Showing posts with label tznius. Show all posts
Showing posts with label tznius. Show all posts

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

masechet Rosh Hashanah: disappearing midwives and individual shofar blowing during the silent Amidah

Two days before Rosh Hashanah, in honor of Rosh Hashanah, I learned through maseches Rosh Hashanah on the train. I used an illustrated one that I picked up at last year's YU Seforim sale, Mishnayos Meiros, and it was nice.
There were plenty of illustrations, perhaps to excess. Some masechtos really require many illustrations to get the point across, e.g. Succah and Shabbos. And then, when something is not illustrated, you chance not understanding it. Other masechtos don't really lend themselves to illustrations. For Rosh Hashanah, as I said, there were plenty. Some unnecessary. E.g. if the Mishna mentions a fruit tree, need I really show a tree with fruit, because otherwise we would not know? Where the regalim are mentioned, need we really have a picture of a Matza, and Mountain, and a Lulav, to show Pesach, Shavuos, and Succos? I was amused, but still, it is better to err on the side of more pictures.

One thing then stuck out like a sore thumb. A Mishna (2:6) detailed people to whom we grant techum Shabbos at their destination, and naturally, every case is illustrated:

ב,ו  בראשונה, לא היו זזים משם כל היום; התקין רבן גמליאל הזקן, שיהו מהלכין אלפיים אמה לכל רוח.  ולא אלו בלבד, אלא אף החכמה הבאה לילד, והבא להציל מיד הגיס, מיד הנהר, מיד הדליקה, מיד המפולת--הרי אלו כאנשי העיר, ויש להן אלפיים אמה לכל רוח.

Well, except one. Can you guess which?

Yes, they skip right over החכמה הבאה לילד. I suppose they thought it would not be tzniusdik to show a woman in labor. But they did not have to show the baby crowning. They could have the pregnant woman in the background and the midwife rushing to help her, just as the fellow in the picture above is rushing towards the fire. Unless they won't show any pictures of women at all, because of tznius considerations...

I also had an interesting (and compelling) thought about the very last Mishna:

ד,ט  סדר תקיעות, שלוש של שלוש שלוש.  שיעור תקיעה, כדי שלוש תרועות; שיעור תרועה, כדי שלוש יבבות.  תקע בראשונה, ומשך בשנייה כשתיים--אין בידו אלא אחת.  מי שבירך, ואחר כך נזדמן לו שופר--תוקע ומריע ותוקע, תוקע ומריע ותוקע, שלושה פעמים.  כשם ששליח ציבור חייב, כך כל יחיד ויחיד חייב; רבן גמליאל אומר, שליח ציבור מוציא את הרבים ידי חובתן. 

"Just as the Shliach Tzibbur is obligated, so is each individual obligated. Rabban Gamliel says: The Shliach Tzibbur fulfills the obligation on behalf of the community."

The standard commentaries and translations render this as referring to the obligation to say the Amidah. This in light of the gemara on the Mishna, which cites a brayta which elaborates.

However, based on the surrounding context, it really seems like pashut peshat in the Mishna is that it is referring to blowing the shofar. That is, the Amida involves the blessings of Malchuyot, Zichronot and Shofarot, which are accompanied by shofar blasts. One might think that since the individuals are saying this in their private Amida, they should also blow the shofar. And indeed, this is what the Tanna Kamma says. But Rabban Gamliel argues and say that the Amida + shofar blasts in chazaras haShatz covers them.

To support this idea that each individual was blowing the shofar, see the previous Mishna for more context:

 אין מעכבין את התינוקות מלתקוע, ומתעסקין עימהם כדי שילמדו.  והמתעסק, לא יצא; והשומע מן המתעסק, לא יצא.

Why is chinuch of children to blow the shofar so important, if it is done by only a single person on behalf of the community? But the children are engaged in blowing the shofar, and people are engaged in teaching them to blow. This indicates that there is widespread shofar blowing going on. (Not necessarily in the course of prayer, though.)

Further, see Rosh Hashanah 29b:
1. (Rabah) Everyone is obligated to blow Shofar, but not everyone is competent to do so.
2. There is therefore a concern that a person might carry it on Shabbos to an expert for instruction.
3. It is for this reason that the Rabanan forbade Lulav and Megilah on Shabbos.

Note that he is bringing it to the expert for instruction. Not that he could hear it from the expert, but that he should be able to blow it for himself. If he could hear and fulfill, and this was an ideal situation, why the assumption that he should learn how to blow?

What about the gemara, and the brayta? I would say we should try to see if we can interpret the brayta in light of this understanding of the Mishna.

כשם ששליח צבור חייב כך כל יחיד ויחיד וכו':  תניא אמרו לו לרבן גמליאל לדבריך למה צבור מתפללין אמר להם כדי להסדיר שליח צבור תפלתו אמר להם רבן גמליאל לדבריכם למה שליח צבור יורד לפני התיבה אמרו לו כדי להוציא את שאינו בקי אמר להם כשם שמוציא את שאינו בקי כך מוציא את הבקי

"The learnt in a brayta: They said to Rabban Gamliel: According to you, why do the congregation pray? He said to them: so that the Shliach Tzibbur can arrange his prayer. Rabban Gamliel said to them: According to you, why does the Shliach Tzibbur descend before the ark? They said to him: So that he should fulfill for whoever is not an expert. He said to them: Just as he fulfills for the non-expert, so he fulfills for the expert."

So the context clearly seems to be prayer rather than shofar blasts. But try to interpret it otherwise. Namely, since the performance of the shofar blasts are part of the prayer, their individual prayer is nothing. So why pray? Answers Rabban Gamliel, to give the Shliach Tzibbur time to prepare.

He said to them: Why does the Shliach tzibur descend before the ark, if each individual must blow for himself as part of his prayer? They said: To fulfill for he who is not a baki, and expert.

Note the use of בקי, which should mean an expert in shofar blowing. [However, or also, see the discussion in the Yerushalmi over whether people should be expected to be experts in shofar blowing or the nusach hatefilla of Rosh Hashana specifically.]

This would make for a very interesting Rosh Hashana davening, I think, where everyone comes to shul with his shofar and blows during the silent Amidah.

Monday, July 29, 2013

The Jewish Home is very progressive

From last week's issue, July 25, 2013, pg 58:

Presumably, it wasn't tznius for a boy to eat ice cream with two girls. And so, Robert became Rachel...

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

Women riding animals

As a followup to an earlier post, I would like to discuss the gemara in Pesachim 3a-b, about Tanach's description of woman riding animals. Here is the outline for my discussion.

