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Standing with Our Sisters at the Kotel

Standing with Our Sisters at the Kotel

Shelly Lindauer is the Executive Director of Women of Reform Judaism. This post first appeared at RJ.org.

In this week's Torah portion, Ki Tisa, the Israelites begin to worry that Moses will not return from Mt. Sinai, and in
their fear encourage Aaron to create an idol, a molten calf.  Aaron said
to them "Men, take off the gold rings that are on the ears of your wives,
your sons, and your daughters, and bring them to me."

According to Pirkei de Rabbi Eliezer 45, the women heard about the making of
the Golden Calf and refused to give their jewelry to their husbands. The
women argued that the molten image was an abomination, and they would not
participate. God rewards the women with a holiday, Rosh Chodesh,
acknowledging their independence, wisdom, and piety. Rabbi Eliezer tells us the
women were to observe more new moons in this world than the men, and in the
next world they would be renewed like the moon.

Men and women have different responses to stress, and reacted quite differently
to the anxiety generated by waiting for Moses to return. While men tend to have
a "fight or flight" reaction, women - in the words of psychologist
Shelley E. Taylor - approach stressful situations with a "tend and
befriend" response. During times of stress women take care of
themselves and their children (tending) and form strong group bonds
(befriending).

I felt this extreme
difference in response while praying at the Kotel with Women of the Wall two weeks
ago. As Lynn described in her letter after the services, the group with
Women of the Wall stood in the back of the women's section of the Kotel, and
began to pray and sing.  Men across the dividing wall shouted and punched
their fists in the air. I had a sense they were circling and were about to
strike. In response to the yelling, the women in our group moved closer
together, feeling the comfort of each other and the protective shelter of our
group. While it is true that a few women also shouted at us in a very
disturbing manner, what I felt about these women was incredulity that they
could treat other women in such a degrading and compassionless way. I'm
sure there were women at Sinai, too, who willingly handed over their gold for
the making of the Golden Calf.

As we know in sisterhood-land, women are the heart and soul of many
congregations. We are the caregivers and the nurturers, the first to offer
help and assistance to any in need. We advocate for social justice, and
protect not only our own, but all those less fortunate. We create special
bonds, and feel an innate connection to other women. In these times of
economic and social stress, let us not forget that we must stand up for that
which we know to be right, as did our sisters at Sinai. And, as we move closer
to each other for comfort and support, we are also moving closer to God.

Published: 3/09/2010

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