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September 2, 2014 / 7 Elul, 5774
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Rabbi Shmuley Boteach: Make Men More Mature Rather than Send Girls Under the Knife


Rabbi Shmuley Boteach

Rabbi Shmuley Boteach
Photo Credit: Screen shot

Few columns I have read from the orthodox community have disturbed me as much as Yitta Halberstam’s recent piece in the Jewish Press advocating that young women engage in plastic surgery in order to be more in demand for a shidduch (Jewish marital match). Worse, Yitta encourages us parents to be the ones to send our daughters under the knife. I was so floored by what I read that I decided to take time from my all-consuming Congressional campaign to respond.

I have met Yitta. She’s a fine woman with a luminous soul. So Yitta, please don’t take this personally. I mean no disrespect. But you can’t be serious.

Here is Yitta begging orthodox Jewish parents to heed her call: “Mothers this is my plea to you: There is no reason in today’s day and age with the panoply of cosmetic and surgical procedures available, why any girl can’t be transformed into a swan. Borrow the money if you have to; it’s an investment in your daughter’s future, her life.”

Witness the modern Jewish tragedy writ large. Had this piece been published even in a secular magazine it would have come in for the sharpest criticism and condemnation. Yitta, are you not aware that we face an epidemic of young American women dying of eating disorders like anorexia and bulimia because of the kind of misogyny you advocate above? About eight million American women have an eating disorder and the numbers are increasing greatly in the orthodox community. I published a column a few years back about a seventeen-year-old girl in a seminary in Jerusalem, known to my family, that died of anorexia. The root cause of eating disorders is this dangerous belief that a young woman is not born a princess but an ugly duckling in need of some radical personal makeover in order to appeal physically to a man.

How dangerous is the kind of drivel about young girls undergoing surgical procedures as advocated in Yitta’s column? Well, eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness. Ten percent of anorexics die within 10 years of contracting the disease, twenty percent will be dead after 20 years, and only about thirty-five percent ever fully recover. And the mortality rate associated with anorexia is twelve times higher than the death rate of all causes of death for females aged fifteen to twenty-four years old. (Source: South Carolina Department of Mental Health)

The assault on women in our time is serious, concentrated, and deadly. It’s remedy is a more wholesome, more spiritual culture that looks at a women in her totality: mind, body, heart, and spirit. This is the kind of world that Judaism, with its unique emphasis on a woman’s spiritual gifts, has always sought to create.

How tragic, therefore, that columns of this ilk are appearing more frequently in orthodox Jewish publications, as if the words of King Solomon “that beauty is negligible but a woman who fears G-d is to be praised” is something of a bygone era, replaced even in the religious Jewish community by the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition.

Is the author really suggesting that we take our young daughters – and I, thank God, am blessed with six – and put them under the knife, bankrupting our families in the process, so that they can better appeal to shallow religious charlatans who would prefer a woman who is all form and little substance? Is this what three thousand and three hundred years of Jewish tradition has come to, that a nation that has always dared to walk alone, with different ideals and values from the wider culture, should so fully capitulate to the most corrupt, misogynistic values, that we would advocate that our young women have plastic surgery in order to get married?

Earth to Yitta: It’s not women who have to have breast enlargements, collagen injections in their lips, and Botox needles shoved in their foreheads in order to marry. Rather, it’s men who need a deeper, spiritual inoculation. Tell the Yeshiva students that the Torah they are learning is supposed to actually change their hearts. They’re supposed to be influenced by its values and judge a woman’s beauty not just by her hourglass shape but by her incisive opinions, graciousness of character, and spiritual glow. It’s the feminine which draws the masculine, and the feminine is something subtle, noble and refined. It is vulgarized when it becomes entirely about the physical form and rapidly loses its appeal.

And by the way, Yitta, I assume, in the interests of egalitarianism and fairness, that you’re also advocating that the young guys who indulged a bit too much in the cholent  get their stomachs stapled and liposuction to make them more appealing to the girls?

I have worked in the field of human relationships in the secular world for most of my professional life and I have never even heard it suggested by the most superficial relationship expert that we should take young women for plastic surgery in order to attract a husband. Because most of those experts would rightly say that any man that expected extensive surgical procedures prior to marriage is a shallow jerk, and any parent who would inflict that on their daughter might just be guilty of abuse.

