Vindication at a Cost

21 Nov

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.


Posted by on November 21, 2011 in Jewish


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3 responses to “Vindication at a Cost

  1. unravelmythoughts

    November 24, 2011 at 11:23 pm

    Are you serious? How did you get away with no comments here?!
    What an article! I love the Dvar Torah…nice pronounciation 🙂
    Speaking as an out-of-town teenager who has trouble covering her knees 🙂 I can say that girls are the same world-wide, and regarding tzniyus, you obviously have a point.
    I have had many discussions with many people on this topic. Two good books I have read and can recommend, both of which your students can greatly benefit from, are “6 Diaries” by Aliza Goldwin and “Outside/Inside” by Gila Manolson.
    I hope these help you and your students to understand and APPRECIATE the concepts, and apply them properly!

  2. Princess Lea

    December 1, 2011 at 10:40 am

    I really loved this post, because it is so true. One can be wearing a burqa and still be untzniusdik, because of inappropriate behavior. The overly discussing tznius is untzniusdik.

    Once upon a time, when they talked about tznius, no one was analyzing hemlines or collars. It was an issue that applied to BOTH men and women, in terms of decorum and dignity. So when tznius is boiled down to stockings and nothing else, I want to hit the roof. I may have already hit said roof.

  3. tznius, G-d bless you!

    January 9, 2012 at 7:29 am

    @Princess Lea — if its only stockings and nothing else, then I understand. but most (those “who dont want to look like that” ) are just making excuses for bad behavior and saying it is a backlash to the focus being only on the superficial stockings.

    Case in point: A shadchan tells me she isnt sure she can introduce me to anyone in her book because I may not be religious enough, with a specific focus on the denier of my stockings. It was a real issue. I told her I find myself in a very comfortable frum heimish place and that is one thing I am not going to change because many ehrliche rabbanim hold that I AM keeping halacha.

    Soon thereafter, the same shadchan tries to set me up with a guy who when I google, I learn was arrested for sodomizing a 15 year old girl!!! The whole community knew this and most say they find it very hard to believe the shadchan didnt — as there are signs posted in every shtiebel warning to stay away from him.

    So because of one bad experience, do I say I’m going to throw the baby out with the bath water? Am I going to give up on shadchans or shidduchim or dating?

    As for “analyzing hemlines and collars”, I emphatically beg to defer. That was the impetus that sara schneirer the seamstress began bais yaacov to begin with — in order to counter the style of pursuing fashion hemlines and collars down to the millimeter. I would be surprised if Sara Schneirer didnt make BY rules that hemlines and collars be at a certain length.


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