“את יהודיה?” The elderly women in black questioned me as I FaceTimed my boyfriend, “Are you Jewish?” I was showing him the Kotel wordlessly as I departed the shroud of its comfort. The eternal bricks of the Western Wall lit up behind her as women washed their hands to my left. “כן,” I answered uneasily, “Yes.” ״ואת לובשת ככה?״, “And you are dressed like that?”
I paused my conversation. The Hebrew bubbling at my lips with the Chutzpah that makes the language flow with ease. I retorted with flushed cheeks and rapid Hebrew, “My relationship is between Hashem and I. People like you are the reason why there is a Kotel behind me and not a Beit Hamikdash.”
As she continued to berate me, I was steadfast. Couldn’t she see? At least I was davening. ״אבל אני מתפללת״, I said firmly. A crowd was growing. Another woman shook her head at my personal Mussar magnet. A Kotel staff member attempted to ease my frustration. My boyfriend tried not to laugh. I rolled my eyes.
Only a few moments earlier, my body was cleaved to the stone wall touched by thousands of my brethren. Only a few seconds previously, I had shut my eyes wishing to feel something-anything. Only shortly before, I was wishing for the days in which I cried on the Weeping Wall. No tears came. No emotions rose. No special Tefillot were uttered. I felt completely and totally alone.
Perhaps, the lack of spiritual enlightenment was due to the frustration I’ve had in Orthodoxy. The nights I’ve sworn it off vehemently. The rabbis I’ve patiently listened to fault women for sexual abuse as I’ve painfully incised my palms with half-moons. The חלוני (secular) family I’ve gone to for Shabbat who were shocked at my religious tolerance. I was angry at the system. The pain boiled within me like the Hebrew that comes in moments of impatience.
This week is Parshat Pinchas. I’ve always learned his anger is what made him great. His zealousness fashioned him into a קנאי, a zealot for G-d. That same flame that burns negatively in the pit of my stomach, empowered Pinchas to positively illuminate G-d’s magnificence. That spark left an impression on my Sabba, who named himself Pinchas when he joined the Palmach. The name lit his heroism like the torch of its biblical origin when he rescued Bulgarian ships in Palyam.
It wasn’t until I firmly grimaced and repeated, “אני מתפללת,”(I pray) that I had an epiphany. Our relationship with G-d exceeds any bias that throws a wrench in its beauty. It transcends any community ignorant to its promise. It supersedes any prejudice. It is the most beautiful relationship in the world, and it is privately acquired.
Pinchas recognized the unique power of a G-dly connection. He knew that even if the leader of the generation wouldn’t protest, he would pick up his spear. He would fight. He would stand up for his beliefs. He would become a priest, not because his father was, but because he independently acquired Divinity.
The world can tell me that my knees aren’t covered, and therefore, I should not pray. Men can tell me, I have a womb, and therefore, I cannot learn. Boys can patronize me and say because I am female, I can not be an engineer. They can throw sticks and stones. They can be sexual and lewd in public. But, it is incumbent upon us, to fight their negativity. To remember, that even if the whole world doesn’t stand with us, G-d does. His piece of trust, His connection within us, is a piece of infinity. It has no bounds.
Certainly, it is not boxed with the labels our exodus have attributed it: Modox, Chareidi, Daati-Lite, Reform, Conservative, Halachically Egalitarian, or any other configuration that removes uniformity of Jew from our Judaic practices.
If our fights, our frustrations, our impatience, our tears are for G-d, they cannot possibly be in vain.