Yitta, a woman is not just beautiful because of her body. Want me to prove it? Who are the women who have achieved longevity in the popular culture? It’s women like Barbara Streisand and Meryl Streep who were never considered to be bombshell beauties. But their electrifying personalities and undeniable talent meant that people retained a longer interest in them than the average Playboy bunny without a brain.

Yitta complains that she attended an evening designed to introduce  hundreds of young women and prospective brides to the mothers of boys who might date them. The girls arrived without makeup. Yitta was shocked. Shocked! How dare they arrive without their faces painted? Don’t they know they have to make an impression?

Well, aside from the dubious practice of having girls sell themselves to prospective mothers-in-law – which has got to be one of the strangest things I have ever read, even in the already super-weird world of Shidduchim in which so many of our children already suffer (after all, is any girl out there really interested in a Momma’s boy who delegates to his mother the responsibility for choosing him a bride?) – there is the simple consideration that perhaps the young women felt relieved that they were actually going to meet creatures with greater depth than some shallow guy. In attending a shidduch event where they would meet Moms, rather than immature men, perhaps they felt relieved that they could actually be themselves. Maybe, just this once, they would be looked on as a man’s equal, someone who is judged by how much she has developed her intelligence and emotions, rather than bust size, cheek bones, and leg length.

Alas, it was not to be. Even the women, even the mothers, have had their ideals corrupted. And if these are the values with which orthodox Jewish mothers are today raising their sons, then it’s no surprise why their sons are so shallow, immature, and lost.

God help us all.

About the Author: Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, “America’s Rabbi” whom the Washington Post calls “the most famous Rabbi in America,” is the international best-selling author of 29 books, including The Fed-up Man of Faith: Challenging God in the Face of Tragedy and Suffering. Follow him on Twitter @RabbiShmuley.


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212 Responses to “Rabbi Shmuley Boteach: Make Men More Mature Rather than Send Girls Under the Knife”

  1. dmmd says:

    Rabbi Boteach criticizes the author for advocating plastic surgery to improve a woman’s appearance. He then talks about anorexia. Rabbi Boteach mixes apples and oranges. One is a mental issue the other is physical. Removing blemishes, straightening a nose, fixing a chin to make a girl or boy look more attractive in order to get a Shidduch is no sin.

  2. Shira says:

    Ok, I promised I wouldn’t do this, but are you truly, sincerely saying that Shmuel Boteach is off base with this article? He never says that girls shouldn’t do what they want to do surgically. He is saying it should not be forced upon them; it should not be a prerequisite to marriage. If a women wants to go in to debt to chase beauty and a man wants to marry his job to make millions that is thier choice. No one male or female should have to kill themselves to get married. In less extreme terms, if minor modifications make you feel better about yourself or if having a successful career is important to you, go for it! Good news, they don’t have to bec. all of these generalizations are untrue in real life. I know tons of people are happily married who are neither perfect barbies or Donald Trump. However, blaming the shidduch crisis on a lack of female beauty in the frum community is INSANE, DANGEROUS and simply NOT FRUM!

  3. Lynn says:

    I keep saying that Yitta was taken out of context. She is not advocating a check-list of surgical procedures that “need” to be done on every frum high school graduate. She is talking about more serious appearance situations. Such a disclaimer would have been helpful. It would be great if boys could be educated to reject the notion that women had to be perfect beauties. Possibly Yitta did us all a favor because she alerted us that something needs to change. Those who are getting angry could at least give her the credit for bringing the subject to everyone’s attention, even if her suggestions are not the solution to the problem.

  4. Gil Gilman says:

    Wow! It's about time someone said this, and eloquently as well…only to his two item list of Barbara and Meryl, I would have to add Golda Meir, Chana Szenes, Henrietta Sald, and by no means least Sarah Schenirer, none of who relied on plastic surgery. To all you men out there, all I have to say is "Man up…" if you know what I mean, which you probably don't.