I) Present the gemara and its translation.
II) Show that the portion discussion Rivkah, Tzipporah, and Avigail riding on animals is the setama degemara (post-Amoraim), on the basis of three features:
     a) transition from Hebrew to Aramaic
     b) anonymous
     c) an attempt to systematize the derasha
III) Explain why the setama's question is not a good question. That is, that the derasha was not claiming that 'sitting' is a general synonym for riding, just that in terms of tum'ah, it would be equivalent if one sat or rode on an item.
IV) Explain how the gemara's answer for Avigail is not a good answer, because while it might answer for רכבת, each of the suggested answers account for ותרכב which occurs later in the same perek in sefer Shmuel.
V) Even so, explain how this gemara is to be parsed without it forbidding women riding animals normally
VI) An alternative explanation of ישב vs. רכב
VII) How obscure sources are kvetched to obtain modern tznius rules

I) First, the gemara, Pesachim 3a-3b:
לישנא מעליא הוא דנקט וכדר' יהושע בן לוי דאמר ר' יהושע בן לוי לעולם אל יוציא אדם דבר מגונה מפיו שהרי עקם הכתוב שמונה אותיות ולא הוציא דבר מגונה מפיו שנאמר (בראשית ז, ח) מן הבהמה הטהורה ומן הבהמה אשר איננה טהורה רב פפא אמר תשע שנאמר (דברים כג, יא) כי יהיה בך איש אשר לא יהיה טהור מקרה לילה רבינא אמר עשר וי"ו דטהור רב אחא בר יעקב אמר שש עשרה שנאמר (שמואל א כ, כו) כי אמר מקרה הוא בלתי טהור הוא כי לא טהור תניא דבי רבי ישמעאל לעולם יספר אדם בלשון נקיה שהרי בזב קראו מרכב ובאשה קראו מושב ואומר (איוב טו, ה) ותבחר לשון ערומים ואומר (איוב לג, ג) ודעת שפתי ברור מללו מאי ואומר וכי תימא הני מילי בדאורייתא אבל בדרבנן לא תא שמע ואומר ותבחר לשון ערומים וכי תימא הני מילי בדרבנן אבל במילי דעלמא לא ואומר ודעת שפתי ברור מללו 
ובאשה לא כתיב בה מרכב והכתיב (בראשית כד, סא) ותקם רבקה ונערותיה ותרכבנה על הגמלים התם משום ביעתותא דגמלים אורחא היא והכתיב (שמות ד, כ) ויקח משה את אשתו ואת בניו וירכיבם על החמור התם
משום בניו אורחא הוא והכתיב (שמואל א כה, כ) והיא רוכבת על החמור התם משום ביעתותא דליליא אורחא הוא ואיבעית אימא משום ביעתותא דליליא ליכא משום ביעתותא דדוד איכא ואיבעית אימא ביעתותא דדוד נמי ליכא משום ביעתותא דהר איכא ובאורייתא מי לא כתיב טמא אלא כל היכא דכי הדדי נינהו משתעי בלשון נקיה כל היכא דנפישין מילי משתעי בלשון קצרה כדאמר רב הונא אמר רב ואמרי לה אמר רב הונא אמר רב משום ר"מ לעולם ישנה אדם לתלמידו דרך קצרה וכל היכא דכי הדדי נינהו משתעי בלשון כבוד והא רוכבת ויושבת דכי הדדי נינהו וקאמר רוכבת רכבת כתיב
Or, in English:
He employs a refined expression, and in accordance with R. Joshua b. Levi. For R. Joshua b. Levi said: one should not utter a gross expression with his mouth, for lo! the Writ employs a circumlocution of eight letters20 rather than utter a gross expression, for it is said, of every clean beast . . . and of the beasts that are not clean.21 
R. Papa said: Nine, for it is said, If there be among you any man, that is not clean by reason of that which chanceth by night.22 Rabina said: Ten, [including] the waw of tahor.23 R. Aha b. Jacob said: Sixteen, for it is said, for he thought, Something hath befallen him he is not clean; surely he is not clean.24
The School of R. Ishmael taught: one should always discourse in decent language, for lo!, the case of a zab25 it is called riding, while in connection with a woman it is called sitting;26 and it is said, and thou shalt choose the tongue of the subtle;27 and it is said, and that which my lips know they shall speak purely.28 
Why [quote] ‘and it is said [etc.]’?29 — [For] should you object, that is only in the case of Scripture,30 but not in the case of Rabbinical [discussions], then come and hear, ‘and it is said, and thou shalt choose the tongue of the subtle’.31 Yet should you [still] object, that is only in reference to Rabbinical [discussions] but not secular matters, — then come and hear, ‘and it is said,and that which my lips know they shall speak purely’.
Now, is riding not written in connection with a woman, but surely it is written, And Rebekah arose, and her damsels, and they rode upon the camels?32 — There it was natural through fear of the camels.33 But it is written, and Moses took his wife and his sons, and made them ride upon an ass?34 — There it was natural on account of his sons. But it is written, And it was so, as she rode on her ass?1 — There it was natural through fear of the night. Alternatively, there was no fear of the night, but there was fear of David. Another alternative: there was no fear of David either, but there was the fear of the mountain. 
Yet is not ‘unclean’ written in Scripture?2 Rather wherever they are equal[ly convenient], [Scripture] discourses in a refined language; but wherever more words would be required, the shorter phraseology is employed. As R. Huna said in Rab's name — others say, R. Huna said in Rab's name on R. Meir's authority: one should always teach his pupil in concise terms. And where they are equal he discourses in refined speech? Yet surely ‘riding’ [rokebeth] and ‘sitting’ [yoshebeth] are alike [in length], yet ‘riding’ [rokebeth] is stated? — Rakebeth is stated.3
II) That marked in red above is the setama degemara:

Modern scholars (as well as some traditional scholars, in some places) assert that certain parts of the gemara are later additions, from the time of the Savoraim or even Geonim. There are a few characteristics which can be used to identify this setama degemara.

a) Transition from Hebrew to Aramaic. Note how even the Amoraim, Rav Papa and Rav Acha bar Yaakov employ the word שנאמר, which is Hebrew. Meanwhile, throughout the red marked section, we have דכתיב, which is Aramaic.

b) Anonymous. The Aramaic analysis is not attributed to any named Amora.

c) Systematizing the derasha. The named Amoraim did not explain that this usage was the case across Tanach -- when making a homiletic point, once instance of divergence from the norm might be enough to teach the lesson -- nor did they explain why both derashot (ואומר) were required. Once the setama degemara steps in, its first concern is why both prooftexts were needed -- מאי ואומר. Its second concern is whether, across Tanach, women are described as riding. Its third concern is whether across Tanach 'not tahor' is consistently used, and if not, to explain why.

III) Why the setama's question is not a good question.

Following the lead of the aforementioned derashot, I will avoid saying that it is a bad question. But I don't believe that a good one.

The brayta had stated:
תניא דבי רבי ישמעאל לעולם יספר אדם בלשון נקיה שהרי בזב קראו מרכב ובאשה קראו מושב ואומר (איוב טו, ה) ותבחר לשון ערומים ואומר (איוב לג, ג) ודעת שפתי ברור מללו
The School of R. Ishmael taught: one should always discourse in decent language, for lo!, the case of a zab25 it is called riding, while in connection with a woman it is called sitting;26 and it is said, and thou shalt choose the tongue of the subtle;27 and it is said, and that which my lips know they shall speak purely.28
The meaning of this is, in terms of tumah, we must deal with what a person has sat upon. And by the man, the zav, it speaks about merkav, riding, while by the woman, the zava, it speaks about moshav, sitting. They are functionally equivalent in terms of tuma. That does not mean that one is a synonym for the other, and that if I wanted to say "Ploni rode his horse to town", I could equivalently say "Ploni sat his horse to town." That is not the way Hebrew works.

So, when the setama asks ובאשה לא כתיב בה מרכב, the proper answer is: Of course riding is written by women, because women rode! Only by tumah, when the act of sitting and the act of riding were functionally equivalent in terms of transfer of ritual impurity would the Torah select sitting over riding.

IV) How the gemara's answer for Avigail is not a good answer.

