- Posted by Elaine Zecher
- On July 5, 2019
- 0 Comments
Welcome to Shabbat Awakenings, a weekly reflection as we make our way toward Shabbat. For the next three weeks, I will be writing from Jerusalem. I am in Part One of a divided Sabbatical over the next three summers as I participate in the Rabbinic Leadership Initiative at the Hartman Institute. I’m grateful to our synagogue for this opportunity to engage in serious study.
As the clock struck 12:01 a.m. on July 4th in Boston, I had already crossed the valley of Hinnom and walked up to the Old City to the Kotel, the Western Wall, for a 7:00 a.m. service. Each month, at the new moon, a courageous and tenacious group of women gather in the women’s section to celebrate Rosh Hodesh. We were there to mark the beginning of the Hebrew month of Tammuz, which is supposed to be a quiet summer month. Instead, it was greeted with much noise.
As you may already know, men may gather at the larger section of the ancient wall and have organized prayer. Women may not. And yet, since 1988, this injunction has not dissuaded women from gathering. Many oppose their presence including hundreds threatened by their presence and bused in from yeshivahs to wreck havoc. There are many there who simply want to pray, but the others are an anathema to the values they think they espouse. When I was last there a few years ago, someone in our prayer circle had a water bottle land on her head with no security to protect us. This time, female officers roamed the crowd and pulled out teenage girls sent in to disturb our prayers with constant condemnations and hissing.
It was difficult to concentrate but I felt the importance of our presence. I felt reminded by our own Independence Day that we have to work hard to ensure our rights.
We rushed back for our first session of the day to study and to contemplate what it means to speak of the Jewish people. What qualifies one to be part of this greater whole? We had just experienced being treated as intolerably deviant for a desire to pray together at the Kotel while at the same time we regarded those who disturbed our prayer as beyond tolerable themselves. We spent the morning studying a text by Maimonides who detailed categories of the Jewish people: who could be excluded and what lines of separation could possibly exist. You may be surprised to learn that the margin is wide for inclusion rather than exclusion.
I used to think that the concept of Jewish peoplehood is complex. Now I would regard it as messy. There is much that divides us. Fortunately, with Shabbat upon us, we are reminded that we also share a rich tradition. More to come.
Qabbalat Shabbat will be outside. Join together at 6:00 p.m. Live web stream HERE. If you want to try some meditation and contemplative preparation, meet Rabbi Jacobson on the bima in the sanctuary at 5:30 p.m. Torah study begins at 9:00 a.m. with a short service and Torah reading followed by a lively discussion.
Connect with me HERE. Share your definition of Jewish peoplehood!