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Posts Tagged ‘Dear Heart’

Chronicles Of Crises In Our Communities – 7/01/11

Wednesday, June 29th, 2011

Tznius: Wrapping It Up

 

Dear Rachel,

I had no intention of contributing to your column’s most recent debate — until this week, when I attended the graduation of my kindergarten-aged son. Rachel, I am still in shock. Mind you, this is no hick-town modern day school but a well-known yeshiva run by a recognized, well-respected rabbinical head, in a sizable orthodox community.

No, it is not Lakewood I refer to; most families here happen to be middle of the road Modern Orthodox. Of about twenty mothers in attendance, a mere six of us were decently dressed. The others ranged from untznius’dik (cap sleeves with arms completely bare; own hair exposed without even an attempt at head-covering), to outright coarse (skintight tops that leave little to the imagination and… you get the picture).

My heart ached for the Rosh Yeshiva who must have been pained to the core of his being, and for the innocent little boys whose futures are being compromised by none other than the parents they look up to.

To be candid, I grew up in a very modern home where females wearing pants was the norm. (I stopped the practice when I later discovered such attire inappropriate for a Torah-abiding Jewess.) And yet I have to say that for all of our modernity, I never dressed in the crude fashion that some religious women seem to have no problem with.

As I’ve learned it, tznius is a mandate, not an option. In light of the fact that our future generations are being detrimentally affected, I find the blitz of criticism leveled by readers on the original letter-writer unwarranted. Since when has it become “wrong” to take a stand for our principles and to defend Hashem’s laws?

Where is the outcry from influential sources?

My heart is bleeding

Dear Heart,

For weeks now this column has deferred to readers who have had plenty to say about a volatile issue that, as you indicate, affects all of us.

Though many letters were indeed critical, others echoed sentiments and opinions similar to yours. In fact, readers have done such a remarkable job in addressing the topic that what remains for this column at this time is to re-emphasize the importance of guarding our manner of dress (as well as demeanor) and to stress the gravity of being lax in the inyun of tznius (which in actuality encompasses the traits of modesty, humility and restraint).

Needless to say, not all letters made it to print. One reader (submitting his comments to the editor of The Jewish Press) fiercely decried the publication of the tznius column as it originally appeared in Chronicles of June 3rd. The following is an excerpt of his letter:

I wonder how Rachel considers this a crisis in the community? Unless she is talking about the xxxxx community, in which case I would understand because there it is socially acceptable to equate transgressions of halachic law with criminal abuse… I wonder why a woman not covering her knees is considered by Rachel to be a crisis on the level of an agunah who can never remarry, or a young child being repeatedly molested by his Rebbe or a woman battered by her husband. 

I myself am a “black hat” Jew, who adheres to the strictest interpretation of the law, and I am very, very offended by this article… equating a religious “transgression” with molestation and abuse is intolerable.

Sir, with all due respect for your religious convictions, your remarks are most baffling, on many counts.

1) This column tries its best not to discriminate; when a fellow-reader is in distress, we consider it a crisis. Others are equally welcome to disagree, to commiserate or to debate the sufferer…

2) It is not for us to determine the magnitude of one mitzvah over another; we refer you to the words in Pirkei Avos that forewarn us not to judge one mitzvah more (or less) significant than another. Thereby the out-of-control lack of modesty in our midst most certainly qualifies as a Chronicle of Crisis.

3) We do know that among the numerous mitzvos in the Torah, only one – the theme of tznius – is linked to the presence of the Holy Shechinah in our midst. We are warned specifically (in Devarim 33:15): “Ki Hashem Elokecha mishaleich b’kerev machnecha l’hatzilcha; v’haya machanecha kadosh…” – For Hashem your G-d walks among you to save you and deliver your enemies before you; your camp should therefore be holy … to not cause Him to turn away from you.

4) The Jewish nation is considered a “lone sheep among seventy wolves.” But our Creator watches over His children, as long as we maintain our modesty. One should shudder at the thought of our vulnerability should we chas v’shalom turn Hashem against us. (For that matter, do we know why tragedies – such as the molestation and abuse you speak of – fall upon us?)

Several years ago, as readers worldwide will recall, the topic of shmiras halashon was being confronted in every community and on every level, via live shiurim, tapes, pamphlets and workshops, in order to shake our people to the seriousness of its transgression and awaken us to the dangers we place ourselves in with carelessness of speech.

Many people may not be aware that the same Chofetz Chaim who has brought the laws of lashon hora into our living rooms for our own protection in this world and in the next, also wrote a compendium on the laws of tznius. Titled Geder Olam, this work clearly outlines the laws of tznius, as well as the hazards in flouting them: parnassa issues; shalom bayis difficulties; children going off the derech; etc. This volume belongs on the sefarim shelf of every home library.

