Tonight is the beginning of Tisha B'Av, the 9th day of the month of Av. It has a religious and historical significance for many reasons. Throughout the history of the Jewish people, many tragedies have befallen Jews on this day in history. It has developed a Religious significance as a day that many Jews mourn the loss of the Second Temple is Jerusalem and is a general day of mourning and sadness for us Jews.
I'm not going to teach history in this blog tonight. If you were worried, you can keep reading. As part of the ritual for this holy day, we heard from the Book of Lamentations. I had never heard that book read aloud before. What an awesome experience (read as an experience full of awe, not an awesome concert) to hear a group of the HUC students chant the eerie, sorrowful melody as we looked out of HUC's Persian Garden onto the old city.
Instead of going home to work on homework, I thought it would be a better idea to learn by checking out the Kotel on Tisha B'Av. When I got up to the wall it didn't have the same feel that it did the last time I was there. I wasn't flooded with emotion this time. I was thinking about the fact that today, most of the Jewish world is looking longingly towards Jerusalem and missing the Temple. But I was remembering something that one of our interns said. Without quoting him, he expressed the idea that if it wasn't for the destruction of the Temple, Judaism would not have been born as a religion. Do we really want a third Temple?
I will leave that question hanging because I'm thinking about it still and move on to the other observation I had tonight. At the Kotel, the Western Wall, the extend the Micheitzah (barrier separating men and women) further towards the back of the courtyard. I will say now, I don't not like, appreciate or even understand the Micheitzah. The picture that I saw perfectly illustrates why I dislike the Micheitzah.
After being up by the wall, which was a very cool experience, we walked back up to the back of the courtyard. From a large group of people we hear the reading of the Book of Lamentations. One man sitting in the middle reading, the group of men sitting up against and around the Micheitzah. Towards the end of each phrase, the group of men would sing loudly with the leader. Our group stopped to listen for a while because one of the Cantorial Students stopped and we thought it would be a good idea. As we were listening I noticed that part of the group sitting there was not singing. Guess who they were.
If you said to yourselves, the women, you would be right. Not only were the women sitting in silent excitement, they weren't sitting next to the men. This must have been a progressive group because the women were sitting near the men, but if you would have followed end of the Micheitzah and drew a line straight back, only one female was on the man's side and that was a small girl sitting next to her father. To me this is a travesty. Coming on the heals of Anat Hoffman's arrest on Rosh Chodesh Av (the first day of the month of Av) for having a Torah at the Kotel it just impresses on me further my disgust for the way women are treated in the Torah and in "Orthodox" Judaism. I was hurt seeing these women accepting their "role" in Judaism as being able to be near the men and to hear the words being read. They could not even look like they were singing.
This was an interesting way to end the night. Going from being awestruck by the beautiful voices of some of the men and women in my Year In Israel class to watching these men pray and their wives sit in silence was an interesting experience. On the whole, I think this was a better use of my time than sitting at home reading Hebrew. Now it's back to the books and maybe some sleep before school and learning tomorrow.
Until we can be together in a happier time,