Oh Yvonne Fein, you can do a lot better better than that pithy response

Someone just sent me your response to what I wrote. (I will reproduce it below) I understand that a mother, like a lion, looks after her cubs; one has a natural inclination to protect, but I can assure you that:

a) It didn’t take me long to write; and

b) I have read gone with the wind; and

c) I have four University degrees, including a PhD, so please don’t place me in your preconceived bed pan of medieval street sweepers; and

d) I have met you and found you pleasant and have actually written a piece in Generation which I believe you were involved with; and

e) A cousin of Yaron is a cousin of mine.

If you want to argue facts or claim I have been unkind, then I’m all ears.

Failing that, enjoy your Matza Balls (if you are allowed them … I have to wait till the last day)

My goodness, Cousin of Yaron. It was such a pleasure to read your response to Alex’s post. The fact that it was only slightly shorter than “Gone With the Wind” (that’s a secular book you may have been forbidden to read) is a clear indicator of how much you respect her thoughts and ideas. Taking so
much time to reply – and I’m a writer so I know these things -must have
taken you hours. We are indeed privileged to share your acumen and erudition. I hope there’s more on the way. Also, if you feel compelled to reply, please know that I will not re-engage. I’ve said my piece.
(Disclosure: I am Mother of Alex.)

Women’s Prayer Protests at Western Wall Are Just Childish Provocation

[Hat tip to MT]

This is from the Forward. I’ve always enjoyed Hillel Halkin’s articles. I think I used to read them in the Jerusalem Report. Article reproduced below.

I am, in my religious behavior, somewhere between what Israelis would call ahiloni or “secular” Jew and a masorti or “traditional” one. My wife and I light candles on Shabbat, we celebrate the Jewish holidays with our children and grandchildren, and now and then, for one reason or another, I find myself in a synagogue. (Preferably, an Orthodox one. It’s the only kind I know how to pray in.) On the whole, though, the religious customs and rituals that I don’t observe vastly outnumber those that I do. And of course, I don’t bother going around with my head covered, as observant Jews do, unless it’s raining.

Why am I telling you this? Because in certain places — on a rare visit to the Western Wall in Jerusalem, for example — I’ll put on a kippah even though I resent having to do it. As a Jew and an Israeli, I feel that the Wall is as much mine as anyone else’s; being forced to place a round piece of fabric on my head, or the ridiculous cardboard substitute that’s handed to me if I’ve forgotten to bring one, irritates me.

Why do I have to meet religious standards that aren’t mine for the right to stand in a public place that resonates with my people’s history and that I respond to with genuine emotion?

Why am I telling you this? Because if someone were, improbably, to come to me and say, “Listen, next week there’s going to be a demonstration of bare-headed Jewish men at the Wall; we’re going to pray and sing and keep coming back every month until our rights are recognized — and we’d like you to join us,” I’d politely tell him to get lost.

First, though, I might say: “What kind of stupidity is that? I don’t like having to wear a kippah at the Wall any more than you do. But we have the whole world to go around bareheaded in — why insist on doing it in the one place where it’s going to offend the sensibilities of hundreds or thousands of people and perhaps even cause a riot? If you need to go to the Wall, just cover your head and don’t indulge in childish provocations.”

The Women of the Wall, as they’re called, are childish provocateurs. They have all of Israel in which to pray with tefillin and tallitot. Doing it demonstratively at a site that is and always has been heavily frequented by observant Jews who find the spectacle of women in traditionally male ritual garb repugnant has nothing to do with religious freedom. It has nothing to do with any sane kind of feminism. It has nothing to do with rational political protest. It has to do only with the narcissism of thinking that one’s rights matter more than anyone else’s feelings or the public interest.

This is a narcissism that’s typical of our me-first age. An Orthodox Jew is hurt by how I behave in his presence? That’s his problem. (If he were black, gay or transsexual, of course, it would be very much my problem — but that’s another story.) Large numbers of Jews coming to pray at the Wall have their experience spoiled by me? That’s their problem. I’m besmirching an Israeli government that’s simply trying to keep the peace by portraying it throughout the world as reactionary and misogynist? That’s its problem. I have my rights! And indeed, the Women of the Wall do have their rights, because Israel’s Supreme Court has ruled that there’s no legal hindrance to their singing and dancing at the Wall in tallitot and tefillin all they want. In democratic countries, we all have our rights. I have the right to stand with a group of evangelicals outside a Catholic Church during Sunday mass and sing Baptist hymns. I have the right to make insulting remarks to a woman walking in my ultra-Orthodox neighborhood with bare arms. I have the right to publish a dumb cartoon making fun of the Prophet Muhammad in a country with millions of Muslims. These rights are important. The police and courts should protect them. But does that mean I have to flaunt every one of them?

The Women of the Wall believe that the cause of Judaism can be advanced by abolishing all traditional Jewish gender distinctions. Many Jews agree with them. Many (of whom I happen to be one) do not. The argument is a legitimate one, but the Western Wall should not be its venue. It isn’t, despite what many American Jews seem to think, Selma or Montgomery. No woman who tries to turn it into that can really care about it as much as she pretends to.

