Re-dedication this Chanukah

Police prepare to arrest Nofrat Frenkel for wearing a prayer shawl

It should be no surprise to anyone that I have met, ever, that I don’t like injustice.  I don’t like being told that I can’t do something because of my gender, age, religion, or pretty much anything else.  Recently the news coming out of Israel, Jerusalem specifically is making me furious.  Above is an image from the Women of the Wall on Rosh Chodesh Kislev when a young woman was arrested for wearing a tallit.  Women of the Wall is a group that has been meeting for twenty years at the Kotel, the Western Wall to prayer together every Rosh Chodesh (first of the month).  Throughout the group’s history there has been a lot of strife because the Orthodox people who like to pray at the Kotel don’t like the way these women pray.  They sing aloud, they read Torah, and they define themselves as a minyan (quorum of ten Jews). Throughout the years this women’s group composed of Jews from all streams have been harassed, attacked, and seen court cases brought against them.  One of the latest blows is the prohibition from reading Torah in the Kotel plaza.  In order to avoid arrests, the group moves from the Western Wall to another area and reads the Torah from that location.

Nofrat Frenkel was arrested for, “performing a religious act that offends the feelings of others.”  She was wearing a tallit, a prayer shawl.  She is on the left above. There were other women wearing tallitot.  The Women of the Wall recently received a new Torah which they needed to keep in a duffel bag to be brought out at the appropriate time.  On the mens side, note that there are several hundred Torah scrolls and there are none on the womens side.  Nofrat Frenkel was holding the Torah scroll as they group tried to leave the plaza and was pushed ahead by police while still carrying the Torah and brought to the police station.  I’m summarizing here and hopefully I have most of the details correct.  You can find more on this story online.

As if this wasn’t enough to get my blood boiling the Israel Religious Action Center is now reporting of numerous policies within Israel that are segregating society in favor of the haredi, ultra-orthodox, needs.  For example, there are public buses that are now gender segregated, medical clinics that sees male and female patients on different days, post offices that have separate lines, stores with different entrances, and sidewalks that are divided.  You can find out a lot more about what is going on in Israel from the IRAC and I hope that you will read up on these issues!

In a recent post, Rabbi Denise L. Eger writes about how women are under attack not just in Afghanistan and Israel but in the latest health care bill.  You can read what she wrote, here in case I am not convincing enough.

We are approaching a major season of giving and a time when we can get our last contributions in before the end of the calendar year.  I for one don’t want or need any Chanukah presents.  I would much prefer that people make donations to organizations like IRAC or any other organization that is doing such important work in Israel, Canada or the USA.  Imagine what it could mean that if just for one night of Chanukah, instead of buying presents, all the money that you might have spent was donated to a worthy cause.  This is truly a lesson in giving that we need for the next generation to learn whether or not we have children or not.  As children grow, let them have involvement in deciding where monies should go and make sure that they contribute something, whether a portion of their allowance or some money from their own tzedakah box.

The Madoff scandal and the recession have taught us all some hard lessons about vulnerability, prioritization and excess.  I think this season is the time to start to create new customs and traditions that reflect the values that really are the most important, not the ones that help us to keep up with spending power of those around us.  This is the year to make Chanukah a true symbol of rededication.

About rabbisteinman

I am a rabbi living in North America. I was ordained from HUC-JIR. This is my blog.
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