Mechitza: The Partition

by Mel Glenn (Brooklyn, NY)

Some call me a wall of division;
some call me a wall of unity.
It depends on your point of view,
literally, from where you sit.
But I have no use for labels,
no use for whether you dress me
in wood, cloth, or glass,
no use for whether you decorate me
in rich curlicue and seraphim,
for I have stood proudly for many a millennium,
holding together the traditions of the Jewish people.
I help keep worshipers focused,
with no distractions, on the eyes of God.
Now, here in the 21st century,
people have begun to question my role –
whether it is right or not to separate the sexes.
Let the two people below debate this question.
Let each give his and her reasons.
I take no sides.
I only answer to God.

***

Now don’t get me wrong –
I love all women, any size or shape.
I can’t tell you how many times
I dream of them, day and night.
I’m a man, what do you think.
But when it comes between me and God,
I don’t want to have visions of
silky bodies in my head, distracting me.
I mean how right would that be?
When you’re praying, nothing else
can get in the way, know what I mean?
It would not be proper to think of
bright lips, smooth thighs, big breasts.
I mean I just can’t turn these thoughts on and off.
You think I’m a sex maniac obsessing about women?
Oh, no, not when I’m conversing with God.
I just need a bit of help; the wall needn’t be too high.

***

We deserve to be up in the balcony,
or at the least separated by
wood, cloth, glass, whatever.
Having to pray with the men
would be too much a disturbance for them.
God knows, they wouldn’t be able
to keep their thoughts on their prayers.
Worshiping with us is preposterous, I know,
and flies in the face of Orthodox tradition.
They have every right to exclude us
from leading them in service.
We are meant to be not seen, not heard,
and the further we are away,
the less seen and heard we will be.
So I propose we sit in a different building altogether.
Only the men deserve to be physically closer to God.
Obviously, we continue to be unworthy,
only valuable enough to stay home with the children
and to be happy to serve our husbands dinner
when they come home tired after a long day at the temple.

The author of twelve books for young adults, Mel Glenn has lived nearly all his life in Brooklyn, NY, where he taught English at A. Lincoln High School for thirty-one years.  Lately, he’s been writing poetry, and you can find his most recent poems in the YA anthology, This Family Is Driving Me Crazy,  edited by M. Jerry Weiss.

If you’d like to learn more about his work, visit: http://www.melglenn.com/

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Filed under American Jewry, poetry

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