These and Those

Musings from Students of the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem

Singing and Kol Shofar at Women of the Wall

Posted on March 13, 2013 by Annie Matan Gilbert

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Singing and dancing at the Kotel

Singing and dancing at the Kotel

This Rosh Hodesh was my second time attending Rosh Hodesh davenning at WoW. Last month, I was glad to check it out and feel like I was part of something important but between the cameras and security, I struggled to feel like I was davenning.

This Rosh Hodesh, two amazing things happened. 1) I got to sing shacharit and hallel liturgy with gusto, led by Pardes alumna Lauren Henderson and Joanna Selznick Dulkin. I realized that for me, singing was important medicine in healing my relationship with the Kotel. From my very first visit, when I was 16, I have longed to sing praises to God at the Kotel. Singing is how I express myself in prayer most openly. Raising my voice in harmony with the Women of the Wall, especially singing Min HaMetzar, I felt so present with the narrowness of our situation and my prayers felt so real.

All of this is not to say that our davenning went without incident. While no one was arrested, thank God, there were Haredi women screaming at us that our prayers were an insult to God and calling us names. Some of them planted themselves in front of our group and chanted tehillim at the top of their voices, in an effort to drown us out. And when they were not chanting their prayers, they were shushing ours.

And on the men’s side… I was astounded to hear someone blowing a shofar to drown out our Shma. The thought occurred to me that it must be a sin to try to block someone’s prayers from reaching God. (I don’t believe one can succeed at such a thing.) I was upset and appalled at the ingenuity of the method. But then I got to thinking about the shofar and had my second amazing moment.

2) Kol shofar – the voice of the shofar. I remembered a teaching that on the yamim noraim, the shofar is God’s voice crying into our world. And suddenly, I recalled these shofar blasts on Rosh Hodesh not as an interruption in our prayer, but as God’s voice, either praying along with us or crying out with us.

I am still marveling at the healing of both of these experiences.

I realized Monday night that I only have a few more months here when I will have the luxury of showing up at the Kotel, wearing my kippa and tallit, singing my praise in blessing and protest. I made a commitment to myself that night that even though it makes for a really early morning for me (and I am not a morning person) I need to get up and show up to support this cause. And then, I showed up and got to sing and struggle. And now, I find myself looking forward to next month’s gathering with joy that even overshadows the sense of commitment and duty. Who knows what blessings will find me in Iyyar?