  5. Gil Gilman says:

    Wow! It's about time someone said this, and eloquently as well…only to his two item list of Barbara and Meryl, I would have to add Golda Meir, Chana Szenes, Henrietta Sald, and by no means least Sarah Schenirer, none of whom relied on plastic surgery. To all you men out there, all I have to say is "Man up…" if you know what I mean, which you probably don't! It is all about standards. Are you looking at Hefner Standards, or Torah Standard? A Woman of Valor looks well to the ways of her household, and her husband praises and values her for these things. And by the way…you're not so great to look at yourself ;-).

  6. Shmuel Boteach has ideas that are way off base. He has outlandish generalities about marriage and sex. He called the Pope"Your Holiness". If a girl doesn't feel good about herself and wants to have some surgery done and the parents can afford it, why not? I had a friend who had a big nose and was self-conscious. When she was 16, she had a nose job and was VERY happy!

  7. batya novogroder says:

    Lynn, PLEASE quit defending Yitta for writing the harmful article that she wrote. As I recall from your comments last week you seem to enjoy your ‘job’ as a mother of sons who gets to choose her future daughters-in-law (since you explained that it is your right to do so) & you get to decide what type of girls your son should get to go out with based on various qualities with looks being among the top priorities. And YES you are right that something NEEDS to change & that is the attitudes of mothers who believe that they have the right to determine who their sons get to date primarily based on their looks.

  8. Yoni Glatt says:

    I constantly wonder if my morals are completely in sync with Rabbi Boteach's or if he's such a powerful writer/speaker that I can't help but agree with him? (This time I'm quite confident it's the former.)

  9. Funny he should have told his buddy Michael Jackson the same thing!

  10. Alan Feigen says:

    Shmuley, You hit it right on the head! I thought the article yesterday was outrageous & glad you concur. Kol hakovod to you! Have a great Pesach!

  11. An additional point to add would be the Halachic aspect of cosmetic surgery, being as the article did appear in an Orthodox newspaper.
    When a patient is under general anesthesia, they are in an inherently dangerous position. One is considered a "Choleh Sh'Yesh Lo Sakana" – we would be able to violate Shabbos for a person in that state.
    It is prohibited for a person to create an instance where they are in the state of danger. In fact, the only "Heter' that we have to drive a car on the highway – an act fraught with danger – is called "Orcha D'Arra" – "The way of the land" – In other words, the norm.
    In fact, Chazal discuss the fact that without this Heter, it would technically be forbidden for women to become pregnant, since there is a danger to that! However, since the world can't continue without procreation, and it is "the way of the land" it is allowed. However, once an action is removed from the norm, it becomes a complicated issue.
    Normal people get surgery for health reasons. Normal people do get surgery to fix major blemishes, for example a breast cancer survivor after a mastectomy, or a woman whose nose is completely twisted. Normal people don't get nose jobs if their noses are less than perfect.
    Rabbi Rudinsky, a well know Posek in Monsey has mentioned numerous times that each and every case of cosmetic surgery needs to be carefully discussed with your Halachic authority. If you won't violate Shabbos, if you keep Kosher, this is just as important.
    He did say that to correct a blemish, it is easier for a woman to get a Heter to have the corrective surgery than a man. That is because the norms in our society dictate it. So, if one has an issue with their appearances, go to a Rabbi for a ruling, not Ms. Halberstam.
    You might just get that Halachic dispensation you would need to be allowed to fix a crooked nose.
    However, the wholesale endorsement of the surgeries, as well as the attitude behind them – is completely unorthodox, and antithetical to both Halacha and to what our values should be.

  12. Lynn says:

    I never said that I enjoyed my role of choosing girls based on looks. I did say that my children shidduch date which means that I am involved in the process. I did say that physical appearance isn’t something that my sons can totally ignore. I did say that it is normal for men to be attracted to attractive women and that I see nothing wrong with using make-up to become attractive. Truth be told, most mothers get exasperated when their sons are too picky in the looks department and that is the way that I feel as well. I think that many mothers are afraid that girls who don’t care about how they look in the shidduch parsha will let themselves go after marriage. Men have to be supportive of their wives no matter what but I think it is hard for a man to be married to a woman who just does not try at all.
    Basically the whole shidduch system would have to go if mothers are the problem and I don’t see it disappearing any time soon.

  13. Lynn says:

    she had been briefly married

  14. Lynn says:

    They are all competing for the top boys so it doesn’t matter how many other boys exist that are frum and marriageable.

