Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Shmiras Einayim Forum

(Picture courtesy of eyedesignbook.com)

Rabbi Velvel Cheshin once said, "The yetzer hara is not allowed to enter a person except through the eyes." Indeed, shmiras einayim remains one of the greatest daily challenges since a person is literally surrounded on any given day with sights that he is forbidden from gazing at. I have posted on this topic in the past on several occasions and in this posting have collected responses from others on their thoughts and struggles in this area:

Response #1:

The first step in shmiras einayim is to be “holding somewhere”. To be learning, davening and trying to shteig in yiras shamayim. If one is doing that, there is hope. If not, he is like putty in the hands of the yetzer. That is my experience after enumerable periods of both shteiging and yerida. So the question is, how do we guard our eyes when we are in a period of growth.

Again, we need to make a distinction. In the workplace there is often an extreme lack of modesty. But for someone that is in a period of growth, the yetzer for low, blatant untzinusness is fairly weak. It is more revolting and depressing than it is enticing. That doesn’t mean that we don’t’ have to avoid gazing but I don’t feel this is the real battlefield. I assume that we all have had the same experience.

However, the real place of milchama is, b’avonoseinu harabim, in our frum communities where helige bnos Yisroel, try to walk the line between proper, unapologetic tzinus, and “being fashionable”. I was told by my Rav, an adam gadol, that the correct approach is that which is advocated by Rav Chaim Volozhiner. To not walk with one’s head down trying to entirely avoid seeing anything untzinus. My Rav explained that when one does that, unavoidably he will eventually slip and raise his eyes at the wrong time. This has an effect of magnifying the yetzer, and making it burn more strongly and with a sudden force. This can have a very bad, long term effect. Better to walk with one’s head up and a smile on one’s face and ask the Ribbono Shel Olam for siyata d’shmaya to be an ehliche Yid and to not gaze directly. Maybe he will be zoche. And when he does see something, he won’t come to focus on it overly and the image will hopefully pass quickly. I have found his advice to be on the mark.

All that applies when one has to go to mixed areas. When one can avoid the issue entirely, by going out the back door of shul or by taking less walked roads, mah tov u’mah na’im. I don’t remember the exact lashon but Chazal say that one who goes through the marketplace instead of taking an available alternate route, is called a “rasha” even though he didn’t look at anything immodest.

The One Above should help us all to succeed in this area. And we should all have the strength of character to make sure that our own wives and daughters are not creating michsholim.

Response #2:

These measures have not been totally successful, but I think they have helped:

1. No TV set at home

2. Cut back reading of daily local newspaper

3. Cut back reading of material at news-oriented and politically-oriented websites

4. Watch, at most, Weather Channel at hotels

It also helps that I commute by car, although mass transit in my area is so poor that it was never an real option anyway.

One major obstacle lately is all the magazines displayed at supermarket checkout lines, which are hard to avoid seeing. Lately, nearly all the magazines displayed are built around sex and promiscuity.

Response #3:

Rebbe Nachman said that one's neshama is always seeing supernal visions. If one guards his eyes, he can grasp them. If not, he won't experience them at all. Sounds so inspiring, but how do I do it? A constant theme in Rav Nosson of Breslov's writing is that every little movement towards spirituality is inestimably precious. It is worth coming down to the world even for the sake of once in my lifetime avoiding an illicit thought. Rav Levi Yitzchak Bender would say: this is the key to shemiras einayim in our times, since there is a marked lack of tznius and very often the going is rough. The only way is to internalize the preciousness of every time that I do manage to guard my eyes. The biggest problem in this area is giving up after a slip. "Since I already saw something that affected me so negatively, there's no point continuing the struggle any more." The truth is just the opposite. If I failed earlier and need to repent, why does this have any bearing on trying again right now?

Response #4:

Shmiras einayim is difficult for everyone, but especially for those whose work or location brings them in constant contact with the crass culture that surrounds us. The surroundings erode even the natural, inbred modesty that crowns those who were fortunate to grow up in communities in which holiness is the default of everyday living. The eyes promise an immediate reward and most conventional methods do not necessarily work well. Proscriptions, guilt, routines do not compete on the even ground with the immediate pleasure of "looking".

What works better is rising to a spiritual level at which every misstep results in an immediate visceral sense of reduction in holiness (how to rise to such a level before achieving shmiras einayim is a topic for another time). Those who reached the level of sensitivity that enables them to feel spirituality, also to sense its ebbs and flows. Such people know the damage that lack of shmiras einayim causes. The pain of dropping levels is the only true antidote to illicit pleasure.

Response #5:

I find it hard not to be in situations when I am tempted with looking at things/images that might cause hirhurim that are not benificial to my neshama. I am constantly bombarded by images. In my office, people often dress in manner that is rather revealing. My supervisor also is quite fond of wearing low cut clothing, which make me uncomfortable when I am speaking with her. I often (especially in the summer) will walk around my office without my glasses on, to avoid looking at people. Even when I am out at the shopping mall or walking around downtown in the summer, I'll take off my glasses. My wife just chalks it up to be slipping into 'wacky BT mode", but she understands. Also if I am watching something on TV or a DVD with another couple I'll often take off my glasses, while other males will just look at a particular scene or image and make inappropriate comments. We all do what we can do. I'm often refered to as not being 'one of the guys' because I have never bought the Sport Illustrated swimsuit issue. I stand my ground, none the less.

I find it, at times, to even go online to check email or the news because there are so many questionable images even on site like msn.com or cnn.com. The temptations opened up by the internet are very dangerous, IMHO. After attending an internet safety seminar, I installed watchdog software that tracks all site that are visited on my computer. I've explained to our children that mommy checks where abba goes on the internet, just like everyone else who goes online in our home. Starting at a young age with this idea of accountability for web use, I hope will reduce temptation for all of us.

