Thursday, August 28, 2008

Does Rabbi Falk Threaten Girls Who Do Not Dress As He Would Like With Cancer?

On page 327 in Oz veHadar Levushah, we have the text pictured to the right. He is speaking about "eye-catching belts."

In the course of his condemnation of these belts, Rabbi Falk cites Shabbos 62b,
"where Chazal bring a verse in Yeshaya 3:24 warning transgressors that ותחת חגורה נקפה, -- Where the highly decorative belts (called צלצול were worn the flesh shall become cancerous and develop holes.' "
The pasuk in question, on a peshat level, may be translated as follows:
כד וְהָיָה תַחַת בֹּשֶׂם מַק יִהְיֶה, וְתַחַת חֲגוֹרָה נִקְפָּה וְתַחַת מַעֲשֶׂה מִקְשֶׁה קָרְחָה, וְתַחַת פְּתִיגִיל, מַחֲגֹרֶת שָׂק: כִּי-תַחַת, יֹפִי. 24 And it shall come to pass, that instead of sweet spices there shall be rottenness; and instead of a girdle rags; and instead of curled hair baldness; and instead of a stomacher a girding of sackcloth; branding instead of beauty.
Thus, נקפה means rags, which will be a replacement for this girdle. But Chazal interpret it to mean נקפים נקפים. We will turn to the definition of this phrase in a minute.

Rabbi Falk is being careful with his language here. He writes that Chazal bring a verse warning transgressors. What is the nature of these transgressions? He does not elaborate here, but as a result, it reads as if the transgression was the mere wearing of the belt, and this is the punishment Chazal are echoing -- that in their days, whoever wears a belt will receive this punishment. But the gemara is addressing specifically the women in Yeshaya's day, who were doing all these various things specifically in order to entice men to engage in sex with them, and presumably subsequently actually engaging in sex with them. Read the context above, in the gemara, and what the transgressions specifically were. That does not mean that they are establishing wearing of belts Rabbi Falk considers gaudy to be, in and of itself, a transgression. (In fact, peshat in the pasuk, and gemara, could possibly be that the earlier pesukim describe the transgressions and the later pesukim, such as this one, merely describe the punishment in which beauty turns to ulcers. Just as well-set or braided hair turning to baldness does not have to mean that the well-set or braided hair was a violation of tznius. But we need not go there, but rather understand the belt within the context Yeshaya and the gemara specifically lay out.)

Regardless, I wonder at his definition of נקפים נקפים as "the flesh shall become cancerous and develop holes." A translation of "holes" is perhaps better for the word נקבים, with a bet. Perhaps we can assume he means "lesion," which is somewhat like a hole. נקפים, at least in modern Hebrew, means lesion.

Rashi translates it as parallel to המנקף רגלו, which I think means one who bruises his leg. And Rashi refers to Yeshaya 10:34. Elsewhere in the gemara, in Chullin 7b, we have "No man bruises his finger below {=this world} unless it has been decreed above {in Heaven}."
ואמר ר' חנינא אין אדם נוקף אצבעו מלמטה אלא א"כ מכריזין עליו מלמעלה
Point by Point Summary translates it as "full of wounds." Soncino translates as "full of bruises." And Jastrow translates it as bruise.

Regardless, the gemara just says נקפים נקפים. It does not explain how it became bruised, or full of wounds (if one must translate like this). Even if going against Rashi, Rabbi Falk should just say "the flesh shall develop holes." The gemara does not appear to mention cancer as the cause of these bruises, wounds, or holes. And if Rabbi Falk has a source for this (rather than it being his own innovation), he should cite it explicitly, rather than presenting it as the plain meaning of the gemara to women who likely do not learn gemara.

Meanwhile, to me, this seems like a way of scaring girls into conforming with these specific standards of modesty, because "Chazal say that if you don't, you will develop cancer!"

Rabbi Falk continues:
"The Maharsha quotes the Gemara in Sotah (8b) where it is mentioned that a zonah would gird herself with a belt called a צלצול to attract the attention of men to herself."

I do not believe this is a totally accurate portrayal of either the Maharsha or the gemara in Sotah.

The Maharsha says שדרך נשים זונות חוגרות בו להתנאות כדאמרינן בסוטא היא חגרה לו בצלצול וכו' ובסוף מנחות חגרו בצלצול וכו' ע"ש.

Firstly, zonot as Rabbi Falk uses it implies prostitutes. The gemara in Sotah is talking about a Sotah, an adulteress, rather than a prostitute. And Maharsha says נשים זונות, women who are engaging in infidelity, rather than prostitution. It is possible that Rabbi Falk misunderstood Maharsha's phrase, but the gemara certainly does not mean a prostitute, that he could say "the gemara in Sotah where it is mentioned that a zonah would gird herself."

Secondly, the gemara in Sotah is saying that she did this to beautify herself for her adulterous lover. And Maharsha says להתנאות. This is not the same as "to attract the attention of men to herself." This idea of attracting the attention of men to herself is not in the gemara in Sotah, but is part of Rabbi Falk's thesis he is attempting to develop here. (It is perhaps readable into the gemara in Shabbos, that they dressed like this in order to provoke, but even there, and even according to Maharsha, it is not the only reading.)

Maharsha's suggestion is an interesting one. Since צלצול is used here, for the women in Yeshaya, and it is used by Sotah, we can understand in context that this צלצול was used by women engaging in zenut when they wanted to adorn themselves, and so too was its function here in Shabbos.

But Maharal's suggestion is not the only possibility, nor necessarily the most compelling one. The צלצול is mentioned among other things in Sotah 8b-9a that a women did to beautify themselves for their adulterous lovers. One such thing is applying stibium -- "she painted her eyes for him, therefore her eyes protrude." If painting the eyes before going out something which is awful? The gemara in Shabbat 80a says that the reason carrying out of stibium is enough for one eye is that the tzenuot only painted one eye. This was because back then, for a specific subset of women, "tznuot," only one eye was visible, while the other was concealed by a veil. (Though now, in our country, women do not go out with veils.) But the point is that these methods of adornment are not in-and-of-themselves bad. Rather, the gemara in Sotah 9a is speaking specifically based on intent. She painted her eye for him. And she girded herself with the tziltzol for him, her adulterous lover. But it is quite possible that simply putting on a tziltzol, just in general as an adornment, would present no problem.

Finally, even if the tziltzol itself is problematic, perhaps it is not talking about simply a belt, or even an attractive belt. Indeed, Jastrow defines the tziltzol as a "belt of net work (to support the bosom; considered indecent)." Though specifically in translating the gemara in Sotah as "she put on a fine belt for his sake," where possibly he is thinking of a different belt (but perhaps not). If so, this would be different from the belts Rabbi Falk is talking about.

1 comment:

Ariella said...

I think a woman can achieve a very untzniusdik look even without a belt. I've seen a number of hot Chanie types without belts. So I don't see the point of picking on one particular accessory.

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