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Chronicles Of Crises In Our Communities – 3/11/11

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Colorless Or Colorful? Readers Speak…

Initiated by Stand-Up Guy (see Chronicles Feb. 11 & 25)

 

Dear Rachel,

A concerned writer innocently asked, “What is wrong with a guy wearing colored shirts?” and cited girls who won’t date “such boys” but yet are adorned in Uggs and Juicy attire. He wanted to know what it really means to be open-minded and who really embodies that mindset. Then came your answer.

You used the description of the Bigdei Kehuna in the parsha as your justification for why your clothes really do make a difference. But isn’t the Kohen still the Kohen when he is not in his Kohen uniform?

I was surprised to see how much credence you give to the color of one’s shirt. I didn’t really personalize what you wrote until this sentence, “…If a girl turns you down on account of your jeans, just see it as a sign…you are more likely to find your right fit in your own backyard.”

This is where I felt it: the closing of the Jewish mind. And I AM one to talk. I just got married at the ripe young age of 30. My husband and I do not share religious backgrounds, but we share future goals and hashkafic compatibility. I mostly dated men who wore black hats, but their attire didn’t define their middos. Each individual was just that: an individual. There were men wearing “the pure” black and white uniform whose behavior was not congruent with Torah, and there were those in jeans who acted as descendants of Avraham Avinu.

If I would have married someone from a more yeshivish background who looks like all of my friends’ husbands, but who internally wasn’t as refined and lacked the yirat shamayim of the man in a “pink shirt” who I did marry, I don’t think I would have been at peace with it. I probably would have wished that I had looked “outside my own backyard” to find the right person for me.

We live in a world of color and no one is forced to wear any color they do not want to, but I’m pretty sure that Hashem’s expectations are “Hatznea lechet im Hashem Elokecha.Tzniut, humility and following in the ways of Hashem; color is not mentioned. Perhaps dates would go better if people were just a bit color-blind.

Married in living color

 

Dear Married,

Mazel tov on the occasion of your marriage!

Your disappointing dating experiences just go to prove that clothes do not make the man. Appearances can be deceiving and so we go to great lengths to get to know the person before making up our minds.

Common background between marriage partners is definitely a plus but is not a guarantee for long-lasting wedded bliss.

While we may live in a world of color, one might say that the issue of “black and white” in the Jewish orthodox world is a gray area. Most men instinctively carry on their family tradition, dressing in the way of their fathers. This goes for both the color and white shirted kind — and neither preference attests to the wearer’s moral fiber.

 

Dear Rachel,

I’m hesitant to waste time writing to you, but the opinions you expressed are not only misguided; they’re objectively wrong. I’m talking about your assertion that black-and-white clothing is preferable for yeshiva boys and men.

The Mishna in Masechet Megilla (4:8) states specifically: “If one declares, ‘I will not step before the Ark in colored raiment,’ he may not go even in white garments.” In other words, the clothes do not make the man and colored garments are completely acceptable for those leading the services.

In Masechet Berachot (28a), we learn that Rabban Gamliel’s policy was to bar anyone from the study hall who’s “inside did not match his outside.” In other words, anyone can dress like a yeshiva boy, but what really matters is what’s inside.

Your statement that white “exudes a purity of soul” is laughable. As is your assertion that colors in the beit midrash will distract Torah scholars from their learning. Honestly? Does the presence of color distract scholars in any other discipline or just teenage boys and men in yeshivot? Did you conduct a study? Should we ensure that all seforim are a uniform black or brown, so as not to distract the learners? What about the colors on the parochet and the Torah covers? Distracting?

You state that you like white, personally. That’s your opinion. But don’t go making blanket statements based on your personal preference.

I agree that materialism should not be a focus in yeshiva or in shidduchim. But if you notice, there are plenty of designer-label white shirts and dress slacks, not to mention high-priced hat brands, available to those whose souls are so ostensibly pure.

There’s nothing wrong with colored clothing and people in the shidduch parsha who are hung up on ‘white shirts’ should have their mistaken prejudices corrected.

True Blue Jew

 

Dear True Blue,

Since none of my colored-shirt wearing close kin found anything remotely disparaging in my reply to Stand-Up Guy, I can only deduce that you have an axe to grind (with the white-shirt wearing kind, apparently).

Anyone with an uncolored mindset will note that I simply enlightened the reader as to the logic behind the white-shirt tradition.

Regarding your Talmudic references, “in other words” doesn’t quite cut it. Open to interpretations, yes, but the samples you cite have little to nothing in common with this discussion.

One commentary focuses almost exclusively on Rabban Gamliel’s suitability as head of the rabbinic academy when he seeks to ease the overcrowding of talmidim by limiting their attendance (no mention of clothing or color). The other specifically designates the one who refuses to step in front of the Ark in colored clothing as flawed in his belief-system. Adjudged an apikores, he is deemed equally unsuited to the task whether attired in color or white.

Your rebuke of my tongue-in-cheek comment about loving the white snow that blankets our lawns doesn’t deserve the dignity of a remark. Suffice it to say that your attitude speaks volumes for itself.

* * * * *

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.

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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