Rosh Chodesh Av – 5773, at the Kotel
By Rabbi Dr. Ilana Rosansky
Today, Rosh Chodesh Av, I am sad. I am so very sad, disappointed, distressed, heartsick and deeply troubled. Yes, I who am known for my usual cheerful disposition and upbeat nature, am deeply troubled. I was genuinely dumb-struck this morning while at the Kotel with the monthly Women of the Wall prayers. Sorry that the police did not allow us to enter into the women’s section, already cordoned off last Rosh Chodesh (Tammuz) to accommodate the Women of the Wall Rosh Chodesh prayers, but sorrier still to discover that the jeering, whistle blowing (yes this time the Chareidi women were blowing whistles with a vengeance, just as the men had done two months ago, driving me and my prayers to distraction (!)) and that the apparent hatred we were greeted with is not as superficial as I had thought (hoped).
I was truly shaken today. Not only by the mockery and hatred I saw plainly on so many Chareidi faces in the face-off between the police barriers, but by the genuine heart-hatred I experienced.
It’s one thing for an angry whistle blower to ‘look’ disdainful or to call me an abomination. It is quite another (in spite of all that) to lean over the barrier and ask at least a dozen or more Chareidi girls and women if they would do me a favor.
You see, I have a friend who, like Angela Jolie, is having surgery later today in Boston. Like Angela Jolie, she too carries that potentially dangerous gene BCRA 1. She will be operated on today, Rosh Chodesh Av, in a hospital in Boston. Chana bat Nitsah is her name. Please pray for her full recovery – refuah shleimah.
I went to the prayers today with a k’vittel (a small piece of paper with a request for healing for her) to be hopefully placed in a crevice of the Kotel, tucked into my siddur. But, the police did not allow the Women of the Wall to even enter the women’s prayer section or to get close to the Kotel. So I reached out – I leaned over the police barrier and implored, begged, pleaded with young Chariedi girls and teens and older women (who had completely free access to the Kotel):
“Please, would you do a mitzvah for me – for my friend – and place this note in the Kotel?”
Again and again I beseeched the Chareidi women. They not only spurned my request, but they cursed me (on Rosh Chodesh Av!!!). They cursed my friend. They said things like:
“It’s your fault”, “She deserves it”, “May she _____ from cancer” [God forbid] and so on.
These were deep and emotionally laden responses. Young women (girls, really) uttering such things is shocking. This is what they have been taught. I didn’t really expect this; I wasn’t prepared for such rancor and scorn. I was shaken to my core. How can we pray as Am Echad (one nation) when we are so divided by hatred?
What I saw and experienced this morning was venomous contempt. Certainly we all know that during the days preceding Tisha b’Av (the 9th of the month of Av) we are meant to be so very careful… We are meant to avoid l’shon ha-ra and all baseless hatred – sina’at chinam. Our tradition teaches that it was because of this that the Beit haMikdash, the Holy Temple was destroyed. And here we were in 2013 – 1st of Av, 5773 – broadcasting such hatred.
On the bus on the way out of the Kotel area, I was struck by a sign I saw:
“We care and will listen to every word of yours” it says. I wish that we could all “listen” and “hear”.
And that reminded me of a prayer we recite:
Sh’ma koleynu ‘Hear our voices’; Chus v’rachem aleinu
V’kabel v’rachamim u’ve-ratson et t’filateinu
Have mercy on us and receive our prayers with compassion and willingness.
AMEN! We need it!
Rabbi Dr. Ilana Rosansky
July 8, 2013
25 thoughts on “Today, Rosh Chodesh Av, I am sad”
I live in Boston and would like to find your friend and check on her well being. Please, if there is a way for you to get me some more information about her I would be more than happy to help. No one should suffer like this.
My heart is broken hearing this. Thank you for sharing and strength to weather this storm. I can only pray that the coming year will bring lessening of this deep hatred. There are so many bad things we don’t have control over in life. This can be avoided. To see this kind of hatred go on breaks my heart. The world needs so much repair.
I am so saddened to hear that you were treated this way. Just know that as a Chareidi women, even though i disagree with the ideology of the Women of the Wall I still would have been more than happy to put your note in the wall had i been there and I will say a prayer for your friend, may she have a Refuah Shleima.
refuah shelaimah to your friend. not to state the obvious, why dont you come back another time, with no people or media, place the kvittel yourself and spend a little time privately at the wall?
One more comment: WOW’s mission statement says: “Every time we meet to pray, we empower and encourage Jewish women to embrace religion freely, in their own way.” With the attendance today and last month of thousands of religious girls at the Kotel, you have succeeded beyond your wildest dreams. You have empowered Jewish women to embrace Judaism in their own way; just not your way.
I said a prayer today for you, your friend in Boston
and the current hatred that you are dealing with!
May the LORD give you strength!
Who teaches women to hate?
I am saddened to hear of your friend Chana. I have heard that reciting the “Asher yatzar” prayer with intent feeling after visiting the bathroom has been known to stir Hashem’s mercy on those who are in need of healing.
The next time I say this prayer I will endeavour to say it with great concentration and in this merit may Hashem send a complete and full recovery to Chana bat Nitsah along with all the sick of Israel.
Please update us with her situation.
