Last week Rabbi Sussman wrote about the crisis at the Kotel, explaining how the much celebrated section of the Kotel Plaza claimed for egalitarian prayer was being taken away by a recent decision in the Israeli government. While I agree with Rabbi Sussman about the questionable significance of the wall, I also know that it still remains for many liberal Jews a symbol of Israel and religious connection.
What troubles me most about the decision is not about denomination it is about gender. When I think about old and young alike seeing the Kotel for the first time, or visiting this place of pilgrimage, I am sorry that an option that equalizes men and women, and an option that does not require a gender binary decision to be made, does not currently exist. I am sorry that what remains is an area that is separate and unequal.
This week in the Torah portion we read about the Daughters of Zelophehad. These daughters were the first to ask for women’s rights, they asked that their father’s land be given through them to their descendants. They were among the first who sought to carry on our tradition.
Recently my own daughter looked at a prayer book that was over a hundred years old. She asked, “Where were the Imahot in the prayer Avot v’Imahot?” She had never heard the prayer without the matriarchs, it never occurred to her that they were not in the original prayer, and she had never seen the prayer written as such. In the span of my lifetime we have achieved gender equality in our prayer books and our synagogue rituals.
While I agree with what Rabbi Sussman wrote last week, I am saddened, especially reading this weeks’ parsha, Pinchas, for the step backward in gender equality.
Rabbi Stacy Rigler