Monday, July 30, 2012

Why are frum men so obsessed with women’s tzniyus?

It’s about control. Control of a particular lifestyle in the face of increased freedoms for women in the secular world. Control over women’s bodies when their minds are being set free. Control when women are getting college degrees and men are emasculated sitting in kollel all day. It’s about trying to say “look, I’m a man, and I’m in charge!”, when they clearly are losing that traditional control. It’s about saying to women that they’re just a bunch of female parts, and that’s ALL they are, reaffirming frum men’s notions that they are the masters of the Jewish universe.

Comments from old blog:

  1. July 30, 2012 at 1:41 pm | #1
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    Here, here! Not to mention see here.
  2. July 30, 2012 at 2:32 pm | #2
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    Of course.
  3. July 30, 2012 at 4:54 pm | #3
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  4. July 31, 2012 at 7:03 pm | #4
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    i agree
  5. July 31, 2012 at 9:02 pm | #5
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    My wife and I have had several conversations about this. I wrote one of them down.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Teshuva, anyone?

I’m a big fan of teshuva, if teshuva means optimistically looking ahead and planning to be more engaged in the things that make Judaism meaningful for me, as well as resolving to be a better friend, husband, and overall human being.
But personally, I see no emotional benefit to wallowing in guilt and feeling bad about myself, nor do I see any value in feeling bad that I didn’t live my life in adherence to strict interpretations of religious rules that don’t make me happy or a better person.
Comments from old blog:
  1. July 19, 2012 at 9:04 am | #1
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    I was looking at that picture from the funeral yesterday of a little kid crying hysterically. I thought there is no way this kid should feel this sad or emotional about the death of someone who was likely already out of it by the time he was born. It occured to me that this is what he was trained to do. It was ingrained in him that Elyashiv was a great man and his absence will affect the world, people cry when things like this happen and so his brain told him to cry.
    Its the same way with sin. We are told stories of people crying in Elul, people dreading the Judgement on Rosh Hashana and so we are trained to associates sin with sadness and remorse. The people who taught us conditioned us to associates “sins” with crying and sadness and depression, so while 7 billion people eat cheese burgers and are happy about it, an orthodox jew absolutely dreads it, there is sadness, guilt, anxiety, and not because there is anything negative happening or because he is doing anything wrong, but because of the conditioning. The religious prespective has little to do with it psychologically.
    • Philo
      July 19, 2012 at 9:24 am | #2
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      I didn’t see that picture, but I can imagine. You’re right, it’s about how one was trained. It may even just be a visceral emotional response to the group sadness. His parents, and the entire community he lives in is crying, so he cries too.
      I simply can’t relate to a Judaism that’s about feeling guilt and sadness all the time. My Judaism is about being happy and fulfilled. There’s more than one approach to Judaism, and it’s sad that the “oy, being a yid is hard, and the ribbono shel olam is disappointed in us” approach is ascendant in contemporary charedi (and even MO) circles.
  2. Philo
    July 19, 2012 at 9:33 am | #3
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    I once dated a woman who was wonderful – she loved to sing, she took joy in life and Judaism. Then, when Elul rolled around, she said “I’m scared”.
    I said “scared of what?”
    She said “You know, it’s Elul, and I haven’t been a good enough Jew. What will happen to me on Rosh Hashana? What if I can’t do a good enough teshuva?”
    It was the beginning of the end for us, and a revelation for me. I simply couldn’t relate to her at all on her concept of teshuva and fear of God’s wrath, and I realized that I didn’t really believe in punishment. I’m not scared of God, and I think it’s a little weird to be. It’s like being a small child scared of punishment by daddy. I’d think God has better things to do. My God is a source of inspiration and kedusha. And by Judaism is an uplifting experience. If there’s a detail of halacha that I think is counterproductive to that experience, I simply don’t do it. And as a result, I feel closer to God, not less.
  3. tesyaa
    July 19, 2012 at 12:58 pm | #4
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    I’m with you here. Anecdotally, I’m a much happier person since I stopped worrying that every little misfortune that befalls me (or my kids, or my community, or my extended family) is due to my own shortcomings. I have much less anxiety too, even though I’m dealing with the same issues. A few years ago, right after I totaled a car, all I could think about was that I hadn’t davened properly that morning. (Not that the accident wasn’t my fault, but it’s way more productive to realize that it’s a bad idea to grab for a phone on a highway ramp than to worry about whether you set aside enough time for prayers).
    Come to think of it, my own transformation began shortly after that incident.
    • July 19, 2012 at 11:50 pm | #5
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      worrying that every little misfortune that befalls me (or my kids, or my community, or my extended family) is due to my own shortcomings.
      I’ve never done that! As a frum Jew, am I supposed to be doing it?
      • tesyaa
