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Chronicles Of Crises In Our Communities – 8/20/10

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Dear Rachel,

I’m an avid reader and, of course, enjoyed the last article about the separation of men and women at frum events and affairs (Chronicles 8-6-10). While we cannot argue with chazal about the directive to not talk excessively with women, I wonder if that really translates into the far degree with which some go in keeping the genders apart.

It seems that the obsessive separation from a young age plays a role in some of the broken relationships and sexual issues seen later in life. Aside from growing up with a sibling of the opposite gender who is close in age, how exactly do frum boys and girls learn anything about each other? How do they develop basic comfort in the presence of each other? And we know many Rabbonim have had mixed seating at their weddings or attended such simchas.

I look forward to reading more thoughts on this.

Just asking

Dear Just,

You raise multiple issues in regard to the topic of the mingling of the genders. First of all, let’s make it clear that we talk here of married individuals versus single – halachic stringencies that would apply vary between the two.

“Separation from a young age” as you call it, has been going on for a very long time, and all things considered, the vast majority of youngsters grow up having no problems in getting on with life. The difficulties they face as marrieds are no different than those encountered by married couples in general.

Not only is there the sibling mix (boys and girls growing up together), but there are many extended family get-togethers plus healthy parental relations. And there is certainly no proof that more than this (gender) familiarization is necessary to foster a healthy sense of gender awareness.

As it happens, there is actually a bonus to the “separation” you speak of: the aura of mystery surrounding the male-female relationship lends intrigue and excitement to the new partnership, as many Chassidic couples will happily attest to.

Regarding mixed seating at simchas, the reader should note that this column is not a halachic forum. That said, there is much written in the Shulchan Aruch in regards to this issue and since the readership of this column runs the gamut of vast left to vast right, each baal simcha should consult his or her own rabbinic authority.

One might need to keep in mind the changing of times. Following the war, for instance, countless lost souls mingled together to lean on one another for emotional and physical support. Many under the trying circumstances also became lax in following halacha to the tee. The years since have, on the other hand, seen much transformation in the area of frumkeit.

I once asked a noted rabbinic figure how it was that he was seen attending a mixed wedding. (To be sure, he was seated at a special table with males only.) He answered that the family making the simcha was a highly respected one and they were known for their open-handed generosity. Snubbing them would serve no useful purpose, he explained, whereas honoring them was a form of kiruv – and, in fact, the family was gradually evolving their children already demonstrating a desire to lead a more orthodox lifestyle.

Thank you for contributing your opinion to this column.

Dear Rachel,

The woman who was upset about the male-only barbeque event in her neighborhood is, in my opinion, obsessive about her relationship with her husband. I am even tempted to think that she’d rather not let him out of her sight, due to her own insecurities.

For the record, I am a happily married young wife and mother whose husband just left on an extended business trip. As soon as he was out of the house I felt an instant sense of relief. To be perfectly frank, I welled up in tears as he said goodbye and I say with all sincerity that I will miss him.

But the reality is that for the time he is gone I will not be cooking dinner (cream cheese and bread is just fine for me), I will refrain from checking my watch to see whether my husband will soon be home (in order to be ready for him), I will chill and do my own thing on my own time and the break from my grinding routine will leave me relaxed and refreshed for when he gets back.

You got it right, Rachel, when you said that everyone needs a time out and that it’s perfectly fine to get together with one’s own gender once in a while. Come to think of it, I think I’ll do just that – invite a girlfriend over for Shabbos. We’ll get up when we want, go to sleep when we feel like it and eat whatever whenever.

Thanks for your common-sense forum.

A loving wife – loving my vacation

Dear Loving,

Enjoy!!!

* * * * *

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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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