The end of 2012 saw an increase in arrests of women at the Western Wall who demand the right to pray there in groups, out loud and wearing prayer shawls and tefilin.
The conflict between those women and their supporters, and those who believe that women should pray at the wall only quietly, and individually, goes back decades and is something that we’ve covered here at the Jewish Week and will continue to cover.
I won’t go into those details here, but I want to use this issue to highlight a human weakness, one that I share, and that I want to work on: the temptation to see those with whom one disagrees as provocateuers motivated by the pleasure they get from your distress.
This came up around the Kotel question in a letter I received from a reader after our most recent article on the subject ran, which I happened to write.
In this letter, the Orthodox writer described with admiration a non-Orthodox relative of his who held an egalitarian Bat Mitzvah ceremony at the wall, but at some distance from the contested areas, in deference to the sensibilities of those whom he saw as the large majority of those who pray there.
So far, so good. I’m impressed with anyone who chooses to subordinate their point of view, out of generosity or even for strategic reasons. It takes strength either way.
But then came the kicker, as it usually does.
“Any fair-minded person without an axe to grind nor an agenda to push will see my [relative’s] point of view,” the letter concluded.
And there’s the problem, the notion that those who wouldn’t make the same decision regarding the Bat Mitzvah’s location can’t be fair-minded, and must inherently have an axe to grind, or an agenda to push, because they disagree with the writer of the letter.
It’s too bad we all can’t be more like this relative of his, honoring through our actions the sincerity of opposing beliefs, even when we don’t disagree with them. Including those who deny women the right to pray out loud at the wall.
Let’s disagree, but try not to dismiss. It’s a start.
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