mechitza

Gentiles Behind the Mechitza

I was behind the mechitza. I did not like it.

How could it possibly happen, that I, a regular shulgoer in the Orthodox world, would find myself behind the mechitza at a Shabbat service?

I was invited to the bat mitzvah of the daughter of a friend — but it was a bat mitzvah with a twist: the event, to be held in an Orthodox synagogue, was to feature a Shabbat morning women’s service. Nine men, period, were invited to participate (were there 10 men in the room, the service would, in accordance with the Orthodox rite, become the regular service, of men), and nine there were, including me.

-Jerome A. Chanes
“I Was Behind the Mechitza”
Special to The Jewish Week

A mechitza (Hebrew: מחיצה, partition or division, pl.: מחיצות, mechitzot) in Jewish Halakha is a partition, particularly one that is used to separate men and women. The rationale for a partition dividing men and women is given in the Babylonian Talmud (Sukkah 51b, 52a).

Wikipedia.org

chanes
Jerome A. Chanes

This article won’t make a lot of people happy and may even draw some ire from a few folks, but the question just popped into my head while I was reading Chanes’ article. You can click the links I’ve provided to find out more about the mechitza in general and why Chanes was behind the mechitza at an Orthodox synagogue in particular. In fact, I encourage you to do so.

Men and women are separated during services in Orthodox synagogues as a matter of modesty. A person commenting anonymously on Chanes’ article explained it this way:

Why deny men the right not to be distracted by women when they are praying? Hashem will not accept prayer from a man who is distracted by a woman.

The mechitza preserves the purity and sincerity of prayer to save us from our foes generation after generation. Also, the men are also separated from the women by the mechitza – it is 50/50.

Someone commenting on Facebook described it this way:

The idea of mechitza is not about denigrating women, it’s about separation. The synagogue is a place where we need to focus in G-d. Men and women sitting together is a distraction. There is also the Halacha of Kol Isha which would prohibit men from hearing women sing/lead services. Regarding the issue if women being called to the Torah, there is more a halachic reason to allow this than anything else the author brought up.

The reason women are not called up is because there was a time when it was denigrating to men if a woman was literate and able to say the brachot and a man was illiterate. In today’s world (IMHO) there’s more of a reason to allow women to the Torah than getting rid if the mechitza.

Then the justification for separating men and women is so they don’t distract one another during their prayers.

Many of you may disagree with this, but that’s the halachah in an Orthodox shul. It should be noted that not everyone likes this practice. For instance, one woman commenting on the article said:

The notion that if you care about prayer, the mechitza is a positive is absurd. I care about prayer and find it distracting to be behind the mechitza where my view is obstructed of the shaliach tzibur and in some cases, I have limited hearing of the prayers. The notion the idea that I am distracting some man from praying, so I need to be treated as a second-class citizen is patronizing. If some man can’t concentrate because there is a woman nearby than he needs to grow-up. Obviously, you have never had the ‘joy’ of being behind a mechitza where you can barely see and hear what is occurring.

However, another man commented:

Two years ago, I attended a similar service. As one of those nine men, I was also behind the mechitza and was shuffled in and out of the service to allow other men to participate, not allowing us to form a traditional minyan. It was certainly a different experience, but unlike the author, I left with a greater respect for the mechitza and had no issue whatsoever. I do not believe the Bat Mitzvah service would have been as meaningful for young woman and her guests with men intermingled. That would have been a “normal” Shabbat davening. This was truly unique and I was able to be happy for the family – from the back of the room with eight other men behind a partition.

I can only assume that under such circumstances in a synagogue, if a non-Jewish man was present, he would sit with the Jewish men and if a non-Jewish woman were present, she would sit with the Jewish women.

mechitza-kotel
Credit: Lilith.org

But what about when large numbers of non-Jews are present in a Messianic Jewish synagogue that is styled on Orthodox praxis? Messianic Judaism tends to be egalitarian but not absolutely so. And in an effort to create a more us not them relationship between Messianic Judaism and the normative Judaisms, including the Orthodox, I can see some justification for at least a few Messianic Jewish synagogues following the halachah of mechitza.

