Elyse Goldstein, in her recent piece, “Why I’m Not Fasting on Tisha B’Av,” makes a number of thoughtful points regarding the upcoming national day of Jewish mourning. I commend her for her principled and intentional living and would like to respond with my own take on some of her themes. She says:
I’m not fasting because the oldest symbol of that so-called “unity” — the Western Wall — is a battleground for religious pluralism, and I imagine that if the kohanim were still around, they would be on the side of the Haredim, not on the side of those women who, like me, want to be full participating Jews there with tallit, tefillin, and Torah.
I’m not fasting because I’m afraid of what it would look like for women if we actually rebuilt the Temple.
The Talmud says that the reason the Temple was destroyed – one of the major occasions we mourn on this day – is baseless hatred. And that all the while we still engage in it, a new Temple cannot be rebuilt. So I feel that as long as there is infighting, at the Kotel or anywhere else, we MUST mourn, we MUST fast, we must demonstrate that it is not OK. The Temple I envision, that I have learned about, is a Temple of unity for all, where both men and women achieve spiritual fulfillment and joy in varied yet deeply engaging ways. The Temple I pray for is the one in which there are no Haredim, no secular, no men vs. women, no feminists vs. traditionalists. If this sounds utopian and messianic it’s because that’s exactly the miracle I am praying for.