The ceremony of circling the walls of Jericho is reenacted at the most surprising times in Jewish ritual life. Ultimately, we aspire and work to build a world in which breaking down walls is an act of love, not an act of war.
Under the wedding canopy, it is the bride in the role of “conqueror”, encircling her groom, fulfilling the utopian vision of the prophet Jeremiah (31:21). “Until when will you evade, wayward daughter, that God has created something new in the land, woman will surround man.” In the future, the Alter Rebbe explains (5572, ‘My goblet, the silver goblet’), the decree of subservience and passivity which has been woman’s curse since Eve will be overcome. Indeed, ideal marital harmony in the here-and-now can only be achieved by breaking down the walls of hierarchies between man and woman, to allow the joy that comes from the voice of the groom and the voice of the bride being fully, equally expressed.
A similar breakdown of hierarchies occurs when the celebration of the most joyous days of the year, Simchat Beit HaShoeva and Simchat Torah, evoke the parade around Jericho. The symbols of the first celebration are the aravot, the simplest of the four species, with neither taste nor scent, and water, with similar properties. On Simchat Torah, all of the Torahs are taken out of the ark, even the invalid ones, and distinctions between sage and simpleton are erased as all receive aliyot to the Torah.
Well, not quite all. While we have been blessed to see the overcoming of the curse of Eve in so many areas of our lives, there are those who still refuse to hear the mighty shofar blast calling to bring down those walls which block women’s access to the Torah. But come down they will, as surely and as completely as the walls of Jericho, and our Torah, and our community, will be all the richer for it.