But it also occurs to me that, given the differences in status and role between Jews and Gentiles in a Jewish communal and worship space, would there be some justification from putting non-Jews behind their/our own mechitza too (I told you that you wouldn’t like this)? I suppose for this to work, there’s really have to be four separated areas:

  • Jewish men
  • Jewish women
  • Gentile men
  • Gentile women

That’s a complicated pattern of division for a single room and I’m not sure how it could be accomplished. It doesn’t seem very practical.

There’s no indication one way or the other to say that Gentiles were or weren’t separated from Jews during worship in the congregations Paul created. In fact we do know that Paul publicly opposed Peter for refusing to eat with Gentiles (see Galatians 2:11-14), so this could suggest that the Apostle to the Goyim expected mixed worship as well.

In his article, Chanes states that there is no mention of the use of a mechitza to separate men and women in Biblical and early Rabbinic literature, so it’s possible that Jewish men and women prayed and worshiped together in ancient (Biblical) times. This perhaps could bolster the idea that when non-Jews were admitted into ancient (Messianic) Jewish space, they also “mixed in” or at least took the last three (or so) rows of seats in the back of the synagogue, but not behind a barrier.

Then again, in the days of Herod’s Temple, there was a court for the (Jewish) women and a court of the Gentiles, and non-Jews were forbidden to go beyond the Soreg.

But those barriers were put in place to preserve the sanctity of the Temple and to ensure ritual purity. Those practices may not, at least back then, have been also transferred to the synagogue.

But that was then and this is now. Twenty centuries or so of halachah have been developed and we have a very different Jewish praxis today, especially relative to different branches of Judaism (and even Messianic Judaism has numerous different expressions within it). We can’t really ignore that body of history or practice, and I think it behooves us to at least consider it’s impact on the praxis of the Messianic Jewish community, one that is “Orthodox” and also accepts non-Jews as associate members.

I realize that I’m making a much bigger deal of this than it actually is. To the best of my knowledge, no synagogue or congregation that calls itself Messianic practices separation of Jew and Gentile. I’m not even sure that there are any Messianic shuls that make use of the mechitza and separate men and women, though, of course, my knowledge of such communities is very limited.

mechitza
Credit: pardes.org

I’m throwing this out there more as food for thought and I’m not representing any definite position about the use or non-use of the mechitza as applied to women or to non-Jews.

However, if Messianic Judaism’s practice and halachah continues to transition more toward normative, 21st century Judaism, we have to consider how such practices and traditions will be applied in a form of Judaism which (potentially) has rather liberal policies regarding Gentile admission.

Oh, just for context, I thought I’d include a link to a small satirical article called Open orthodox Shul allows frummies to sit behind second taller mechitza. As you’ll see when you read it, there’s quite a bit of variance to be found in how the mechitza should be applied, depending on who you are.

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15 thoughts on “Gentiles Behind the Mechitza”

  1. Well — if you separate “men from women” — then you don’t have to directly treat one person in a mixed couple as lesser or greater than the other for not-being/being Jewish in and of itself. Then, you can separate the Jewish and non-Jewish men to two sides (or maybe front seats and middle range, although that might bring up conversations about “those who prefer favored seats” — so, maybe the aisle seats or such all the way from front through middle). Of course, this still leaves you with the problem of who to allow call themselves Jews (such as men who grew up in full Jewish context of congregation but who don’t have a Jewish mother). Then, no doubt, all the women go in the back rows (implying they are stronger of mind and won’t be distracted by the men in front of them… oh; I guess that’s why they get to have their view and auditory clarity obstructed, because it won’t be okay to imply that… and we don’t I hope want to imply, as was possibly the view in the archeological past, that women’s prayers don’t matter or aren’t as important).

    Notes: 1) something like a mechitza or women in the back isn’t unique to Judaism; 2) sometimes the separation in Judaism or any other setting is from side to side instead of front to back. {If you then make the first separation between Jews and gentiles (which divides some couples and not others, and again includes the “grey” areas of persons who are Jewish in significant ways but are probably going to be treated like they aren’t, before applying the considerations of whether men and women are distracted by each other and what, then, if anything, should be done therefore), do you make the division sideways, back to front, or lining aisles [my own idea as far as I know]}? Nevertheless, I found the opening story very interesting; limiting the number of men invited (in order for the greater space to be utilised by women). Then, how much need for division is there when there are so few Jewish men that they are totally or very much involved in carrying out the service? Finally, it has been past tradition that relatively few women attend.

