Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Tznius chumras on women, to save the bachurim in Japan

In last week's Five Towns Jewish Times, on page 65, I encountered an "interesting" advertisement. It was from one of the bachurim being sentenced in Japan for (unwittingly) smuggling in Ecstasy. Click on the picture to the right to see the full ad, large enough to be readable. Basically, they tried many segulos, like challah baking and saying tehillim, but they asked a certain rabbi what would be another segulah to save them. Rabbi Yaakov Meir Shechter's R. Yaakov Meir Shechter: Breslov Rebbeadvice was that an awakening in Tznius will surely be a big zechus for the yeshua!

I don't want to criticize this woman. I understand that she must be undergoing incredible agony to see her son in such danger, of being sentenced to a lengthy prison term. Seeking out any solution available is absolutely normal.

And I don't want to criticize this rav, though I don't really know him. (He is a leading Breslover rabbi, a kabbalist and rosh yeshiva.) I would guess that the particular tznius suggestions are not necessarily his, but that the people responsible for the advertisement took his statement and ran with their own partical suggestions.

But I do take issue with the suggestions, and I also take issue with the pattern of enacting halachot not on the basis of the community's rabbinic leadership, but by emotional appeals and casting it as a segulah. This is emotional blackmail to convince women to take on new stringencies. And the last time bnos yisroel were hichmiru al atzaman, we ended up with something pretty life-changing.

It was men who smuggled, and or hoodwinked other men into smuggling. Why should the women suffer as a result? Let the men take on some chumra to help! How about as a segulah that men should accept upon themselves the study and practice of dina demalchusa dina, and of not tricking their fellow man in interpersonal relations and business?

Why is it so often tznius? No matter what, the suggestion seems to be tznius. No, I do not believe that the women out there are untzniusdik, and I do not believe that taking on additional tznius restrictions will make them holier, or will do more to fulfill Hashem's will. Rather, different subcultures are less or more restrictive in their tznius standards, and different things are acceptable or not acceptable in different communities. That women don't wear rubber soles, such that lo aleinu we can hear their footsteps is not the end of the world, and not a horrific violation of tznius. But holier-than-thou people who come from communities who smuggle drugs to gentiles, who fetishize tznius, and who might consider women from other communities who do not wear rubber soles to be sub-optimal in their tznius, such that they should be reached out as an awakening in tznius... that seems more problematic to me.

And one can always adopt new tznius stringencies, up to and past the level of Rabbanit Keren, but that does not mean it is a positive thing to do. There are side-effects of adopting such an attitude and approach.

Even if an awakening in tznius were called for (and I don't really think he has this as an answer beruach hakodesh), it is not for already tznius women who don't hold by the particular tznius restrictions of Breslovers, or Satmars. There are surely others who are actually not dressing tznius, and outreach can be done to them; perhaps that was what the rosh yeshiva meant.

At any rate, here are the particular tznius suggestions. Rabbi Maryles, I see, commented on it, and typed them out, so I don't have to. I have the image as well, to the right. The suggestions are:
♦ Sheitel is refined [within parameters of halacha] and does not attract attention.
♦ Refrain from wearing excessive make-up and perfume in any public areas.
♦ Refrain from wearing attractive or excessive jewelry in any public areas
♦ Refrain from brisk-walking as a form of exercise.
♦ Refrain from eating/drinking in public areas, especially where men are present.
♦ Skirt is at least four inches past the knee.
♦ Neckline properly adjusted in all clothing.
♦ Turban/tichel covering all hair at all times during the day.
♦ Secular newspapers and all fashion magazines kept out of the house.
♦ When in public, [street, stores, buses, waiting rooms,] cell phones vibrate silently and phone conversations are kept short and quiet [out of earshot of bystanders]
♦ Shoes/heels/ fitted with a rubber sole.
♦ Exercising discreet and low-key behavior in a shared sitting area. [apartment building lobby, doctor’s office, chasuna hall, shul mechitzah, bus stops, standing in line at checkout counters etc.]
♦ Learning Hilchos Tznius daily. [Inspire by Wire – 718-906-6451, or ' עוז והדר לבושה ' according to the daily calendar provided free of charge by: Bnos Melochim 845-425-9222]
♦ Refrain from brisk-walking in a public area.
The basic idea for many of these is that women should not call attention to themselves. But examples of what seems to be discouraged by this, as untznius, is women eating at a pizza store, for that is in public. Brisk walking is (probably accidentally) mentioned twice, once as exercise, and once in general as doing so in a public area, because men may see it and be aroused. (They don't mention swinging the arms as one walks.) And a bit of secular knowledge, in the form of secular newspapers, may indeed be a good thing, against the suggestion above, which I have seen elsewhere.

I also don't like Oz veHadar Levushah being propounded here as the source of hilchos tznius; nor do I like the segulah-ization of this, and how the mother of one of the boys will, in the fashion of Kupat HaIr, present the names of those who accepted the tznius kabbalah at the kever of Rabbi Shimon ben Yochai.

