Last Friday, Rosh Chodesh Tevet, 153 women found it in themselves to get up early on a wretched, rainy, and miserable morning and walk to the Kotel, for what could be – following Nofrat Frenkel’s arrest one month prior – an unpredictable morning of prayer.
We were women of all ages and denominations, gathered together under a canopy of bright umbrellas that looked especially vibrant on a gray day. We stood at the back of the women’s section to pray, and when it was time to read from the Torah we walked toward Robinson’s Arch, singing as we went. We were joined by a couple dozen men who walked with us in solidarity, while others spit on us and threw potatoes and colorful insults.
The men who wanted to read from the Torah were given a safe and dry place to do so, but we were turned away by the director of the Robinson’s Arch site. And while standing and waiting in the rain, part of our new Torah was ruined. That night, after laying it out to dry as best it could, I couldn’t help but notice that the portion that had gotten wet, from parashat Pinhas, told the story of the daughters of Zelophehad, who stood in front of Moses and all the important men of the day to plead for the rightful inheritance of their father’s name. They spoke up for themselves, and Moses listened. He brought their case before God, not before other men. Their plea was declared just. Inheritance was revolutionized.
By Anat Hoffman
Last Friday morning, the rabbi of the Wall, Shmuel Rabinovitch, looked up at the skies and said, “It’s not for nothing that the rain raged at that time, because the heavens are crying over women who try to harm the Western Wall and the feelings of those who pray there.”
I can tell you that when we finally read from the Torah (though we were unable to read from the actual scroll), we felt impervious to Rabinovitch’s words. We were refreshed by our prayer, and by each other. We were ready for next Rosh Chodesh.
Anat Hoffman is the Executive Director of the Israel Religious Action Center in Jerusalem. This post originally appeared as a message in IRAC’s December 21, 2009 newsletter, The Pluralist. To sign up for updates from IRAC, visit www.irac.org.