- Posted by Elaine Zecher
- On June 30, 2017
- 0 Comments
Welcome to Shabbat Awakenings, a reflection as we make our way toward Shabbat.
Last year I attended the Central Conference of Reform Rabbi’s convention in Israel. I am deeply committed to Israel despite and because of her many complicated complexities. Hundreds of us participated though we did something I never thought would ever happen:
We prayed at the Western Wall in Jerusalem without a partisan separating men from women.
This is a sacred site rigorously guarded by the ultra conservative ranks in the government and religious community. Their concern for its holiness is no more than our own. When Women of the Wall hold their services in the women’s section, taunts and hurling water bottles often barrage them. I’ve experienced these egregious behaviors myself.
This time we held our morning prayers farther to the right in an area removed from the formal plaza area. It is the same wall and the same ground and carries the exact same sacred character. It was this space that the Prime Minister of Israel and his cabinet agreed to build a plaza that would allow for pluralistic participation of Jewish tradition. It would mean all could pray together, which is what hundreds of Reform Rabbis from all over North America and Israel did that morning last March.
It appears the euphoria of that experience would not last. This week, Prime Minister Netanyahu reneged on the promise of the plaza. It is unclear what will happen, but it doesn’t look good. Israel has much work to do not just for its own citizens but also for the many communities that deserve a voice in the life of the nation. Israel’s ruling coalition of parties must overcome its myopic constraining rule. It has turned the Western Wall into an untouchable sacred cow.
This week’s portion is about a cow. A particular ritual law is commanded concerning a red cow without blemish or defect. No yoke could have ever touched it. (Numbers 19:2) The particular way it is sacrificed and used is called Hukkat HaTorah, an unexplainable statute. The 11th century commentator, Rashi, noted that such a law is not subject to questions. For us, this raises concern. It plants the seeds for hegemony down the line. Some believe the Western Wall’s entire plaza is perfect as it is and has no blemish. They fail to see it may choke from the yoke of an overzealous authoritarian rule.
Jewish tradition is full of tension between authority and autonomy. The ancients tried to create stability with laws particularly around righteous behavior toward others and ritual life. Jewish tradition is also dynamic. Though the Temple in Jerusalem fell to the Babylonians and then the Romans, Am Yisrael chai, the Jewish community still stands. We remain a link in the past into the future. Our voices still matter to ensure the vitality of what happens in Israel. Our future depends on it.
Come experience Shabbat at 6:00 p.m. Alas, it appears that the rain will prevent us from going outside. We are looking forward to greeting you and celebrating Shabbat. Qabbalat Shabbat will be available on live webstream, here. Shabbat continues with Torah Study at 9:00 a.m. on Saturday morning.
I look forward to hearing your reflections and thoughts here.