There is a very thoughtful analysis by Eitan Levy of the conflict between Women of the Wall (WOW for short – and a very symbolic acronym it is – they really want to Wow everyone) and the majority of women who usually pray there. I highly recommend you read it – since it sheds light on why there is a conflict.
One of the comments, by Rebecca White, also caught my eye and explains what I have been thinking about this issue:
“This is more than being about autonomy. It is about one group imposing an incoherent redefinition of Judaism on everyone else.
Can WoW explain why I need to make masculine soul corrections? Teffilin and Tallit are not spiritual drugs that we women are being denied the privilege of some exclusive “fix” from. These tools are to *fix* men, in fact, they are to raise the feminine within them.
Why do I need to do that? WoW need to explain why a male mitzvah (ie, a male tikkun/repair) is necessary for me and superior to my current way of praying. If you think I am oppressed and need to change and use men’s tools for soul correcting, please explain why!”
I apologize at the start for sounding condescending, but I always think of women wearing tallis and tefillin as silly. To me it is like a man putting a pillow under his shirt and saying he is pregnant. A man will never be pregnant, and as G-d has decided this is so it is obvious that he shouldn’t be. Wearing tallis and tefillin is a way for a man to improve himself spiritually. Women don’t need this mitzvah in order to improve ourselves. We have other ways to do that.
There is another thing missing in this whole conflict, and I don’t really understand where it went. In Hebrew it is called Kedushat Makom – loosely translated as the holiness of place.
I did not grow up in an Orthodox home – we lit candles on Chanukah, had two Pesach seders, and went to synagogue three days a year – two days of Rosh HaShana and one of Yom Kippur. We were somewhere between completely assimilated and a little bit traditional. On the other hand, my parents had a deep respect for Orthodox Jews in general and for the synagogue itself in particular. That is why my mother would stop at the entrance of the (Conservative) synagogue to put one of those cute little doily things on her hair before sitting down (next to my father of course) to pray. She didn’t cover her hair in general- but she respected the fact that this is what women should do in this type of place. She had a respect for what was appropriate, and was willing to change her normal way of dress as a sign of this respect.
What happened to this very simple understanding? Why do the Women of the Wall not understand this concept?