Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Why is "eating/drinking in public area" not tznius?

Recently, an advertisement I saw in the Five Towns Jewish Times on behalf of the arresting bachurim in Japan encouraged various tznius practices, including "Refrain from eating/drinking in public areas, especially where men are present."

Perhaps some groups do hold by such a chumra. But what is its "source"? And what is meant by eating in public? A meal at a restaurant? Chewing gum in public? Taking out your own private sandwich in a park and eating it?

Just as another entry on that list, avoiding noisy shoes and using rubber-soled shoes, was to be found in Rabbi Falk's tznius book, this one on public eating can also be found there.

Rabbi Falk writes what is pictured to the right.

The citation from Kesuvos 67b might be a stretch. It reads:
יתום ויתומה שבאו לינשא משיאין את היתומה ואחר כך משיאין את היתום מפני שבושתה של אשה מרובה משל איש

This does not necessarily refer to the general case of what might be considered "busha," and have to do with refinement. Surely the gemara is as applicable nowadays, even to gum-chewing girls. It has to do with being unmarried, and thus perhaps being dependent on charity as an individual, rather than part of a family. Certainly busha is mentioned in other cases, but in some cases we can almost call it a homonym.

He refers us to Pesachim 86b. That gemara reads:
הכלה הופכת את פניה וכו': מ"ט א"ר חייא בר אבא א"ר יוחנן מפני שהיא בושה
The citation is to the Mishna, on the previous amud.
שתי חבורות שהיו אוכלין בבית אחד אלו הופכין את פניהם הילך ואוכלין ואלו הופכין את פניהם הילך ואוכלין והמיחם באמצע כשהשמש עומד למזוג קופץ את פיו ומחזיר את פניו עד שמגיע אצל חבורתו ואוכל והכלה הופכת את פניה ואוכלת:

In general, people face their chabura, but the kallah has an exemption (or according to one reading in Tosafot based on a later segment of gemara, an obligation) to turn away her face and eat. And Rabbi Yochanan says that this is because of the busha. The parallel Yerushalmi has the same citation but not all the way to Rabbi Yochanan.

But Rabbi Falk is somewhat misleading with his summary of this gemara. The reference in the Mishna at least is to a Pesach meal, within a chabura. Neither Mishna nor gemara describe this as a meal with her in-laws. Perhaps the in-laws would be present at the meal, or perhaps not, but she would also be eating among many people she does not know. Describing it as in-laws (which calls to mind mother- and father-in-law in a private meal) is perhaps Rabbi Falk's way of increasing the degree of this kallah's modesty.

But see Rashi's explanation on the daf. He writes (d"h mipnei shehi busha) that she is embarrassed to eat, because of the men that are looking at her.

Perhaps because she is a new kallah, or a new face, she will be the center of attention here. But note that it did not say that this was true for all women, just for this particular instance involving a kallah. By linking it to the probably unrelated statement in Ketubot, Rabbi Falk can try to paint this as a general approach of refined women.

People in Talmudic times tried to apply this to men in general. Rav Huna was in a new place, where he was the center of attention at a meal. And he did not turn aside his face. This on the same daf in Pesachim:
הכלה הופכת את פניה וכו': מ"ט א"ר חייא בר אבא א"ר יוחנן מפני שהיא בושה רב הונא בריה דרב נתן איקלע לבי רב נחמן בר יצחק אמרו ליה מה שמך אמר להו רב הונא אמרו ניתיב מר אפוריא יתיב יהבו ליה כסא קבליה בחד זימנא ושתייה בתרי זימני ולא אהדר אפיה אמרו ליה מ"ט קרית לך רב הונא אמר להו בעל השם אני מ"ט כי אמרו לך ניתיב אפוריא יתבת אמר להו כל מה שיאמר לך בעל הבית עשה <חוץ מצא> מאי טעמא כי יהבי לך כסא קבלת בחד זימנא אמר להו מסרבין לקטן ואין מסרבין לגדול מ"ט אשתיתיה בתרי זימני אמר להו דתניא השותה כוסו בבת אחת הרי זה גרגרן שנים דרך ארץ שלשה מגסי הרוח
מאי טעמא לא אהדרת אפך אמר להו כלה הופכת פניה תנן
They asked him why he did not turn away his face, and he cited the Mishna, which shows that this is only the conduct of a kallah, but is not required in the general case.

