Thursday, December 29, 2011

Which Torah is it?

Na'ama Margolis fears going to school.  Every day, she must walk a gauntlet of people throwing things at her and calling her a slut.
This is the sort of thing one could imagine happening to a scantily-clad teenager in an American high school, pretty much anywhere.  But it's not.  Na'ama Margolis is not a teenager.  She is eight years old and completely untouched by puberty.  She is Modern Orthodox, living in Israel, and attends a religious school where she must cover herself from collarbone to elbows to knees.  And she does so willingly.  And the screaming name-callers?  Not teenaged bums, but grown men, also religious Jews, and some of them old enough to be her father.  So why engage in this behavior?  Because they want only their kind.  Women who cover themselves completely from the neck down.  Women and girls who move aside for them, sit in the back of the bus, don't talk too loudly, and completely defer to them.  Women who stay away from the front synagogue entrances and stick to side roads, lest they be seen by a man.
Now, I've read the Torah every year, from Bereishis to Ve'zos Habrachah, and I only remember one reference to the laws of tzinut (modesty) mentioned anywhere.  And even that reference was rather oblique (in parshas Naso, during the discussion of the Sotah, it talks about the accused woman uncovering her hair).  I've also read the Nevi'im from cover to cover, and don't remember a single instance of tzinut being mentioned.  But I did see, over and over again, the need to love your fellow Jew.  Even in Pirkei Avos (the only part of the Mishnah I've ever been bold enough to crack), I only see commands to watch your behavior.  See, being religious is not about skirt lengths or stocking thicknesses.  It's not about making sure your shaitel came only from European hair, lest there be avodah zarah involved.  It's not about avoiding women, who, last time I checked, are Hashem's creation.  But, again and again, it's about treating others decently.  Love your neighbor.  Do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with G-d.  Anything that is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbor.  The sad part is, that most of these "men" (and I use the term loosely) consider themselves Torah scholars.  They are talmidei chachamim.  They have read the same Torah I did, and studied it in great detail, for years.  They grew up on Torah Tzivah Lanu Moshe.  And, yet, by their actions, they have shown that it is nothing to them.   That the minutaie of halacha is more important that valuing G-d's fellow creation.


  1. Well first of all, read your Nach again, specifically the last one where Michah exorts us to "hatznea lechet im Elokecha." Walk humbly with God. Not dress humbly. Walk humbly. Go throughout your day with humility. Don't push yourself ahead in line. Don't show off how pious you are. Don't assume your position in Gan Eden is so good you can judge other people. That's real tznius.

  2. I think you're reiterating my point. I find the actions of these thugs detestable, more so because they carry them out in the name of Torah.


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