To Pray Without Fear

By Cantor Nancy Abramson

Davening at the Kotel has never had much meaning for me until I joined Women Of the Wall on Rosh Hodesh Sh’vat.  Throughout Shacharit, I was near tears as phrases jumped out of the siddur, full of new meaning.  “The Lord rebuilds Jerusalem, gathers Israel’s dispersed (Psalm 147).”  There I stood in the rebuilt Old City, with women gathered in prayer from all over the world.  “Cause a new light to illumine Zion and may we all share a portion of its radiance.”  I was in Zion, with its incredible winter morning light, reflecting on the miracle of a minyan of women chanting Shacharit at the Kotel.
But it was during Hallel, when I had the honor of leading this community in prayer, that I felt truly transformed.  We sang “Acclaim the Lord for God is good.  God’s love endures forever (Psalm 118),” and I felt the love in the group of women, strangers to me but united in praise and song.  When the police officer “protecting” us came over and asked me to sing more quietly, I just smiled and aimed my voice to bounce off the stones of the Kotel.  I do admit that it was comforting that the next line of the psalm was “The Lord is with me, I shall not fear; what can mortals do to me?” 
Thank you to the visionary women of WOW for accepting me into your circle, for giving me the kavod of davening Hallel, and for leading the way for Jewish women to pray without fear.

3 thoughts on “To Pray Without Fear”

  1. Thank you Nancy for such a powerful post. I pray that some day soon I might be able to join WOW at the wall as well.

  2. I also found it a delight to be with WOW on Rosh Hodesh Shvat.

    Standing as I was on the other side of the Mechitza, I enjoyed and despaired at the contrast of the exuberant yeshiva boys dancing and jumping in a circle during their recitation of Hallel, followed minutes later by the sounds of the women singing the same words, mostly to different, calmer melodies, while the boys were reading Torah.

    One or two of the boys came over to peek more closely at the women, and wished me “Hodesh tov (good month).” Police standing near to us were making sure that no men hassled the Women, and on this occasion, I saw no such threats.

    I was glad to leave the mechitza behind when we all went to the Robinson’s Arch area, where the Women were able to conduct a more normal service, reading Torah, davening and singing with no censorship.

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