Beyond the Inner Mehitza
By Vered Noam
Translated by Avi Woolf
The exclusion of women from shul activity doesn’t just harm women. It also harms
the institution itself, which loses its authenticity and exists in a lost reality. A callfor honesty and tenderness
Much like our shul, our spiritual life is divided by a
. We push elements of critical thinking, compassion and common sense beyond this internal divider.Spiritual events require internal and external openness. For how can one sing God'spraises with a clenched fist?
While visiting the States, we found ourselves one Shabbat evening in Rabbi Avi Weiss' shul inRiverdale, New York. After
, the Rabbi suddenly asked the congregation torise. He drew everyone's attention to the entry of a female member of the congregation, amourner in the middle of a
. Rabbi Weiss mentioned her name and the name of her just deceased father and the entire congregation - men and women
spoke to her as iscustomary on such occasions, saying the beautiful words of comfort which halakha gave us:"
Hamakom yenahem otah im sh'ar avlei tziyon veyerushalayim
".I stood there elated, as if a miracle had taken place before my eyes. It was as though anunattainable and long-desired destination of acceptance, of compassion, of warm embrace,was suddenly materializing before me. One could sense an unbelievable gust of tenderness,of partnership, recognition and communal support in the air. This excitement forced me tosee a truth that the
of habit had hidden from me until that point
the truth of thegreat void which screams from most of
.After all, this couldn't happen by us. In Israel, this woman would have been transparent. Noone would notice her entering the shul nor recognize her mourning. At least on the "wrong"side of the
shul radiates the exact opposite; a legacy which is heavy on tradition
This article was first published in Makor Rishon, Mussaf Shabbat, 13.1.2013.
Professor Noam teaches in the Department of Hebrew Culture Studies at Tel Aviv University. Herbooks
Megillat Ta’anit: Ve
rsions, Interpretation, History
From Qumran to the RabbinicRevolution: Conceptions of Impurity
have been published by Yad Ben Zvi.