Thursday, September 18, 2008

Rachel Wearing A Veil? And Oz VeHadar Levushah

This post is not so much critique, but bringing a comment to prominence and discussing the midrashim in Od Yosef Chai further, in the context of Oz veHadar Levusha.

On a previous post, about Rachel covering herself with sheep, based on a midrash in Od Yosef Chai, LazerA commented:

I do have a copy of Od Yosef Chai, and he does discuss this pasuk, however, I cannot find the statement that Rabbi Falk cites.

On the other hand, while I don't see Rabbi Falk's quote, the Ben Ish Chai does use the pasuk to prove that Rachel Imeinu wore a veil:

ונ"ל בס"ד כי רחל אע"ה היתה לובשת על פניה פרגוד שהוא סודר מנוקב נקבים קטנים שקורין בערבי (כיליי) שהיא רואה ואינו נראית, ובזה יובן טעם נכון שיש בכתוב הזה הפסק בין תיבת רחל ובין תיבת באה, לומר שהיה דבר מפסיק בין פניה ובין מראה עינים של האנשים

It's a cute drosha, and it is actually quite possible, given the cultural environs, that she was wearing a veil.

In any case, given Rabbi Falk's methodology, does this drosha prove that all Jewish women should be donning veils? After all, "These were our Imahos. It is our obligation and privilege to live in their shadow and enrich our lives by learning from their examples."

Incidentally, from what the Ben Ish Chai writes in his sefer Chukei Nashim (ch. 17), it seems that in his community, normal practice was for women to wear veils when going out of the home. However, he explicitly describes this as "minhageinu bzos ireinu." Earlier in the chapter he says that a woman's face may be exposed.

My take on this:
Firstly, I would like to thank LazerA for his comment.

I would guess that the quote Rabbi Falk gave about Rachel and the sheep is indeed there, though without the specific context, it will remain difficult to see if it was twisted in any way. And the comments in the previous post still apply, of course.

In terms of this other midrash about Rachel, just to elaborate on it, the pasuk in Bereishit 29:6 reads:
וַיֹּ֥אמֶר לָהֶ֖ם הֲשָׁל֣וֹם ל֑וֹ וַיֹּֽאמְר֣וּ שָׁל֔וֹם וְהִנֵּה֙ רָחֵ֣ל בִּתּ֔וֹ בָּאָ֖ה עִם־הַצֹּֽאן

while the pasuk in Bereishit 29:9 reads:
עוֹדֶ֖נּוּ מְדַבֵּ֣ר עִמָּ֑ם וְרָחֵ֣ל ׀ בָּ֗אָה עִם־הַצֹּאן֙ אֲשֶׁ֣ר לְאָבִ֔יהָ כִּ֥י רֹעָ֖ה הִֽוא׃

You can more of less skip the next few paragraphs if you are not so interested in trup. I marked the end of this section in red, so scroll down until you see red.

Both of these pesukim have a disjunctive trup separating rachel from baah. In the case of pasuk 6, it is the zakef on bito. But I do not think he means that pasuk because of that word bito. Rather, he means pasuk 9, and the hefsek he refers to is what appears to be a pasek, that horizontal line. In fact, it would seem to me that this is not a pasek, but rather it is the same symbol associated with the munach under the word rachel, to tell us that it is a munach legarmeih, a disjunctive accent rather than the usual conjunctive accent.

The result may be the same, because a disjunctive accent also have the role of dividing, but it seems that the Ben Ish Chai may have intended to make a derash on the very name of the trup marker, pasek, as well.

At least, that is what I would say at first. However, while munach legarmeih in general serves to mark the minor dichotomy within a clause ending in revii (see here in Wickes, page 95), this is a special case (as Wickes also mentions on page 95), since the munach legarmeih marks the first word of the revii clause. And then, it functions in the second role mentioned by Wickes on page 119 -- it is a replacement for pasek, so it has the function of pasek but the musical role of munach legarmeih. Thus, we can say it is a pasek.

And indeed, in this instance, there was no syntactic reason to divide the clause וְרָחֵ֣ל ׀ בָּ֗אָה, since it consisted of two words, and one only usually divides clauses like this when they consist of three words or more.

