In 2009, OHALAH was a branch of ALEPH and the OHALAH Board adopted
Statement on Women of the Wall
We were saddened to learn of the arrest by the Kotel (Western Wall) this week of a woman because she was praying wrapped in a tallit (traditional prayer shawl). The reason given for the arrest was that she was not dressed “according to the custom of the site”. That explanation raises questions as to what exactly the custom is and how it came about. The custom surely isn’t based upon modesty, since men seem to be allowed to pray wearing shorts. The custom also does not seem to be based upon Orthodox halacha (law) as there is no checking as to whether anyone is wearing a four cornered garment without tzitzit (fringes). Men are not stopped from praying if they are not wearing a tallit. And as for women wearing tallitot, even according to Orthodoxhalacha, this practice, though not m’chuyav, (obligated) is at least mutar (permitted).
The Torah portion that is read during the week of the arrest was Toldot (Genesis 25:19-28:9 . We should try and learn from our tradition. Like Yaacov Avinu (our forefather Jacob) women should not have to wear a disguise over their tallitot in order to pray or receive a blessing. The authorities should overcome the blindness they share with Yitzchak Avinu (our forefather Isaac), to the sincere spirituality of women involved in prayer and not force them like Yaacov to have to pursue their spiritual development and involvement far from their “home”.
We call upon the religious and judicial authorities to recognize that customs do adapt to changing circumstances. Today’s circumstances include the enhanced recognition that humans were created in the divine image “btzelem el!him barah oto, zachar un’keyva barah otam” (in the image of the Divine was mankind created, masculine and feminine). As the Psalms end “kol haneshama t’hallel Y-ah” (every soul needs to praise G-d), it is time to recognize that everyone who is conscious and wants to offer praises and prayers to our Creator, should not be arrested for doing so.
L’Shalom u-l’Shalom Bayit,
Rabbi Yocheved Mintz, President
on Behalf of the Board of Directors of OHALAH: The Association of Rabbis for Jewish Renewal