Letters to the Editor

Shafran claim on Wall illegitimate

Rabbi Avi Shafran’s commentary, “Halachah must rule at Western Wall” (AJP, 1/11/13 ) can only be seen as part of his continuing effort to hijack our traditions. Assigning himself to be the supreme halachic authority and protector of our traditions, Shafran informs us that women and religious services other than Orthodox services have no standing at the Western Wall, the most sacred of Jewish sites.

In a single sentence in his commentary, he manages to reveal his ignorance of Jewish tradition and religious practice, and, possibly, his attempt to commit fraud. According to Shafran, “The Kosel is a remnant of the courtyard wall of the Second Holy Temple, where ‘Orthodox’ services were the only ones there were.” Indeed, every Sunday school kid knows that priests — and not rabbis — held sway in the Temple; and that their service was built on animal sacrifice and not prayer. The Rabbinic period was to follow several hundred years later, but Orthodox rabbis and the Orthodox order of service didn’t appear until the 18th-19th century, approximately 1,600 years later.

So what is the Shafran article about? Whatever else it may be, it must be seen as R. Shafran’s illegitimate claim to authority over Jewish tradition at HaKotel Ma’aravi. Further, it must be seen as an unacceptable attempt to change Jewish tradition by exploiting, intimidating and dividing the Jewish people. We must resist wrong and wrong-headed efforts to divide us and to drive Jews out of our historic family.

—Joel Novak