The gemara asks that it seems, from Avigail's travel to David, that Tanach would describe women riding using merkav (and that it would do so even if they were riding side-saddle, where moshav would have been an acceptable synonym):

והכתיב (שמואל א כה, כ) והיא רוכבת על החמור התם משום ביעתותא דליליא אורחא הוא ואיבעית אימא משום ביעתותא דליליא ליכא משום ביעתותא דדוד איכא ואיבעית אימא ביעתותא דדוד נמי ליכא משום ביעתותא דהר איכא
But it is written, And it was so, as she rode on her ass?1 — There it was natural through fear of the night. Alternatively, there was no fear of the night, but there was fear of David. Another alternative: there was no fear of David either, but there was the fear of the mountain. 
The reference is to I Shmuel 25:20:
כ  וְהָיָה הִיא רֹכֶבֶת עַל-הַחֲמוֹר, וְיֹרֶדֶת בְּסֵתֶר הָהָר, וְהִנֵּה דָוִד וַאֲנָשָׁיו, יֹרְדִים לִקְרָאתָהּ; וַתִּפְגֹשׁ, אֹתָם.20 And it was so, as she rode on her ass, and came down by the covert of the mountain, that, behold, David and his men came down towards her; and she met them.--
Her husband Naval had committed a trespass against David, and David was going to commit bloodshed in response. Covertly, without her husband's knowledge, Avigail visited David and appeased him.

a) This was at night, as we see in pasuk 34: כִּי לוּלֵי מִהַרְתְּ, ותבאתי (וַתָּבֹאת) לִקְרָאתִי--כִּי אִם-נוֹתַר לְנָבָל עַד-אוֹר הַבֹּקֶר, מַשְׁתִּין בְּקִיר, except thou hadst made haste and come to meet me, surely there had not been left unto Nabal by the morning light so much as one male.'.

b) This was in fear of David, because she knew that, if she did not act, he was going to massacre her household.

c) This was בְּסֵתֶר הָהָר, by the covert of the mountain, and a mountain pass might be more dangerous.

Thus, these are the three factors that the setama degemara suggests (via איבעית אימא) to account for why רכבת is used rather than יושבת. One of these fears would have caused her to ride in a way that would preclude describing it as יושבת.

The problem I have with each of these answers is that later in the perek, Naval dies and Avigail goes with her handmaidens to David, who marries her. How does she travel to him? ותרכב.
מב  וַתְּמַהֵר וַתָּקָם אֲבִיגַיִל, וַתִּרְכַּב עַל-הַחֲמוֹר, וְחָמֵשׁ נַעֲרֹתֶיהָ, הַהֹלְכוֹת לְרַגְלָהּ; וַתֵּלֶךְ, אַחֲרֵי מַלְאֲכֵי דָוִד, וַתְּהִי-לוֹ, לְאִשָּׁה.42 And Abigail hastened, and arose, and rode upon an ass, with five damsels of hers that followed her; and she went after the messengers of David, and became his wife.

There is no indication that this was at night. David wanted to marry her, so there was no fear of David. And there was no need for secrecy that would make her take mountain pass.

Perhaps the last two are not true. Perhaps out of honor for David, she "hurried". Perhaps this was the only path to David from her home, and בסתר means something else.

However, at the very least this is a complication in the gemara's answer.

At any rate, at the very end of the gemara, it appears that there is a retraction from the assessment that she rode in this manner, compelling the use of רכבת.
והא רוכבת ויושבת דכי הדדי נינהו וקאמר רוכבת רכבת כתיב
That is, the assumption here is that the author would still use יושבת, were רכבת not shorter by one letter. (See Tosafot grapple with the difficulty of this answer, since ישבת could also be written chaser.)

If so, then maybe all of these assumptions about women riding side-saddle in the hava amina would also fall away, since they are not necessary. Maybe not, and it is only regarding Avigail, where the assumption is now that she rode side-saddle. After all, there is still the fear of camels.

Here is a question, though, given the setama degemara's conclusion. The word ותרכב, which the gemara does not think to mention, is 5 letters. ותשב is four letters. This is both derech ketzara and lashon nekiyah. So why is it not used?

Making halachic or hashkafic conclusions based on this back-and-forth of the gemara, which I think has several flaws and does not accord with the opinion of the Amoraim, is ill-advised.

V) How to parse the gemara:

Though I gave my reasons for displeasure with the give and take of the gemara, let us run with it.

It is possible, with all this, that the only problem is in describing a woman doing these actions. While it might be true that, in general, women even in the days of Chazal rode side-saddle, that does not mean that, where the riding was not otherwise possible otherwise, they refrained from riding.

The statement of the brayta was just that one should use polite language:
The School of R. Ishmael taught: one should always discourse in decent language, for lo!, the case of a zab25 it is called riding, while in connection with a woman it is called sitting;26 and it is said, and thou shalt choose the tongue of the subtle;27 and it is said, and that which my lips know they shall speak purely.28 
There was nothing in it that stated that it was forbidden, or improper, for women to actually ride. Only that it was improper to describe it, if alternative language was available. Or that it was better to select the more refined language.

Thus, we have Rabbenu Chananel explain:

That is, to translate Rabbenu Chananel:
And why did it not mention riding by a woman? For riding is with separation of the legs. And it is a way of disgrace for a woman, the mentioning of separation of the legs, in an instance where it was possible to describe the matter in a praiseworthy manner. But by riding on a camel, and the like, where because of fear she would fear to ride by way of sitting lest she fall, and so it is not possible to mention 'riding', there is no issue with it.
The gemara then asks about Scriptural instances of women described as 'riding'. Ignore my objection above, about synonyms. Why is Rivkah mentioned as riding, rather than sitting?

The gemara answers this by finding something very specific about this instance. Namely, it was על הגמלים, on a camel. This then forms an exception.

By making it exceptional, the gemara has transformed, or at least solidified, the definition of רכב and ישב. That is, prior to the question, we could assume that every form of riding, whether with legs split by a saddle or via side-saddle, could be called either רכב or more politely ישב. Now we see that only side-saddle (RIDE1) could be called either ישב or רכב, but the type of riding most people (men, certainly, and women at times) do can only be called רכב (RIDE2).

Once we have this definition, and where we committed to the specificity of camels, Tzippora forms a great objection, since she was on a donkey. The answer appears to be that, indeed, we would not have used רכב there due to politeness concerns, but it was a relevant word to use since Moshe's two sons were also involved in this riding.

But then we have Avigail, who was a lone woman, and it is רכב on a donkey, not a camel. The answer is to extend the ביעתותא, the fear. When making camels exceptional, it was due to a fear. So, we can find some other fear that would compel Avigail to similarly perform the more extreme 'riding', such that ישב would not be applicable. And so, based on textual cues, the gemara suggests three possible factors that could compel such fear: night, David, mountain.

At the very end of the gemara, there appears to be a possible retraction. For Avigail, one need not posit fear. Since they establish by tuma that brevity is also of value, they ascribe the use of רכבת to brevity. This is strange, since they already have an answer in place (ביעתותא) and because, as Tosafot points out (though answers as well), ישבת can also be written chaser.

Does this mean that generally women would engage in RIDE1, except for where there is fear? This seems to be the underlying assumption.

However, I don't think that this is the case, based on the way that prooftexts work. Once the gemara had defined RIDE1 (side-saddle) and RIDE2 (straddling), any instance of רכב was ambiguous, and could be RIDE1 or RIDE2, and so in asking the question, the assumption was made that it was RIDE1. In order to reject the premise of the question, the gemara repeatedly asserted that it was RIDE2, and provided textual cues which would force it to be RIDE2. The forcing of it to be RIDE2 (straddling) solidly answers the question. But that does not mean that, in the general case, women did not engage in RIDE2.

