Sunday, June 09, 2013

Women of the Wall, and throwing esrogim

The confrontations at the Kotel reminds me of this gemara in Succah 48:
THE ONE ON THE WEST WAS FOR WATER. Our Rabbis taught, It once happened that a certain Sadducee poured the water libation over his feet and all the people pelted him with their ethrogs. On that day the horn of the altar became damaged, and a handful of salt was brought and it was stopped up, not because the altar was thereby rendered valid for the service, but merely in order that it should not appear damaged.
This was on Succot, during the ceremony of nisuch hamayim, pouring of water over the mizbeyach. The Sadducees were opposed to this because there was no explicit mention of this ceremony in the Torah. And so, the Sadducee kohen who was assigned the task took the water and poured it over his feet. (Some say the was who did this was Yannai.) This act was quite plausibly a deliberate statement. The Pharisee populace were angered at this and took the objects in their hands, the esrogim, and pelted him with it. And it was so forceful that the horn of  one of the mizbayach took damage. There is likely some metaphorical message here, or else that detail would not have been mentioned.

On the one hand, as a people, I think the holier approach is tolerance of others. To turn the Beit Hamikdash, into a place of sectarian violence is not a good thing. I can believe that my own approach to Judaism is correct, and that the approaches of others is incorrect, without believing that it is productive or positive to fight with others about it. I can accept that those other people are motivated not by wickedness, but by their own values and beliefs. The Sadducee thought that he was doing God's will. And this violent reaction debases those who take it, turning them from a holy nation which values derech eretz and mitzvos bein adam lachaveiro into an unruly mob.

On the other hand, if the people were not willing to stand up for proper Temple ritual, the side that is willing to be more forceful or obnoxious wins. The kohanim, or many of them, were Sadducees. And with no fear of backlash, they would have done just what they wanted. As we read in the beginning of Mishnayos Yoma, the elders had to adjure the kohen gadol not to deviate, by changing to a Saduccean version of the service; and they turned away and cried, and he turned away and cried.

The Women of the Wall are obviously trying to make a point, much in the way that that kohen was trying to make a point by pouring the water over his feet. That does not make them wicked. They believe that this is the proper way to pray, they believe in equal status for women in Jewish ritual, and they believe in taking a public stand to obliterate this inequality where they see it. But if they wanted to, they could pray in their own shul, or by Robinson's Arch. Or they could pray without tefillin, at Mincha. Instead, they are intolerant of the Orthodox atmosphere that has dominance over the Kotel, and are trying to modify it by their public prayer.

As for the violent reaction from some chareidim there, I think it is awful, because of what it reinforces in the Jewish psyche. Shechita is a mitzvah, and kohanim shechted korbanos, but even so, shechita reinforces the negative trait of cruelty. It would be a better approach, IMHO, to suffer the slings and arrows, even though in their minds, these slings and arrows are directed at Hashem, rather at them personally. At the same time, if they did not protest in forceful manner, it would make the intrusive modification of ritual at the kotel that much more likely. Just as the Muslims on the Temple Mount are often violent, which helps prevents Jewish prayer on the Temple Mount (which might be a first step towards reestablishing of some more permanent ritual there).

There is a concept of minhag hamakom. Yes, all sorts of different Orthodox prayer takes place at the Kotel, but within certain bounds. A good, male, friend of mine was shouted by several people at the Kotel for the sin of wearing tefillin on chol haMoed, since the overwhelming custom of Eretz Yisrael is not to wear tefillin. It is not like in America where you see some people in shul wearing tefillin and some not. (Though there are sources saying that one should not wear tefillin publically in such a setting.) It is possible that these people were entirely unaware of the dispute and difference in practice, or it is possible that they simply felt that it was inappropriate to change from the established minhag in public. Regardless, IMHO, it was a much greater sin on the part of these people to berate another Jew, who was indeed completely unaware that anything was 'problematic'. My point in all this is that it is not just a reaction to the Women of the Wall. This sort of reaction extends further.

See also this item, for how bad the extremism can get.


Isaacson said...

"shechita reinforces cruelty"?! B'tmiah!

From whence came this vile tempest? True the talmud says that one with a certain temperament would be best disposed toward ritual slaughter as an outlet; but how does your comment follow from there?

Josh said...

This vile tempest is a quote from the ramban

Isaacson said...

Rabbi, perhaps you can explain this to me. From what I saw in the document you shared that chiddush seems to stem from Rabbi Feiner. I could not detect his source in the Ramban (either in Iyov 36:7 or Shemos 20:23.

I thought perhaps his source was the Ramban in Bereshis 1:29 but that didn't seem to support his case either.

joshwaxman said...

I unfortunately don't have the time to trace this right now.

However, I can say that neither I nor Rabbi Feiner innovated this. I learned this in either elementary school or high school, from one of my (quite chareidi) Rabbeim. My assumption is that it is indeed sourced somewhere. I only gave this as a result of a quick Google search of the words shechita achzariyus.

all the best,

joshwaxman said...

However, even if we don't source to Ramban, isn't it blindingly obvious? as Chazal say, למה לי קרא סברא הוא! i'm surprised that this needs to be proved, or that textual sources rather than human experience are the only things deemed appropriate that it not be considered a vile tempest.

if someone is continuously engaged in the act of killing animals, thus depriving them of their lives against their will, how could he NOT naturally develop a trait of cruelty? even the first time, one must overcome his inclination towards mercy? over time, and with repetition, this becomes easier and easier.

Chazal voiced this in part with the story in Bava Metzia 85a: 'They came to him through a certain incident.' What is it? — A calf was being taken to the slaughter, when it broke away, hid his head under Rabbi's skirts, and lowed [in terror]. 'Go', said he, 'for this wast thou created.' Thereupon they said [in Heaven], 'Since he has no pity, let us bring suffering upon him.'

isaacson said...

Rabbi, I can only assume you are not speaking from experience in this matter. Constant killing of animals may make a person inured to the killing of that species of animal, but such a thing does not translate into one's general persona, ie it does not become a 'midah'.

Scientists kill fruit flies by the thousands yet that doesn't somehow dull their compassion when relating to humans.


Blog Widget by LinkWithin