“Women of the Wall”: As if we Don’t Have Enough Problems Already


women-kosel-smallBy Rabbi Moshe Averick

A group called “Women of the Wall” is in the news again. For some time now they have been demanding the “right” to conduct feminist prayer services in the women’s section of the Western Wall. This includes the wearing of tallis, tefillin, and reading from a Sefer Torah (Torah Scroll); all of which violate Orthodox Jewish standards and are contrary to normative Orthodox prayer practices. It seems that for these women it is not enough to reach out to God with other Jews at the Wall in a way that does not cause friction and controversy. They are under the delusion that they can best serve God by offending other Jews, engendering disunity and disharmony, and most important of all: getting their pictures in the newspaper and on the nightly news. Who can argue with that logic? Everyone knows that what God wants most of all is for his children is to get good press by kicking up dust and provoking others to anger.

I personally witnessed the following incident that occurred at the Wall late one night. A priest was leading a group of French tourists down to the Kotel. Emblazoned on the front of his cassock was a large, embroidered red cross. There were not that many people standing at the Kotel at such a late hour but slowly, one by one, everyone – including myself – turned around and stared at him. It was clear that at first he did not understand what was going on and then suddenly realized the problem; he nonchalantly crossed his arms over his chest and everyone went back to their business. How pathetic and perverse that these women use a place of worship – a place of worship that is precious and holy to all Jews – to advance their ideological agenda. What a shame that the Women of the Wall don’t have the understanding, decency, consideration, and manners of this priest. Allow me to elaborate further for those who still don’t understand.

The Jewish Federation of Chicago is housed in a beautiful building on Wells St. in Chicago’s Downtown/Loop area. They also have their own kitchen and a full-time chef . Actually they have two kitchens; one meat and one dairy. This is because eating or cooking milk and meat products together is a violation of Jewish dietary laws. One member of the kitchen staff is a full-time working mashgiach (kosher supervisor) certified by the Chicago Rabbinical Council, which is the official body of Orthodox Rabbis in the city. The job of the mashgiach is to make sure that all the food served is kosher by Orthodox Jewish standards. 

Question: In light of the fact that there are only a small number of Orthodox Jews who work at the Federation, why must the kitchen be kosher by Orthodox standards?

Obvious Answer: The Jewish Federation is for all Jews. Reform, Conservative, Reconstructionist, Agnostic, and even Atheist/Humanist Jews can all eat kosher food. If the food was not kosher, Orthodox Jews would be excluded and it would mean that the Federation was not for all Jews.

When I was an independent trader in the S&P pit at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange I attended the Jewish United Fund/Commodities Traders Division dinner. Although I was only one of a handful of Orthodox Jews attending, it was understood that the food would be kosher and supervised by a mashgiach from the Chicago Rabbinical Council.

Question: In light of the fact that only a few Orthodox Jews were in attendance, why was the whole event kosher?

Obvious Answer : A Jewish United Fund dinner is for all Jews. All different types of Jews are allowed to eat kosher food; if the event were not kosher Orthodox Jews would be excluded.

Question: What simple principle can be derived from these examples?

Obvious Answer that only self-absorbed publicity-hounds like Women of the Wall do not understand: The Western Wall is a place of prayer for all Jews. That means that the protocols must be acceptable by Orthodox standards or Orthodox Jews are excluded. There is no reason why a Reform, Conservative, Reconstructionist, Humanist, or Radical Feminist Jew cannot abide by these standards while praying at the Western Wall. In fact it is a golden opportunity for unity that seems to elude us in so many other spheres.

If these women have a “right” to conduct prayer services in accordance with their personal preferences, why can’t Jews for Jesus do the same thing? What about the Jewish Nudist Society whose central dogma is that the only way to get close to God is to approach him “naturally?” Should we discriminate against them also?! In their self-righteous zeal the Women of the Wall have directly violated the prohibition in the Torah of “Thou shalt not be like Korach and his followers.” This is the commandment that forbids us from provoking unnecessary controversy.

Let us pray that all who provoke unnecessary controversy, strife, contentiousness, and discord among Jews either repent and change their ways to the “ways of peace” or disappear like Korach and his followers.

{Rabbi Moshe Averick for Matzav.com Newscenter}


  1. Heresy is unpredictable.

    What is predictable is that Hashem will continue to send his righteous servants to send peace and harmony to our lives.

  2. Rabbi Averick,

    Your analogy is poor and you know that deep down. Your own words that were carefully scripted were “all of which violate Orthodox Jewish standards and are contrary to normative Orthodox prayer practices”. Even you were so careful as to not say that they violate Jewish law. As such, if they are not violating Halachah then maybe they should be able to have their service with the tolerance of civilized human beings and not be accosted humiliated

  3. I agree 100% with the substance of this article. R’ Averick’s ideas are spot on. However, the presentation and tone leave something to be desired. Calling the women of the wall self-absorbed publicity hounds may be a correct characterization of the leaders of this group, but I suspect that most of the participants merely wish to pray in a manner with which they are familiar and comfortable. Nebach, many yidden grow up with tefilla experiences that are far from traditional and have probably learned about Orthodox Judaism from an outside and biased perspective, considering us like ancient history and/or freakish abnormal people. They probably have no clue about traditional davening. To them, the traditional tefilla experience is surely foreign, probably uncomfortable, and possibly insulting. The Women of the Wall leadership have a very powerful narrative, assisted by modern feminist ideas, the mainstream liberal media, and of course the yetzer hara. Speaking to them or about them in such a harsh and condescending manner only helps their agenda.

