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