Rabbi David Kalb
in support of Women of the Wall
Rabbi David Kalb, International Co-Chair of Rabbis for Women of the Wall, gave this speech at a Solidarity Minyan (Prayer Service) in Support of Women of the Wall at Town and Village Synagogue in New York on Rosh Chodesh Nisan, Tuesday March 13 2013. Some minor changes were made from the original speech to render it more understandable in print. This speech also appears on the Women of the Wall website.
Shalom and Chodesh Tov (Have A Good Month).
I am an Orthodox Rabbi and I believe that every Jew should have the right to pray at the Kotel, the Western Wall in his or her own way. I might not personally agree with the way every individual or community approaches Tefilah, Prayer. I might even disagree on Halachic, Jewish legal grounds. However, the fact that I might disagree, or that anyone else might disagree, does not take away from their right to pray at the Kotel.
This is a civil rights issue, this is a civil liberties issue and it is an issue of separation between religion and government, but it is also a spiritual issue. Sefer Bereshit (The Book of Genesis) Chapter 1, Line 27, teaches that all human beings are created B’tselem Elokim, in the Image of God. My Rebbe (My Rabbi, My Teacher) Rav (Rabbi) Yitz Greenberg teaches the following: The literal meaning of the phrase B’tselem Elokim is that human beings are pictures of God. How can this be? We know that Judaism forbids pictures of God. No matter how different any of our Synagogues may be, not one of them has a picture of God on its wall.
Let me pose a few questions. The most common picture in the world of George Washington, what is it worth? $1. The most common picture in the world of Abraham Lincoln, what is it worth? $5. The most common picture in the world of Alexander Hamilton, what is it worth? $10. Now, here is the tough question. What is a picture of God worth? Priceless or infinite value, and who are the pictures of God? We are: human beings.
Therefore, we must treat everyone with infinite dignity, even when we disagree with them about religious issues. With this teaching in mind, I state the following to my fellow Orthodox Jews in Israel. Today, thank God, there was no violence done by protesters against the Women of the Wall. However, when violence is being done by so-called Haredi (Ultra Orthodox Jews) who oppose women praying at the Kotel, it is the job of Orthodox Jews in Israel to be at the Kotel, to pray, and to put themselves between these violent protesters and these women who wish to pray to God.
I leave you with the words of the Navi (the Prophet) Zechariah, Chapter 4 Line 6, “Lo Vachyil, V’Lo V’koach, Kee Im Bruchee Amar Hashem Tziva’oat”. “Not by the might, nor by the strength, but by the spirit, says God, the Lord of Hosts”. Let us always focus on the spirit and we will be successful in our quest.
Rabbi David Kalb