Wednesday, February 21, 2007

The Honor of a Princess: Modesty

Sorry, this is b"n the last of the princess posts, but I couldn't resist, it was the perfect title. (Kol kvudah BasMelech pnimah)
IFT posted about tsniyus, a while back so I don't have the patience to find it and link you directly. Anyhow, this is my response, I don't think it's typical, and it's something I feel very strongly about, so please give it a few moments:

Instead of focusing on creating tsnius guidelines that are updated with each new trend that comes out, educators of Jewish girls need to take up the issue from two angles, both but no more:

1. Clearly defining the halachot of tsnius. The girls need to know where the line is drawn between rebelling from the school rules and breaking Jewish law. As it is in all BY schools that I know of, this line is very fuzzy as a zillion rules are thrown at the girls from all directions. Give them the laws clearly. You can make your own suggestions or school dress code as well, but there should be a clear differentiation, we must empower our nishei Yisrael to make informed choices.

2. Infuse them with the pride of a Jewish woman. There are levels of meaning behind the laws of tsnius that would make anyone proud to wear them. Give them a sense of purpose, mission, (I do mean besides supporting a kollel boy! This is way overemphasized, nice though it may be, a Jewish woman needs to have her own identity independent of her husband. Especially since at the time when these concepts are being drummed into the girls most of them will not be getting married for quite a while. But I digress.) We need to give our girls the strength to stand tall in the face of their challenges, and this won't happen by telling them a long litany of what they shouldn't and aren't.

Through a combination of those two curricular goals, along with plenty of siyata diShmaya, perhaps we will be able to prepare our girls to make appropriate tsnius choices without suppressing their feminity.

Personally, I find it difficult to fathom that after about a decade of this vicious cycle (in which lower levels of modesty and more rules chase after each other so frenetically that it's impossible to tell anymore which is the cause and which the effect) many major, respected mechanchim continue to stuff more and more rules down their students' throats, even as these rules are repeatedly defied. Don't they understand that their system isn't doing it?

I'd love to hear your reaction to this view, and whether you've heard anything along these lines before. I wouldn't think it's such a chiddush except that it's not happening.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

...Shelo asani goy

To preface, I have lived among non-Jews my entire life. Never in my childhood did I have any questions regarding the difference between us and them.

But sometimes, when I'm in a public place, and I see someone open a bag of nosh and dig in, I think with a start almost like an innocent child, "Stop! You didn't make a bracha!"

Before a second passes, I realize that the individual in question is (probably) a gentile and doesn't know anything about brachot, and in fact has no reason too.

And then I think, Poor guy.

And I feel lucky, lucky, lucky for being an FFB. I grasp the moment to ponder the meaning of brachot and my connection to G-d. I feel warm and fuzzy and hope that the feeling will last a little longer.

It's funny, though: there are sins going on all around me but this particular jolt only happens when they eat.