VI) An alternative explanation of ישב vs. רכב

An alternative is not that the gemara is speaking of different forms of riding, RIDE1 and RIDE2. Rather, ישב connotes detachment, while רכב connotes a greater engagement. If someone was merely sitting, they might fall off! Therefore, giving what was going on, the fear would compel greater attachment to the act of riding, and so רכב is the better term to use.

With this explanation, we have what I would deem a more consistent usage of אורחא היא, as purely referring to the normal pattern of speech, for Rivkah, Tzipporah, and Avigail.

VII) How obscure sources are kvetched to obtain modern tznius rules.

This give and take in the gemara is not cited lehalacha by the Rif, the Rosh, or the Rambam. The immediately preceding gemara, about using proper speech, is cited by them.

So even if one dismisses my objections to the gemara itself; and even if one interprets the gemara contrariwise to how I did above, and deduces that straddling while riding itself is improper, it is interesting that this gemara has been resurrected to prohibit modern activities (e.g. riding a bicycle or wearing pants), circumventing the absence of real discussion lehalacha by Rishonim.

Why does it surface in modern discussions of tznius? Because there is a vacuum. There is an lack of sources which talk about such issues. And modern halachic decisors end up going back to gemaras, or partial quotes of Rabbenu Chananel, and try to create new simanim in Shulchan Aruch on this basis.

I am not sure about the legitimacy of this approach.

Monday, July 08, 2013

May a girl ride a bicycle?

Here is an interesting "teshuva" (I am unsure that these are actual questions posed to him) from Rabbi Yitzchak Zilberstein, in Chashukei Chemed on Pesachim. Based on (what I believe is a misquote of) a Rabbenu Chananel in the beginning of Pesachim, he rules that young girls should not ride bicycles.

The teshuva:
"Pesachim 3a: "By a woman it is not written riding"
It is improper for a girl to ride a bicycle

Q: Is it permitted for a girl to ride a bicycle?

A: It appears that it is improper for a girl [and certainly a woman] to ride a bicycle, for in Masechet Pesachim, daf 3a it is stated: 'A person should always speak in pristine language, for by a zav it is called 'riding' while by a woman is is called 'sitting'. And Rashi says that this is because it is not proper to mention riding and the separation of legs by a woman, and in Rabbenu Chananel he adds 'and it is a way of disgrace for a woman'. And from here we learn that it is improper for girls [naarot and yeladot] to ride on bicycles.

And there is to comment regarding that written in Masechet Bava Metzia (daf 9b) that a woman acquires an animal by riding, because it is the usual way in this. Thus it is usual for a woman to ride on a donkey. And the Yaabetz already evaluated this (in his glosses to Masechet bava Metzia there) and he is left with a tzarich iyun. And perhaps it is possible to answer that it is speaking of her sitting on the donkey and not riding, and the primary novelty of the gemara there is that it is not the way of a woman to pull, and it was not an easy thing there to distinguish between riding and sitting. And it is possible that it was speaking about where there were no men, for behold in the public domain a man as well acquires with riding.

And behold, it is stated in the Torah (Shemot 4:20)
כ  וַיִּקַּח מֹשֶׁה אֶת-אִשְׁתּוֹ וְאֶת-בָּנָיו, וַיַּרְכִּבֵם עַל-הַחֲמֹר, וַיָּשָׁב, אַרְצָה מִצְרָיִם; וַיִּקַּח מֹשֶׁה אֶת-מַטֵּה הָאֱלֹהִים, בְּיָדוֹ.20 And Moses took his wife and his sons, and set them upon an ass, and he returned to the land of Egypt; and Moses took the rod of God in his hand.
and Ibn Ezra wrote 
והוצרכו הזקנים לתרגם על החמור. על נושא אדם. בעבור שהוא דרך גירעון שתרכב אשת הנביא על חמור אחד היא ושני בניה. 
that it is a deficiency that the wife of the prophet rode on a single donkey, she and her two sons. And in sefer Parperet Moshe [from Rabbi Moshe Rubinstein] he understands [in Ibn Ezra's words] that it was a deficiency in tznius, and therefore [says Ibn Ezra] the [72] elders [who translated the Torah for Ptolemy, the Septuagint, as related in Megillah daf 9a] translated it as regarding the carriers [plural] of a person. [Josh: see here in Septuagint, where they translate it in the plural, and about beasts in general: And Moses took his wife and his children, and mounted them on the beasts... ] And in the gemara [in Pesachim] they answered that it wrote וירכיבם because of his sons.

And it is fitting to insist about this, that a girl, and certainly a woman, should not ride on a bicycle."

End quote from this teshuva.

I don't believe that this is the correct interpretation of Rabbenu Chananel, because it omits the very continuation of Rabbenu Chananel's words! That is, he cited R' Chananel as: והוא דרך גנאי באשה, as an addition to Rashi's words. Thus, to cite the relevant words above:
And Rashi says that this is because it is not proper to mention riding and the separation of legs by a woman, and in Rabbenu Chananel he adds 'and it is a way of disgrace for a woman'.
This is, that it is a way of disgrace for a woman to ride, for the separation of legs by a woman is a disgrance. But that is not what Rabbenu Chananel said (click to see large):

That is, to translate Rabbenu Chananel:
For riding is with separation of the legs. And it is a way of disgrace for a woman, the mentioning of separation of the legs, in an instance where it was possible to describe the matter in a praiseworthy manner. But by riding on a camel, and the like, where because of fear she would fear to ride by way of sitting lest she fall, and so it is not possible to mention 'riding', there is no issue with it.
Rabbenu Chananel was saying that the hazkara of pisuk raglayim was derech genai. The mentioning, and the language, not the actions.

And if so, this is not really such an innovation of Rabbenu Chananel. Recall that the lead in to all of this in the gemara was דאמר ר' יהושע בן לוי לעולם אל יוציא אדם דבר מגונה מפיו. Thus, the description of 'riding' instead of 'sitting' would be דבר מגונה, or using the same root, גנאי. It would be indelicate.

Indeed, the implication is that there is no prohibition or impropriety of a woman riding a camel, even though this would entail splitting of the legs while riding. Or of riding on a donkey. The only problem is in describing it. Where it is possible to use other terminology, the gemara (and R' Chananel) asserts, the Torah would use it, but where such terminology is not possible, it would not.

If so, perhaps problem with the gemara in Bava Metzia saying that it is the derech of women to ride on animals. Indeed, they would historically take such actions as riding on animals. What Rav Yaakov Emden (Yaavetz) was reacting to in Bava Metzia was that, based on the gemara in Pesachim, it was not the derech of women in an ir, but only on the derech. And this does find purchase in Pesachim, in particular the discussion on 3b of Avigail riding a donkey to David:

והכתיב (שמואל א כה, כ) והיא רוכבת על החמור התם משום ביעתותא דליליא אורחא הוא ואיבעית אימא משום ביעתותא דליליא ליכא משום ביעתותא דדוד איכא ואיבעית אימא ביעתותא דדוד נמי ליכא משום ביעתותא דהר

with the implication that in general, women would ride side-saddle, but specifically by Avigail, it was not the case for the reasons given. This still is not a statement that is a gnai. Bli neder, in a separate post, I will discuss how to understand this particular sugya in Pesachim. (After all, if women would generally ride side-saddle, then maybe there is some impropriety.)