To “My heart is bleeding”: You speak of your own “modern” upbringing and subsequent growth. Perhaps the mothers (you encountered at the graduation) are yet to embark on their own journey into the wonderful and immensely satisfying world of our religion and heritage. Let us hope and pray for them all.

* * * * *

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.

Chronicles Of Crises In Our Communities – 10/02/09

Wednesday, September 30th, 2009

Dear Rachel,

My story is different than most (since I am not writing to complain about something or someone), but the moral may be worth sharing with your readers nonetheless.

I live in a bustling, large yet tight-knit chassidic community where, Baruch Hashem, multiple smachos are celebrated on just about every night of the week.

Needless to say, it would be impossible to attend each one that I am invited to, so my longstanding habit has been to just stop by to convey my mazel tov to the ba’alei simcha, and if my timing is right, to kick up my heels for a dance or two. I suspect that this works well not only for me but for the hosts as well, since the cost of feeding many guests at a simcha can be exorbitant.

Of course when it is a close family member, I am prepared to stay the duration.

Well, the other day I dropped in at the wedding of a friend’s daughter. This wedding was particularly moving since this friend has been widowed for several years now and has single-handedly been raising her several children.

As I looked around me, I saw the kallah’s siblings – younger sisters – all prettied up for the occasion, but with faces that betrayed an inner sadness. After dancing with the kallah, I took turns partnering with each young girl, twirling them around the dance floor in beat to the lively music.

Just before I was ready to leave, a long-time acquaintance approached me and paid me the ultimate tribute. She had been watching me and was impressed with the way I danced. It wasn’t so much my dancing expertise or style that she was taken with, she explained, but the feeling of genuineness – even as my feet were flying in tune to the accompanying musical rhythm, she recognized that it was my heart that was soaring.

Naturally I came away from that affair with a good feeling, which was nothing compared to the emotions that washed through me when I passed the somewhat reserved 11-year old sister of the kallah on the street later that week. She stopped to thank me for “uplifting” her at her sister’s wedding – literally and figuratively. She sweetly expressed her gratitude for my personal attention and participation.

I felt a need to contact the woman who had praised me at that simcha, to share with her this special encounter and the unexpected demonstration of appreciation that had so deeply touched me.

“If I may I ask you something personal ” remarked this woman (aged 30-something). “Were you always into dancing, even as a child ?”

Her question threw me… I realized that dancing was not only never one of my strong points, but that I had always been quite clumsy on my feet, as were my siblings who had always kibitzed about us all having “left feet.”

To this revelation the woman commented, “Well, it would seem then that your wonderful dancing ability is a gift from Hashem Who has perceived your true intentions by seeing straight through to your heart ”

Believe it or not, Rachel, I do not write this to pat myself on the back, but rather to express my amazement at this young woman’s way of thinking. In this day of materialism and competitiveness, when most of what is written concerns our worries over where this generation is headed, I think it is important to be aware that there are clear-headed, serious-minded individuals in our midst who are not only grounded but are constantly aware that there is a G-d watching us and guiding us.

Thank you for stressing this very point time and time again in your column and for letting us, your devoted readers, have our say.

It’s the heart of it that counts

Dear Heart,

Thank you for uplifting us with a truly heartwarming story and its multiple messages.

Kudos to you! It is indeed a mitzvah to be m’sameach chassan v’kallah and you not only seem to know it, but are doing a marvelous job in performing it. Yours is furthermore a lesson in how much one individual can accomplish all by herself, time and time again. How many of us are truly mindful of the mitzvos that are right there in front of us for the taking?

Your friend’s observation is profound, though the premise is certainly not new. We are taught, “B’derech she’adam rotzeh leileich molichin oso ” – the way a person wants to go is the way Hashem will lead him.

Shlomo HaMelech, in Koheles, writes that there is a time for everything, including “a time of dancing” (eis rikud). Why didn’t he state “l’rikud” – a time to dance, like where it says “a time to love and a time to hate, etc.?”

The Imrei Emes explains that when it comes to being mesameach chassan v’kallah, there is no deliberate forethought to dance – rather, as the heart is overcome with feelings of joy, the feet lift themselves off the floor of their own accord, and that is what is meant by “a time of dancing.”

May the merits of our ma’asim tovim (good deeds) speak volumes on our behalf and drown out our shortcomings as we beseech our Father above to take pity on His children and grant us a year filled with simcha and the health and wherewithal to delight in His beneficence.

Wishing all our readers and Klal Yisroel a sweet, mitzvah-filled and inspiring Sukkos!

* * * * *

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, 338 Third Ave., Brooklyn, N.Y. 11215.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/family/chronicles-of-crises/chronicles-of-crises-in-our-communities-196/2009/09/30/

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