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Wednesday, 7 October 2015

Are you tznius enough?

Daf Yomi Nazir 45

There’s a new trend in women’s tznius (modesty).  The frumka is the Jewish version of the burka.  You get to guard yourself from head to toe against the potential stares of young men.  That way you don’t cause them to slip up and look at a woman’s flesh or form, G-d forbid.  It’s taking the world by storm from Israel to Canada to Guatemala! 

Concerning the concluding ritual of the nazir, the Torah declares, “And the nazir shall cut his hair at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting.”
Rabbi Shimon Shezuri taught: A nazir (male nazirite) should cut his hair in the Temple, but not a nezira (female nazirite), lest the young priests become aroused at the sight, for she would apply make-up and cosmetics for the occasion.

The priests were in the midst of their holy work.  The nazirite young lady was performing her sacred service.  And yet the Torah is concerned that they might become distracted!   Imagine how concerned we must be about the maintenance of our kedushah (sanctity) in the twenty-first century when all manner of distraction abounds!

We live in a world today when distraction is not even a click away.  It’s not a matter of seeking it.  You simply can’t escape it.  The question is how to deal with it.

Already from days of yore, the Sages placed safeguards to protect you from looking at sights that might diminish your holiness.   The Talmud teaches (and it’s codified in the Shulchan Aruch) that one must take the long way home, rather than walk past the river bank and be distracted by the sight of the young ladies hiking up their skirts as they do their laundry.  And so when people today ask whether it’s kosher to be in certain settings and places, those questions were already dealt with long ago. 

But it’s interesting to see that the Sages didn’t tell the young ladies not to do their washing in public.  They didn’t tell them to wear a frumka, just in case.  They didn’t even tell them to wade into the water in their ‘bulletproof stockings’!  No, the young men were told to take the long way home if they were worried about seeing something they shouldn’t. 

You want to protect your kedushah?  Look the other way.  Nobody has to wear a frumka to keep you holy.   That’s absolute bobomayses and it has no source whatsoever in our religion (and probably not in any religion, for that matter).   The maintenance of your personal sanctity is your personal matter, nobody else’s.  It’s between you and G-d.  The way someone else chooses to dress is between them and G-d.  And it’s none of your business to tell them what to wear.

The eyes are the window to the soul, so keep them holy!  But as long as you’re keeping your eyes in the right places, you needn’t worry about what anyone else is wearing.  May you merit being a living example of kedushah without ever feeling the need to be a preachy example of kedushah

(PS I know the title's not gramatically correct, but that's the jargon...!)

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