Pirke Avot 4:21—Rabbi Yaakov said, this world is like an entrance chamber before the World to Come. Prepare yourself in the entrance chamber so that you may enter the banquet hall.
March 8, 2019
1 Adar II 5779
Shabbat Pekudei Exodus 38:21-40:38
These words come near the end of this parashah, “When Moses had finished the work, 34the cloud covered the Tent of Meeting, and the Presence of Adonai filled the Tabernacle. 35Moses could not enter the Tent of Meeting, because the cloud had settled upon it and the Presence of Adonai filled the Tabernacle.” This holiest of places was so filled with God’s presence that Moses couldn’t enter it. We know that this isn’t the continuing model of God in holy places. We know that God’s presence was always at the Mishkan, but the Israelites were able to bring their offerings. The same at the Temples in Jerusalem and the same in our sanctuaries today. The holiness of God’s presence at these sacred spaces helps many pray and connect to God and their spiritual inner Shechina.
This presence of God at our holy places was defamed today in the worst way possible. Nashot haKotel—Women of the Wall went to pray at the Kotel for Rosh Chodesh Adar II. It was the 30th anniversary of this group who struggles to gain egalitarian access at the Kotel, a holy space which belongs to all Jews. Read this account of what happened:
The unfolding drama this week takes us to the center focus point for all Jews from time immemorial. Reports of angry mobs showing up to kick, fight, spit at, and rip off the talitot and kippot of those coming to pray and celebrate with the Women of the Wall on the occasion of their 30th anniversary, filled the air of the Western Wall plaza this morning. Rabbi Noa Sattath left bloodied but unbowed, and Yizhar Hess, head of the Israeli Conservative (Masorti) Movement wrote that in “ten years of praying at the Kotel each Rosh Hodesh, (Rabbi Josh Weinberg) had never seen such hatred, such violence, and such rage in their eyes.”
This was the place that was meant to be for worship, for pilgrimage and as the single symbol meant to unify our people. The Temple Mount is the single most important symbol that we have as a people. It served as the focal point for all of Jewish society while it stood, and its memory served as the most important force in keeping us alive during our centuries of exile.
Jews fighting Jews. Jews beating other Jews because they are offended by their manner of prayer. Observant Jews desecrating religious ritual objects because they are offended that women are wearing them. With the continuing rise of anti-Semitism in the world and in the United States, with a Democrat US representative using classic anti-Semitic language, with the rise of white nationalist anti-Jewish groups being viewed as good people, with leaders in this country talking to Jews and using the words, “your country” when referring to Israel, with cemeteries being defaced and swastikas brazenly painted anywhere, Jews shouldn’t be fighting with each other ever nevertheless over whose prayer rituals are correct and not in one of the places deemed holy to the Jewish people.
The peacefulness of the image presented to us at the end of Exodus with God as a cloud by day and a pillar of fire at night that leads us on our journey and whose presence fills the Mishkan (though not so much that we can’t enter) is an image and feeling I hope to have when I enter a synagogue’s sanctuary, any sanctuary, throughout the world. Regardless of whether you wear a kippah, put on t’fillin, or drape yourself in a tallit God knows that you are there. The trappings are for us and what makes us comfortable in our prayer. It shouldn’t matter to the person sitting next to me whether I wear a kippah or not. Unfortunately, there are Jews who become offended and angry and even mean when women pray with ritual items that they believe shouldn’t be worn by women. How absurd! This is just wrong to judge another by your own standards of rituals in prayer.
I celebrate this 30th anniversary with Women of the Wall. I send them my strength and hope that those who were hurt will recover soon. Instead of fighting with each other we need to be Jewish- strong together.
When you light your Shabbat candles this evening, light one for the Women of the Wall and all who pray with them and support them. Light the other candle and may its light be unifying to all Jews.
Rabbi Jon Adland