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December 7, 2016 / 7 Kislev, 5777

Posts Tagged ‘Modesty’

A World Untouched by Civilization

Friday, September 21st, 2012

The woman, wearing a tank top and jeans, has her full attention on the tomato box. The haredi woman touches one of her bare arms. The woman turns around and the haredi woman immediately snaps at her, pointing at her bare arms: “Next time don’t come to the market like this. Next time you’ll come with sleeves.”

The above excerpt from an article in Ynet illustrates one of problems isolationist societies like the one that Charedi woman ‘Tznius- cop” no doubt comes from.

Machane Yehuda (pictured) was overhauled by Jewish merchants very likely in order to compete with the Arab Shuk. The Arab Shuk was opened up to Jews after the 6-day war. And business boomed. Arab merchants of all types selling their wares had a new and booming market in all the Israelis and tourists that came to visit the Kotel. Going through the Arab Shuk was one of the common ways to leave that area. On my first trip to Israel I exited the Kotel Plaza that way. It was (and still is) a sight to behold.

But once the terrorism started, many Jews feared entering that area – although some Jews (mostly tourists I imagine) still shop there. The Shuk was a great place to buy produce at a very cheap price. Sensing a need, a new market for cheap produce was estabished outside the old city for Jews. It is called Machane Yehuda. If I recall correctly it is not far from Meah Shearim. Some people call it the Israeli Shuk.

Meah Shearim residents shop there. But they are not the only ones. Secular Jews are increasingly doing so. And that is where yet another clash of cultures takes place.

Here’s the problem. Meah Shearim Jews have a heightened sensitivity to Tznius violations. A woman wearing a sleeveless top and slacks will be considered inappropriately attired.

While this may not be a Halachicly acceptable way for a Jewish woman to dress in public – most of the rest of the world – religious Jews included – is used to this kind of dress and thinks nothing of it. Even for those who do consider it a problem they simply try not to look at an immodestly dressed woman. In the world of Meah Shearim this intolerable. They cannot handle it.

So to the extent they are able – they try to impose their modesty standards. Hence one will see signs related to female dress as one enters the Meah Shearim neighborhoods. This phenomenon in and of itself is tolerable. The residents of that neighborhood have a right to express their sensitivities to those who enter their neighborhoods. What they do not have a right to do is enforce them. Unfortunately some of the more militant residents of that neighborhood don’t care about whether or not they have that right or not. They enforce it. In some cases using means that the Mafia would be proud of.

There are horror stories of acid or bleach being spilled on innocent passersby if they were dressed in less than Meah Shearim community Tznius standards. They also have Tznius squads that go around checking what people wear and intimidating merchants into carrying Tznius signs throughout Meah Shearim and the nearby Geula neighborhood. They have torched stores, beat up businessmen who sold “inappropriate” technology, and vandalized a religious bookstore for refusing to carry one of their signs.

Until recently their tactics have been limited to their own neighborhoods. But now they have decided to branch out. We all know about the intimidating tactics that took place last year in Bet Shemesh where an eight-year old girl was harassed daily on her way to a religious school and called a whore. But now they are branching out. To places like Machane Yehuda. And instead of men doing the harassing – it is women.

Last year it happened to some women walking in the streets of Jerusalem outside of the Meah Shearim neighborhood.

Here’s the thing. They cannot impose their standards on the world. They do not own the world. Just because they see someone they think is not properly dressed does not give them the right to intimidate them. To most of the civilized world that is a forgone conclusion. But not for them.

Harry Maryles

Iranian Cleric Pummeled After Telling Woman to Cover Up

Thursday, September 20th, 2012

An Iranian cleric who warned a woman to conform to standards of modesty and cover her eyes was subsequently beaten so badly by the offending (and offended) female that he spent three days in the hospital.

According to a report by Bloomberg News, Hojatoleslam Ali Behesti encountered the woman on the street in the town of Shahmirzad.  When he told her to cover her eyes, she began insulting and kicking him.  Behesti called it “the worst day of my life”, and said he had to be hospitalized as a result of his injuries.

Malkah Fleisher

One Judaism, Two Perspectives on Dressing Modesty

Thursday, August 30th, 2012

When it comes to modesty in dress there is a wide variety in the way various segments of Orthodox Jewry put it into practice. But the basics are the same for all. Without getting into the details of the basic Halacha, I will just say that modesty for women requires that she cover those parts of the body that are considered “her nakedness” (Erva). Those are the biblical parameters which apply in all places – at all times in public. The rabbinic parameters (Tznius) go beyond the biblical requirement and are relative to the culture where one resides.

