by Sherree Beth KaneGraber
Rabbinic Intern, Newburgh, NY USA
Today’s service & Torah reading is dedicated to The Woman of the Wall.
About 25 years ago, in shul one Shabbas morning a man came up to me and told me that I should not be wearing a tallis. He was rather unpleasant in his tone.
The man interrupted his prayer to approach me to tell me what I couldn’t wear.
I was confused! Part of why I was confused was that I was wearing a scarf.
Rather than tying it, I wore the scarf on my head, loosely flowing onto my shoulders. I loved my silvery grey fringed Shabbas scarf. Occasionally I wore a white linen hat, but most of the time I chose the scarf because the enveloping feeling while praying felt right to me.
It felt natural. It became part of my Shabbas ritual. In Parshat Vayikra we read about ritual. The parsha describes in graphic detail what, when and how the korbanot, offerings, are to be made.
Korban, the word for offering, is based on the Hebrew root koof reish beit, karav, which means to draw close; the Hebrew word for near is based on this same root.
Our ancestors had ritual which helped them facilitate feeling closer to Hashem. There were many kinds offerings, which included animals of various kinds, oils, as well as flours.
Today our rituals are different than those of our ancestors, however we too seek closeness to Hashem and pursue spiritual experiences.
When we put on Tallit, there is a ritual. Some people first recite a prayer as part of their preparation, and also check to see if the tzittzit, fringes are all intact.
We hold the tallis in front of us as we recite the b’rucha shel mitzvah, the blessing of commandment (Baruch…) לְהִתְעַטֵּף בַּצִּיצִית ….
Blessed are You, our G!d, Ruler of the Universe, Who makes us holy with Your commandments,… and commands us to wrap ourselves in fringe
We kiss each side of the attarah;
We swirl the tallis around to cover our body /
Some people wrap only around their head / some of us wrap the tallis around our entire body and say a private meditation; and them lower to let the tallis rest on our shoulders.
This is but one of the many, beautiful rituals that we have. And we have the right and the freedom to practice our rituals and to seek our own spiritual experiences.
Here In Newburgh I can proudly, and safely wear my tallis.
The rules that are enforced at The Western Wall
הכותל המערבי are as if the Kotel was an orthodox shul.
There are women in Israel being arrested for wearing tallitot; for carrying Torah, and for raising their voices in prayer.
What would it feel like to have someone say you can’t wear your tallis or your kippah when you pray?
What would it feel like to have someone rip the Torah out from your arms?
How would you respond to being shouted down when you were trying to sing the beautiful music of Hallel?
This is what happens in our Israel on Rosh Chodesh, when The Women of the Wall meet to celebrate the new month.
In honor and support of the Women of the Wall, I would like to share with you a prayer written by Rahel Sharon Jaskow
May it be Your will, our God and God of our mothers and fathers, to bless this prayer group and all who pray within it: them, their families and all that is theirs, together with all the women and girls of your people Israel. Strengthen us and direct our hearts to serve You in truth, reverence and love. May our prayer be desirable and acceptable to You like the prayers of our holy mothers, Sarah, Rivka, Rahel and Leah. May our song ascend to Your Glorious Throne in holiness and purity, like the songs of Miriam the Prophet, Devorah the Judge, and Hannah in Shilo, and may it be pleasing to you as a sweet savor and fine incense.
And for our sisters, all the women and girls of your people Israel: let us merit to see their joy and hear their voices raised before You in song and praise. May no woman or girl be silenced ever again among Your people Israel or in all the world. God of justice, let us merit to see justice and salvation soon, for the sanctification of Your name and the repair of Your world, as it is written: Zion will hear and be glad, and the daughters of Judah rejoice, over Your judgments, O God. And it is written: For Zion’s sake I will not be still and for Jerusalem’s sake I will not be silent, until her righteousness shines forth like a great light and her salvation like a flaming torch.
For Torah shall go forth from Zion and the word of God from Jerusalem. Amen, selah.
When I put on my tallis; when I proudly carry our Torah around our sanctuary; when I sing Hallel on yontef; I think of the Women of the Wall.