Sunday, September 23, 2007
Something Positive About Israel For A Change
One of my steady readers, "gbachrach", suggests that I publish something good about Israel for a change. As usual, he's got a good point. So here goes: Yesterday, I went, for the first time on a major holiday, to an orthodox egal minyan (translation: an orthodox prayer service in which women are given the maximum participatory role permitted, according to a few orthodox scholars today.) What does this mean, "takhlis", as they say? Well, women read from the Torah, and are called up to the Torah; they recite psalms and incidental prayers ("pisuke dezimra," "kabbalat shabbat," "kol nidre", etc.), and perform the task of "gabbaiyot", running the service. Remember, this is an orthodox service -- mehitzah/partition and separate seating for the sexes. Needless to say, most of the people were young, with a lot of children, bli ayin hara. Well, it took me a while to get used to it, and I am still not entirely used to it. But everybody was very serious (as befits Yom Kippur); the Torah reading was excellent, and, surprise, very few American accents. This is an Israeli minyan, unlike Shirah Hadasha, the trail-blazer orthodox egal minyan, which appeals to a more American and Carlebach crowd (I am sorry that I am speaking in tounges for my non-Jewish readers.) The major innovations for orthodox Jewish women over the past thirty years have originated in Israel -- granted, because of Americans living in Israel, but still in Israel. With all my criticism of religion in Israel (my hard drive is too small to contain it all), this has been a blessing. A recent book by Daniel Sperber, Israel Prize winner in Jewish History, well-known and accepted modern orthodox figure, and brilliant scholar -- contains a cogent defence, well-grounded in the sources, for change of this sort. If readers express interest, I will give a short precis of his book. Orthodox egal is not for everybody. Most of the orthodox will find it odd; on the left, they won't think it is egalitarian enough. But there is a "market niche" in communities of modern orthodox Jews with highly educated women for this sort of thing, and I think it will be the wave of the future for some modern orthodox synagogues. "Torah will come forth from Zion and the Word of the Lord from Jerusalem" the Bible says. On rare occasions, that is true -- and this is one of them. P.S. For details about the minyan, you can contact me off-blog.