So that in places like Iran, a Jewish woman may be required to follow the modesty customs of that culture which go far beyond what is biblically required. In places like America, the biblical and rabbinic parameters are the same. Modesty in western cultural terms do not meet even the biblical Erva standard.

Some of the more right wing segments of Orthodoxy insist on taking matters of Tznius to much greater lengths than Halacha requires – even those that live in westernized cultures like America and Israel. For example, even though an exposed lower leg below the knee is not considered Erva, Chasidic – and many other Charedi communities require that it be covered anyway. And consider it highly immodest if a woman’s leg below the knee is fully exposed.

Which brings me to two articles in the Forward. One by Judy Brown, a woman who is Charedi. The other by Simi Lampert who is Modern Orthodox. It is interesting to see the similarity of attitude expressed by both.

One might think that a Modern Orthodox woman would be put off by the attitude expressed by the Charedi woman. But in both cases they seem to be saying the same thing. Which is that they understand the purpose behind those modesty rules. And both expressed the desire to follow them.

Both women have the desire to look attractive by western cultural standards and have tried on immodest clothing in private just to see how they would look. Both thought they looked great, and both would never consider wearing such clothing in public. They both feel a level of comfort in following the modesty rules.

The difference between them is cultural and not Halachic. In the Charedi culture, the idea of not wearing stockings is considered a Tznius violation. So much so that when an error in perception was made about the Mrs. Brown not wearing stockings even though her legs were covered below the knee, all hell broke loose. Here is how she tells the story:

[T]he young man passing by the yard declared that he had seen me with bare legs. Like a careless whore…

It was Tuesday, mid-August, a (very hot) day… I filled up the baby pool for my children in the yard settled on a plastic chair with cherry ices and dunked my legs in the pool, right where the water spurted from the hose.

It was then that the Hasid passed. It was then that he saw me — beige pantyhose transparent, legs seemingly bare — and, looking quickly away, hurried to tell the rav. I had not seen him at all. I did not know of the bewildered chaos going on in his mind until later that night, when my husband came home and stared at me quizzically.

The rav had called, he said. Could it be true? That I had sat outside with no pantyhose at all?

Of course she was wearing stockings and it was just a misperception on the part of a passerby. The point here is how seriously this Chumra is taken in the world of Chasidim. As ‘modern’ as Mrs. Brown became in other areas, this area is sancrosanct to her.

This would never happen in Modern Orthodoxy. Of course modern Orthodox Jews do not have the infra structure or the desire to dictate how its members dress. As Mrs. Lambert points out:

If my rabbi approached my husband about what I was wearing in my own yard, I’d almost definitely move. The very next day.

While both communities follow the same Halachos of modesty there is no mechanism, or really any pressure in Modern Orthodoxy that would force a violator to adhere to Halacha. One will find that modesty laws are occasionally breached by those I would call MO-Lite. The kind of guilt described by Mrs. Brown does not exist in MO circles, at least not on the level she seemed to have about it.

Harry Maryles

Lakewood Girls School under Attack for Controversial Letter on Modesty

Thursday, June 14th, 2012

The Lakewood, NJ, Bnos Yaakov elementary school is not happy over the fact that an internal letter to its students has been published online at the Lakewood View website. Posted by someone claiming to be a parent at the school, it contains a story from the Shomer Emunim, with a particularly disturbing version of purgatory for girls who don’t obey the laws of tzniyut (modesty).

The Shomer Emunim (“Guardian of the Faith”), Rabbi Arele (Aharon) Roth, is the 20th century founder of a Chasidic group known for their fervent and emotional prayer, and a rigid lifestyle guided by decrees from the Rebbe.

In the story, as it is cited in the flier, posted in Lakewood View, a group of men heard a scream and traced it to a small house in a field. Inside the house they saw,

“an old woman, with a younger lady laying on a bench. On the ground burned a huge fire, and on the fire stood a large pot filled with clothing. The clothing, which were boiling up in the pot, emitted clouds of smoke rising up to the ceiling. The old woman silently reached into the pot, took out a boiling article of clothing, and put it onto the young woman, instantly burning her body. The young woman was screaming terribly in pain, but the older woman continued putting more and more burning clothing on her.”

The men realize that this was a vision of the world to come and, according to the story’s narrator, this punishment had been meted out since the

“mother had not raised her daughter to be tzniyusdig (modest) … and the mother had to burn her own daughter.”

The comments, close to 100 and nearly all anonymous, veer from disgust to praise for the school.

“Bnos Yaakov is not an easy school to get into. If you are not happy there, have you considered moving to another school?” one commentator wondered.