In the section on pasek, Wickes discusses the purpose of pasek. And on page 122-123, he mentions the paseq emphaticum, and then concludes that
The examples under this head are sufficiently numerous, indeed so much so, that we may regard this emphatic use as the chief object of the ordinary paseq.
The paseq emphaticum provides emphasis. Thus, Hashem | Yimloch; HaYonatan | Yamut; KaTzeil | Yameinu. See inside.

If we accept this to be so, then it is readily applied to this case. There is reason to stress that it is Rachel who is coming, who is important to the story, and indeed, much more so than the sheep who accompany her, as we explained in the previous post.

Still, trup such as this provides great fodder for midrash, even if the midrash was not the intent of the one who placed the trup.

End section about trup.

The Ben Ish Chai thus appears to darshen the paseik. And he says that
ונ"ל בס"ד כי רחל אע"ה היתה לובשת על פניה פרגוד שהוא סודר מנוקב נקבים קטנים שקורין בערבי (כיליי) שהיא רואה ואינו נראית, ובזה יובן טעם נכון שיש בכתוב הזה הפסק בין תיבת רחל ובין תיבת באה, לומר שהיה דבר מפסיק בין פניה ובין מראה עינים של האנשים
This appears to be a veil with many small holes, such that there are not even eyeholes cut out, put since the cloth is close to her face, she can see out but others cannot see in. And so there is this separation rachel and baah, to inform that there was something separating between her face and the perception of the eyes of men.

On a peshat level I am not sure I buy it, given the pasuk a bit later in the same perek which reads:
יז וְעֵינֵי לֵאָה, רַכּוֹת; וְרָחֵל, הָיְתָה, יְפַת-תֹּאַר, וִיפַת מַרְאֶה. 17 And Leah's eyes were weak; but Rachel was of beautiful form and fair to look upon.
Putting aside the translation of rakot by Leah (weak vs. soft), the fact that Rachel was yefat Toar and yefat Mareh, and so (as we see in the continuation) Yaakov favored him, implies to me that he was able to see her face. But one can of course argue the point.

I also do not know enough about Biblical dress. The Shulamit is praised for her face within her veil, in Shir Hashirim:
ג כְּחוּט הַשָּׁנִי שִׂפְתוֹתַיִךְ, וּמִדְבָּרֵךְ נָאוֶה; כְּפֶלַח הָרִמּוֹן רַקָּתֵךְ, מִבַּעַד לְצַמָּתֵךְ. 3 Thy lips are like a thread of scarlet, and thy mouth is comely; thy temples are like a pomegranate split open behind thy veil.
though that is much later. It is also possible that the veil was worn by zonot, or perhaps not. After all, we see in Bereishit 24 that Rivkah put on a veil.

At any rate, this is once again a midrash reading late 19th century Iraqi Jewish tznius values into the Imahos. And Rabbi Falk might -- but might not -- incorrectly state "these were our Imahos."

To maintain consistency, one would certainly expect him to. But the question is how Rabbi Falk regards veils. I also have the online text, and two or three references to veils are outside the limited preview. However, it seems to me that Rabbi Falk would have a problem with veils, as being immodest. As noted in this earlier parshablog post, Rabbi Falk forbids "very long skirts" as being immodest. His basis is the pesukim in Yeshaya, and Rashi's commentary upon it. Rashi suggests that the realot were veils with eyeholes, and that these were tachshitim because it would make people desire to see their cheeks. But Rabbi Falk has a very "novel" interpretation of that Rashi, and I critique it there. And then Rabbi Falk extends this chiddush of his to forbid very long skirts.

If so, Rabbi Falk should by all means hold that a veil is problematic and non-tzniusdik, just as a very long skirt is problematic. And so we would not expect him to say that we have an obligation to wear veils.

On the other hand, in the case of Rachel and the sheep, no women is going to surround herself with sheep. And so the application would appear to be the very long skirt, and so Rabbi Falk says (in the previous post) that obviously we cannot have women wear very long skirts, so instead the general theme of the Imahos is what is obligatory upon women. Thus, he gets the message of the midrash to be exactly what he wants it to be, and nothing more.

