Category Archives: Kotel

Respecting Jewish holy places in Israel

One of the ideas central to Judaism is that there are places holy to Jews.

Modern Orthodoxy respects the special theological status of Eretz Yisrael, the Land of Israel, of Jerusalem, of The Temple Mount, Har Habayit, and of the Cave of the Patriarchs. Modern Orthodoxy also teaches practical, real-world respect for Klal Yisrael, and thus supports Zionism, the national liberation movement of the Jewish people.

The siddur of Modern Orthodoxy maintains traditional prayers in which Jews ask for the ingathering of the exiles back into Israel, and expresses the messianic hope for the rebuilding of the Temple in Jerusalem, explicitly calling for the return of animal sacrifices within the Temple.

Zionism is the political manifestation of the radical notion that Jews should be free. Dig that.- Chloé Simone Valdary

Ultra-Orthodox Judaism has a more chequered history on the subject:  Theologically they greatly value Eretz Yisrael, Jerusalem, The Temple Mount, and the Cave of the Patriarchs. But while theoretically talking about Klal Yisrael, they long ago separated themselves from the rest of the Jewish community – condemning secular Jews, non-Orthodox Jews, and to a significant extent, even Modern Orthodoxy. Most of ultra-Orthodoxy opposed Zionism, until the 1980s. Even today many ultra-Orthodox groups are not Zionist, and without Zionism, Jews worldwide would be cut off from our holy places.

Since rise of classical German Reform Judaism, in the 1800s, most Reform and Progressive Jews initially rejected Zionism, the land of Israel, and all of Judaism’s holy places. Only after the Holocaust did the Reform and Progressive movements adopt Zionism – and to their credit, by the time of the 1967 Six Day War, these movements had firmly become Zionist, respecting the land of Israel and city of Jerusalem. But their universalist philosophies had no place for respecting the Kotel, Temple Mount or Cave of the Patriarchs in practice opposed spiritual reflection in regards to this topic.

The siddurim of Reform/Progresive Judaism, from the 1800s until the 1940s, generally deleted all prayers for the ingathering of the exiles back into Israel, and rejected the messianic hope for the rebuilding of the Temple in Jerusalem, especially rejecting any return of animal sacrifices within the Temple. From the 1940s until today, various newer Reform prayerbooks gradually restored elements of the traditional liturgy, in various ways.

Historically, the Conservative/Masorti Jewish movement has had a deep love of Zionism and Klal Yisrael, and their Zionist theology and politics were notably more prominent than other Jewish denominations.

Conservative Judaism respects the special theological status of Eretz Yisrael and of Jerusalem. But it essentially overlooked respect for the The Temple Mount itself, Har Habayit, הַר הַבַּיִת‎‎. , and the Cave of the Patriarchs, מערת המכפלה.

The siddur of Conservative Judaism maintains traditional prayers in which Jews ask for the ingathering of the exiles back into Israel, and expresses the messianic hope for the rebuilding of the Temple in Jerusalem, while editing the text in regards to the return of animal sacrifices: While the tefilot call for a Temple rebuilt, the sacrificial services are recalled, but not asked for.

Rabbi Elazar said: Doing righteous deeds of charity is greater than offering all of the sacrifices, as it is written: “Doing charity and justice is more desirable to the Lord than sacrifice” (Proverbs 21:3).
– Babylonian Talmud, Sukkah 49

     Rabbinic views on forgiveness without Temple sacrifices

Kotel Temple Mount Jerusalem DAVID SILVERMAN and GETTY IMAGES

David Silverman/Getty Images

The Western Wall, HaKotel HaMa’aravi – or just ‘Kotel’,  הַכֹּתֶל הַמַּעֲרָבִי . This is second holiest site in Judaism. This wall is the last remaining part of a once larger retaining wall; it was built as part of the expansion of the Second Jewish Temple. It is the location closest to the Holy Temple in Jerusalem that Jewish people traditionally had access to for the past 2,000 years, and has been a site of pilgrimage and prayer ever since.