    One of the other aspects — brought up in the opening “meditation” — of all this is very current, while it’s been an issue for-um-m-ever: Shall girls be educated? Again, not uniquely or primarily a Jewish question. And most Jewish development goes with yes on that and has been a large influence in that direction both secularly and religiously. Even while I was growing up in the United States, I heard of non-Jewish families (from the old world) that very consciously chose to pay for outstanding education in high hopes for their boys and hoped against fear with their girls (leaving them to whatever). And I’m not even talking about the college level, although the thought process would carry on to that. What was to be done with and for children was two different worlds. There was only one family I knew at all closely that was like that, and they were from Hungary. But this provided a basis to know it’s real when I heard of it in other situations. Now, it seems to be mostly the forte of some extreme Christian and Muslim cultures.

  2. There was a Messianic congregation here in south Florida that had men and women separated. I don’t think they do that anymore, but I’ve never been there so wouldn’t know. It came up in a conversation not long ago.

    A friend of mine attends shuls a lot. The regular attendees know he is Gentile bit never keep him separated from themselves. He simply is welcomed with the men.

  3. One question that I find relevant to the discussion and not addressed is not who sits where, or who reads what during the proceedings but what is the point of the gathering? Is it to gather together and yet to stay separate within a public place while the Parshah is being read? Is that all there is to a religious service among the Yehudim, Messianic or otherwise, apart from the scheduled prayers?

    Why are the people gathering together? What are they to learn from the gathering, and why does gender provoke so much conflict, and attempts at exclusion?

    Are the services so uninteresting that a man cannot keep his eyes on his Siddur, or focused attentively on the reader of the scroll?

    Can a man not pull forward the sides of his Tallit Gadol to block the study of a woman to one side of him? Can he not just control his thoughts, and keep them on the Torah? Do Jewish men expect pornographic images to flash into their minds at the mere sight of a woman?

    If so, surely it is the man who has difficulty with concentrating on the matter at hand, and leaves the point of any gendered person attending, and the entire focus of the gathering up in the air.

    Why are the people getting together in the first place, and what is expected that will edify those who attend? Is attending a Synagogue just a social exercise where one’s children can find suitable playmates?

  4. Shavua Tov! — I must ask a critical question or two about the boundaries of this discussion. Is it our intention to discuss the notion of separations in general, which may be enforced by the symbol of the mechitzah? Or are we limiting the discussion to the titular question about gentiles operating within such boundaries in the context of prayer? Note that this question is entirely separate from the notion of combined fellowship in other contexts such as eating or studying. Our primary example from which to draw inferences regarding gentiles is the existence of a dedicated section in the ancient Temple for gentiles, which included a physical boundary that they were not permitted to pass. The example of combined fellowship in the apostolic writings allows inference that this boundary was not to be extended into a non-physical social boundary in contexts other than worship. It does not inform us about the effects, either physical or social, on synagogue worship praxis and its reflection of the Temple service. After the destruction of the Temple, the use of physical boundaries like the mechitzah became a significant meme for preserving the flavor of that lost Temple, regardless of how social boundaries were enacted.

    One issue that continues to arise in the modern context, about the use of a mechitzah, is a particularly modern failure to recognize that HaShem made the psyches of little boys and little girls (or big ones) *different*. He demanded responsibilities of males that were different from those applied to females. It is also a matter of longstanding observation that men are more easily distracted by the presence, the movement, and/or the sound of women than vice versa. It is an intrinsic feature of the male psyche. Some might suggest an anthropological explanation for this, such as a primordial need for primitive hunters to become alerted by the slightest movement or sound that was not connected directly with the members of their hunting party. Females, by contrast, would not develop this particular sensitivity in the protected enclave of the home encampment, but would develop other skills that men would not develop, such as an intuitive awareness and even a numerical sensitivity about whether all members of their family or clan were all present. This faculty has been noted to be stronger in women than in men. I do not fully endorse such a primitivistic view of the development of human perceptions, but the distinctions have been noted in various studies to which I was exposed during my university education.

    The more severe susceptibility in men to become distracted by women than vice versa is impossible to prove or measure absolutely, of course, because women cannot enter into men’s minds to experience just how severe this distraction can be, and men likewise cannot enter into the minds of women to experience how they perceive the presence of men. But even if both were equally distractible, the responsibility of concentrating on the prayers is greater upon the men than upon the women. It is actually less significant to HaShem if women or gentiles are distracted from the responsibility of concentrating intently on Jewish prayers in the public meeting, than it is for Jewish men. That perspective is radically foreign to the modern sense of egalitarianism, but it is eminently biblical.