Even if they were getting correct peshat in that gemara in Pesachim, I don't know that this would extend to riding a bicycle. To the right, see the "horse stance", from martial arts. This is the pisuk raglayim involved in riding on an animal, and it should be obvious why it might not be lashon nekiyah to describe a woman engaged in such spreading of her legs. But does riding a bicycle involve such leg-spreading?

Here is an image of someone riding a bicycle: Does it involve the same level of pisuk raglayim?

It does not, because a horse's body is much wider than a bicycle's frame.

[Unless one defines pisuk raglayim as any form of sitting in which something comes between the legs; in this case, the bicycle seat.]

Thursday, February 07, 2013

Why Photoshop out women's shoes?

The Rambam in Mishneh Torah, Issurei Biah, 21:21:

כ  [כא] וְכֵן אָסוּר לְאָדָם לְהִסְתַּכַּל בַּנָּשִׁים, בְּשָׁעָה שְׁהֶן עוֹמְדוֹת עַל הַכְּבוּסָה; וְאַפִלּוּ לְהִסְתַּכַּל בְּבִגְדֵי צְבָע שֶׁלְּאִשָּׁה שְׁהוּא מַכִּירָהּ--אָסוּר, שֶׁלֹּא יָבוֹא לִידֵי הִרְהוּר.

In English:
Halacha 21
Similarly, it is forbidden for a man to look at woman while they do laundry. It is even forbidden to look at the colored56 garments of a woman one knows,57 lest one be motivated to [sexual] thoughts.
The footnotes in the English above read:
Our translation follows the authoritative manuscripts and early printings of the Mishneh Torah. This also follows the text of Avodah Zarah 20b, the Rambam's apparent source. The standard printed text of the Mishneh Torah employs a slightly different version.
When quoting this law, the Shulchan Aruch (Even HaEzer 21:1) clarifies that it applies even when the woman is not wearing the garments. The clothes themselves may prompt the man's imagination.
So, is it so surprising that a Chareidi paper Photoshopped out a woman's shoes from a picture? Yes, except nothing should surprise us anymore. Via Life in Israel:

A young child, a 1 year old baby, in Jerusalem opened up a cabinet door that prevented the room door from being opened. That meant the kid was stuck in the room. The parents called the Fire Station, who sent a team out that dismantled the door and rescued the child. Good job.

The funny part comes next.

Hamodia (Hebrew edition) reported the story yesterday, but altered the picture that accompanied it. They did not remove the image of the child's mother - she was not in the picture anyway. The  picture showed the child laying on the floor next to the open drawer. The drawer had various pairs of shoes in it. One of those pairs was a pair of womens shoes. Hamodia removed the shoes from the image.

They weren't even a pair of high-heeled sexy shoes, or anything like that, that their removal might be understood in some sort of crazy way. This was simply a pair of beat up old flats - nothing enticing or provocative, just a pair of beat-up old shoes.

Here are the pictures:

the original:

the Hamodia version:
Of course, this is not a woman that (most of) HaModiah's readership knows. And the prohibition is to look with intent to derive sexual pleasure, while no one (normal) would see the shoes in the above picture and have improper thoughts.

Tznius is often culturally set. A tefach of a place on the body normally uncovered is erva, such that if a community regularly covers some area (e.g. feet), it is erva, where if they do not, it is not. Because now, people in that society will regard that specific uncovered tefach as illicit and sexual.

By making common women's shoes into erva, they are not being holy. And this is not a greater level of holiness we should all aspire to. Rather, by making common women's shoes into erva, this newspaper is helping to transform the societal mindset, and fetishize everything about women.

Related, see the latest from Saudi Arabia:
A cleric has called for female babies to wear the full-body burka in order to prevent sexual molestation.
In an interview on Saudi Arabia’s Al-Majd station, Sheikh Abdullah Daoud explained that sexual molestation of babies was common in the country and cited unnamed medical and security sources, according to a report on the Al-Arabiya website.
Are they holier because they require this? And, will requiring baby burqas actually help reinforce this cultural attitude of considering female babies as sexual?

Sunday, August 26, 2012

The definition of shok, part ii

I've posted this to my Daf Yomi blog as well, but the original discussion of shok occurred on parshablog, and so the followup is also appropriate here.

As a follow-up to the previous post, it might be nice to see what shok means in Akkadian. This could shed light on the Biblical usage, which in turn could shed light on the meaning of the word in the gemara.
Akkadian Lexicon Companion for Biblical Hebrew Etymological, Semantic and Idiomatic Equivalence
According to An Akkadian Lexical Companion for Biblical Hebrew, by Dr. Tawil, the following is the definition of שוק. (I've approximated the symbols for some of the below.) (See on Amazon, Akkadian Lexicon Companion for Biblical Hebrew Etymological, Semantic and Idiomatic Equivalence.)

שוק = Akk. siqu s. MA on (CAD 305b; AHw 1028a), thigh
The Heb. sequential hapax שֹּׁקַיִם -a בִּרְכַּיִם "knees - thighs" (Deut 28:35) may parallel the referent in ABL 453:6 in which siqu is a variant for birku in the same blessing formula, "marmareshunu sharru ina siqushu lintuh"may the king (live to) lift their (his sons') grandchildren onto his lap" (CAD S 305b) = marmareshu sharru beli ina birkishu lintuh"may the king, my lord, (live to) lift his grandsons onto his knees (CAF M 259a); Heb: (for a similar blessing formula), e.g. וּרְאֵה-בָנִים לְבָנֶיךָ: שָׁלוֹם, עַל-יִשְׂרָאֵל (Ps. 128:6 cf also Prov 17:6).
This might then help decide this dispute as to whether shok means thigh or calf. If it is used to mean lap, in parallel to birkayim, then it means the thigh area.

This is in accordance with the Mishnah Berurah, as well as, more recently, Rabbi Yehuda Henkin. In discussion shok be'isha erva, he analyzes the prooftext in sefer Yeshaya,
ב  קְחִי רֵחַיִם, וְטַחֲנִי קָמַח; גַּלִּי צַמָּתֵךְ חֶשְׂפִּי-שֹׁבֶל גַּלִּי-שׁוֹק, עִבְרִי נְהָרוֹת.2 Take the millstones, and grind meal; remove thy veil, strip off the train, uncover the leg, pass through the rivers.
ג  תִּגָּל, עֶרְוָתֵךְ--גַּם תֵּרָאֶה, חֶרְפָּתֵךְ; נָקָם אֶקָּח, וְלֹא אֶפְגַּע אָדָם.  {פ}3 Thy nakedness shall be uncovered, yea, thy shame shall be seen; I will take vengeance, and will let no man intercede. {P}

and writes:

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Rav Mordechai Gifter on past and present kanoim

R' Mordechai Gifter
(Image can be found at TorahArt.Com)
Rav Mordechai Gifter writes the following in Pirkei Torah, about the diligent nature of past and present congregations of Korach. The Torah, in the first pasuk of Korach, introduces the instigators:
א  וַיִּקַּח קֹרַח, בֶּן-יִצְהָר בֶּן-קְהָת בֶּן-לֵוִי; וְדָתָן וַאֲבִירָם בְּנֵי אֱלִיאָב, וְאוֹן בֶּן-פֶּלֶת--בְּנֵי רְאוּבֵן.1 Now Korah, the son of Izhar, the son of Kohath, the son of Levi, with Dathan and Abiram, the sons of Eliab, and On, the son of Peleth, sons of Reuben, took men;
Yet while Korach, Dasan and Aviram appear in the subsequent narrative, On ben Peles disappears. A midrash explains why and Rav Gifter extrapolates based on their words.

