Rabbi Yaakov Ariel, one of the most prominent rabbis of the Religious Zionism movement, has ruled that women must not be allowed to engage in a biblical discourse during Shabbat prayers at synagogues, defining such an act as "blasphemy."
According to the rabbi, worshippers must leave a synagogue which fails to obey his ruling and find a different place of worship.
Rabbi Ariel, who is the chief rabbi of Ramat Gan and served as president of the Tzohar rabbinical organization, was required to address the issue following a question from a reader on the Yeshiva website.
The reader wrote that in the synagogue he prays in on Shabbat, women are allowed to deliver a sermon over the Holy Ark, although "sometimes the woman is not wearing a head cover and/or has a sleeveless top… not to mention the length of her skirt and the cleavage."
'Even if they're dressed modestly'
The reader asked, "1. Is it even permitted to pray in such a quorum? 2. If it is, is it permitted to walk out during the sermon, as this may offend the woman and other people and cause blasphemy? 3. Is it permitted to say the prayers in which there is no sermon?"
Rabbi Ariel responded, "Throughout the entire prayer men and women must be separated." He stressed that "there is no room for a biblical discourse by women in the middle of the prayer, even if they are dressed modestly, and all the more so when their clothes and appearance are immodest. This is blasphemy."
He concluded by urging the reader to "go find yourself a different synagogue."
The phenomenon of women delivering sermons at synagogues affiliated with the religious public is very common overseas – and is even gaining popularity in synagogues in many religious centers in Israel.
Rabbi Ariel has strongly slammed the phenomenon of women being called up to read from the Torah in synagogues, ruling that "the public is not permitted to swallow the pride and dignity of the Torah."