It was Rosh Chodesh, the first of the Jewish month, a holiday that has special meaning for Jewish women, so I joined a group of women to go and pray at the wall. It was very early in the morning 7:00 am, we went at that time as to not be too disturbing. We gathered together, wrapped in our prayer shawls and we prayed. When it came time for Hallel, the songs of praise, our voices rose in song. Not loud, but apparently loud enough to invite others to come and chastise us for daring to sing at the Kotel, a woman ripped the tallis off of one of my female rabbinic colleagues. A man cried out from the men’s side of the wall asking us how we dared to pray in this way. It was not a pleasant experience.
The prayers that I had so looked forward to had somehow turned into a protest. The next morning, a photo of our group was on the cover of HaAretz, the most widely read newspaper in Israel. As a female rabbi, I have always struggled with my Judaism while in Israel. Here is the only place on earth where one can live a completely Jewish life, on Jewish time, with ease. . . the only place you won’t have to explain yourself and your holidays to your neighbors because they are national holidays. But at the same time, as a woman, my validity as a rabbi is challenged constantly, and as a Reform Jew, my status as “religious” was laughable to the masses.
The Women of the Wall, is a group of women who pray at the Wall, the most holy place for our people on earth. The scene on that February day was not the last. At the beginning of Rosh Hodesh Kislev 2009, Nofrat Frenkel was arrested for wearing a tallit at the kotel. Jewish women around the world are asked to unite on Rosh Hodesh Tevet in support and solidarity for the Women of the Wall.
As we celebrate the survival of the Jewish spirit in the face of tyranny, include this special prayer:
Let My Voice be a Hammer
Mattathias was just a man,
A man who saw that if he did not stand up, no one else would
Judith was just a woman,
Who saw that if she did nothing, her people would be destroyed.
Both refused to give up, both used what little they had, attacked by using cunning, guerrilla warfare.
And so it was that one woman was able to save her town, and one family was able to save our people –
From loss of life –
From loss of spirit –
From forgetting what it means to be Israel
Being Israel means to struggle and fight
Being Israel means standing up when others would push us down
Being Israel means hope in the darkest of times – like a menorah in the window
Being Israel means speaking out against tyranny, against prejudice,
It means letting your voice be the mouth piece of God
Rising above fear
So, God, let my voice be a hammer
Let it break down walls,
Build homes and community,
Strike out against injustice
Let it be a comforting tool for my sisters and those who are weak
Let it smash indifference
Let it ring the eardrums of those who would silence us
Because I am Israel.
I struggle with the divine,
I will not be kept quiet
Let my voice be a hammer
Like Mattathias and Hertzl, like Judith, and Nofrat
Used by permission of author