Chief rabbi David Lau says he supports non-Orthodox prayer section at the Western Wall
Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi David Lau said he supports the notion of providing non-Orthodox denominations with a prayer space at the Robinson’s Arch area south of the Western Wall Plaza.Here's where he comes up weak: is Orthodoxy as practiced today an established custom? I have no idea, and honestly, I'm not sure he does either.
Speaking in an exclusive interview with The Jerusalem Post which will be published in full next week, Lau said the construction of the prayer platform by the Religious Services Ministry was “the correct idea,” but insisted that religious practice in the central prayer area at the Western Wall Plaza remain within the realm of Orthodox tradition.
The issue has been brought to the forefront of the national debate in recent months, largely due to the activities of the Women of the Wall prayer rights group.
“I don’t want to prevent anyone from coming and praying in the way they want to pray, but I do want to request from everyone to respect the existence of the established custom,” Lau told the Post. “The reality is that when such customs exist, for a group of women to start to come and sing and disturbing the minhag hamakom [“local custom”] I think that, in accordance with derech eretz [“decent behavior”], this isn’t the way to behave. The behavior must be appropriate and respectful to other people.”
In fact, a truly good argument would be whether he believes Orthodox Judaism - specifically Haredis - should be encouraged to respect other denominations and not act like they're worse than jihadists. As I've said before, if I caught Orthodox Judaists calling my grandparents - who practiced Conservative Judaism - pieces of "filth", I'd be outraged to the max.
A legitimate argument about WoW is whether they're singing too loud, enough to shatter everybody's eardrums. However, if the menfolk take to singing at their end at the top of their lungs, then you can't say the women of the Reform movement are worse.
Again, as I've noticed, the Haredi opposition to non-Orthodox prayer at the Western Wall has little or nothing to do with whether the Reform or any other such movement are anti-Israel/Zionist, which makes it more like a clash between two factions with poor grasp of honor. In short, it's an irony.
Women of the Wall strenuously opposes the Robinson’s Arch prayer platform, arguing that it constitutes an attempt to circumvent a recent ruling by the Jerusalem District Court which provided legal authorization for women to pray with prayer shawls and tefillin in the women’s section of the Western Wall Plaza for the first time.There is a hint of truth to this. If they began in the late 80s and nobody at the time had any issues with them, then the Haredis shouldn't be making one now. Sure, even I think women wearing tfillin and men's tallits is ridiculous, and the Conservatives then and now didn't do what the Reform folk are. But if the WoW aren't resorting to vandalism, arson, aggravated assault, bank robberies and racism against blacks, then barring them from the Kotel is trivial. Especially compared to some of the more serious problems this country is facing, like Islamofascism and violent crime. Including the criminal offenses committed by Haredis in Beit Shemesh, I might add.
In response to Lau’s comments, Women of the Wall Executive Director Lesley Sachs insisted that the long-standing activities of the group meant they were part of the customs of the site.
“If a group has been doing something for 25 years then they are part of the minhag hamakom,” she said. “And nothing we are doing is against Jewish law. If the custom of the place is in accordance with halacha then we are in that framework.
“To say that we shouldn’t be there because our voices are disturbing, no one can accept this in Israel in 2013,” Sachs added.
“I don't think women have to pray in silence. We don’t think women in the women’s section have to pray in silence.”
Conservative and Reform groups cautiously welcomed the development, while senior figures in the haredi political leadership expressed anger that non-Orthodox groups were being given greater recognition in Israel.Wow! So they think my grandparents were an abomination for just daring to adhere to Conservative Judaism? That's how I see this reaction. Tsk tsk. If the Haredi leaders consider them a bigger problem than the Islamofascists littering up the Temple Mount - a site they're noticably absent from campaigning for - then I really don't see why I should care about them any more than I do about the dopey Reform movement.
Respect for other denominations of Judaism is something the Haredis are going to have to start learning, and if they have a negative opinion on any of them, they'd do well to find legitimate grounds, like I did with the Reforms. So far, they haven't done it yet.
Lau was also willing to address accusations he wouldn't recognize conversions a bad rabbinical judge tried to annul:
Lau took the opportunity to deny reports that he would base his decisions on Jewish conversions on the advice of Rabbi Avraham Sherman, a rabbinical judge who caused huge controversy when he issued a ruling in 2008 which would have retroactively annulled the conversions of thousands of Jewish converts if not for the intervention of the High Court of Justice.Well I hope he doesn't agree with any other rabbi who harbors similar standings either. And no matter how sincere Lau tries to be now, I'm still of the mind that the chief rabbinate should be closed down, since it's only become a valve for corruption, mainly among Haredis.
“I have seen Rabbi Sherman once in the past six months, I shook his hand at the bar mitzva of his nephew, a week before the elections for the Chief Rabbinate,” said Lau, smiling. “I didn’t speak with him beforehand, I didn’t speak to him afterward. He’s not correct in all these matters. I don’t think I agree with him on every matter.
He’s wise and respected, but I don’t agree with him.”