includes women from all branches of Judaism including modern Orthodoxy. After the April decision, Devorah Leff celebrated her Bat Mitzvah at the Kotel. Devorah is daughter of Barry Leff, who as a rabbinical student had served at our Synagogue here in Tucson; he and his family have since moved to Israel, where he is an active member of Rabbis for Human Rights, and the women of his family are involved in WOW. He wrote an article in the Jerusalem Post about the Bat Mitzvah. It begins:

Our 12-year-old daughter Devorah celebrated her bat mitzva on Friday in front of a crowd of thousands, with police protection and global news coverage.

In the wake of last month’s ruling by Jerusalem District Judge Moshe Sobel that the Women of the Wall are allowed to pray at the women’s section of the Kotel according to their custom, Rabbi Aharon Leib Shteinman, generally considered the spiritual leader of the non-hassidic haredi world, gave his blessing to bringing busloads of haredi girls to protest this month’s Rosh Hodesh service.

As a result, instead of the usual crowd of a few hundred supporters of Women of the Wall and a dozen heckling haredi men, the Western Wall plaza was filled with thousands of haredi girls. The 500 or so supporters of Women of the Wall weren’t even able to make it into the women’s section – instead they prayed in the plaza, with a “mehitza” formed by the police.

I’m glad we had such a huge crowd. As it says in Proverbs 14:28, “In the multitude of the people is the king’s glory.” We certainly had a multitude, but it’s too bad that most of that multitude wasn’t actually there to pray, but to stop others from praying.

Shabbat Shalom, and a good Rosh Hodesh.

Originally posted to Elders of Zion on Fri Jan 31, 2014 at 11:34 AM PST.

Also republished by Street Prophets .

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tips for WOW (10+ / 0-)

    The readings this Shabbat are:

    Terumah and Rosh Hodesh (1st day of the month) Adar.  Torah readings Exodus chapter 25 to 27:19 and for Rosh Hodesh Numbers 28: 9-15.  Special Haftarah for Rosh Hodesh Isaiah chapter 66 (line 23 repeated to end on a happy note.)

    Being attentive to the needs of others might not be the point of life, but it is the work of life. It can be ... almost impossibly difficult. But it is not something we give. It is what we get in exchange for having to die. - Jonathan Safran Foer

    by ramara on Fri Jan 31, 2014 at 11:33:02 AM PST

  •  "Western Wall" is preferred over (4+ / 0-)

    "Wailing Wall."

    Shabbat Shalom.

    Shalom v' salaam; peace and wholeness

    by another American on Fri Jan 31, 2014 at 11:53:31 AM PST

  •  An Orthodox rabbi once "explained" the violence (6+ / 0-)

    Which has on occasion included the ultra-Orthodox hurling rocks and excrement at these worshipers, by saying he didn't condone the violence but we non-Orthodox need to understand that for these ultras, seeing women praying with tallit and tefillan, and leading the services and Torah reading, is as weird as if a flying saucer were to land in the Kotel plaza and little green Martians then climbed out of the flying saucer and started praying at the Wall.

    My response was three fold:

    First, if you've ever seen any movie or TV show involving alien invaders, rule number 1 is that their technology is greater than ours, so we don't initiate the interstellar war, we let the aliens start it.  So don't start throwing rocks and excrement at the Martians unless they do something violent first.

    Second, if Martians are coming to earth to pray at the Kotel, then that means that the Martians are Jewish too, Judaism is the true faith, and there really is a God who is worshiped throughout the universe, and

    Third, having resolved the Big Issue number 2, we can look to see if the boy Martians and girl Martians are praying together or separately, and thereby resolve our petty issue.

    "Corporations exist not for themselves, but for the people." Ida Tarbell 1908.

    by Navy Vet Terp on Fri Jan 31, 2014 at 01:25:57 PM PST

  •  Rosh Hodesh (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ramara, mettle fatigue, Mannie, Eowyn9

    Marked by the appearance of the new moon.  The first sighting of the crescent, of a new moon, a new month, a fresh start

    •  The moon (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Mannie, Eowyn9

      Is often associated with women - many cultures have represented the moon with a godess, notably the Greek Artemis, who became the Roman Diana.

      She was also a huntress, thus an active woman.

      Being attentive to the needs of others might not be the point of life, but it is the work of life. It can be ... almost impossibly difficult. But it is not something we give. It is what we get in exchange for having to die. - Jonathan Safran Foer

      by ramara on Fri Jan 31, 2014 at 01:49:46 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Now this is an idea I can get into.. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Mannie, ramara

      as I tell friends and family, I may be an atheist, but I worship the moon.... mostly because I CAN SEE IT!

  •  Seriously, only religion could come up (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ramara

    with this kind of internal nastiness. On second thought, politics can too, but then what does that say about religion?  It's this kind of nonsense that is driving the younger generations within Catholicism, Protestantism, and Judaism out of religion and into the categories of atheist, agnostic and non-believers.

    http://www.pewforum.org/...

    •  Jews have always (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Fishtroller01, Navy Vet Terp

      had ways to be Jewish outside religious observance - the socialist and anarchist movements of the early 20th century were filled with Jews, and early Zionists were secular and socialist, and for equality for women in all areas. I find that admirable in spite of any other feelings I have about Israel and politics.

