Kathy Shaidle's titles! Our bulging appropriation files often reference her "From Our Bulging [ ] File." Here, she reminds us "They Invented Chess, You know..."(She's a poet, you know...)
A provocative Islamic innovation occurred this spring at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, the peacock-ornamented multicultural bastion of ECUSA in northern Manhattan.
On March 18, 2005, for the first time on record in the history of Islam, a woman led a mixed congregation of men and women in Friday prayers. The imam was Dr. Amina Wadud, an American Muslim of Indian origin who is professor of Islamic studies at Virginia Commonwealth University, and the author of the book The Qur'an and the Woman: Rereading the Holy Text from a Female Perspective.
The main organizer of the event was Asra Nomani, an Indian-born Muslim and an author and former Wall Street Journal reporter who initiated the Muslim Women's Freedom Tour project that educates Muslim women and encourages them to demand their rights. Also behind the Friday prayers was the American Muslim organization MuslimWakeup!, which advocates a tolerant interpretation of Islam. The Friday prayers were held at St. John the Divine Episcopal Church in New York City, after several mosques had refused to host it, due to threats by extremists.
Memri goes on to report the convoluted consideration by Islamic jurisprudentialists of the impossibility of determining when a woman is far enough from pretty that she could involve herself in leading Friday prayers without inflaming the fantasies of male worshippers. (Apparently no age or deformation is safe.) We were relieved that they disavowed the "backward" centuries in which they caged the woman and forbade her to leave [her home] to pray.
We here are not unsympathetic on the issue, noticing that the state of mind for public worship is fragile as it slows to a vulnerable and unguarded pulse. Having entertained similar caging-and-forbidding fantasies in the context of toddler key-jangling, pew-kicking, and book-hurling, it finally occurred to us:
That's what monasteries are for.
A quiet, liturgically-accomplished monastery is pretty appealing after several minutes of a scenario juxtaposing oblivious parent and shrieking infant.
But in public worship, in the 21st century, we're one of and at the mercy of our fellow demos. Trade-offs. Live with it.
"If the issue is rights, why aren't the Christians demanding women's rights? Have you ever seen a church led by a woman, with a woman as its pastor? Has there ever been a female pope? Has there ever been a single woman among the cardinals who choose the pope?... In the sermons by women in the East and the West, over the past two centuries, from the Renaissance to date, I have never seen a woman claim that leading prayers is one of women's demands…
Uh, oh, someone's been leading an ecclesiastically sheltered life. Who's going to tell them? They might want to have another chat with the USA Episcopal Church, who know a little about women's ordination. How's the whole gender-expanding experimental thingy working out for y'all?
Spanish Muslim clerics, in consultation with others in Libya and
Morocco, have issued a fatwah against bin Laden and al Qaeda. We, and resources available for immediate consultation, remain vague on
its meaning or reach. This Telegraph article contextualizes the matter somewhat, after it came to our attention in the Austin American Statesman:
The fatwa said that, according to the Quran, "the terrorist acts of
Osama bin Laden and his organization al Qaeda . . . are totally banned
and must be roundly condemned as part of Islam."
In compliance with the exacting description by 12th-century Torah scholar Maimonides in the Mishna Torah, steps have been taken in Israel to convene a historiclegalbody, dormant for 1,600 years.
The rabbis were asked to prepare topics they thought the Sanhedrin should deal with:
* uniform kashrut [dietary kosher] certification; * the precise length of the biblical cubit (with ramifications on many issues, including [the size of Noah's Ark and] the location of the altar on the Temple Mount); * unemployment; * assisting Anousim from Spain and Portugal and others whose ancestors were forced to convert; * lost Jewish tribes from other parts of the world * unifying Sephardic and Ashkenazi practices on issues such as prayer liturgy, kitniyot (legumes) on Passover, and glass utensils; * the Sanhedrin's decision-making procedures; * foreign workers; * unifying the religious parties; * restoring the Davidic monarchy; * an ethical code for Israel's army (as opposed to the present one, which is based largely on secular sources); * the establishment of regional "small Sanhedrins;" * the long-missing "t'chelet" blue color; * sending delegations around the country to hear people's concerns, and much more.
A Talmudic tradition* states that Elijah the Prophet will present himself before a duly-ordained Sanhedrin when he announces the coming of the Messiah.
*Eruvin 43b; Maharatz Chajas ad loc; Rashash to Sanhedrin 13b.
Boruch Nachson is a Chassidic artist living in Chevron, Israel. Detail, Jerusalem in its Glory, Acrylic on canvas.