Hillel Halkin is an author and translator who has written widely on Israeli politics and culture and was the Forward’s Israel correspondent from 1993 to 1996.

Eruv Tavshilin and the man in the house

Many modern husbands perform more domestic duties in the house than their fathers; certainly more than their grandfathers. There are exceptions, of course, but I am generalising. Even over time, I am pretty sure I do a little more now than I did in the earlier days of marriage. To be open and honest, I’m not a paragon of domestic help nor would I claim to be. I do much more than my father, no doubt, but my sisters’ husbands lend their hand more than me. At this stage of my hoary existence, I can claim that I clear the table each night after eating dinner, depositing any dishes into the dishwasher, and I do put away those items which can go directly into the fridge or a cupboard.

On שבת I become particularly domesticated. Friday nights I’m very quickly removing plates etc after each course and rallying others to assist (we’ve divided up courses between most of the children (my eldest daughter usually has some reason she can’t take part :-). This is repeated during the day, unless we have guests, when the expectation is that I’m transformed into a genial socialite who sits relaxed at the head of the table like the proverbial king of the castle. My more recent conversion to the cause of שבת domestication, has also attracted a good deal of skepticism. She who must be obeyed, together with progeny will claim that my motivation is flawed because my aim is to simply lessen the restful meandering and conversation mandated for a מנוחה oriented שבת meal, through targeted activities designed to hasten the rendezvous between my head and the hallowed pillow. I will admit that שבת is a great opportunity for me to avoid fiddling with my iPhone or iPad and all that whirs around us, and that the somnolent excitement concomitant with propping up in bed with a great book or ספר is quickly extinguished by the dull and thunderous drone of my expected snoring.

Now, contrary to the triumphant Meshichist who greeted me on Rosh Hashana with his finger-pointing to the Mikva, as if to intimate that as a non-believer I ought to consider a dip in the Mikva on Erev Rosh Hashana, I’ve always gone to the Mikva and have done so all my life. Greeting my entry to the Mikvah, however, was the ubiquitous sign beseeching us (men) to remember to perform (“do” is the usual verb) Eruv Tavshilin. It seemed like everywhere I went, there was another sign, an email reminder from a shule, or a klapp on the bimah all with the same message “Don’t forget to make/do Eruv Tavshillin”

Not withstanding that I’m arguably more domesticated now, as above, and not discounting the impact of “Master Chef” and other such programs that have attracted the interest of men to the culinary art of food preparation (once known by the more derogatory term “cooking”), I have never understand why in our day and age, Eruv Tavshilin is not performed by women.

Picture the scene, if you will. The עקרת הבית is busily making the finishing touches to delectable Yom Tov treats. The house is awash with people rotating in and out of the shower before donning their Yom Tov finery. The husband breathlessly comes back from work just before the clock strikes “Yom Tov”, brandishing flowers and/or the halachically mandated gift for his wife (that’s another story/saga) and he needs to “remember Eruv Tavshilin“. Or, if his wife is that ever diligent frumak, just as he steps into the shower, he hears that oh so gentle but thunderous voice innocently asking “have you done Eruv Tavshilin yet … it’s nearly Yom Tov”.

I don’t understand. It’s all about mixing up (Eruv) the preparation of some food which will be eaten on Shabbos with food that is being made for Yom Tov, so as to enable a halachic device designed to allow the cooking on Yom Tov for the שבת that is immediately to follow. Who is cooking? Who is mixing? Who will cook? Who will mix? What on earth has this to do with the husband?!? I surmise, and will readily accept more learned explanations, that the husband was roped into this job because in past times, women were largely uneducated and could not be expected to make non rote ברכות. But times have changed. I looked at this issue briefly and asked around and I haven’t had a good answer about why it should not be one of those religious acts that is the responsibility of the wife and not the husband. Hey, I haven’t even heard feminist types protesting that men have usurped this ברכה from their domain in another incursion of male domination. Why can’t women be מוציא the house to eat food prepared for שבת? After all, she is the one who does all the hard work.

My אשת חיל has always made the ברכה in our house and not thought anything of it until one fine evening surrounded by her fellow Tehillim Zoogers, some were moaning about how their husbands were prone to forget. Coming home, she “gently” suggested that perhaps in addition to me clearing the table, perhaps it is me who should be doing Eruv Tavshilin after all. I tried, in good faith, to argue that I felt (sincerely) that it was her role, and that my playing a part in this day and age was really artificial. From the twinkle in her eye, I am not sure I convinced her. Well, on Erev Rosh Hashana I stood next to her while she did it, and said “I’m happy to do it. I’m here … look … but I really think it’s not as real when the husband does it. I’m not sure if she believes me, but I think I’m getting there 🙂

And yeah, the Rebeztin should be able to do it for those who forget instead of the Rabbi too …

Oh, of course, in America (hat tip to anon) they have taken this to a new “level”

For the domesticated women
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