Another visitor added a sober note: “This is a mashal (fable)! Like many medrashim, this is meant to be taught and discussed among adults. The conversation among mothers as to how and what we teach our daughters about tznius is worthwhile. The problem is presenting this story to children, and even worse, as a ‘true event.'”

But a shocked visitor stated: “Wow, it has finally happened. A tznius story even worse, much worse, than the one that has given me nightmares since I was 9 years old (and I am in my 50s). That particular story (about the girl who took certain extreme actions in order to prevent her skirt from rising in a revealing manner) was given over in a booklet for leaders of a popular program for girls. After MY 9 y.o. daughter came home telling me that story, I stopped sending her to that program. What an awful story! I will not be able to sleep tonight.”

And an angry visitor shared: “Did they give this to kids? Yeah, that will get them to love Hashem. Seriously screwed in the head. Then we wonder why Jewish girls are hanging out smoking and running around like street walkers R”L. Teach them if their skirt is not 4 inches below the knee they will be burned by their own mother?”

The reaction from the Jewish blogosphere has been unmitigated disgust

“Your letter was a psychological scare tactic to make girls dress tzniusdig (modestly) or they will boil their children in hot soup. It took me a full week to recover from reading it,” wrote Dovid Teitelbaum in his blog.

Teitelbaum, a resident of Marine Park, NY, and a graduate of Yeshiva Torah Temimah, is the director of the popular Camp Sdei Chemed International.

As angry as the school was about the letter being released, they were even more irate about being contacted by JewishPress.com about it. A secretary from the school initially confirmed to this reporter that the letter came from them, then denied it. Moments afterwards, another woman claimed that the page was taken out of context and a letter from the principal was sent out along with the story, mollifying it.

“This school is a school synonymous with positivity, joy and serving Hashem,” the second woman explained, emphasizing that they stress that “Hashem loves us and does all for our best.”

Michael Orbach

Chronicles of Crises In Our Communities – 10/23/09

Wednesday, October 21st, 2009

Dear Rachel,

I thank you for the guidance and chizuk you provide to so many. You have brought many important issues to public awareness and Hashem should bring you continued success.

You recently printed an extremely poignant letter. “Reformed ” (Chronicles 9-16-09) wrote about an issue that is very relevant to the daily lives of the haredi community, when families are separated by “the country” during the summer.

You quoted the young man’s comment of wonder “How could families like ours fall so low? We’ve gone through Yeshiva, our wives went through Bais Yaakov, and our children are in the best schools.” I found that comment almost comical, albeit tragic.

That is the exact point! Too many of us are disregarding Halacha because “I’m a Yeshivishe guy, I’ll be okay…” and “It’s just once; I’m not going off the derech from one time…” and other such self-talk. The Rosh Yeshiva Harav HaGaon Yisroel Piekarski, z”l, once reflected that what is written in the Shulchan Aruch does not speak to those who are not frum. They who are not frum are not looking at the Shulchan Aruch! It is specifically we, the haredi community, who must follow the halachos and stringencies detailed there. None of us are immune. The “nitty-gritty” zehiros were made for people like us.

We trust ourselves a bit too much. We say, “It won’t be me.” “It won’t be my child.” “One night of fun, one missed minyan, what could happen already?” Before we know it, we have turned to, lo aleinu, addictions of different sorts. Our tzaddikim expound on the verse “V’Sartem v’avad’tem elohim acherim.” V’Sartem, just one small turn away from the proper derech can too often lead to a severe yeridah. Yes, it is we “Yeshivishe guys” who need to carefully follow the guidelines of Halacha.

With the help of Hashem’s guiding hand, may we all continue on the proper derech and see simcha and nachas from our families and each other.


Dear Rachel,

The letter from “Reformed ” struck a chord with me. Several years ago, when I was a newly divorced single young mother and my children were away at summer camp, I was shocked to have a close friend’s husband call and casually suggest that we “get together” now that his wife and children had gone away to the country for a few weeks.

In hindsight, I should have just slammed the receiver down. But I had known this man as an upstanding member of the community with a prestigious profession, whose family we had socialized with, and so all I could manage was to stammer that I would never stoop so low as to stab a friend in the back.

He was quite persistent. He called several times, obviously reluctant to give up easily. The only thing he managed to accomplish was to kill our friendship. I distanced myself from his wife, a beautiful and wonderful woman, for I could not in good conscience continue our relationship (and find myself in her husband’s presence) as if nothing had occurred.

So to women out there who are shaking their heads and thinking, “This can only happen to someone else ” – Never say never. And don’t be so eager to pack your bags and head off to the country for some fun and leisure. It may not be in your best interest.