  15. Woe to us. My heart is broken. Thank you Rabbi for taking a strong stand.

  16. Lynn says:

    The question that I have regarding surgery is that rabbonim now allow people to donate kidneys and the donor gets no physical benefit whatsoever. The donor undergoes surgical risk as well as the fact that he slightly reduce his kidney output, which probably won’t affect his health. There are also women who can only give birth if they undergo c-sections, yet many women in the frum community give birth to large families via c-section. Birth by c-section has become somewhat of a norm.
    If all of this is allowed by halacha, then why would a woman who feels psychological stress about her appearance not be allowed to undergo surgery, if she had a heter from a competent rav? Breast reconstruction in cancer survivors, which you mentioned, also has risks and some types of reconstruction have numerous risks and may require numerous surgical procedures, yet rabbonim allow it for obvious reasons.

  17. S Sima Horowitz says:

    FANTASTIC response.

  18. יְדֵי, נָשִׁים רַחֲמָנִיּוֹת–בִּשְּׁלוּ, יַלְדֵיהֶן; הָיוּ לְבָרוֹת לָמוֹ, בְּשֶׁבֶר בַּת-עַמִּי.

  19. Morris Didia says:

    i read this article and the original..there is definitely a happy medium between the two..no one is so spiritual as to overlook beauty, however "she had a nose job….gastric bypass …botox injections….her teeth were capped…..and she wears violet-blue contact lenses" is a bit too far. poor guy who married her…

  20. B Gold says:

    Boteach such an art of misdirections, and such PC narishkeit from most of commenters.
    1. our davenning is terrible, our derech eretz worse, and our smug halacha is that each generation is less than the previous. so what hypocrisy to expect better from the ‘boys’
    2. not every girl should need plastic surgery, but it should be a last resort. 3. despite boteach’s deliberate misdirection, TOA doesnt suggest surgery without the girl’s consent – and desire. Of course he doesn’t see that he is debilitating the ‘rights’ and ‘honor’ of these girls in depriving them of the free will our Creator gave them – with the consent of their parents.
    Some otherwise quality young men may not be able to get past a severe or significant unusualness. Is this some kind of G-dly “test’ the girl must endure? Says who??
    There was a recent article about the longest facial plastic surgery ever (36 hours?) The man had his face shot off some 15 years ago. B”H the ability to help him is here.
    Good shabbos and Chag Kasher V’Sameach, Dear Readers

  21. יְדֵי, נָשִׁים רַחֲמָנִיּוֹת–בִּשְּׁלוּ, יַלְדֵיהֶן; הָיוּ לְבָרוֹת לָמוֹ, בְּשֶׁבֶר בַּת-עַמִּי.

  22. batya novogroder says:

    Lynn, if I had the time now, I would look for your comments defending Yitta from last week & cut & paste here to remind you of what you said about the boys’ mother’s role in choosing her “successor” etc, etc, but quite frankly I don’t feel the need to do that b/c it would be too time consuming to do right now with Pesach around the corner.

  23. Shayna Lifshultz says:

    Those freaky color contacts are not attractive. Nobody naturally has neon eyes.

  24. Elana Joffe says:

    Thank you for a good and strong response to Yitta Halberstam's shallow and irresponsible article. Rabbi Boteach's article is in line with Jewish values, as opposed to Halberstam's misguided attempts to reference Esther and the Purim story to "prove" her thesis. Halberstam should issue a retraction of her dangerous suggestions (surgery, botox, etc.) before anyone is harmed by them.

  25. Lynn says:

    I was talking about the mother-in-law, daughter-in-law relationship which develops regarding our current shidduch system. The mother is in the driver’s seat, like it or not and whether she should be or shouldn’t be there. I also said that if people were free to meet at Shabbos tables, it would level the playing field. I also said that if my son met someone without my help, I would fully welcome her so please don’t take my comments out of context.

  26. Malka Hizkiya says:

    At least someone has some sense

  27. Lynn says:

    also, I am defending Yitta. I believe that people skipped over the parts of her article where she decries that tyranny of beauty and they are focusing on her endorsement of plastic surgery which she herself had. She had used some examples of how beauty is regarded in Judaism and some of the sources were not as accurate as some could have been but the gist of it was that it is not a sin to improve one’s looks in regard to finding a shidduch (or keeping a spouse’s attraction). But yes, I am defending her because she did not intend for her statements to be misconstrued this way.