How terrible, this is certainly a chillul Hashem! May Chana bas Nitsa have a refuah shlaymah and may HKBH protect her and those who love her! I will say tehillim for her! May we hear only besuros tovos!
It is difficult, if not impossible, for those raised in a liberal tradition to understand those raised as fundamentalists. These women believe that their hatred is not baseless, that it is righteous; that the things they are saying are deserved by women who deliberately choose to desecrate their holy place every month; that they are protecting not only this place, but the very definition of what it means to be a Jewish woman. This is central to their self-identity and it is not going to change just because the world around them changes.
If anything, it will become stronger and more entrenched and they will become ever more defensive.
They mean it when they call you an “abomination.” Why would they do a mitzvah for an abomination? The very paper is contaminated because you have touched it.
Certainly you will not respond in kind and you will not change who you are or what you are doing, but, as the liberal in this situation, you need to accept that they will not, either.
Rabbi Rosansky: This one kind of got to me, especially at this time of the year. You gave a face to much of the Sinat Chinam that pervades much of our opponents’ discourse on you efforts. For what it is worth, I’ll be adding Chana bat Nitsah to our synagogue’s Mishebeyrach list here in Foster City in the SF Bay Area. A small consolation, perhaps?
While I disagree with WOW and what they are doing, and their methods, there is no excuse for their behavior. As soon as I saw the name of the cholah, I said tehillim. I hadn’t even gotten to the point of the article that explained what the women did and said when you asked them to put the note in the Kosel. I am sorry for the way you were treated and pray for a refuah shleimah. May we all improve in our ahavas yisroel.
So sorry this happened. Prayers for your friend. Please know that not all religious women behave this way.
I am very sorry you were treated that way. How incredibly unfortunate, distasteful and disheartening. Our brothers and sisters are thought to be among the most well educated of the world and we witness such fear mongering, ignorance and baseless venom.
We are taught to “choose life” and be a “light to the nations”.. proceed “lightly” not judge and hate each other for such incredibly silly reasons. A mitzvah of that caliber should never be impeded or frowned upon.
My fellow brothers and sisters..we can do better. Do we not have enough people that scorn us? Let us be a unified, loving front if we are to survive and better yet..thrive!
To Rabbi Doctor Rosansky,
I read your article with great concern.
I believe you are sincere in your quest for love and peace, and truly do not understand how the Charedi women can hate you with such hatred.
I believe you are correct in your assessment of their hatred. Unfortunately you have not had the opportunity to try to understand their point of view.
I don’t know if you are familiar with black bears. To my knowledge and experience, they are not aggressive or dangerous to people. But if by chance a person comes between a mother bear and her cubs. The bear takes on a whole new identity.
The programs of the Women of the Wall cause women who are generally not aggressive, to loose their couth.
Perhaps you have never experienced a strong defensive emotion. I have. It can be overpowering.
If you will take time to understand the culture of the Charedim – the ones who are defending the Wall – because not all Chardim have the same culture. Try to understand them. And then study the history of the Kotel in the last few hundred years.
I think if you came to this awareness, you would realize that your asking for a favor is repulsive. If you would not be on the offensive, you would be able to put your note in the wall as all women have been doing since 1967 and before 1848.
I don’t know if you can open your mind and heart to the Charedim.
I was just in Eretz Yisroel. I attended a woman’s event at the Holy Resting Place of the illustrious Rebbitzen Menucha Rochel. The women Davened as one of us played the flute. We went inside a rebuilt, ancient stone house and enjoyed a homemade lunch of pita, soup, salad and chocolate chip cookies. We studied Torah together. Sang with keyboard accompaniment. We held hands and danced. It was inspiring and fulfilling.
When I am home in the US I join a daily Minyan. It makes my day go better. I am in Shul by 7am. My favorite part is always when they raise the Torah. I think you can tell the personality of the one who raises it. But I just love the visual.
To date, I have never been jealous that I am on my side of the Mechitza. Never been jealous that I do not get an Aliyah or get to raise the Torah myself.
I am sad because there are women who do not feel fulfilled with traditional Judaism. And that in their search for spirituality, they cause others pain. Pain to the point of driving them to hostility.
I hope to read a different kind of report on Rosh Chodesh Elul.
May your soul find Menucha in Kedusha.
from the ‘hareidi’ perspective, i would assume that women of the wall are the fundamentalists that they want to keep out.
sorry to hear…. may we learn to love one another despite our differences… and may we shine the light on the beautiful interactions.. the love and care we encounter.. and pray for healing of those who are blinded by what they see is ‘zealousness’…
i know that for every woman who hurt you- there are a few that would help… including in the charedi community (having been raised there… and knowing quite a few personally…)
G-d bless you for your courage and dedication you give me koach. May Chana bat Nitsah have a full refuah shleima. -Chava
I am so sorry for your experience,may your friend have a refuah shleimah and may we all see better times in klal yisroel
What shameful behavior from those women. May we pray for healing for Chana bat Nitsah and for understanding and tolerance amongst all.
Very sad and very scary. I love it how Egged reminded you of the right prayer. I know that it does not compare to the hatred that you experienced but the Egged bus sign is in itself a tremendous progress. There was a time when they did not care.