Never was a country fan

Dear Rachel,

Several weeks ago you featured a column on hachnasas orchim, which spoke of how to differentiate between socializing and hosting the needy. You stressed the importance of giving one’s own children the attention they need and deserve and of spending quality time with one’s own family.

There is yet another reason to avoid “entertaining” other couples in our home. We are human, after all, and sometimes a physical attraction between a male and a female can lead to no good.

In chassidic circles, even in the home, men and women who are not related to one another do not dine together. Perhaps we should rethink our ways and re-evaluate our priorities.

Women’s tznius can also play a big part in arousing man’s baser instincts. When a woman dresses to kill, she may be doing just that: killing shalom bayis and family serenity. I have often heard a woman say that she dresses “this way” because her husband wants her to. In these instances men are as guilty as their women.

Modesty for a healthy existence…

Dear Rachel,

We keep reading and learning about the importance of inviting guests and of how one should treat them. What about how guests should behave?

There are single women out there who are after married men. They want ready-made men who have money; they do not want to work, only to be wealthy. These are home wreckers.

They get invited for Shabbos lunch and busy the wife so that they can speak to the husbands. They dress immodestly and make rude remarks about their hostess. They expect 100 percent attention when the family has a lot of children.

Isn’t there a book about guests’ behavior? It would be a bestseller.

Appalled and offended

Dear Readers,

You’ve given us your piece of mind and much to digest. Hopefully, the people to whom your messages are directed are within listening range. Unfortunately, sometimes the very person who needs to hear it tends to think, “men meint nisht mich…” (they don’t mean ‘me’).

This is a new year, a great time for self-evaluation. It is never too late to do teshuvah and to alter one’s ways. No one should feel that s/he is too far gone to return. True repentance, in fact, has the power to transform your past sins into merits.

Remember that today is the first day of the rest of your life! Don’t you think you owe it to yourself to make the best of it?

We encourage readers to submit letters and comments to rachel@jewishpress.com


My Dearest Yiddishe Mamme

Wednesday, February 6th, 2008

In loving memory of  Sara Altman bas Reb Bentzion Harnik zt”l, great-great-granddaughter of hatzaddik hagaon Chaim Yosef Gottlieb, zt”l, Stropkover Rav – on the occasion of her Shloshim, 29 Shevat.

The 30-day period of aveilus corresponds to the “z’man hischadshus hayaraiach,” the time for the renewal of the moon. The moon initially appears small, achieves its peak in middle of the month, and then diminishes. Such is the pattern of man’s life cycle: we start out as an infant, grow and develop to reach our zenith in mid-life, and then begin our descent that ends in death.

Just as the moon begins renewal following its 30-day cycle, the soul of the deceased experiences rebirth through her new existence in Olam Haba. (Mekor Chayim)

Kol sheruach habryios noichoh heimenu, ruach hamakom noichoh heimenu. (Pirkei Avos 3:10) – “The one who is pleasing to man, is pleasing also to God.”

My Yiddishe Mamme – few ever had the pleasure or privilege of hearing you sing this and other stirring tunes, in your hauntingly beautiful voice that would send shivers down the spine of the listener…

Which brings to mind, dear Mom, your many virtues:

Modesty: As you emerged from the ashes of devastation, your talent (inherited from your much-revered father, a beloved baal tefilah and teacher of chazzanus, R. Bentzion Harnik, zt”l) gave you an outlet for emotional release. Buoyed by the enthusiasm of a post-war protective circle of friends, you attended a conservatory to study music, yet turned down a subsequent offer that would have doubtlessly catapulted you to fame and fortune. Instead, you delighted small women-only audiences at tzedakah parties with your special gift. Before long, even that occasional exposure was too much – you always shunned the limelight – and so it was only your lucky little ones who would intermittently, privately, be treated.

Dedication: Your loyalty and selflessness were unsurpassed – your husband and your children were your life’s breath. Never, ever, did you default on kitchen duty – a “Meal-Mart break” was unheard of. You could have been dropping from fatigue but would pay no heed to your tiredness. You lived for us, for our father – your partner in life for over sixty years, may he live to be 120 in a healthy state of mind and body.

Spirituality: Who of us could have missed your intense bakoshos – entreaties – whenever you bentched lecht forShabbos or Yom Tov? Morning, night and in between, you had us all in mind and on your lips, beseeching God over and over to help every one of us, from children down to great-grandchildren. “Ich halt in ein baten dem Eibershten,” you frequently told me. “I keep pleading with Hashem…”

Fortitude: Without parents to show you, to give you, to guide you, you started out as a new bride in Hungary. A daring escape on foot in the darkness of night from an increasingly anti-Semitic regime, with the bare clothes and a newborn on your backs, led to a fresh start in the Holy Land. But life was still a struggle, so four years later, with two babies in tow, you set sail on a harrowing boat ride that ended at the ports of Montreal, to yet another beginning. Many were the times you’d wonder if your latest sojourn was a worthwhile one. But you persevered with your trademark tenacity and were more than content with your humble lot. Laziness was never part of your repertoire and so you always made more than the best of what was yours.