    Hence the mechitzah is actually a protection for the men rather than an isolation or denigration of women, though it is also a symbol of the greater responsibility that HaShem places upon men than upon women for the specific purpose of the sanctuary service. It may be true that men who have developed greater spiritual discipline are fully capable of ignoring or resisting the native distraction represented by the presence of their womenfolk without a mechitzah, though I have heard an argument to the contrary that developing greater spiritual sensitivity in men also increases their sensitivity to distraction rather than dulling it. This offers a challenge to a spiritual community about where they wish their menfolk to apply their spiritual resources — whether toward greater resistance to distractibility or toward greater spiritual sensitivity to HaShem.

    Now, perhaps, we can ask the question about similar consideration for gentile men in Jewish space. In the Temple’s Court of Nations, it is unlikely that gentile women were present, due to the social constraints of the era. Hence, perhaps those men could enter into the kavanah of the prayers associated with the Temple service comparably with the Jewish men nearby. This is likely one of the most serious reasons for which Rav Yeshua was angry with the merchants operating in this reserved dedicated space, to the extent of chasing them and their animals out of it. Their activities would have been perfectly acceptable and legal (albeit less “convenient”) if they had been conducted even a mere hundred meters away, thus respecting the sanctity of the Temple’s gentile courtyard.

    Offhand, I do not know of any restrictions against gentile women joining with Jewish ones in the Temple’s Women’s Courtyard, though again social constraints in that era might have prevented their participation. However, within the somewhat less formal synagogue setting, and especially among messianists who accepted the notion of gentile cleansing, such constraints could evaporate altogether. Consequently, in modern circumstances an additional separation should be unnecessary.

  5. OBTW, I didn’t address Marleen’s issue of education for girls or women, nor Questor’s general question about the purposes of gathering together, because both issues are far outside the realm of the mechitzah discussion. The mechitzah is not a denigration of women, nor any sort of denial of rights or privileges. Education is a Jewish value for women as much as it is for men, though the content and goals of education may differ for each. The synagogue has multiple purposes — social, educational, and spiritual — and the mechitzah touches only on spiritual and psychological aspects of the sanctuary service, and not at all on the social aspects of gathering together.

    In my response above, I attempted to focus on the historical and psychological functions and purposes of the mechitzah, in the hope that this discussion might avoid the unnecessary and truly unrelated side-trail arguments about social politics.

  6. I have no thoughts on the separation of men and women in a Messianic congregation. That, to me, comes down to tradition and preference and if everyone’s on board with that, then great. Go with God.

    I don’t think that it would be beneficial to separate Jews and Gentiles. That seems like trying to rebuild the wall of separation that Christ tore down with the cross and the Resurrection. Now, of course there are differences between people, between Jew and Gentile. Everyone knows that. But we’re all supposed to be drawn together in unity in Christ, in all of our diversity. A physical barrier, I think, works against that.

  7. In a non-Temple setting, we could additionally wonder whether firstborns (replaced by the priestly tribe for responsibilities and service) should be identified on a regular basis. But the tendency (and halakha) is to preserve remembrances of the Temple even where there is no Temple.

    I did wonder whether, especially in past times, since fewer women attended maybe most of those who did were single youth or widows without the demands of current family duties (or with duties but in desperate need of male presence). That would yet more understandably be very distracting.

    A current parallel [minus the widows for the most part] seems to me to be the young adults (both male and female) who often congregate in the back seats of congregations. Still, I can understand your description of the larger matter, PL. Do you think there’s really a need for a dividing wall, though, not just the seating?

    Then again, I have found it helpful when congregations have rooms at the back that are entirely separated but have (one-way) windows for walls with speakers inside. That way, women with babies and noisy toddlers don’t have to be completely left out (or feel nervous about natural occurrences and activities that go in).

    So, I’m seeing numerous layers (gladly without the need outside a Temple setting in Jerusalem — but rather in synagogues wherever — for separations of gentiles, and Levites and so forth); from those serving in the very front (or wherever they need to be at any given time) to only men at the front to a mixed population behind and then those anywhere from necessarily to happily more distracted [in social rather than the sensitivity senses brought up] people behind that, and then the separated room(s) behind or beside all that (for places that can practically figure out or afford how to do this).

