A few days ago another women praying at the Western Wall in Jerusalem was detained by police. This time it was not about how she was praying so much as it was what she was wearing. The woman involved, Deborah Houben, was wearing her tallit which resembled a man’s tallit. She was also, apparently, wearing it draped over her shoulder similar to the way a man would wear his tallit.
First of all, I’d venture to say that a man wears his tallit draped on his shoulder because it’s long and gets in the way or using his arms. It is not a religious statement but a practical one. Secondly, we are now having a discussion of the details of the fashion of wearing a tallit. Good thing we didn’t waste that precious time praying to God about hunger, poverty, unprotected children, terrorism in the world - indeed worrying about how a woman drapes a prayer shawl is certainly the way to go.
The Rabbi of the Western Wall seems to be at odds with the police over this one. He said it is illegal for any woman to wear any tallit and that the police should arrest all the women at the wall who are wearing a tallit. The police understood the law to pertain only to the issue of a ‘man’ tallit versus a ‘woman’ tallit.
I find it ironic that if any non-Jew visits the Western Wall it would be unthinkable to ask them to remove any religious jewelry that reflected their religion. We would never disrespect another faith or another person in such a way. Yet, we do not hesitate to do this to each other. I can’t help but think of the Sages warning that 2,000 years ago we lost everything because of ‘baseless hatred’.
These same Sages taught us that when we are aware of injustice we must react. If we say nothing then we have in fact said something, since silence is agreement.