Confidante par Excellence: You never let us down and always had pearls of wisdom to impart. Each one of us can testify, child and grandchild alike, that you were the best secret-keeper this side of the planet. If any of us had a need to unburden or share but did not wish to publicize, you were the one to be trusted, without hesitation.

A Class Act: You were the epitome of eloquence and refined elegance, whether doing your thing behind the stove or in your cherished garden; whether at a family simcha or just out shopping. You were bright, intelligent, down-to-earth, friendly, gracious, giving, understanding, and humble in all your ways. I am reminded of the time we spent Shabbos at the LIJH intensive care unit following your heart surgery. After much back and forth quibbling, you finally humored me – you agreed to have just a slice of gefilte fish and a piece of challah. I was all excited and prepared it carefully – only to have you offer it, in your most hospitable manner, to the delighted nurse on duty for the night. (I should have known better.)

Congeniality: Speaking of hospitality, well, we can just ask “the boys” who came around forever every Friday for your mouthwatering chulent, keeping the tradition going even after your children had flown the coop. (The married “boys” hoped their wives wouldn’t be the wiser.) You were Mrs. Personality to all our friends and then some, as we were growing up and beyond. Never at a loss for words, you were yet ever-conscientious not to say something that would, God forbid, be offensive to anyone. The slightest indication that you may have been would make you sick at heart for days.

Meticulousness: You were impeccably inclined, both physically and figuratively. A most telling description was made just recently by the neurosurgeon whom we had need to befriend at Joint Disease Hospital after you sustained a neck fracture. When apprised (by e-mail) by one of your grandchildren that we wouldn’t be keeping our next appointment, he replied: “Your grandmother was a very fine lady. respected by everyone she came in contact with. I saw in the hospital how beautifully she conducted herself and interacted with others. Every action was a true kiddush Hashem.”

Lover of Peace: You abhorred strife and would steer clear of any machlokes. In your book, there was no compromising when it came to achdus, especially amongst family members. Your love for your children superseded any desire to castigate (once we were on our own), and you were equally on guard not to chas v’shalom be instrumental in instigating any shalom bayis problems in the lives of those you cared so deeply for.

Valiant: As the indomitable spirit in our midst, you were much admired and adored by everyone who came to know you. You told it like it was – but perhaps never more prophetically as on the Shabbos that marked nine consecutive weeks we’d spent in each other’s company (regretfully, they’d come to a close at twelve). Out of the blue, exactly three weeks before you would leave this world for a better one, you disclosed that you felt your end was near. My attempt at encouraging you to focus on the positive, and to point out your steady progress to date, did nothing to sway you. “I can’t help the feeling,” you explained calmly. “But I’m fine with it. I’ve lived my life”

Unique: You were a special soul. Lest I, as your daughter, be accused of being a prejudiced party, allow me to cite the good doctor again. At our first meeting, following a harrowing pain-filled and exhausting odyssey, he offered his medical opinion – that your only viable option was to be fitted with a “halo.” You managed a smile and quipped, “Sounds like I’ll be holy…” Grinning, the insightful surgeon gently intoned, “We don’t believe in that. You are a heilige neshama.”

It is written, “Praiseworthy is the one who passes away during the time of Shabbos (or on erev Shabbos).” For on Shabbos, the malachim created for the purpose of meting out judgment and suffering to a departing soul immediately upon death are at rest.

Only Gan Eden is open, so that a heilige neshama has unfettered entry into the most coveted abode in the heavenly spheres.

As the song says, “My Yiddishe Mamme, I need you more than ever now, I’d love to kiss your wrinkled brow, How I long to hold your hand once more”

The Nazis made you sing for their entertainment. So you sang the beautiful Yiddish melody with its heartrending lyrics – which spoke touchingly and longingly of your own Yiddishe Mamme so barbarically taken from you. And for your performance you were rewarded two extra rations of dried out bits of old bread – which you broke into tiny pieces to share with your starving bunkmates.

For that was who you always were, my dearest Yiddishe Mamme

Rachel Weiss is a frequent contributor to The Jewish Press.

Rachel Weiss

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/features/my-dearest-yiddishe-mamme/2008/02/06/

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