I don't like this trend in our religion.

13 comments:

Michael said...

here is a great segulah:

1.pack suitcase your self.
2. Never accept parcels or packages from anyone before flying.
3. Do not carry illegal drugs, firearms e.t.c at the airport.

Works every time. Badduk!

Akiva said...

(hey, put me on your new blogroll please)

I've got to say every time these come out I learn new forms of untznius - that have no mention in major sources.

Brisk walking? Women shouldn't exercise? And clearly this person has never been to midtown Manhattan.

Eating/Drinking in Public Areas????

Cell Phones silent and short conversations? Listen, I would love if EVERYONE held by this - as it's clearly ignoring everyone around you. But how is this impacting men from women???

Shoes/heels with a rubber sole? Shoe tapping in a hallway is a tznius issue??????

I'm sorry, I just don't get it.

Jeremy said...

"OUR" religion?

Not mine.

And it sounds more like they're giving instructions to kids before a field trip than presenting torah from sinai (which it should be if it's halakha).

Anonymous said...

and of course the irony is (as pointed out on a different blog) that these takanos highlight a very few of the problemsof the takanos themselves. the takanos care about outside influences, and how things look. had these boys been more aware of the real world (crime, how it is committed, punishment, to whom it is meted out) by reading say, secular newspapers, and not been taken in by appearances and dress(beard, levush = trustworthy person
perhaps they would not be in this mess.
sister of ES

E-Man said...

The only thing I would say to everyone is that this woman is trying to save her son. Yes, he clearly did something unintelligent, but she is really scared for him. She does not mean to sound ridiculous, but was told by her rabbi this is what to do to save him. If anything the comments should not ridicule this attempt, but should be pointed towards the Rabbi, What were you thinking telling this woman that this would help???

If anything, major amounts of tehilim and intense prayer should be done. This "tznius" is clearly just the work of someone with an agenda.

joshwaxman said...

"hey, put me on your new blogroll please"
i believe you are on it.

"I've got to say every time these come out I learn new forms of untznius"
reminds me of the joke about five good leads...

"The only thing I would say to everyone is that this woman is trying to save her son"
indeed. and just imagine what it is like to be in her situation. i don't know who came up with this particular list, though.

"Shoes/heels with a rubber sole"
It is apparently mentioned on page 347 in Oz VeHadar Levushah, "Not to walk with loud or sophisticated footsteps"
http://books.google.com/books?id=MY4xtbRlxWIC&printsec=frontcover&dq=modesty+falk&ei=4ACrSLi_CZHcsgPbxYGeBQ&sig=ACfU3U3VUm1covrWW64bBZxaqS4-SfkEqg#PPA348,M1
kt,
josh

Deborah Shaya said...

The Halachah has been MISinterpreted. It is not being interpreted correctly, and the Torah is being Twisted.

The true interpretation of the Halachah is as follows:

• A married woman is required to cover her hair when she lights the candles to welcome in Shabbat and Yom Tov – lechavod Shabbat ve Yom Tov - and when she goes to the Synagogue, because that is the place of Kedusha.

The Halacha does not require anything more from married women.

Rabbi Menachem Schneeersohn tz”l, was unfortunately wrong in this instance. He gave the directive that a married woman must cover her head with a “sheitel.” This needs to be corrected. Rabbi Schneersohn a"h, was a Tzaddik, – but on this – he was, unfortunately not correct.

To any man who is reading this, imagine that it is you who has to wear this wig/hat - for the rest of your life - especially in a Heat Wave.

If it is beyond your imagination to imagine wearing a wig/hat constantly and in a Heat Wave, I will make a similar demand upon you. This will take you back 500 years to the age of Louis XIV and the fashion item that non-Jewish men used to wear called, "la perruque."

Furthermore, I will call it "Halacha," and I will give you pages of sources that have all twisted the Torah, and MISinterpreted the Halacha.

If you, as an intelligent Jewish man, are telling a woman to cover her own hair with hair - that belonged to someone else, I will tell you to do the following:

1. If you ever speak to a woman, or your wife, make sure you cover up all of your face.

2. And make sure you are wearing long white stockings, even in the summer; a fur streimel; a long beard; a black hat and black coat all the time in all seasons.

Use the spark of Kedusha that Hashem has given to you.

Remember that the Jewish women are very, very holy. They are much more holy than the men. The women never sinned at the Eigel, and so are greatly elevated. It was the men who ran after a calf made out of a lump of gold - after they had just been given the Torah and seen the greatest of all Revelations. The women refused to give their gold for the avodah zarah of the men. And therefore, the women are not even required to pray. They did not forget Hashem in 2 seconds like the men did. Nor do the women have to make up a minyan. They can pray on their own. That is how holy the Jewish women are.

The men are telling the women to put the hair of a non-Jewish woman who may have eaten things like snakes and sharks and alligators, and has prayed in churches, Buddist temples or Hindu temples : on their own Heads. They had better wake up.

