Tallits Bring Out the Worst In People

This Haaretz story makes my head explode.

Police arrest woman for wearing prayer shawl at Western Wall 

Police on Wednesday arrested a woman who was praying at the Western Wall in Jerusalem, due to the fact that she was wrapped in a prayer shawl (tallit).

The woman was visiting the site with the religious women’s group “Women of the Wall” to take part in the monthly Rosh Hodesh prayer.

Police were called to the area after the group asked to read aloud from a Torah scroll.

Police said they arrested the women in the wake of a High Court ruling, which states that the public visiting the Western Wall is obligated to dress in accordance with the site’s dress code.

Western Wall Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz said the act was a provocation meant to turn the wall into a fighting ground. “We must distance politics and disagreement from this sacred place,” Rabinowitz said.

Chairman of the women’s group, Anat Hoffman, said that this is the first time in the history of Israel that a woman has been arrested because she wrapped herself in a tallit and read from the Torah.
Rabbi Gilad Kariv, associate director of Israel’s reform movement, said that all over the world women are entitled to wear the tallit, and only in the land of the Jews are they excluded from the social custom and even arrested for praying.

Israeli police should be ashamed of themselves,” Kariv said.

Last week Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, Israel’s chief Sephardi rabbi, said during his weekly sermon that the women in the feminist movement are “stupid” and act the way they do out of a selfish desire for equality, not “for heavens’ sake.”

Rabbi Ovadia also said about the groups’ custom to pray at the Western Wall that “there are stupid women who come to the Western Wall, put on a tallit (prayer shawl), and pray,” and added that they should be condemned.

Emphasis mine.

Maybe I’m naïve, but I never thought wearing a tallit could really be this controversial. Why is it such a big deal if a woman wears a tallit, especially if she’s modestly dressed? The lady is on the other side of the mehitza (separating wall) from any guys, so I just don’t understand how she could possibly be distracting or really upsetting in any way.

I can’t even begin to respond to Rav Ovadia Yosef’s comments. I have never been as disappointed in a religious leader as I am right now. How someone can be so brilliant and so absolutely clueless and ignorant is mind boggling to me.

I also want to mention that when I brought up women wearing a tallit on a Jewcy post a few years back the post garnered 106 comments, including a memorable one which accused my editors and me of being part of a “ruling cuntocracy.” Seriously, what is it about tallitot that makes people so crazy?

Discover More

Kippah, Tallit and Tefillin

The clothing of Jewish prayer.

The Tallit: Spiritual Significance

The commandment to attach fringes to garments was invested with deep theological meaning. 

Ask the Expert: Is It OK to Wear a Tallit Outside of Morning Services?

Is the Jewish prayer shawl reserved only for times of prayer?