        July 20, 2012 at 11:11 am | #6
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        I think you are. When you suffer a misfortune, you are supposed to examine your deeds for the source of your suffering. I will try to get you the source.
        However, when you see someone else undergoing suffering, you are NOT supposed to try to examine their deeds for the source of their suffering.)
      • July 20, 2012 at 11:41 am | #7
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        tesyaa :
        Raba says “if a man sees that painful sufferings visit him, let him examine his conduct.” (Berachot 5a)
        That sort of makes sense. For example, you have a car accident and get injured, you need to examine what you might have done to help ensure a better result (no accident or less injury). Maybe you were going too fast, maybe you didn’t buckle the seatbelt, maybe you had too much on your mind and wasn’t paying roper attention, etc.
        Another example might be someone who neglects to get an education in anything useful, and neglects to be trained in a trade. Then 5-10 years later he is living in poverty and just can’t make ends meet. He perhaps should look back at his bad decisions (“deeds”) to pinpoint the source of his suffering. And, if possible, make better decisions and take better actions to try to remedy the situation.
        I guess I can see it in some cases.
      • tesyaa
        July 20, 2012 at 11:13 am | #8
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        Raba says “if a man sees that painful sufferings visit him, let him examine his conduct.” (Berachot 5a)
  4. July 20, 2012 at 7:48 am | #9
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    There’s a lot of room between “walking around wallowing in guilt” and “optimistically looking ahead and planning to be more engaged”. One is Catholicism, the other is “hope”, not “teshuva”. I think Judaism’s approach, of limiting the wallowing to one day a year, is pretty good, actually. Yes, one should spend Elul and the 10 days of teshuva reflecting, but again, reflecting on one’s past actions and resolving to do better, is not wallowing.
    Even mussar has schools that emphasize guilt (like Novardok, which has all but died out as a method, even in its own postwar yeshivas), and schools that emphasize self-work and planning to do better, like R’ Shlomo Wolbe – who was writing for the modern Israeli yeshiva student, from the 1960s to the 1990s, because the old idea of s’iz shver tzu zein a yid doesn’t speak to many people in this day & age.
    So I’d say that “wallowing all the time” is not so much a failing of Judaism, as a failing of Jews who are more affected by Christianity in the modern age, now that Christians have stopped trying to kill us.
    • Philo
      July 20, 2012 at 8:31 am | #10
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      I don’t think it’s a failure of Judaism, only of a particular school of thought that I am aware of based on my own experiences. I don’t think that the wallowing is written doctrine, just that it seems to be common among many in the Yeshivish community, and that I, personally, can’t relate to it. I don’t know about the Christian influence, but you could be right.
      But I agree that there’s a spectrum of behavior, and I don’t begrudge those who engage in some introspection and guilt, I just know that it makes my personal Judaism less rich to spend too much time doing so, though I do think that a certain amount of introspection over issues of bein adam lachaveiro is needed for everyone.
      • July 20, 2012 at 4:50 pm | #11
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        It seems to me that the Jewish concept of Teshuva is the way out of wallowing in guilt, because the essence of teshuva is the resolution to change. After all, what are the classic stages (according to Rambam, and following him, Aquinas): acknowledging the act, regret, decision to change, actual change. Without teshuva, we’d have no choice but to obsess over our failings until death or Divine grace granted us absolution.
        To that end, we have teshuva in each daily prayer (the two brachot harotzeh biteshuvah, and chanun hamarbeh lisloach), vehu rachum on Mon/Thurs (which is pretty wallowy, and many people skip it; we were not taught to say it at Ramaz, f’rinstance), and Yom Kippur (keep the wallowing to one day a year).
        The Tanya suggests spending 15 minutes once a week in a cheshbon hanefesh, which can be pretty intense if you think about it, but it’s only 0.5% of your waking hours. That’s a bit much for me, and probably for most of us.
        So I don’t see that you really don’t believe in teshuvah, only in a certain distortion of guilt that you seem to see in some people. The basic idea of teshuvah being fundamentally hopeful.
        Tesyaa: what I think your source is talking about is “yissurim mei’ahavah” – that is, any little misfortune in your life, like mislaying your Metrocard for 10 seconds, or missing the train, can be chalked up to God punishing you for your misdeeds. That can itself be a comfort for the misfortune, if you think about it – God is punishing you in this world for your sins, which means you’re probably on the side of tzidkus – get the punishment out of the way in this world so your fate in the next world will be almost all good. So that too can be an impetus for teshuvah. Bikur cholim is an impetus for teshuvah, there but for the grace of God go I, and that sort of thing. Similarly attending a funeral – seeing the box go into the ground reminds us that the wages of sin is death, and we should work to better ourselves.
  5. Yitzchak Sprung
    July 25, 2012 at 1:13 am | #12
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    i know this isn’t what this post is about, but i thought you might be interested in some misleading stories haredim tell about the modern orthodox…