A number of years ago, an acquaintance of mine delivered a kiruv-oriented lecture on a Shabbos afternoon at a shul in Upper Manhattan. At the conclusion, a man who seemed to be about 60 years old informed him that his wife had a question she wanted to ask. After most of the men had filed out of the room, he returned with his wife.
It turned out that her query had nothing to do with the topic of the speech.
“Why don’t the Orthodox shuls allow women to get aliyos?” she asked, with unmistakable bitterness in her voice.
The speaker replied by using the example of a 110-volt appliance and a 220-volt outlet.
“Receiving an aliyah is an experience filled with holiness. Jewish women, too, are filled with holiness. It isn’t a matter of inferiority, but of incompatibility,” he told her.
As an afterthought, the guest speaker added that he found the Jewish feminist movement to be extremely offensive to women.
“Why is that?” the couple he was addressing wondered.
“The approach being pushed by feminist activists essentially states that since my grandmothers and their ancestors never received an aliyah or wore a tallis, they in effect had no relationship with Hashem. In reality, nothing could be further from the truth,” the visiting Rabbi argued.
“For thousands of years Jewish women reached great spiritual heights,” he continued. “We can’t fathom how the tears of a Jewish mother as she recited Tehillim pierced the very heavens, how when she kindles the candles of Shabbos she helps light up the world.”
The Rabbi continued in this vein for some time, before the woman, who clearly had not had an Orthodox upbringing, interjected.
“If women can accomplish so much through the recital of Tehillim, why wasn’t I ever told about it?” she demanded to know.
The visiting Rabbi smiled.
“All the women in our community know of it,” he said. “It is only a matter of education.”
* * *
I was reminded of this story after reading of the ongoing controversy swirling around a proposed plan to establish a section near the Kosel to placate a group of women — or, more accurately, their influential American backers — who wish to conduct their own prayer services at the Kosel, complete with a tallis and sefer Torah.
The idea that they should be permitted to promote their nefarious agenda so near to the holiest spot on earth isn’t only outrageous and deeply offensive to women everywhere, it is also extraordinarily painful.
Lest there be any misunderstanding: This isn’t about a woman wearing a tallis. This is about an open war on Torah Judaism and all things holy. The self-proclaimed “Nashot Hakotel” (they consider the word “nashim” to be masculine sounding) are individuals who are tragically estranged from their roots. They are Jewish by birth, but the religion they practice is not Judaism.
We adhere to a Torah given to us by our Creator on Har Sinai, and therefore the precepts we live by are non-negotiable. Their religion, l’havdil, is a set of beliefs drafted by mortals and continually adapted to suit their comfort level.
The hatred they exhibit towards all things halachic can be traced to generations of total ignorance and a virtual disconnect from all that is sacred. They want to read aloud from a sefer Torah, but have no interest in keeping the commandments that are written in the Torah. Allowing them to have a dedicated area so near to the Mekom HaMikdash is a not only a desecration of the site, it will legitimize their actions in the eyes of visitors and tourists who are so ignorant of their glorious heritage that they will be easily fooled into thinking that these “nashot” are practicing Judaism.
We dare not forget that these “nashot,” too, are children of Hashem, and descendants of Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaakov. Only a few generations back, their ancestors were pious souls, who are suffering great pain over the conduct of their grandchildren. We must constantly daven for their return to Hashem and redouble our efforts to reach out to all those who are ignorant of Yiddishkeit, but under no circumstances must we allow them to have a temple of their own near the Kosel.