By Tom Brennan
Visiting Israel can be educational for many American and European Christians. The issue of Women of the Wall and why it is necessary to study the reasons for some Jewish observances offers an opportunity to compare a Biblical lifestyle to a contemporary one. In the Bible the first woman was formed from man to provide a companion. The Creator said it wasn’t good for the man to be alone. He did not create another man, but drew out of the man someone different. Some thinkers say the woman was intended to be subservient, the weaker vessel. But examining the Hebrew text and mindset, the actual meanings are quite different. In today’s modern, or post modern world equality of the sexes is a serious issue. Orthodox Judaism is often criticized for looking at women as second class citizens. The Biblical mindset says, not so. Male and female He created them. Each has a unique identity and unique duties and roles to play in the basic unit of society, the family.
In the Bible women have extraordinary roles as wives and mothers. The home was where children were born and taught to live within G-d’s realm. Much was expected of a proper wife and mother, Proverbs 31 gives qualities that are admirable in every way. Men however are likely to stray from the straight path if not kept occupied outside work. Therefore men were expected to represent their families at Feasts and sacrifices and to study Torah. The wife kept the home as a proper place for children and ensure that they would be growing up into righetous parents themselves. How different it is today. Modern society has portioned out raising children to schools and churches and surrogates like daycare and nannies. This has been very destructive of the family and society in particular as children are left open to secular and materialistic influences without strength of a firm upbringing based within Scripture.
Recently there was a news report about an airliner held up on the tarmac by the refusal of Hasidic passengers to sit next to women passengers who were alone. This was used as a tool in the “war on women” and equality campaigns to show that Jewish men regard women as inequal or subservient. This is far from the truth. The Hasidic and Ultra Orthoodox have a strict observance about the mixing of the sexes, socially or casually. The issue of purity is capital and multiple washings and cleanliness are serious observances in their Biblical view. Even in Israel this can be viewed by many as antiquated, but the Bible is 4,000 or so years old in an oral and written form. The eagerness of the media and social groups to pounce on an ancient traditional observance and one with Scriptural documentation is a symptom of how far we have gone from the spirit and letter of The Law.
A visitor to Israel will notice that in religious and worship practices, most Jews do not mix the audience. Except for occasional synagogues, women sit separate from the men and do not take part in the actual worship service. In the synagogue this dates back to the reasoning that the men worshipped on behalf of the family, the wife’s duty was to see that the house and home were well kept and often these necessities conflicted with the timimg and place where worship and sacrifice were conducted, eiher at the synagogue or Temple in Yeshua’s time. Thus women who could attend synagogue were seated separately where they could enter or leave as necessary and not interrupt or distract from the teachings and readings. Each role, father or mother, was interdependent and essential to the home. Many sages admit that the woman’s role was more difficult and labor intensive.
Recently a group “Women of the Wall” has demonstrated for the right to pray at the West Wall. Reglations from the Office of Chief Rabbi have forbidden pluralistic prayer at the Wall, Orthodox practices have been the rule. A negotiated arrangement is in progress with a possible stipulation that “local customs” may prevail. Prayer in the public area must conform to Orthdox practices and this includes wearing prayer shawls and tefillin which for women are not an Orthodox practice. Up until a ruling by a court, women who violated Orthodox practice were arrested. The ruling stated that local practice could not necessarily be interpreted as Orthodox and that until a separate area for pluralistic, nonOrthodox prayer and observance were officially established. Establishing a pluralistic area at the Kotel (West Wall) is the means for settling this long standing dispute.
Our society in the West has mostly accepted a more flexible role for women in careers, professions and family life. Unfortunately, many interpretations of this have cast an inappropriate shadow on the Biblical family and role of women in Scripture. The truth is that the Bible deals with women in an equal and respectful way, with duties that are critical to a home and family that no one else can perform . In Israel today we see a conflict of secular values with Scriptural ones, sometimes a compromise is possible sometmes it is not. The WOW settlement seems to achieve a compromise that does not burden the conscience either side. Israel is where the application of Scripture is the final test of decisions by government authority. Perhaps our Western governments will decide in the wisdom of this practice.Share this page with your friends
Follow News from Jerusalem