Can’t Pray With Them. Can’t Pray Without Them.

W: Dear Men. We are Jewish women. We would like to pray to HaShem. We want to praise Him and His creation and thank Him and ask for blessings for ourselves and for you, and for our children and grandchildren and parents. Can we pray with you?

M: Yes, of course you can pray to HaShem with us. Praying together with a minyan is how all Jews should pray. There is that space way over there. You may join us as long as you sit where we can’t see you. And as long as you are quiet.

W: We love HaShem and want to connect with Him. You say words of prayers out loud. You whisper and sing and shout and move in joy. We want to do those things, too.

M: Women are made differently and have different needs. You do not need to pray like that. You may whisper quietly. Your voices are bad for us to hear. Your voices would disturb us.

W: We would like to sing, because we have grown up with you and we learned how to pray by watching you. We want to do what you do. Your way of praying is also our way.

M: You may not do that. You are not men.

W: You have a beautiful garment to wear that helps you focus on your prayer and helps you feel holy. We would like something to help us in our prayer. Can we have a special garment, if we pray quietly and you do not see us?

M: That is only for men. It would be wrong for you to wear it. You may not copy men. You are not good, quiet, proper women if you want something to help you feel holy.

W: But you asked us to sit over here and pray quietly. So you will not hear us or see us wearing it.

M: We would know if you are wearing something like that. It would distract and upset us.

W: How would it distract you? You asked us to sit somewhere you would not see or hear us.

M: We would know. We would still look. And we would see.

W: Can you refrain from looking?

M: We can’t help ourselves. It is your job as women to help us not notice you. That is how you can be holy, by helping us not see or hear you.

W: Can we go to a different room to pray? If we are in a different room, you will not see us. You will not hear us. We will not distract you. Then we can sing and pray out loud and wear special garments that help us feel holy.

M: It is wrong of you to separate yourselves from us. You must stay with us so that we can separate ourselves from you the correct way.

W: We are Jews who want to pray and sing to HaShem. You say we cannot do that with you. You say we cannot do that without you. How should we pray?

M: You must pray like women, not like men.

W: How do women pray?

M: If you were good women, you would not want to pray to HaShem out loud and sing and dance and move in joy. You would not want to wear a special garment to help you feel holy. Good women do not want or need those things. If you want those things, there is something wrong with you.

W: How do women pray?

M: Good women are filled with holiness from cooking and cleaning and raising children and pleasing men. Only bad women want to pray like men.

W: How do women pray?

M: Good women want to sit quietly near where men pray, without a special garment, without making noise, without disturbing the men. If you are not good women, we do not care whether or where or how you pray. Only that you do not bother us with it.

About the Author
Jennifer Kotzker Geretz grew up in Pensacola, Florida and currently lives in West Orange, New Jersey with her husband, Rabbi Daniel Geretz, and her children. Jennifer is a first year rabbinical student at Yeshivat Maharat, the first and only institution in the United States to ordain Orthodox women as clergy.
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