    I must restate that R’ Avericks ideas are correct, both from a halachic perspective, as well as from the logical idea of maximum inclusivity. Your examples about Chicago Jewish Federation kashrus standards, the possibility of opening up the kosel to Jews for ‘j’, as well as the respectful actions of the priest you mentioned are wonderful. However, we as frum Jews need to be mindful of how strange our practices are to the typical non-frum person, and speak in a pleasant and positive manner. D’racheha darcha noam.



  6. I agree with the Rav. The women of the wall do not care to respect traditional sources of Judaism nor learn about it. They want to flaunt deformed Judaism and do not care who they offend.

  7. Women of the Wall are not about praying, feminists are not about women’s rights, environmentalists are not about the environment, racial-minority politicians are not about helping the racial minorities. All are mere excuses to gradually push us deep into a Socialist-Fascist abyss. You give them an inch – they demand a foot, give them a foot – they demand a yard, give them a yard – they demand a mile. This liberal gradual take-over methodology was formulated decades ago by Sal Alinsky. If we do permit a bunch of cuckoos running all over the Western Wall wearing pink taleisim – the peace won’t reign, quite the opposite – the liberal demands to control every aspect of our lives will only grow stronger, the whining louder, the rotten courts’ enforcement harsher. Don’t ever take Alinsky’s students’ claims seriously – remember who they really are behind their various masks.

  8. #6, Joe Shmo: Thank you. Yours is the only right answer here! Ditto! Why doesn’t everyone understand what is so basically clear? Excellent comment!

  9. I agree with the point that everyone should be respectful. However, the statement “They are under the delusion that they can best serve God by offending other Jews, engendering disunity and disharmony, and most important of all: getting their pictures in the newspaper and on the nightly news” is troublesome. The Yalkut Reuvaini says that Moshe Rabbeinu’s grandson became an oved avodah zara because Moshe said negative things about a whole group. Similarly, Aviya ben Recahvim was punished for a similar statement.

    To say “they are under the delusion” is dangerous. You do not know exactly what “they” think. Unfortunately, some of their actions are not proper for a bas yisroel. Similarly, some of your statements are not proper for a ben yisroel.

  10. The last Rashi in Yisro makes clear that Kvod HaMikdash is only a mashal to teach us Kvod Habriyos. That being said, it is quite obvious that embarrassing or being metzaer these women of the wall is an incalculably worse aveira than their terrible crime of putting on a talis.

    Furthermore, one who is upset about as trivial a matter as a woman putting on a talis might want to consider visiting a children’s handicapped institution or cancer ward to learn what a true tzara is.

  11. Dear Pashutah Yid,
    You write that “one who is upset about as trivial a matter as a woman putting on a tallis, etc.”. I think you entirely missed the point of the article. I did not intimate anywhere that I was upset about them putting on taleisim or tefillin. I only said that these are not Orthodox Jewish practices and that to barge into the Kotel and offend Orthodox Jews is inappropriate behavior. The Kotel is not about showcasing one’s ideology. It is about trying to connect with God. One does not need to shove Feminist ideology “in your face” in order to reach out and connect with God.

    It would be just as offensive and inappropriate if frum Jews would march at the Kotel while carrying signs denouncing women who put on tefillin. These types of expressions of beliefs simply have no place at the Kotel. Their “aveira” is not putting on a tallis, it is their glaring lack of kavod habriyos that upset me. The fact that somehow you managed to work in cancer wards and handicapped children into your comments indicates to me that you have made one big cholent about a number of issues that are really distinct and separate.

    I think your heart is in the right place in what you wrote, but not your head.

  12. Dear Anonymous,
    I certainly understand your point although I disagree. While it may be true that I don’t actually know what every single one of these women are thinking, their actions speak for themselves. The fact that after the Korach rebellion the copper fire pans became kadosh means that despite what these rebels did, there were good intentions mixed in. As we all know, the road to hell is paved with good intentions. Feminism has wrought untold misery and damage on our society. The glorification of single-motherhood and all the concomitant damage it has caused, along with rampant promiscuity and the deaths of millions of unborn children are the legacies of Feminism. The concept of marriage and family itself is now in danger in the West. I’m sorry anonymous but there is an insidious undercurrent to this whole affair. That is perhaps why the tone of my article is so sharp.

  13. Commenters – wake up, these women have an agenda and it has nothing to do with them praying. They are from the Reform movement and are a political offshoot of the feminist movement. It’s all part of watering down to almost nothing Yiddishkeit in E.Y. The head of the group Ms. Hoffman actually admitted to their goals on a BBC interview. Israel is being bombarded with all of this from all sides. The enlistment of chareidim, getting rid of the Rabbinate, voting in Lapid & his new fangled party to initiate civil marriages, divorces. Also, allowing the missionaries full access to 24-hr TV and covertly & overtly missionizing by grafting Judaism w/Xtianity. There are so many things going on and the commenters can only see things from a narrow and unsophisticated view of what is really happening. In other words, at least there was a status-quo all the years which they have now thrown to the wind. Being ignorant and uninformed of the facts leads to them succeeding, c’v, with their goals.

  14. Dear Rabbi Averick,

    While I did not mean to be metzaer you, but in the past when I saw pictures of these women being led off in handcuffs by police, with the rest of their chevra looking on dejected, it hurt me very deeply. I don’t care what their intentions, but to cart them away like criminals over something which is technically no different than hearing shofar or lulav which many women do, is the epitome of cruelty.

    Why don’t you go to a Carlebach chevra for a Shabbos, and you will see hippies, women rabbis wearing yarmulkas, chassidim, bnei torah, and modern with knitted yarmulkas with nobody batting an eyelash about how strange the other is, but each accepting the others, as everybody sings together. That is gan eden.


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