Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Women's Rights And Equality

כ"ק מרן אד"ש
ר' נח בן חי' ליבא
שרה לאה בת רבקה
חי' רייזל בת דינה
בתוך שח"י

We live in an interesting world. On one hand, the last few decades has seen a tremendous surge in women's rights. Women want to be treated as equals to men. The belief is that "all men are created equal" regardless of race, religion or gender. I am not sure that this is true about gender for if it were then we would see women playing middle linebacker in the NFL. I am not sure that you would find any volunteers to try out for the job and even if they would - something tells me that it would not be very successful. Men and women are different physiologically, emotionally and spirituality and no amount of western liberalism is going to change that ontological reality [whatever that means]. Marry a woman and treat her like you would a guy and see how long the marriage lasts.   

Women aren't better or worse - just different. In some areas they are superior to men [generally speaking] while in others they are inferior [physical strength being an example]. In other areas they are different. For example, that women are generally more sensitive than men has its advantages and disadvantages. 

One area that has received a lot of attention is the fact that men relate to women as objects of their desire and not as thinking, feeling human beings endowed with a G-dly soul. 

This is something that a Torah Jew has to agree with very strongly. And here is where the problems start....

When a woman dresses as people in America do, then there is no way that any healthy, straight man is not going to view them on some level as objects of desire. When a man sees a very attractive woman dressed in a provocative way, then on some level he wants to be in bed with her [it could buried very, very deep in the subconscious but it is there. There may be exceptions but they are rare]. Sorry for being so graphic but that is the reality. The very same quality that attracted a man to his wife potentially attracts him to any other woman. So women are just shooting themselves in the foot when they dress that way. They say "I am a mind with thoughts and deep feelings" and then they dress in a way that screams "Look at me! Desire me". 

It is the entire culture. What is a "model" if not a person who gets paid to make men desire her and buy products she associates herself with. Modeling is not at all considered a dishonorable profession. Why not? It is deplorable. It demeans women more than any stupid Donald comment. What about female newscasters? Why are they always young, attractive, heavily made up and often with low necklines or sleeveless outfits? A frum Jew can't watch the news! What about sports? Sports used to be a male dominated domain but in order to attract viewers they have young attractive women working as sportscasters. And what about cheerleaders?? Do we really need someone to lead us in cheers?? When our team makes a good play we cheer and we don't need any help from a bunch of young girls in skimpy outfits. All of these things are terribly degrading to women. And of course the entertainment industry is all about arousing the lower part of man and accentuating the externals of a woman. 

The gemara says that the korban of a sotah is barley because barley is animal food and to engage in forbidden relations is an animalistic act. Explained the Maharal:

ולפיכך אמרה תורה במנחת סוטה שיהא קרבנה שעורים, לפי שהיא עשתה מעשה בהמה, לכך קרבנה מאכל בהמה, כי ענין הזנות הוא מתאוות הגוף, וישראל שהם קדושים ונבדלים מן העריות זהו מפני שהם נמשכים אחר הצורה, שהיא קדושה ונבדלת מן החומר... (גבורות ה' פרק ד)
Jews are holy and to be holy means to be separate from anything relating to sexual impurity.

One of the consequences of our culture are the countless girls who suffer from eating disorders because they feel that they are not pretty unless they are super thin. 

Man is composed of two parts - his holy G-dly part and his lower animal element. When he sees a woman who is dressed in a provocative way - the ANIMAL in him is activated. Even if he goes on with his day and nothing happened - it doesn't matter because the damage has already been done. This G-dly soul was transformed, albeit momentarily, into an animal. 

So OF COURSE women should not be viewed in a lustful way but men were born with a "birth defect" that inclines them to see women in this way. When a woman is modest in her dress and behavior, she is accentuating her more spiritual side which helps men see her that way as well. 

I once knew a young girl who was very pretty. She told me that she was introduced to an elderly couple and the husband couldn't stop commenting on how pretty she is. She was so embarrassed and disgusted that she told me that she wants to cut off her hair. Of course that isn't necessary but I felt that it was special that despite the gift she was given, she didn't want men to enjoy it because it doesn't bring out the holy part of themselves. 

The gemara in Sotah relates that we learn fear of sin from a certain girl who davened that men should not stumble when they see her. 

"וְהָאָמַר רַבִּי יוֹחָנָן, לָמַדְנוּ יִרְאַת חֵטְא מִבְּתוּלָה, וְקִבּוּל שָׂכָר מֵאַלְמָנָה. יִרְאַת חֵטְא מִבְּתוּלָה - דְּרַבִּי יוֹחָנָן שָׁמְעָה לְהַהִיא בְּתוּלָה, דְנָפְלָה עַל אַפָּהּ וְאָמְרָה, רִבּוֹנוֹ שֶׁל עוֹלָם, בָּרָאתָ גַּן - עֵדֶן, בָּרָאתָ גֵּיהִנּוֹם, בָּרָאתָ רְשָׁעִים, בָּרָאתָ צַדִּיקִים, יְהִי רָצוֹן מִלְּפָנֶיךָ שֶׁלֹּא יִכָּשְׁלוּ בִּי בְּנֵי אָדָם.

I am not writing this to convince Michelle Obama to start dressing like a Beis Yaakov girl from Prospect Park. I don't think she reads this blog and even if she did, people who weren't raised on the standards of tzniyus of religious Jews just don't get it. They see nothing wrong with wearing revealing clothing and men see nothing wrong with looking and desiring. 

I am writing this for all the Bnos Yisrael who want to be close to Hakadosh Baruch Hu and who want to make the world a holier place and themselves holier, more elevated people. It is a challenge for many but worth the effort. The rewards are great. When Hashem gives a girl the gift of beauty and she uses it for her husband and for the propagation of Am Yisrael, THAT is holy. 

We all know of the מראות הצובאות. So let us remind ourselves:
One of the donations to the mishkan were mirrors - מראות הצבאות. What were these מראות הצבאות? Explains Rashi [Shmos 38/8]: 

from the mirrors of the women who had set up the legions: בְּמַרְאֹת הַצֹבְאֹת Israelite women owned mirrors, which they would look into when they adorned themselves. Even these [mirrors] they did not hold back from bringing as a contribution toward the Mishkan, but Moses rejected them because they were made for temptation [i.e., to inspire lustful thoughts]. The Holy One, blessed is He, said to him, “Accept [them], for these are more precious to Me than anything because through them the women set up many legions [i.e., through the children they gave birth to] in Egypt.” When their husbands were weary from back-breaking labor, they [the women] would go and bring them food and drink and give them to eat. Then they [the women] would take the mirrors and each one would see herself with her husband in the mirror, and she would seduce him with words, saying, “I am more beautiful than you.” And in this way they aroused their husbands desire and would copulate with them, conceiving and giving birth there, as it is said: “Under the apple tree I aroused you” (Song 8:5). This is [the meaning of] what is בְּמַרְאֹת הַצֹבְאֹת [lit., the mirrors of those who set up legions].

Beauty is a double edged sword. So is the Yetzer Hara in general. When Chazal tried to nullify the Yetzer of Arayos, no chicken laid an egg [see Yoma 69b]. We NEED the Yetzer Hara, we WANT the Yetzer Hara, but it has to be completely under control and only activated when necessary. [See Igros Hara'ayah 1/108]. 

My intention was not to offend but to remind people how important it is to maintain our purity and how we are all partners in this great task. כל בני ישראל קדושים וכל בנות ישראל קדושות but from time to time we need reminders to act accordingly. 

As Chazal say in the Medrash "There is nothing more beautiful than tzniyus".