  28. Ally Levy says:

    excellent

  29. Batya White-Novogroder says:

    Although Sara Schneirer never married…

  30. Eric Namrow says:

    When are we going to see a push for men to get lipo, nose job, etc? I have seen some nasty, pastey looking yeshiva guys who could use some serious work. And a pair of running shoes.

  31. "In attending a shidduch event where they would meet Moms, rather than immature men, perhaps they felt relieved that they could actually be themselves. Maybe, just this once, they would be looked on as a man’s equal, someone who is judged by how much she has developed her intelligence and emotions, rather than bust size, cheek bones, and leg length."
    Amen to that too. Since I read the article I was screaming about that. This meeting was – or should have been – ALL about character, and NOTHING to do with looks, since only one person – the boy himself – will ever know what arouses him.

  32. Shoshanna Goldstein Sanders says:

    Babs on why she never got a nose job: "I thought my nose went with my face, ya know".
    http://barbra-archives.com/bjs_library/stories/nose_streisand.html
    Barbara, we love you, you're like buttah.

  33. Rachel Furman Stern says:

    Finally, you have written something with which I agree…

  34. The article made me so sad. And mad!!!!!! I got married at 37. Safe to say, I paid my dues. I married a man who thank God, was able to see me as a whole person. And I him. I can't stand the message this misguided woman is promoting. And a Halbershtam yet! Everyone I know (well the girls at least) puts their best foot forward on a date, without the need for cosmetic surgery. I just wish the whole damn thing was more fair and just. I'm mad!!!!!

  35. ReVach Nj says:

    I am a mother of 8 individuals, 5 young ladies who are intelligent, kind and competent, who desire to form a relationship with a mutually aware, responsible, loving partner with whom to build a torah filled home. I also mother 3 worthy, smart, confident young men who will seek reliable, like-minded, able mates with whom to build a torah filled home. BEAUTY is in the eye of the beholder..all of my children will , G-D, willing, marry beautiful people, whose spirits will carry them and lift them, together to a higher understanding of their purpose and fulfillment in life. Every person was created "B'Tzelem Elokim", to suggest that anyone is less than perfect is positievly sacreligious. Where has our nation gone? Avraham and Sarah, Yitzchak and Rivkah, Yaakov and Rochel, Leah, Rabbi Akiva, every single Gadol Hador…….What is our nation thinking?

  36. Miriam Isaac says:

    Batya White-Novogroder she did marry she just never had children

  37. Twinkle Starr says:

    Wow. That is insanity! Cannot believe the Jewish Press would allow someone to publish something like that!!!

  38. Rabbi Boteach, please read my response to the article. We are on the same page. I am therapist who works in the field of eating disorders.

  39. Josh Becker says:

    yes great response…just in time for his candidacy too.

  40. Yaffa Seraph-Santos says:

    YES. When I read Halberstam's article I had to wonder if it was that there was a shortage of men in the Shidduch world. Last time I checked the ratio was close to 1:1, so why should the girls have to transform themselves just to have a chance of getting a man!

  41. David Staum says:

    While I agree with Boteach here (generally not a fan), this was low hanging fruit – no one agreed with the article, so he's not being very radical here.

  42. David Staum says:

    While I agree with Boteach here (generally not a fan), this was low hanging fruit – no one agreed with the original article, so he's not being very radical here.

  43. David Staum says:

    While I agree with Boteach here (generally not a fan), this was low hanging fruit – no one agreed with the original article, so he's not being very radical here.

  44. Chavi Swidler Eisenberg says:

    so egotistical… They are all attention seeking…Yitta, Shmuely, The Jewish Press…

  45. Josh Becker says:

    Chavi Swidler Eisenberg sure. I mean, Yitta is wrong in (almost) every sense, and Shmuely is right in every sense, but I dont understand why people keep posting this stuff on facebook. It's starting to bore me. Yes, we get the point. Move on.

  46. Chavi Swidler Eisenberg says:

    Because we're also attention seeking too! ;)

  47. Josh Becker says:

    Chavi Swidler Eisenberg sure. I mean, Yitta is wrong in (almost) every sense, and Shmuely is right in every sense, but still…attnetion seeking (I think everything Shmuley wrote is obvious, but Im glad he could, uhm, make his stance.