The Temple in Jerusalem, Beit HaMikdash, בֵּית־הַמִּקְדָּשׁ. The central point of ancient Jewish worship, located on the Temple Mount in the Old City of Jerusalem. These successive Jewish temples stood at this location. For 2000 years all siddurim have included prayers asking for the rebuilding of the Temple.

The Temple Mount, Har Habayit, הַר הַבַּיִת‎‎. The place where the Holy Temple in Jerusalem once stood. It’s Hebrew name literally means “Mount of the House [of God].” This is the holiest site in Judaism.

Rabbis Leon A. Morris and Rabbi Joel Levy write:

For many modern Jews, sacrifice is an anathema. Those ancient forms of worship seem primitive and outmoded. The notion that God is to be found in one central place alone is objectionable. Yet we may not want to discard the conceptual basis for the Temple — that proper human action allows God to dwell among us, while sin distances us from God’s presence.

Furthermore, the texts and liturgy centered on the Temple and its sacrifices loom large in classical Jewish sources. From the names of our daily, Shabbat and festival services, to our table rituals such as netilat yadayim, the memory of the Temple ritual remains central.

That centrality has allowed us through an expansive interpretive tradition to ascribe the importance that sacrifices once had to prayer, to study, and to eating a meal. Imbuing those more ordinary sorts of acts with sacrificial import requires keeping alive the memory of the Temple.

The interpretive and imaginative possibilities for our own age rely on the very concrete referent of the Temple as a focus of our present religious lives.

Strains within Orthodoxy paint a vivid and real picture of their messianic vision for the Temple Mount – a vision which is chillingly supremacist and anachronistic. But that should not cause us to turn our backs on the Temple as a religious image, but rather to redouble our efforts to paint a messianic vision for this country that actually reflects the values that we know to be true.

What might a Temple look like that was the focal point of our yearning for human dignity, equality and compassion?

– Haaretz, We Cannot Give Up the Western Wall to ultra-Orthodox ‘Forces of Darkness’, 6/27/16



The Original Women of the Wall – תפילת נשים בכותל

The Original Women of the Wall – תפילת נשים בכותל.

Shulamit Magnus writes that:
The organization known as “The Women of the Wall” has radically shifted gears and has a different goal than the one for which this group (the original Women of the Wall) was founded and for which it fought– and won. What they are now after is egalitarian, mixed prayer at a five-star Robinson’s Arch, at which the Reform and Conservative movements will have recognition. For this, they have given up the goal of women’s pluralistic, inclusive tefilla at the kotel [the Western Wall]. They are using this cause to advance different goals; they have given up the independent, autonomous women’s movement and are allied with those movements.

We warmly support, the right of Jews who wish to make a new prayer site at Robinson’s Arch, or anywhere else. While we think it would be a terrible, short-sighted, mistake to cede the Kotel, the historic holy site of the Jewish people, to any segment of Jewry to run as its private preserve, with the right to exclude other Jews, if Conservative and Reform Jews wish the deal, outlined above, for themselves, we wish them well.

What we reject is the right of anyone, in those movements, in the Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) establishment, or in the Government of Israel, to trample our legally recognized rights as Jewish women to full, religious expression at the Kotel.

Religious coercion is not what we normally associate with those movements, with “progressive” Judaism in general—or with feminism. But that is an intrinsic part of this deal and those negotiating it are party to that. Efforts to dismiss our position as that of a “few” individuals is a knowing distortion among many being asserted, amid patronizing, paternalistic mischaracterizations.

Basic principles are not negotiable. Upholding them is about integrity, vision, and fundamental commitments. Jews know this well. We have done it for thousands of years, which is why we are still around. We are about fresh, new visions of and for Judaism and for Jews, women and men, and respect for historic legal pronouncements that recognize the religious rights of Jewish women at the Kotel. These must be enacted fully on the ground, becoming the base for holy, new possibilities for the Jewish people in Jewish sacred space—for true wholeness– shelemut—literally, “integrity.”  To this path, we are committed, and on it, we proceed.

via The Original Women of the Wall – תפילת נשים בכותל.