  8. I hadn’t seen your last post, PL, when I posted just now. There was, in the opening “meditation,” a concern about literacy and (I take it) making males look bad if they weren’t (if a female was).

  9. …literacy [–] and (I take it) making males look bad if they weren’t (if a female was) [literate]. [One might think I’m not grammatically literate, lol.]

  10. @Marleen: The simple answer as to who is a Jew is someone born of a Jewish mother. I realize it’s actually a $64,000 question, but I’ll stick with basic halachah on this one.

    Yeah, I get that men seem to be easily distracted by women, but women aren’t so distracted by men.

    @Ro: As I mentioned in the body of the blog post, Messianic Judaism (using the term in the widest possible sense) tends to be pretty egalitarian, so most congregations would probably not favor separation of men and women, though again, as I said above, I can see the justification for some synagogues that adopt a more Orthodox praxis.

    I’m also aware of the current practice, even in Orthodox synagogues, of non-Jews men, when they visit on occasion, being included with the Jewish men. Under those circumstances, there’s no particular reason to separate Gentiles from Jews since it’s abundantly obvious that this is a Jewish communal and worship space.

    However, in Messianic Judaism, because Jews and Gentiles share not only the same God but the same Messiah, and because modern Messianic Judaism has its origins, in some sense, in Evangelical Christianity, in order to make it completely clear that the Messianic Jewish space is a Jewish space, some might establish this by, in some manner, separating Gentiles from the Jewish population, maybe behind a mechitza, maybe by having the Gentiles take the seats at the back of the synagogue.

    Of course, the most extreme example of such separation is the concept of “bilateral ecclesiology,” whereby Jews and Gentiles, at least in its absolute form, are separated in different congregations.

    @Questor: The idea that men are distracted from attending to God by the presence of women is shared within Judaism and Islam. I’m not aware of any modern Christian groups that have this principle, but they may exist or they may have existed in the past (in the churches I’ve attended, I’ve witnessed married couples with their arms around each other, cuddling, and sometimes hugging, which I found a little inappropriate in a worship serve).

    Yes, I suppose a Jewish man could pull his tallit over his head (and sometimes this is done), but the halachah among the Orthodox is to not have the women even sit with the men. One of the photos I posted above does show a side-by-side split between men and women, with what looks like a simple sheet between them, which affords each group the same view of the bema and the ark. While I think some Jewish women object to the practice, as I also indicated above, a great many of them may fully accept and embrace such separation.

    @PL: I haven’t limited the scope of the discussion. This is more of a “Gee, I wonder..” blog post since, as I mentioned above, I’m sure I’m making a bigger deal out of this exploration than it deserves. I just thought it was an interesting idea and wanted to see what people thought of it.

    PL said:

    It is also a matter of longstanding observation that men are more easily distracted by the presence, the movement, and/or the sound of women than vice versa.

    Most women I know, including my wife, wouldn’t give that idea the same “credibility” as most men do. I quoted one Jewish woman in the body of my blog post that suggested such “distracted” men should “grow up”. That said, and as I just mentioned in a comment above, I imagine a great many Jewish women accept the separation without any difficulty.

    By the way PL, are you aware of any congregations, including your own, that make use of a mechitza?

    @Marie: As I hope you understood from the main content above, I’m not actually suggesting or supporting such a separation, but I did find that thought one worthy of exploration within the realm of social media.

  11. James, yes there are current Christian groups that separate men and women. They are old “fashioned” or ethnic but current.

    Interesting you say women aren’t so distracted by men. I have experienced (here) that if you don’t go way out if your way to state that women can be distracted too, one will be reprimanded for making a true statement (not by you, though, I admit).

    As for “the 64 thousand dollar” question, you or anyone else might be fine with the standard definition, but I’ve seen quite a bit of tsuris over it (no participation in the debate on my part in person). I was just pointing out the considerations that would be required. But PL doesn’t seem to think any of that kind of separation is necessary (Jew and gentile), only probably male and female.