If the men don't want to wake up to the truth, and the true interpretation of the Halacha, the women will wake them up - whether they like it or not.

E-Man said...

"• A married woman is required to cover her hair when she lights the candles to welcome in Shabbat and Yom Tov – lechavod Shabbat ve Yom Tov - and when she goes to the Synagogue, because that is the place of Kedusha."

Where do you get this from? I would love to see some type of source even if it is your own interpretation on it.

Deborah Shaya said...

To E-Man,

This is the correct interpretation of the Halachah.

For a woman to "cover her hair" it refers to the woman covering her hair when she lights the candles for Shabbat and Yom Tov. And when she goes to the Synagogue, because that is where the Shechinah resides.

How this came to mean that she must always wear a wig/hat, and cover her hair with the hair of someone else, who is not Jewish, and who ate non-kosher food - is mind boggling. That is what is called a, "MISinterpretation" of the Halachah.

What I have written is a much needed and urgent correction. And the women are going to have to do it themselves. Because no "rabbi" or "dayan" has the slightest bit of interest in correcting the situation for the women.

We have all been given the spark of intelligence and Kedusha from Hashem.

We must wake up, and use that spark.

With kind regards.

E-Man said...

I appreciate your opinion. However, I was curious as to what your sources are. All halachas are based on sources. So what is your source that the only time a woman has to cover her hair is when she is involved in a davar shebikadusha. According to you where does it say that a woman has to cover her hair anywhere?

Deborah Shaya said...

To E-Man,

You are effectively asking me what the source is for you to have common sense.

I will tell you:

We have all been created, "Betselem Elokim" - "in the image of Elokim."

This means that we have been given something called "intelligence."

The source is the very first Parsha, Bereishit - 1:27.

It is time that people use the spark of intelligence and Kedusha with which Hashem has blessed them.

With kind regards.

E-Man said...

I still don't understand why a woman should cover her hair at all then. Why should she according to you cover her hair even during prayer? Why shouldn't men also then?

Deborah Shaya said...

1. To all the women who are wondering about the sources:

We have all been created, "Betselem Elokim" - "in the image of Elokim."
This means that we have been given something called "intelligence." The source is the very first Parsha, Bereishit - 1:27. It is time that people use the spark of intelligence and Kedusha with which Hashem has blessed them.

If your rabbi will tell you to go and jump into the depths of a glacier, presumably you would do that too – and give me a source for it?

“According to the Zohar”, I should also be covering my hair with a wig when I have a bath. “According to the Zohar and the Gemara” and all the sources that have misinterpreted the Halachah, and MIStranslated the Zohar, I should also have been born with a WIG on my head.

Those who tell me about their sources which are incorrect, should also tell me about these “translations” and these “sources.”

2.Remember that the Jewish women are very, very holy. They are much more holy than the men. Look at the exemplary behaviour of the women at Har Sinai - as I have written above.

Many righteous women influenced their husbands for the good at the Chet Haeigel and at the time of Korach.

It was these righteous women who succeeded in bringing their husbands back to their senses.

And because of these great women, the lives of their husbands were saved. Those men therefore turned away from the madness of avodah zarah, and the rebellion of Korach against Hashem's choice of Aharon as Cohen Gadol.

3. Look at the Jewish women in history, and remember how holy they are.

(a) Yaakov, who was the greatest of the Avot, came to marry the 2 daughters of Lavan, Rachel and Leah. Lavan was not exactly a tzaddik. Yaakov went to Lavan, of all people, to marry his 2 daughters – not 1 daughter, but his 2 daughters. Nothing could be greater than that.

(b) Rut, who came from Moav, became the ancestor of David Hamelech.

(c ) Batya, the daughter of Paroh, was given eternal life because she rescued Moshe from the river. No one could have been more evil than Paroh.

(d) Devorah, was a Neviah, and also a Judge.

Women, who came from such adverse backgrounds, with wicked fathers – were able to become builders of Am Yisrael. That is how holy the women are, and how much more elevated they are than the men.

This was never the case with men. It never happened the other way round.

Don't tell me it is holy for me to wear a WIG! Hair over my hair. This is ridiculous!

Similarly, don’t tell me it is holy for me to plonk a permanent head covering on my head for the rest of my life. This is equally vile.

Please Wake Up.

Use the spark of intelligence that Hakadosh Baruch Hu gave to you and blessed you with.

And give your wig back to your husband if you wear one.

4. Remember: Not a single “dayan” or “rabbi” has the slightest bit of interest in correcting the situation for the women. Therefore, the women will have to correct the situation................for ..................themselves.

Whether you wish to accept the correction–which is true–is up to you. Are you going to live by the truth? Are you going to use the spark of intelligence that Hashem gave to you and all women? Or are you going to follow rabbis and dayanim who tell you to wear a wig in a Heat Wave–and you thank them for it as well?

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