The recent Simchat Torah holiday has brought out some long-simmering resentment about the unequal treatment of men and women in Orthodox synagogues. (On Simchat Torah, the Torah scrolls are taken out and are held by the men as they dance around in celebration. Women are not generally permitted to hold the Torah in Orthodox synagogues, and do not usually dance either, although there are exceptions. In addition, every man and boy is called up to read from the Torah on this day. Women and girls are not called up. This leaves the women with nothing to do but watch passively as their husbands and sons celebrate.)
A number of female bloggers have posted about this in recent days. In The Pink wrote about how proud she felt watching her four sons dance and read from the Torah. I commented that I shared her pride vis-a-vis my own son, but that I wished that our daughters could participate as well. Ilana-Davita picked up on this in her own post and noted "what a shame it is that women and girls can’t share in what takes place in the synagogue during services. I wish ways could be found to respect a tradition I respect and love without excluding half of the congregation." Leora commented that her daughter had complained “how come it’s all about men, men, men.” Baila called it "a man's holiday". A Mother in Israel and Isramom have also discussed this.
In my house, this became an issue as well. My younger daughter, who's nine years old, could not understand why she would not be allowed to hold a Torah just like her friend Zvi could. "Do the men think that I don't love the Torah the way that they do?" she asked me.
So to the Orthodox men out there- Rabbis and shul machers alike-
What's the deal, dude? There is no halachic reason that women have to just sit around in the shadows while the men spend hours celebrating. Please don't talk to me about niddah and tumah- that's just nonsense. A woman in niddah does not spread tumah to a sefer torah (men who are tameh are not obligated to go to the mikvah before touching a Torah, are they?) And tzniut is not a barrier either- that's what the good Lord invented mechitzas for. A few Orthodox shuls do allow women to dance with sefer torahs. Chabad definitely does, and their beards are nice and long. So why is this not done in all shuls? I'll tell you why. Pure laziness. The women have not complained about this too much, so it's easier to just ignore the issue and do nothing about it. But it really is inexcusable that half of the shul's congregants are just excluded this way. And don't you want your own daughters to feel the joy of the holiday the way that your sons do? Please, bring this up in your own shuls. Talk about it, and find a solution. Spread the simcha around!
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