Latest update: February 19th, 2012
Several days after the incident that caught the attention of Israelis and Jews – and non-Jews – the world over, in which an 8-year-old dati girl in Bet Shemesh was spat on and cursed at by a young chassid for not being dressed modestly (according to HIS standards), Israeli TV interviewed a number of chassidim and others in the community for their reaction. The words of one particular interviewee were extremely disturbing. This man, who looked to me to be in his early 30s and no doubt saw a pious, G-d-fearing man when he looked in the mirror, adamantly justified his peer’s rant and assault against this child by stating that ” I am a healthy male” and insisted that provocatively dressed females deserved to be spat upon and insulted until they dress in a Torah manner.
Even little girls, the newsman asked incredulously. The answer was an unequivocal yes. Had this interview taken place in North America, I feel fairly confident that this “healthy male” would have been investigated for possibly being a pedophile. What normal adult male reacts to the elbows and knees of a 3rd grader?
But on a different level, the man’s answer represents a very problematic mindset, one that is epidemic across the board – refusing to take responsibility for resolving one’s issues and expecting others to – usually at their own expense and inconvenience; on their cheshbon.
If someone is unhappy with a social, financial, or spiritual issue, he/she insists others fix it or change to accommodate the complainer’s demands. For example, if someone needs money (often because they live beyond their means) there is the expectation that those who are perceived as being “better off” such as parents, grandparents, strangers or taxpayers, should dig deeply into their pockets and pay his or her expenses. Working harder or being fiscally responsible and living on a budget is not the solution. There is a problem, and it is incumbent on others to “do something” about it.
Decades ago, there was a predator on the prowl on the streets of Jerusalem who was assaulting women. The attacks were so frequent and injurious that a member of the Knesset suggested that a law be passed that would forbid women from going out after dark. Israel’s prime minister at the time, Golda Meir, pointed out that “Men are attacking the women, not the other way around. If there is going to be a curfew, let the men be locked up, not the women.”
Likewise, if certain elements of the charedi community have issues with the way women are dressed, let them figure out a way to alleviate their obvious spiritual and mental distress in a way that does not encroach on other people’s rights. It’s their problem – they need to resolve it, instead of demanding that a huge segment of society change their lives and the way they do things just to accommodate them.
Since they might be a bit rusty in the “thinking outside the box” department. I have a couple of suggestions that I am happy to share.
I know of a very ehrlich young man, a long time learner who is genuine in his love of Torah and its precepts. Since the teumah of the world outside the kollel where he learns is diametrically opposite to the kedusha of the study hall, he decided to stop driving because being behind the wheel meant having to view what was in front of him. He could not avoid being exposed to inappropriate billboards, advertisements, and other problematic sights, especially in the hot summer months when pedestrians of both genders and of all ages were dressed in a manner that would make their great grandparents blush.
Instead of going to City Hall demanding that the municipality remove what he viewed as being offensive and toxic to impressionable minds – or insist that the city council pass a bylaw forbidding men and women to wear clothes that expose their bodies, accusing them of being anti-Semitic if they refused – this young man created his own solution. His wife, friends or neighbors drive him to where he needs to go, while his face is happily buried in a sefer. He is an example of an enterprising person who resolved an issue that was very important to him, but on his cheshbon, not someone else’s.
Having a private “chauffeur” is not an option for most people, but all is not lost. Perhaps a car pool can be created with drivers taking turns at the wheel, so that soul-polluting teiva is not a daily occurrence, rather, this toxic exposure can be cut down by a fifth or sixth, depending how many yingelach you can squeeze into the car.
Another option for this “healthy male” and like-minded fellows is to take the bus. And if there are any “uppity” females who “don’t know their place” and insist that they have the right to sit in the front, then there is a very quick and easy way for the pious to distance themselves from these femme fatales – especially the pregnant ones: The men can sit in the BACK of the bus.
If that is too inconvenient, there is the option of just walking to your destination – a great way to burn off artery-clogging kishka and kugel calories. “Healthy” men who don’t want to be tempted by post-toddler “Delilahs” can walk with their heads bent down, their eyes protected by dark sunglasses. Or they can don blindfolds with razor thin slits – significantly limiting their vision but leaving them with enough to navigate their way as they walk.
However, if female toes sticking out of sandals get their hormones raging, perhaps they should just stay indoors, or if they really need to go somewhere they can tape their eyes shut and hire a seasoned blind person to guide them.
But the aforementioned options are limited in their scope. To protect the throngs who feel their devout sensibilities are being battered by sinful females and others in the midst, they need to take a close look at the Amish communities in the US. And learn how to live in the 21st century in a way that isolates them from modern culture and outside influences while being self-sustaining – most do not accept Social Security benefits, unemployment insurance or welfare.
The Amish, both women and men, are dressed very modestly, the women wearing long sleeved dresses, bonnets and aprons. They have farms and grow their own food and craft furniture, etc. While there are various degrees of strictness, most Amish do not have land lines, cell phones, radios, televisions, computers, etc. and don’t own or use cars, feeling that cars would provide easier access to the modern world. The Amish are very community oriented, helping one another to build barns and homes. Part of their avoidance of labor-saving technologies is their fear that it could undermine dependence on the community. They are very family and community oriented and view children as a blessing from G-d. Their language is even similar to Yiddish, being a German dialect. Most importantly, they have successfully managed to maintain their way of life without corrupting, outside influences seeping in and conversely without antagonizing those outside their community.
Perhaps there are those among our brethren who can create their own communities away from the cities and their sinful temptations and become self-sufficient, like the Amish. Instead of asking others to accommodate their issues, seen by many as unreasonable or fanatic, they could fix the problem without imposing on others.
Thus they would never need to worry about eight year old girls flaunting themselves and causing impure thoughts in hapless male bystanders as they walk to school, and most importantly, dati eight year old girls would no longer have to cower in fear as they make their way to class.
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