Thus, he writes:

"See their words, za'l, in the midrash. And so too in Sanhedrin 110a regarding to wife of On ben Pelet who saved him. For they say there:
Rab said: On, the son of Peleth, was saved by his wife. Said she to him, 'What matters it to thee? Whether the one [Moses] remains master or the other [Korah] becomes master, thou art but a disciple.' He replied, 'But what can I do? I have taken part in their counsel, and they have sworn me [to be] with them.' She said, 'I know that they are all a holy community, as it is written, seeing all the congregation are holy, everyone of them.27  [So,]' she proceeded, 'Sit here, and I will save thee.' She gave him wine to drink, intoxicated him and laid him down within [the tent]. Then she sat down at the entrance thereto and loosened her hair {וסתרתה למזיה}. Whoever came [to summon him] saw her and retreated.1
Thus, when they saw a woman without hair covering they turned immediately back. Such were the congregation of Korach, the fellows of On ben Peles. And see Rashi on Sanhedrin 109b, d"h, 'that they all were a holy congregation'.

{Namely, upon the the gemara above, where On ben Peles' wife said:
She said, 'I know that they are all a holy community, as it is written, seeing all the congregation are holy, everyone of them.
Rashi writes:
דכולה כנישתא קדישין - כולם צנועים וקדושים ולא יכנסו אלי אם אני פרועה.
"All of them are modest and holy, and will not enter to me if I am loosened {of hair}."

And this is experienced in every generation, that of those who are diligent and precise in mitzvos, the fire of controversy moves them against their own will and against the will of their Creator. For those who rise up / instigate against the talmid chacham of the generation are not of the inferior nor of the paltry of the nation. And all the details which are stated regarding the controversy of Korach and his congregation serve as a model for [such controversies for] all generations [such that we should examine this and take heed]."

Update: Much thanks to those who expressed confusion at the way it was worded before. I think it reads better now.

It makes sense to me that the spirit that moves one to such stringencies, for example, in tznius, is associated with stirring one up to engage in controversies. I don't know that I approve so much of the initial zehirus and dikduk bemitzvos (!), as it stands in many instances as a manifestation of an underlying character flaw. (Which is not what Rav Gifter is saying, precisely...)

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Cutting oneself for tznius

I thought I would spell out my reasons for disagreeing with Rav Zilberstein, who approved of (and praised) a baalas teshuva who asked if she could cut her legs so that her parents would not make her wear short skirts. (See here for more details, and here for an audio recording.)
"The young woman is facing a difficult challenges from her family members, who forbid her to dress modestly," the coordinator of a women's religious seminary wrote in the inquiry.

"The young woman thought that if she inflicted wounds on her legs she could tell her parents that she is wearing a long skirt to cover the wounds," the letter said.

Rabbi Zilberstein's reply came shortly after, with an unequivocal answer: "She is allowed to inflict wounds on her legs in order to dress modestly and evade sin."
I don't care to consider the analysis of various gemaras to determine whether chavala is indeed permitted for purposes such as tznius. While I do think there may be room for argument, that is beside the point. Rather, it is a matter of judging the metzius, in order to then apply the halacha correctly.

Rabbi Yitzchak Zilberstein may have more details that I have, and those details might just justify his advice. In all likelihood, though, it is just as it seems, and Rav Zilberstein is missing something in his analysis of the metzius. I do not have confidence in R' Zilberstein's ability to understand the metzius, given his previous endorsement of the idea that Jews and gentiles have a different number of teeth. He is the rav of a hospital in Bnei Brak and a medical posek, and one would have expected that he would have better means of determining reality than urban legends. To cite my translation of an answer from Rav Chaim Kanievsky:
Indeed, in Midrash Talpiyot (anaf Aivarim) there is that to a gentile there are 31 teeth, while to a Jew there are 32. And the gaon Rabbi Yitzchak Zilberstein related to me that there was a dentist in the United States who hated Jews, and when they brought them to him he counted the teeth, and when he found 32 he did not wish to work on them.
I wrote back then as follows:
But psak arises not just from a great depth and breadth of Torah knowledge, but from a knowledge of the metzius as well. If a Torah great can be this misguided about the facts on the ground..., then are they the best to pasken on issues relating to Torah and science?
In the present case, it seems that the pesak does not take into account a number of factors:

  1. Cutting oneself is often a sign of a psychological disorder. (Wikipedia: "Self-harm is most common in adolescence and young adulthood, usually first appearing between the ages of 12 and 24." And reading further in that article, some research suggests that this sort of cutting is more common for females in this age range.) A baalas teshuva who is in religious turmoil, is in conflict with her parents, is making these major life changes, should not be advised to cut herself. It is troublesome that she came up with this on her own so readily as a solution to her difficulties. She should, perhaps, be guided to seek psychological counseling.
  2. Perhaps related, disfiguring herself might indicate some misunderstandings as to the nature of tznius and struggling with body image.
  3. She is a baalas teshuva. This is wonderful. However, baalei teshuva often don't have the extended background in Judaism to be able to prioritize and put things into their proper perspective. A newly minted baal teshuva might believe, for instance, that not giving priority to a kohen to bentch first is on the level of eating milk and meat together. And they may hear of a minhag to stand through kriat haTorah and regard it as an obligation, on the same level as davening. And there are times when religious obligations should be balanced against situational need. When someone asks a shailah like this, they should not be encouraged in adopting extremes, because it reinforces extremeness in general. This is likely bad for remaining a baal teshuva for the long term, and for being a healthy, balanced individual within a normal, frum, Jewish society. Similarly, to encourage her to lie to her parents in this way is also not a good idea. There would likely be some way to negotiate, and advocate on her behalf. But instead, this pits her against her parents. It drives a wedge between her and her parents. They become the enemy. This is also likely not good for the long term, both in religious and emotional terms.
  4. I will permit myself to make up the metzius in this case. I don't know it is true, but I suspect that it is. Even though this is a secular Israeli family, I do not picture that her parents are forcing her to wear miniskirts. They would probably not think it terrible if she wore a skirt which reached her knees. She wants to wear 'long skirts', which presumably means down to her ankles. This is a matter of halachic dispute as to what shok be'isha erva means. According to some major halachic authorities, such as Rav Moshe Feinstein zatzal, and the Mishna Brura, the shok is the thigh. Therefore, a skirt to the knee (or a bit below) is perfectly fine. According to other poskim, the shok is the calf. If so, as a matter of obligation, one has to cover the calves as well. In a case such as this, to recommend to a baalas teshuva to cut herself (or rather, endorse her own idea to cut herself) rather than recommend that she act according to a different yet legitimate shita is not the proper course.
    Of course, this is only my assumption about the metzius, and I could be wrong.
Besides for this, praising the behavior in public, and saying that her story should be spread throughout the entire Jewish world, is not a good idea. Many people in the general public come up with tznius extremes which go beyond the dictates of halacha. For example, I understand that many Rabbanit Bruria Keren are BTs. And that she herself is a baalas teshuva. Praising self-harm in pursuit of tznius is not, IMHO, what the public needs to hear right now.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Noisy shoes and tznius, followup

On a previous post about some folks thinking Jewish women should wear rubber soles, GilaB commented:
I had thought this was an issue limited to the Taliban (who banned hard-soled shoes for women when they ruled Afghanistan, on the grounds that they made too much noise and thus attracted attention), but apparently not.
This is a good point. Perhaps this does have some legitimate Jewish sources somewhere. But it certainly has mainstream sources within Islam. Thus, in the Quran, 24:31:
"And say to the believing women that they should lower their gaze and guard their modesty; that they should not display their beauty except what (must) appear; that they should draw their veils over their bosoms and not display them except to their husbands, their fathers, their husband's fathers, their sons, their husbands' sons, their brothers or their brothers' sons, or their women, or the slaves whom they possess, or male servants free of physical needs, or small children who have no sense of the shame of sex; and that they should not strike their feet in order to draw attention to their hidden ornaments."
It is unclear what this means. Working just from a translation, I can say it means something similar to one interpretation of the pasuk in Yeshaya, that they deliberately strike their feet in order to call attention to themselves.