  48. Josh Becker says:

    David Staum just in time for his candidacy too…

  49. Rivkah Fischman Weiss , this was one thing I was wondering. Say you had listened to her advice, and had surgeries that turned you into a Cindy Crawford lookalike. What does she think would have happened? How would your life be better? Would you have met your husband any earlier in life? I doubt it, since whatever circumstances that brought you two together weren't in place yet. Would you have married someone else? Perhaps, she might say, one of the guys you went out with who decided to stop seeing you may have given you more thought if your body is different. Is that a good thing?
    How would you have benefited?

  50. It's ironic when the response in opposition to such a piece comes from a shallow and superficial man.

  51. I wouldn't dare go toe-to-toe with Shmuley Boteach in polemics. He is usually a practical level headed guy with good real world solutions to complicated problems. The author of "Kosher Sex" is suddenly offended by the popular culture inching its way into Yiddishkeit. Puhhleease.
    He is way off base here on many levels. Looks count in picking a prospective mate. Always have and always will. Wasn't Moshe's wife Tzipporah one of the most beautiful women on earth. Rachel was chosen over Leah because of her beauty. Yosef was called the most handsome man alive. Why would the Torah mention it if it didn't matter?

    It's not the only thing that matters, but it is part of the equation. If its something that can be safely enhanced…why not? Would you withhold orthodontic care (braces) from your six beautiful daughters if they needed it….as they cried themselves to sleep with crooked teeth?

    All Yitta said was, "put some makeup on…brush your hair…and yes, straighten a crooked nose if you need to." She was speaking from the heart and from her own personal experience. Where is yours?

    Your outrage is misplaced, misguided and hypocritical.

    Call me…maybe.

  52. Chaim Saperstein; conversely, what if the guy who needed a Cindy type had a magnanimous few months and decided to marry me despite my lack of supermodel status. Once we were married, I would have learned pretty quickly what his true values were and paid for it the rest of my life. You are right in that things worked out with my husband because the timing in our lives was right. This article makes women believe that they will not have their chance without drastic beautification measures. I am proof positive that it's not true and it is devastating and harmful advice.

  53. David Staum says:

    Also, I think Boteach is being disingenuous here – Halberstam's suggestions were reprehensible, and a very sad commentary on the "shidduch" system, but to be fair, she mentioned nose jobs. She didn't even imply chest implants. Yet Boteach, who seems to love connecting everything with sex, drags that subject in.

  54. Yonatan Silver says:

    Let's see if I understand this correctly.

    Yitta decides who her son will be able to meet and date. She is the one who decides that certain women are not suitable for her son because they don't wear enough makeup or need surgery such as a nose job.

    After she has rejected these women – and won't let her son meet them and decide for himself – she blames men for being shallow.

    And Boteach responds to Yitta by stating that men in Yitta's peculiar society are superficial. How does Boteach know this if women these men might find attractive never get to meet them because of the mother-dragon guarding the gate and preventing anyone from taking away their baby?

    Men in this strange community do need to be more mature: They need to be able to tell their mothers to get out of the way so they can meet women that they may be interested in.

  55. Shmuley:

    FYI: One of the beautiful things about our Torah is that it is realistic and doesn't sugar coat the human condition into some PC view of life. King Solomon had 1,000 beautiful wives. King David was physically attracted to Bat Sheva. These are tzaddikim whom G-d chose personally. Are you telling us that things that they valued are irrelevant…and that you are personally beyond such superficialities.

  56. Oh…I forgot one more. Sarah was hidden in a box from Pharoh because she was stunningly beautiful.

  57. Oh…I forgot one more. Sarah was hidden in a box from Pharoh because she was stunningly beautiful.

  58. Bernie Waldman says:

    This is starting to become interesting !!

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The world and the United State continue to give Rouhani a pass.

American Jews – especially those working on campus – don’t accept that we have a battle on our hands.

But the most painful part of an otherwise illuminating and extraordinary Forum was Iranian President Rouhani’s speech.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/family/rabbi-shmuley-boteach-make-men-more-mature-rather-than-send-girls-under-the-knife/2012/03/28/

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