      Politics, religion, and money are the subjects most serious disputes are about, I think. The haredi are a very small part of Jewish religion; most believing Jews, including other Orthodox Jews, find their kind of religion and their influence in Israel troublesome at least.

      Being attentive to the needs of others might not be the point of life, but it is the work of life. It can be ... almost impossibly difficult. But it is not something we give. It is what we get in exchange for having to die. - Jonathan Safran Foer

      by ramara on Fri Jan 31, 2014 at 02:38:34 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  When you study the Talmud (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      ramara

      The first thing you notice is that the rabbis were constantly arguing among themselves.  Rabbi A states a proposition, and then Rabbi B says the opposite, then comes Rabbi C who says they are both wrong.  But they seemed to have respected one another.  This important chapter is the development of Judaism seems to have been lost on a number of the True Believers.

      "Corporations exist not for themselves, but for the people." Ida Tarbell 1908.

      by Navy Vet Terp on Sat Feb 01, 2014 at 03:00:39 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  But the arguments are limited in some ways. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Navy Vet Terp

        They may argue over halacha, but none of them argue that halacha is "outdated" or "unnecessary" or you can just do whatever you feel like and practicing Yiddishkeit is whatever you want it to be. This is why Reform Judaism is having so many problems with attracting their children and the part of Judaism that is growing are the Hassids.

        "You can die for Freedom, you just can't exercise it"

        by shmuelman on Mon Feb 03, 2014 at 09:16:05 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Our rabbi is a member (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          mettle fatigue

          of Conservative Judaism's Committee on Jewish Law and Standards and while they have departed from Orthodox practices in many areas, they debate and argue what is permissible under Halacha.  The responsa are available at the link for your reading.  What is in the works now are votes to publish responsa that will eliminate the ban on kitniyot (legumes) on Passover and gender equality - holding the exemption in Kiddushin 29a for women to observe positive time bound mitzvot to be a rabbinical enactment of the times and now overruled.  While you may not agree, if you read some of the responsa you will see a lot of thought and study go into them and their standard is not "whatever you want it to be."

          "Corporations exist not for themselves, but for the people." Ida Tarbell 1908.

          by Navy Vet Terp on Tue Feb 04, 2014 at 04:29:10 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  I do not mean to disparage anyone. It just kills (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Navy Vet Terp

            me when I read Jews here saying "I like matzah ball soup but Torah is for idiots." Hey, I used to think that way until I turned 50. Those who study Torah know that it is not a novel, it is not a fictionalized newspaper story,  but rather an imprint of Divine Intelligence that at first sight is entirely opaque and takes decades to unravel.
            Something was robbed from us, something is lost. I don't know if we,as a people, can ever get it back.

            "You can die for Freedom, you just can't exercise it"

            by shmuelman on Thu Feb 06, 2014 at 07:55:57 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

        •  a significant cause of the growth of number of (0+ / 0-)

          hassidim is simply having large numbers of children.  without debating the merits of zero population growth, it's still reasonable to suggest that quantity does not necessarily equate with quality.   also, the notion of outnumbering voices one dislikes by biologically literally outnumbering them is a time-honored tactic.  whether it has ever worked as expected is a different matter, of course.

  •  Kol haKavod for yr work on this significant topic (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Mannie, ramara, Eowyn9, Navy Vet Terp

    and the many to which you give your energies, study, experience, and insight, especially under circumstances of difficulty in your own life.

    Shabat shalom.

    •  Thanks. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Eowyn9, Navy Vet Terp

      My life at the moment is actually not so bad (knock wood). But I must say blogging and this community have helped make it better than it was.

      Being attentive to the needs of others might not be the point of life, but it is the work of life. It can be ... almost impossibly difficult. But it is not something we give. It is what we get in exchange for having to die. - Jonathan Safran Foer

      by ramara on Fri Jan 31, 2014 at 08:14:38 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Sorry I'm late (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Navy Vet Terp

    but thank you for this diary!

  •  I am late too, but... (0+ / 0-)

    I recently went to dinner with a woman who was going to the Kotel to lein from the Torah and create confrontation. She was neither shomer shabbos or even kosher. Is she the right one to carry forward 3000 years of Jewish tradition and halacha? "Judaism her way?" I am not saying that Judaism does not need to evolve, but there is a reason there is still Yiddishkeit after a millennium of diaspora and persistent efforts to destroy it.

    "You can die for Freedom, you just can't exercise it"

    by shmuelman on Mon Feb 03, 2014 at 09:08:57 PM PST

    •  We are all the right ones. (0+ / 0-)

      Together.

      Intriguing that you seem to be using the term yiddishkeit as a synonym for intensely religious judaism.  Am i right in interpreting it that way?  

      In a larger frame of reference, it's more this:
      http://www.yiddishkayt.org/
       

    •  One of interesting things (0+ / 0-)

      about this movement is that while it attracts women from all branches of Judaism, including the secular, it largely consists of women wanting to take on more mitzvot, rather than fewer, and to celebrate being Jewish together. That's a very powerful thing.

      Being attentive to the needs of others might not be the point of life, but it is the work of life. It can be ... almost impossibly difficult. But it is not something we give. It is what we get in exchange for having to die. - Jonathan Safran Foer

      by ramara on Fri Feb 07, 2014 at 12:54:37 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

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