I’m not really the official devar Torah kind of person, y’know, the open a Chumash, read a posuk, explain it, ask a question, answer the question according to some gadol and add my own thoughts to it. I’m more the paraphrase kind of person, focusing more on my interpretation of things and the point gained from it.
On Shabbos though, my husband said over a devar Torah, that really made me feel vindicated in a front I’ve been talking about for a while. I had a bunch of students over later in the evening for an Oneg Shabbos, and I thought this devar Torah would give them some clarity on a subject, and also substantiate some things I had said previously in some discussions.
So, I have terrible kriah, hence my usual paraphrasing. In high school, I mastered the art of mumbling when called upon to read anything inside and scraped though, barely. I thought this devar Torah though, was worth my efforts. I practiced reading one pasuk aloud, at least 6 times, till I was comfortable with the words, the nekudos, and everything. Anyone who knows me and kriah, understands how difficult this is for me, potentially setting myself up for major busha when I wouldn’t be able to vocalize a simple pasuk in Chumish.
It all went down famously, I didn’t stumble over the words (well, not that badly) and they girls really “chapped hana’ah” from it (Wow, real yeshivish there, I actually couldn’t think of a better phrase to articulate that thought) And here it is for you, hope you appreciate it as much as I did.
In this past parsha, Parshas Chayei Sarah, perek chaf dalef, posuk tes zayin, this is when Eliezer first sees Rivka, it says (and I’m just going to translate here because typing in Hebrew is too big a pain)
And the girl was very beautiful, no other man knew her, she went down to the spring, filled her jug, and rose.
The Nitziv says that Eliezer saw three qualities in Rivka from this posuk. First, she was beautiful. Second, none of the other shepards there knew her, therefore this must be her first time here, and therefore she must come from a respectable family that she didn’t have to do this until now. And third, she was a tzanuah.
The same way Boaz knew Rus was a tzanuah from the way she lowered herself to the wheat instead of conveniently bending over to select it, so too, Rivka lowered herself to the stream to fill up her jug, then rose, instead of bending over like everyone else.
This is where the Nitziv ends, and my husband’s commentary begins. He focused on the first and third qualities. First, Rivka was beautiful. And second , she was a tzanuah, how did he know she was a tzanuah, by her actions, not by her dress. Beauty and Tznius are not mutually exclusive, a woman can be both.
It just seems in Lakewood, there’s such a focus on tznius, which is beautiful in theory, I feel though that they miss the mark. They keep focusing of the physical aspect, like skirts lengths, and now sheitel lengths, like tznius is just about not tempting yourneighbors husband. They make it seem as though any fashion trend is sacrilege, and you cannot be a beautiful woman without sacrificing modesty ideals.
I’ve been telling my students (no idea why, I teach English, not Hashkafa, they just keep bringing it up to me) that it’s your actions and how you think that are the foundations on modesty, and then the outside will eventually reflect. Working on the physical first may possibly be a “mitoch shelo lishma ba lishma” approach, but it’s definitely not a front door appeal.
So maybe Lakewood thinks that it has the actions, and inside thoughts of people worked out, that’s why they can focus on just externals, but I look around every day in my really frum complex, and I’m disappointed.
It is not tznius for women to be yelling across the complex for their children to come home for supper, and no they can’t have two more minutes, and no they can’t eat outside.
It’s not tznius for tween age girls to sit on front stoops, their legs propped up by the steps, exposing themselves to the world.
It is not tznius for women (and men) to blatantly watch the interactions between me and my husband while he’s leaving. (I’m talking about just conversation, and we’re not talking loud, they’re just watching us)
They missed the boat. Not like, oh shucks it sailed two minutes ago, more like purposefully taking a different boat in the opposite direction. And my students are confused. They want to be good, and frum, and tznius. And they are. But they look at what the community holds up as ideals, and their rightfully conflicted. They don’t want to look like that, and they’re not sure why they should want to, they just know they should, because that’s what all the adults in their life are telling them.
I’m not in any way saying that there is something wrong with a woman being very careful how she dresses. And there is a beauty to yeshivish (or whatever you want to call it) dress. However, the way it’s being taught, and hammered into our youths’ minds is hurting them, confusing them, conflicting them, and ultimately may hurt a lot of them.
I think I may have digressed a bit, but no wonder why people keep asking me how much longer I’m gonna last in Lakewood.