  12. @James — I’m a little surprised that you have misused the term “bilateral ecclesiology” (“BE”) as if it prescribed separate congregations. It is true that certain cultural circumstances can make that a necessity in order for Jews not to be inhibited from Jewish development by the pressures of a controlling majority non-Jewish religious culture. However, I think it important to emphasize that the BE term itself means only that there exist two distinct segments within the overall body of Rav Yeshua’s disciples; and that the Jewish one has certain covenantal responsibilities that the non-Jewish one does not. So, while the notion of separation only begins to make sense after recognizing the validity of the BE concept, BE of itself does not make such demands.

    That having been stated, yes I have attended modern orthodox congregations here in Jerusalem that utilize a mechitzah — even one (rather experimental one) that maintains a separate Torah for the women to read from on some occasions while the men listen from the other side. I have even celebrated Shabbat in the sanctuary of a nature conservatory field school near the Dead Sea in which the mechitzah was a set of lovely wooden latticework panels on wheels (allowing adjustment in the relative size of men’s and women’s sections. These mechitzot were full-height (about 1.8 meters), though I also visited one orthodox shul in Florida some years ago whose mechitzah was barely one-meter high, and thus it was symbolic more than it was functional.

    The messianic congregation that I serve here as hazan/shatz does not currently employ any mechitzah, though there are occasional discussions about doing so. There is varying opinion among its members about the issue of mixed or separated seating. At one time this congregation used stackable chairs with differently colored upholstery to indicate distinctive seating sections for men, for women (particularly those with children who might need to remove them from the sanctuary at times), and for visitors. In our new sanctuary, the auditorium is arranged in three sections (two centrally-facing sides and a front-facing middle) of permanent fixed-to-the-floor theater seats (all of the same color). These are presently informally designated for somewhat distinctive functions. A section is reserved closest to the entrance for women with children (or others who may need to depart the sanctuary unexpectedly), and the entire side section farthest from the entrance tends to be entirely filled with foreign visitors who may benefit from the simultaneous English translation that is offered during the drashah (which is, of course, in Hebrew). Pockets of visitors needing translation into Russian or another language may be seated in this same section or they may be scattered elsewhere. The middle section is primarily for men, with its front row occupied by those participating in the leadership of the service, though at present some mixed seating is practiced. As we adjust to our new building and sanctuary, we are still experimenting in some degree to determine their best usage, and no one is yet presenting firm doctrinal teaching about standard historical synagogue praxis or its effects on the integration of our shul within its fairly-orthodox neighborhood community.

    As for the not-uncommon clueless female reaction that distractible men should just “grow up”, I believe I answered that by noting that a choice may be required between men using their mature spiritual discipline either to dull their sensitivity to women or to sharpen their sensitivity to the feminine-gendered sense of HaShem’s “Rua’h”. It does not appear that one can have both, and that each choice has an associated cost. On the one hand, there is male spiritual dullness; on the other, the inconveniences of a mechitzah and separate seating. The choice is surprisingly analogous to the one that allows Jews to separate from gentiles in order to concentrate on becoming the most that HaShem has designed for them. Protecting men for brief periods in one limited context from the female distractions to which their G-d-given faculties subject them may allow them to grow spiritually more sensitive. Is that not a worthwhile choice? How much value are we willing to place upon pursuing the ideal goals of ‘Hasidut?

    It really seems rather a pity, sometimes, that men and women cannot actually spend a little time inside the head of the opposite gender, to compare their relative perceptual experiences and feelings. I suspect that each might come away from such an experience bewildered by wonder at how the other one ever learned to cope with his or her internal reality. However, in the absence of such shared mind-melding, our best available tool is, perhaps, simple compassion.

  13. While BE may indeed, at its core, simply indicate two distinct groups within the body of Messiah, as you also mention, one way of enacting that and more firmly establishing Messianic Jewish space as Jewish space is to have at least some synagogues that are primarily or exclusively Jewish. While this isn’t the only expression of BE, in some cases, it is a viable option.

  14. I suspect that each might come away from such an experience bewildered by wonder at how the other one ever learned to cope with his or her internal reality. However, in the absence of such shared mind-melding….

    Lol. And now to go completely off topic, if you get a chance to see/hear the symphonic Star Trek presentation (I gotta get a more precise name), I recommend it. It’s a full live orchestra on stage playing the music with a huge movie screen (with voice but also subtitles in English in case you can’t hear the voices well) behind them.

    …our best available tool is, perhaps, simple compassion.

    I have to say, I’m very thankful for this “meditation” — from the opening story through all the conversation.

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