A Solution Greater than the Problem

An Open Letter to Allison Josephs

As I am usually a fan of your work at Jew in the City, I am both surprised and a bit dismayed with your latest piece. I feel that you don’t understand the agenda of the Women of the Wall, and have proposed a “solution” that favors the provocateurs over the innocent.

As a group, the Women of the Wall has a radical agenda. As two of the founders describe it:

WOW models to all Jewish women who pray at the Kotel that women can take control over their own religious lives. When haredi women, and haredi men, and haredi children see women leading services, wearing tallitot, and even handling and reading from Torah scrolls, their world view is changed. Like it or not, the sights and sounds of women leading services may initially shock them but then, when they get used to it, it will, it has to, change their world view. Women will no longer be seen as following men when it comes to communal prayer, allowing men to lead, but as individuals who are able to function religiously, on their own, without the “help” of men.

Do you understand, Mrs. Josephs? You are controlled by men, with their misogynist views [another WOW leader] and iron hand [yet another], and they’re going to show you the light. That is why they refuse to pray at Robinson’s Arch, which has all of the same Kedushah… but lacks the ability to impose their Judaism on other women.

The idea that it’s them against the Rabbis is just as false as their claim that all they want to do is pray. Their real problem is you: a woman who is confident, educated, forthright, and Orthodox… and a Ba’alas Teshuvah at that! You know all about feminism and women wanting to chant from a Sefer Torah at the Wall, and yet… you disagree with them, and even say so in writing!

They have me pegged — I’m one of those fundamentalist ultra-Orthodox Rabbi types, one of the rioting charedi men who oppose them. But you? You make no sense to them. You put the lie to everything they are trying to accomplish. You might even be able to reach out to their younger members, who are sincere and really have no idea what the conflict is all about, and be mekarev them [bring them close to Torah]. Their entire agenda is predicated on the idea that people like you don’t exist, that traditional women are subjugated, dependent, and ignorant [again, all their words, not mine].

This is why a HaAretz reporter first ignored Ronit Peskin, then flat-out called her a liar for daring to say that her group, the Women For the Wall, triggered the Gedolim’s call which brought over 10,000 women there, and then a HaAretz colleague blogged a truly scummy, foolish, ad hominem attack upon Peskin, devoid of any reference to the issues. That’s why the Women of the Wall promoted the aforementioned slimefest on Facebook as “honestly exposing WOW’s ‘opposition'” [emphasis mine] and then claimed that W4W “called for the violent thousands who protested our prayer.” Never mind that the idea that “thousands” were violent is utter mythology, that perhaps 1/3 of 1% were violent, and more than that number objected to any wrongdoing. The relevant truth is that W4W called only for women to attend, required that there be no violence, and every single female attendee complied.

Why must they make this stuff up? Because they can’t handle the truth about Mrs. Peskin… or her colleagues… or you.

Now, how do you propose to address their deliberate provocation and “in-your-face” feminism? By taking the Kotel from everyone, literally as if both sides were small children. Your proposed solution denies those who are sincere, those who truly wish to pray, the opportunity to do so at the Wall — because of a small group of troublemakers. And trust me, Anat Hoffman, their leader, would rejoice to see Torah Jews denied the opportunity. She proposed dismantling the place of prayer on a daily basis and replacing it with a secular “national monument” — and what you have proposed comes dangerously close to endorsing her “solution.”

There is a famous vort from the Kotzker Rebbe. The Medrash says that G-d asked Tzedakah [charity], Chesed [kindness], Emes [truth] and Shalom [peace] if He should create the world. Tzedakah said yes, because “the world will be filled with Tzedakah!” Chesed said the same about Chesed. But Emes said no, because the world will be filled with Sheker [lies], and Shalom said no, because the world will be filled with Machlokes [argument].

So what did H’ do? He “tossed Emes to the ground” and created the world.

But, asked the Kotzker, what about Shalom?

Ah, he said… if you don’t bother with Emes, Shalom is easy!

Peace made by ignoring the truth is, quite literally, built on falsehood. And it is equally false to say that both sides are responsible for any dispute.

You are familiar with the Mishnah that says that a Machlokes l’Shem Shamayim [argument for the sake of Heaven] was between Bais Hillel and Bais Shammai. And not l’Shem Shamayim? Korach v’chol adaso [Korach and his congregation].

What does it mean? Why doesn’t it say Korach and Moshe, because those were the parties arguing?

The answer, of course, is that Moshe was completely, 100% l’Shem Shamayim. The Mishnah said it was an argument not for the sake of Heaven — but not on Moshe’s account.

Moshe didn’t back away. He didn’t roll over. HaShem doesn’t want us to seek Shalom to the exclusion of Emes. Being in the middle of an argument doesn’t automatically mean you’re a Ba’al Machlokes; sometimes it means you’re defending Kavod Shamayim [the honor of Heaven] and doing exactly what HaShem wants. Now it’s probably true that this is somewhat against the nature of a frum woman, that it is more natural for you to want to avoid conflict, even when the innocent suffer from it… such is the challenge.