Anyway, the connection between this "turning away the face" specifically for a kallah and (unmarried teenage) girls chewing gum in the street seems tenuous to me. Besides which, social mores change, and things acceptable in one era become unacceptable in another, and vice versa. Spitting in spittoons in shul was once acceptable, though now it is not. If there is nothing seen as wrong with chewing gum in public nowadays, then that the girls do not agree with Rabbi Falk's assessment of their behavior does not reflect upon the "deterioration of modesty and lack of refinement." Perhaps the solution is for Rabbi Falk to stop staring at girls chewing gum in the street.

Now, this type of "busha" for public eating actually occurs elsewhere, in a much better source than he cited, if one wants to link to girls chewing gum. My guess is that he did not cite this other relevant gemara because it is not particular to women, so he could not make it about tznius, and because the restrictions the poskim place on that gemara eliminate the problem.

There is a gemara which states that someone who eats in the market (shuk) is acting like a dog, and also (according to one variant) is invalid for testimony. Thus, in Kiddushin 40b, we have:
ת"ר האוכל בשוק הרי זה דומה לכלב ויש אומרים פסול לעדות
אמר רב אידי בר אבין הלכה כיש אומרים
This "eating in the shuk" seems like a much closer match to chewing gum in public. Rashi on the daf (d"h ufasul le'eidut) writes that so too, someone who eats in the shuk is not makpid on his honor, and would not be embarrassed to denigrate himself and become pasul (?be an invalid witness?}.

Tosafot (same daf, d"h veyesh omerim) is bothered by the seeming contradiction with a Yerushalmi in Maasarot, 16a:

אית תניי תני שאין שבחו של תלמיד חכם להיות אוכל בשוק כהדא רבי לעזר בר רבי שמעון הוה אכיל בשוקא חמתיה רבי מאיר אמר ליה בשוקא את אכיל ובטל גרמיה:

This would then seem to only be not the conduct of a Talmid Chacham, rather than any regular person. So why should a regular person suddenly be compared with a dog and be invalid for testifying, on the basis of this conduct. Rabbenu Chananel says that it is a case where he is chotef and eats. Tosafot understands this as theft, and gives terutzim why he would not be simply invalidated for the theft, but I would understand this as akin to chotefin matzos for the tinokos, and thus to seize a little here and a little there, gobbling it hurriedly down, perhaps as one walks. And one could then compare it to the conduct of a dog. Rabbi Eliyahu explains this as going to sellers and tasting a little, pretending that one is going to buy. And he remarks that if so, this can well be compared to the behavior of a dog. And finally, Rabbenu Tam, that it means eating a meal of bread, meaning a seudat keva. See how Rosh takes this. And see it in This
rambam hilchot edut perek 11 halacha 5; and in tur, and in shulchan aruch, choshen mishpat, siman 34, seif 19. Also, in Aruch Hashulchan, siman 34.

There are restrictions on what we would consider eating in public, in the shuk, as it applies in the general case. Perhaps besides the gemara, some of these commenters / halachic decisors were grappling with the conduct of fine menschen in their own communities, who might have eaten in the marketplace.

Because social customs change. Hillel had his sandwich, but the modern Sandwich was named after the Earl of Sandwich who wanted to eat on the go. And this has become acceptable conduct in many circles. And one is not "unrefined" for not acting in accordance with the ideals of one particular rabbi who has certain conceptions of what women's conduct should be, reinforced by forced interpretations of texts. Klal Yisrael, with their proper conduct, might also have some say in what is acceptable and what is not.


Jeremy said...

When are you going to put these posts into a book?

Or at least an article?

The tzniyus world needs your insights...

joshwaxman said...

thanks. :)
perhaps one of these days...

Unknown said...

Agreed with Jeremy. Though you should translate some of the lines first. :)

I often read through feeds - nice new(?) template, though maybe it's just because I got a new computer.

Yosef Greenberg said...

Why is your "I" in bold?

joshwaxman said...

"nice new(?) template"
thanks. i put it in about Pesach-time, and have been tweaking it since...


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