But here, if he would have cited the midrash about Rachel wearing a veil, he would have had to say that this is an ideal of modesty, such that women should be able to emulate that. And that might just undermine his chiddush about very long skirts. So I do not know how he would resolve this. Luckily for his thesis, he does not cite this other midrash of the Ben Ish Chai.

There is one place accessible in the online book where he mentions veils. This is in the context of Tamar, in the incident of Yehuda and Tamar. Rabbi Falk writes what is pictured to the right. Thus, he cites a Rambam that it is the way of the zonah to cover her face to hide her identity. And indeed, this may well be peshat.

But while this fits in well with his thesis elsewhere, it still is selective citing. He has no compuctions elsewhere of taking midrashim literally. And yet here he cites Ramban and not Rashi. Yet Rashi writes:
(טו) ויחשבה לזונה -
לפי שיושבת בפרשת דרכים:
כי כסתה פניה -
ולא יכול לראותה ולהכירה.

ומדרש רבותינו:
כי כסתה פניה כשהיתה בבית חמיה הייתה צנועה, לפיכך לא חשדה:
Or in English:
because she covered her face and he could not see her and recognize her. Our Sages midrashic interpretation is: because she had covered her face when she had stayed in her father-in-law’s house and she was modest. Therefore, he did not suspect her. [From Sotah 10b]
Thus, on a peshat level, Rashi differs from Ramban in that he does not say this is a mark of prostitutes in general; and he also mentions the midrash, mentioned on Sotah 10b, that this was a mark of modesty, in that she wore the veil all the time in her father-in-law's house.

On the other hand, I can tell from the index that on page 134 in the book, he mentions the pasuk that Rivka covered face with a veil. I do not know the context, but it might be in the same context in which he cites the pasuk in his other book, Choson and Kallah During Their Engagement, on page 77.

So he would acknowledge that some of the Imahos wore veils. He does not then say we all need to wear veils, despite the fact that the Imahos did. And he does not bring this fact up when discussing "very long skirts," nor does he bring up the Mishna in Shabbos which allows Jewish women in Arabia (at the least) to go out wearing veils.


Lion of Zion said...

does he mention the rambam's view of דת יהודית?

joshwaxman said...

That's a very good question, because how he deals with the Rambam's requirement of a redid. (though Rambam does seem to require this only where such is the custom -- מקומות שדרכן שלא תצא אישה בשוק בכופח שעל ראשה בלבד, עד שיהיה עליה רדיד החופה את כל גופה כמו טלית--נותן לה בכלל הכסות, רדיד הפחות בכל הרדידין)

Unfortunately, I cannot access many pages of the online book at this point, because I have exceeded my limit. And I will likely have access to a different computer only in a few days.

If you would like to search it and tell me, it would be great. I did a search on Rambam and Yehudis and see that he mentions something -- I do not know what -- on page 155.

To perhaps clarify my thoughts at this point:
Ultimately, I would expect that Rabbi Falk obviously does NOT require a veil.

Yet the way he is interpreting sources perhaps shows a sort of inconsistency:

In terms of covering the lower body, he does not impose an actual requirement from Rachel's sheep, or (chas veshalom) a very long dress to the ground, but does use the term "obligation" to guilt people into accepting his particular vision of tznius or tznius attitudes. (There might be a better choice of language.) Yet he states no such obligation in terms of covering one's face, despite noting elsewhere that Rivkah put on a veil. (And despite the fact that the same Biblical character, Rachel, donned a veil according to the same extremely late midrashic author, in the same context.) Instead, for Rivkah, he once again uses it for a different purpose, and specifically the purpose he decides upon.

And yet elsewhere he states that a very long skirt is absolutely forbidden, by its design, and bases himself on his interpretation of a Rashi on the veils mentioned in Yeshaya. Logically, the veil should also be absolutely non-tsniusdik. But it is probable that he did not think this all the way through, since he is not ruling at all on whether women are allowed to wear veils.

So it is a good question. Perhaps next week, when I get alternative access to the book...


joshwaxman said...

update: I checked it out, and it was indeed cited in specifically that context, as a citation of Radak to show that an engaged couple should not talk to one another, ideally at all.


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