But it seems that many Muslim scholars in general forbid noisy shoes. Thus, we have the following Fatwa, in which the question is:
Asslamu Aleikum, What is the hadith on women wearing high-heeled shoes whether they be stiletto or wedge style? Is it permissable for her to wear them among other Muslim women or for her husband? Would you be so gracious as to cite a hadith in your answer insha'Allah. Jazakallahu Khayrun.
with a response of

In principle all clothing are permissible, and it is only what leads to a religious prohibition that is forbidden. Wearing high-heeled shoes is included in this principle. However, since in general wearing such shoes makes the woman’s walk enticing and seductive. Moreover, it may expose parts of the woman’s beauty or sometimes make attractive noises. Therefore, a woman should not wear them except in front of her husband or when being in company of women only.

Allaah Knows best.
Also, a Hadith:

Fazlul Maulana-- Al Hadis, Vol. 1, p. 614, that there is a curse on women who wear shoes. He said shoes are only for men.
And from this book, Infidel:

such that the tapping sound was not tznius.

Thus, it is established practice in Muslim law, not really established in Jewish law, though some might try to force some Jewish sources to say this. Could this be foreign influence, perhaps from jealously of Muslim stringencies, or else from Jews who lived in Arab countries? I don't know, but it seems a point worth pondering.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Why is "eating/drinking in public area" not tznius?

Recently, an advertisement I saw in the Five Towns Jewish Times on behalf of the arresting bachurim in Japan encouraged various tznius practices, including "Refrain from eating/drinking in public areas, especially where men are present."

Perhaps some groups do hold by such a chumra. But what is its "source"? And what is meant by eating in public? A meal at a restaurant? Chewing gum in public? Taking out your own private sandwich in a park and eating it?

Just as another entry on that list, avoiding noisy shoes and using rubber-soled shoes, was to be found in Rabbi Falk's tznius book, this one on public eating can also be found there.

Rabbi Falk writes what is pictured to the right.

The citation from Kesuvos 67b might be a stretch. It reads:
יתום ויתומה שבאו לינשא משיאין את היתומה ואחר כך משיאין את היתום מפני שבושתה של אשה מרובה משל איש

This does not necessarily refer to the general case of what might be considered "busha," and have to do with refinement. Surely the gemara is as applicable nowadays, even to gum-chewing girls. It has to do with being unmarried, and thus perhaps being dependent on charity as an individual, rather than part of a family. Certainly busha is mentioned in other cases, but in some cases we can almost call it a homonym.

He refers us to Pesachim 86b. That gemara reads:
הכלה הופכת את פניה וכו': מ"ט א"ר חייא בר אבא א"ר יוחנן מפני שהיא בושה
The citation is to the Mishna, on the previous amud.
שתי חבורות שהיו אוכלין בבית אחד אלו הופכין את פניהם הילך ואוכלין ואלו הופכין את פניהם הילך ואוכלין והמיחם באמצע כשהשמש עומד למזוג קופץ את פיו ומחזיר את פניו עד שמגיע אצל חבורתו ואוכל והכלה הופכת את פניה ואוכלת:

In general, people face their chabura, but the kallah has an exemption (or according to one reading in Tosafot based on a later segment of gemara, an obligation) to turn away her face and eat. And Rabbi Yochanan says that this is because of the busha. The parallel Yerushalmi has the same citation but not all the way to Rabbi Yochanan.

But Rabbi Falk is somewhat misleading with his summary of this gemara. The reference in the Mishna at least is to a Pesach meal, within a chabura. Neither Mishna nor gemara describe this as a meal with her in-laws. Perhaps the in-laws would be present at the meal, or perhaps not, but she would also be eating among many people she does not know. Describing it as in-laws (which calls to mind mother- and father-in-law in a private meal) is perhaps Rabbi Falk's way of increasing the degree of this kallah's modesty.

But see Rashi's explanation on the daf. He writes (d"h mipnei shehi busha) that she is embarrassed to eat, because of the men that are looking at her.

Perhaps because she is a new kallah, or a new face, she will be the center of attention here. But note that it did not say that this was true for all women, just for this particular instance involving a kallah. By linking it to the probably unrelated statement in Ketubot, Rabbi Falk can try to paint this as a general approach of refined women.

People in Talmudic times tried to apply this to men in general. Rav Huna was in a new place, where he was the center of attention at a meal. And he did not turn aside his face. This on the same daf in Pesachim:
הכלה הופכת את פניה וכו': מ"ט א"ר חייא בר אבא א"ר יוחנן מפני שהיא בושה רב הונא בריה דרב נתן איקלע לבי רב נחמן בר יצחק אמרו ליה מה שמך אמר להו רב הונא אמרו ניתיב מר אפוריא יתיב יהבו ליה כסא קבליה בחד זימנא ושתייה בתרי זימני ולא אהדר אפיה אמרו ליה מ"ט קרית לך רב הונא אמר להו בעל השם אני מ"ט כי אמרו לך ניתיב אפוריא יתבת אמר להו כל מה שיאמר לך בעל הבית עשה <חוץ מצא> מאי טעמא כי יהבי לך כסא קבלת בחד זימנא אמר להו מסרבין לקטן ואין מסרבין לגדול מ"ט אשתיתיה בתרי זימני אמר להו דתניא השותה כוסו בבת אחת הרי זה גרגרן שנים דרך ארץ שלשה מגסי הרוח
מאי טעמא לא אהדרת אפך אמר להו כלה הופכת פניה תנן
They asked him why he did not turn away his face, and he cited the Mishna, which shows that this is only the conduct of a kallah, but is not required in the general case.

Anyway, the connection between this "turning away the face" specifically for a kallah and (unmarried teenage) girls chewing gum in the street seems tenuous to me. Besides which, social mores change, and things acceptable in one era become unacceptable in another, and vice versa. Spitting in spittoons in shul was once acceptable, though now it is not. If there is nothing seen as wrong with chewing gum in public nowadays, then that the girls do not agree with Rabbi Falk's assessment of their behavior does not reflect upon the "deterioration of modesty and lack of refinement." Perhaps the solution is for Rabbi Falk to stop staring at girls chewing gum in the street.

Now, this type of "busha" for public eating actually occurs elsewhere, in a much better source than he cited, if one wants to link to girls chewing gum. My guess is that he did not cite this other relevant gemara because it is not particular to women, so he could not make it about tznius, and because the restrictions the poskim place on that gemara eliminate the problem.