Make no mistake about it, the Reform movement, in a state of total collapse, needs to do something, anything, to motivate their members. And this is their motivator: “Wag the Dog” brought to life.

Eric Yoffie has it exactly backwards when he claims that the Orthodox have declared war. He sounds like the leaders of Hamas who claim that every Israeli response is an “escalation.” Hoffman and Co. have declared war, and will keep it up until they have brought shopping-mall Judaism to Israel.

And all we have to do is accept a “truce” that denies us the most sanctified ground we can reach today — which, to them, has no sanctity (as Reform Rabbis in Israel declared quite proudly back in 1999). They are making this a battleground only because it has such sanctity to us. A “truce” that takes us all away hands victory to those fighting Torah, over the millions who go to the Wall each year simply to pray.

This is why we have Gedolim. Our own conjectures simply are not immersed, as theirs are, entirely in Torah. They see better than we do.

What I might guess will happen is that the Gedolim will decide, again, that women should come. They might explicitly state that no men are to go near them. The police, as well, might perceive the situation better and ensure that the WOW are surrounded by women. At that point, the WOW will be visibly botul b’shishim [nullified, insignificant].

With apologies to Edmund Burke, all that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good women do nothing.

Please don’t “do nothing” — and don’t call for others to do nothing. The Women For the Wall have the potential to create a massive Kiddush HaShem [Sanctification of G-d’s Name], if we can keep the idiot bochurim away on R”Ch Tammuz. The world deserves to know that there exist women like you, Mrs. Peskin, and the Women For the Wall.

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7 Responses

  1. dr. bill says:

    1. the issue is not them, but the conservative and reform movements who want the chareidi hegemony in Israel broken. i am sure with r. stav or even. r. ariel, the level of rancor on all sides will subside. you won’t see rabbis intimidated for not towing a chareidi line and WOW-types having the same level of support.

    2. ms. josephs hit the nail on the head. the quarreling on this issue is regretable, overwhelming other ssociated issues.

  2. Charlie Hall says:

    Ms. Josephs has demonstrated an interest in trying to find a compromise that maintains the traditional role of the Kotel, which was never a charedi synagogue until 1967. I support her in this.

  3. Yaakov Menken says:

    Dr. Bill, you missed the point. Why do you think the Reform movement pays Anat Hoffman’s salary? Why do you think they fly her all over the USA to talk about WOW? She is leading the effort to break Torah standards.

    Don’t imagine that any more “modern” Rabbi will satisfy them. Until an immigrant from the FSU or elsewhere with neither Jewish lineage nor intent is able to marry a Jew in a Jewish ceremony in Israel, with state recognition, the Reform will be fighting for it. That’s the point I am making to Mrs. Josephs.

    Charlie, I wasn’t aware that only the chareidim observe halachah in things like Mechitzos. I think my Modern Orthodox friends would find that line highly offensive. But further, before 1967 it didn’t have a Mechitzah only because the Turks, Muslims and British wouldn’t permit it (see the comment by “PG” to my post on Political Provocation, in which he quotes Rabbi Aharon Rakeffet, who said the British, to appease the Arabs, “also did not allow the blowing of the shofar (but every year a shofar was smuggled in to the Kotel and blown)”). The Jews put up a Mechitza whenever they thought they could get away with it. Are you suggesting, a la the Niturei Karta, that we return to that situation? Wow. You make me look positively left-wing!

  4. PatentlyJewish.com (Moshe Feigin) says:

    Her conclusion starts with “here’s a solution that everyone will hate”. Given that her purpose is kiruv and that header to her solution, I don’t think she’s actually trying to argue what she really believes in. Of course she doesn’t hold of these Jews who have more in common with Kant than Moses. She’s just providing something that touches the emotions of her liberal readers, along the lines of, “can’t we all just get along?” Also, if you read between the lines in her answer, e.g. a) don’t make it a battle ground, and b) use it for personal prayer, both of those things are diametrically opposed to Anat Hoffman are not in opposition and take the wind out of her sails completely, while not that of the tens of thousands of Jews who are there every day other than the tiny group of troublemakers on either side of last Rosh Chodesh’s nonsense (Hoffman and the other noise makers).

    [Link to the Jews for kant article here? 🙂 ]

  5. Mr. Cohen says:

    Criticizing a 33-century-old faith like Orthodox Judaism for not being Egalitarian,
    is as illogical as criticizing George Washington for not wearing a disco suit,
    which did not become popular until two centuries after the American Revolution.

  6. Daniel says:


    You do realize there is something highly bizarre about arguing that it traditionally was not a synagogue during the time that Jews were not permitted to go there?
    And previously during the period when we were not allowed to make a synagogue there?

    If you would like to argue that there is no need or benefit to have a synagogue there, make it from a normative viewpoint. Tell us why there is no benefit to it, or why you think the benefit is outweighed by other considerations. Don’t tell us that we should follow the Jordanian traditions.

  7. yankel says:

    The Kosel was not a synagogue before the Zionists came along. It was a makom tefilla, just like Kever Rochel today, which is not a synaggue. However, once it is sanctified as a synagogue, halocho governs its uses. Maybe we could return all synagogues back to what they were before the community established them?!

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