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Chronicles Of Crises In Our Communities – 3/03/06

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Readers react to letter by “Unimpressed Male Onlooker” (Chronicle Jan.13).

Dear Rachel,

To the man who wrote that he is uncomfortable with women davening on the subway, my answer is for him not to look at the women. While the subway is not an ideal place to daven, I think it is great that a woman takes the time to do so – a time oriented mitzvah that is not really expected of women at all. It is especially commendable in these busy and troubled times. Though I myself daven at home daily, I don’t believe that it is in this man’s place to tell women what to do. I’ve seen both Jew and Gentile praying on buses and subways.

Glad to be living in a land of Freedom of Religion

Letter #2

I am an 18-year old student who frequently rides the subway and was very disturbed by your response to the “unimpressed male onlooker.” Since when have Jews concerned themselves with what others think when doing what Hashem wants of them? As far as calling attention to oneself, l find that females on the train who are just looking around or listening to music draw more unwanted attention. When davening or saying tehillim with your head and heart in the siddur, not only are you purifying the surroundings, you are safely distracted from the subway environment. I speak from personal experience.

The subway’s just fine for me

Letter #3

“Unimpressed male onlooker” seems more interested in carping and criticizing others (i.e. women) than studying a sefer on the train. Did he ever learn Pirkei Avos (1:6) – to judge others for merit (l’kaf zchus)? No, I suppose he is too busy studying girls on the train. How dare he act as judge and jury over his fellow Jew! On a personal note, my great-grandfather was renown for his great piety. And yes, there were occasions when he davened on the train. And yes, he had such kavanah and “devakus” (closeness) to Hashem that the secular surroundings did not dissuade or distract him. “Unimpressed

¼” is insulting my own family, as well as countless other Yidden whom he views as “overly pious.”

Both you and the letter-writer would do well to read SHMUEL ll (6:14-23) about Dovid HaMelech dancing, leaping and whirling before the Holy Ark with great kavanah and emotion. When Michal, his wife, saw this “tasteless display,” she accused him of being vulgar and “exposing himself” before the slave girls of his subjects. King David’s reply was – as you would say – “on target”: “Before the Lord Who chose me… I made merry. Before the Lord I will demean myself even more than this and be low in my own eyes

¼ and among the slave girls of which you speak, I will be honored…” So, what takes priority – the idle thoughts of man, or honoring Hashem?

Dismayed by your attitude

Letter #4

I read your article on a weekly basis. However, I was very disappointed to see your view on women davening. Did you consult a Rav before saying that women shouldn’t daven at all if that’s the only time they have to pray? Take, for example, a married woman of children who is the breadwinner for the family as her husband learns all day. Her job is out in Manhattan and she has to be there at 9:30 a.m. Why shouldn’t she daven on the train? What’s wrong with it? Even a girl, I’m sure, has reason for davening on the train. My mom had a baby last year. Having had a difficult birth, it took a while for her to get back to her normal self. My sister arose early to see our siblings off to school and to help out with the baby. Once when she hadn’t managed to fit her davening into her hectic morning routine at home, she took her siddur out on the train on her way to work. As she began to daven, an Israeli male said to her, “Miss, this is not the way

¼to pray on a train where you can’t concentrate. Get up a half hour earlier…” My sister politely told him that she had been up since 5:30 to send kids off to school, etc. The man embarrassingly apologized. So you can inform your letter writer that if he has a problem with women praying on the subway, he can either ask them why they are doing so or give them the benefit of the – in that maybe this is the only time the girl can make for davening. And what’s wrong with purifying the train and making it holier? Tell this man to move to a different car so that he doesn’t see what the nashim tzidkonios of this generation are doing. What a selfish man! Even the few minutes that a woman has to talk to G-d he wants to take away from her!

A very upset reader

(To be continued )

About the Author: We encourage women and men of all ages to send in their personal stories via email to rachel@jewishpress.com or by mail to Rachel/Chronicles, c/o The Jewish Press, 4915 16th Ave., Brooklyn, N.Y. 11204. If you wish to make a contribution and help agunot, your tax-deductible donation should be sent to The Jewish Press Foundation. Please make sure to specify that it is to help agunot, as the foundation supports many worthwhile causes.


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