There is a gemara which states that someone who eats in the market (shuk) is acting like a dog, and also (according to one variant) is invalid for testimony. Thus, in Kiddushin 40b, we have:
ת"ר האוכל בשוק הרי זה דומה לכלב ויש אומרים פסול לעדות
אמר רב אידי בר אבין הלכה כיש אומרים
This "eating in the shuk" seems like a much closer match to chewing gum in public. Rashi on the daf (d"h ufasul le'eidut) writes that so too, someone who eats in the shuk is not makpid on his honor, and would not be embarrassed to denigrate himself and become pasul (?be an invalid witness?}.

Tosafot (same daf, d"h veyesh omerim) is bothered by the seeming contradiction with a Yerushalmi in Maasarot, 16a:

אית תניי תני שאין שבחו של תלמיד חכם להיות אוכל בשוק כהדא רבי לעזר בר רבי שמעון הוה אכיל בשוקא חמתיה רבי מאיר אמר ליה בשוקא את אכיל ובטל גרמיה:

This would then seem to only be not the conduct of a Talmid Chacham, rather than any regular person. So why should a regular person suddenly be compared with a dog and be invalid for testifying, on the basis of this conduct. Rabbenu Chananel says that it is a case where he is chotef and eats. Tosafot understands this as theft, and gives terutzim why he would not be simply invalidated for the theft, but I would understand this as akin to chotefin matzos for the tinokos, and thus to seize a little here and a little there, gobbling it hurriedly down, perhaps as one walks. And one could then compare it to the conduct of a dog. Rabbi Eliyahu explains this as going to sellers and tasting a little, pretending that one is going to buy. And he remarks that if so, this can well be compared to the behavior of a dog. And finally, Rabbenu Tam, that it means eating a meal of bread, meaning a seudat keva. See how Rosh takes this. And see it in This
rambam hilchot edut perek 11 halacha 5; and in tur, and in shulchan aruch, choshen mishpat, siman 34, seif 19. Also, in Aruch Hashulchan, siman 34.

There are restrictions on what we would consider eating in public, in the shuk, as it applies in the general case. Perhaps besides the gemara, some of these commenters / halachic decisors were grappling with the conduct of fine menschen in their own communities, who might have eaten in the marketplace.

Because social customs change. Hillel had his sandwich, but the modern Sandwich was named after the Earl of Sandwich who wanted to eat on the go. And this has become acceptable conduct in many circles. And one is not "unrefined" for not acting in accordance with the ideals of one particular rabbi who has certain conceptions of what women's conduct should be, reinforced by forced interpretations of texts. Klal Yisrael, with their proper conduct, might also have some say in what is acceptable and what is not.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Why would someone recommend rubber soles as a tznius stringency?

In a recent ad calling on women to accept tznius stringencies to help the bachurim in Japan who unwittingly smuggled ecstasy, there was a call to make sure that the soles on a woman's shoes were of rubber: "Shoes/heels with a rubber sole"

The obvious intent of this is that the sound of a woman's footsteps are non-tznius. I am no expert in tznius, so I don't know if there is any halachic discussion of this anywhere, though I would doubt it.

I see that HaEmtza is bothered by this particulat tznius suggestion as well.

In all likelihood, especially since she also promoted Rabbi Falk's book Oz veHadar Levushah, she got it from there. Indeed, he discusses it on a page not in the online preview of the book, on page 347: "Not to walk with loud or sophisticated footsteps"

I have not seen his derivation, so I am going to guess at this. I think I've developed some sense at how he goes about, going against Chazal by innovating new halachos, by darshening pesukim in Navi by himself. If you have seen the text in the book, please help me by telling me if I am right, or if I am wrong, telling me what he actually says.

There is a strong likelihood that he gets it from a pasuk in Yeshaya, since this is a text he commonly uses when inventing his tznius chumras. In Yeshaya 3:
טז וַיֹּאמֶר יְהוָה, יַעַן כִּי גָבְהוּ בְּנוֹת צִיּוֹן, וַתֵּלַכְנָה נטוות (נְטוּיוֹת) גָּרוֹן, וּמְשַׂקְּרוֹת עֵינָיִם; הָלוֹךְ וְטָפֹף תֵּלַכְנָה, וּבְרַגְלֵיהֶם תְּעַכַּסְנָה. 16 Moreover the LORD said: Because the daughters of Zion are haughty, and walk with stretched-forth necks and wanton eyes, walking and mincing as they go, and making a tinkling with their feet;
Anything a woman is mentioned using in this perek, Rabbi Falk forbids, sometimes against explicit gemaras, as I have discussed in previous posts.

One can focus on וּבְרַגְלֵיהֶם תְּעַכַּסְנָה. That phrase can mean different things. For example, Rashi, following the gemara, understands this as spraying venom:

The pasuk is thus: And the Lord said: Because the daughters of Zion are so haughty; and they walk with neck stretched forth, and winking eyes; walking and raising themselves they walk; and with their feet they spout "venom."

and with their feet they spout venom: When they would pass in the street near Jewish youths, they would stamp their feet and hint to them of the affection of the adulteresses, in order to arouse their temptation, like the venom of a serpent. עֶכֶס is the venom of a serpent.

This "spouting venom" involves stamping. With rubber soles you cannot stamp loudly. But these were the actions of women going out of there way to seduce, and be adulteresses. This does not mean that other, stamping is problematic; of that in a culture where men do not understand the "hint" of stamping. And if they intend nothing by the stamping and the men don't intuit anything from it, who says it is a problem? And if it is just regular walking, rather than emphatic stamping, who says it is problematic. Show me a gemara assuring stamping, or of walking with non-rubber soles.

Chazal, in Shabbat 62b, interpreted the pasuk slightly differently:
And making a tinkling [te'akasnah] with their feet: R. Isaac of the School of R. Ammi said: This teaches that they placed myrrh and balsam in their shoes and walked through the market-places of Jerusalem, and on coming near to the young men of Israel, they kicked their feet and spurted it on them, thus instilling them with passionate desire like with serpent's poison.
Thus, they interpret it as kicking their feet specifically to distribute the perfume which they previously placed in their shoes. This is not the case of the conduct of women walking today without rubber soles on their shoes. (Rashi probably deviated slightly from the gemara in the interests of peshat, since spraying poison/perfume does not seem to be the most peshat-oriented explanation.)

We do have Ibn Ezra and Radak who speak of what is by their feet making noise. But we don't establish halacha based on a peshat given by a medieval commentator, just as we don't change halachic times and say night follows day, despite Rashbam's interpretation of Bereishit like that, or stop wearing tefillin if Rashbam says that on a peshat level it is allegorical.

What do Radak and Ibn Ezra say? Well, Ibn Ezra on תְּעַכַּסְנָה writes that they put achasim, perhaps anklets, or perhaps spurs, on their feet, like men who ride. (That it mentions men who ride makes me think spurs, and in medieval times they had spurs.) Then he mentions that some people say that the anklets/spurs (achasim) made noise.

But these were specific decorations, perhaps for the particular intent of making noise, and specifically with the intent to entice the men. This is not the same as a normal women walking with normal shoes, that happen to make normal noise when one walks. Ibn Ezra does not say that these are shoes without rubber soles.

Radak also understands these to make noise, but a tinkling noise. He says that they would knock their feet with the achasim which were on them, which were bells, and produce a sound.

Surely this deliberate action, with bells, is not the same as non-deliberate action, with normal shoes which normal men and women wear.


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