As difficult as shmiras einayim might be, the lasting effect on the imagination is just as challenging. Rabbi Yisrael Salanter's Iggres HaMussar deals with this issue and the constant struggle with the many forms of the yeter hora.

Response #6:

I think the most difficult part of shmiras einayim is with modestly dressed women. As frum Jews we know that looking at immodestly dressed women is forbidden and hopefully will turn away when we see that. When I do see this I say to myself "Velo sosuru acharei levavichem veacharei eineichem" as suggested in Tzetel Koton. However, the guard is down when seeing a woman who is properly dressed, because there is nothing exposed that is forbidden, but it is still forbidden to look at even the small finger of a woman for pleasure. I try to constantly work on this by reading the seforim hakedoshim on this topic and asking for Hashem help in observing shmiras einayim properly. If one has a problem with shmiras einayim this is probably the best thing to do. I definitely understand those who walk through the streets looking down, as suggested in Tzetel Koton.

Response #7:

Lately, I try to recognize that we have the whole world through which to relate to HaShem. From horizon to horizon we have a huge hemisphere full of stimulus. When something comes up that I'm not supposed to see, I remind myself that I don't want my relationship with HaShem to come solely through that source, I don't want to lose the whole world around me. That is what essentially happens when we choose to look at something forbidden. We transition from a direct panim el panim relationship with HaShem to receiving just the merest trickle, the achoraim, of divine revelation that shines through that forbidden view.

--
To conclude on a word of chizuk, this excerpt comes from A Talmid's posting on shmiras einayim:

There is a kabalah passed down from the Vilna Gaon, which is also said by Reb Ahron Roth. If one comes across a forbidden sight, and conquers his yetzer hara and doesn't look, it is a shaas rachamim, a time of mercy from Heaven, and whatever one davens for at that time is mesugal to be accepted.

45 Comments:

At October 23, 2007 at 6:20:00 AM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Guarding the eyes is a practice that I follow in a broad rather than a narrow sense. For me the human figure is an element in a composition (many years of art school) or an amazing biological organism (two years of anatomy and physiology). Obviously I am not an adherent of the "tip of the little finger" school. My view of those that are overcome physically and emotionally by the sight of an elbow or knee is that they need to develop a little self discipline and self control.

However, I find that in the cultural of consumerism and consumption, that is pervasive in America, sexuality is used as a marketing tool. Here is where I do guard the eye. We still have a television in our home. When we do watch something on broadcast television, we always record it, we don't watch anything "live", that way we can skip through all the commercial breaks as they always seem to have offensive content. Magazine racks in the supermarket checkout present more of a problem. Although I can turn away and not have to see which star is cavorting with which starlet, how do I manage to distract the kinder the whole time? The system I use is that they go first into the checkout stand so that they are in front of the cart and thus have the entire cart and myself between them and the lurid details. Highway billboards are similar, "Quick look at that bird over there on the other side of the road."

It comes down to: nudity is not necessarily sexual, when in a nonsexual context we have no problem but when nudity or sexuality is used solely to gain attention or to sell something than we do our best to avoid it.

 
At October 23, 2007 at 8:37:00 AM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Obviously I am not an adherent of the "tip of the little finger" school."

Chazal said that one can't look for "pleasure".

 
At October 23, 2007 at 8:41:00 AM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anonymous 6:20:

I can tell you are a thoughtful, deeper sort of person. Thank you for posting. There is definitely the “artist” or “frum doctor” approach of viewing the female form as a beautiful or interesting bria but not in terms of sexuality. In fact there is a gemorra that says that (I think it was Rebbi Yochanan but someone should please correct me) he viewed women coming out of the mikva as being like swans. Although I am not certain what the gemorra means but my feeling is that it is along the lines of what you are saying. A woman that went to see the Skverer Rebbe told me that he looks directly at women when speaking to them and she felt like it was a father speaking to his daughter. It takes a certain maturity to not be overly reactive to the sight of women.

But I am also sure you are able to agree that the Manchester Rosh Yeshiva was not in need of more self control. Just the opposite, he was an amazing exemplar of self-control, way above the level of most human beings. And yet we see that he was makpid to not even look at the tzura of women. He said shiurim to women looking straight down at the ground (and yet was perceived by them as being a very warm and caring person). Rav Moshe Aharon Stern would take off his glasses when he had to speak to women (as witnessed by my wife). There are innumerable other examples of great people, who could certainly control their thoughts, being very careful about where they looked. Also, (and please enlighten me because I sincerely would like to understand and I am not saying this to cause disagreements) I am confused as to how those that take the “women’s bodies as art” approach, change modes and become deeply passionate about their wives’ bodies. Unless the relationship with their wife is so spiritual that the excitement is really spiritual in nature. But that is a madreiga that most of us are nowhere close to.

 
At October 23, 2007 at 9:16:00 AM EDT, Blogger yitz.. said...

@anonymous#1,

I think I see where you are coming from, and agree with you that many times people trying to avoid a negative influence end up over-sensitizing themselves to said influence. [I hope i'm not putting words in your mouth]

For example, I really don't like cigarette smoke so I try to avoid it, and it has reached a point where I've put so much effort into avoiding it that my negative reaction to cigarette smoke is much more extreme than someone else who simply finds it unpleasant.

Another place this comes up is in relating to my son. I've noticed that children like to get their parents angry because of the intensity of the parents' emotion and expressions.

As a result I try to make sure I show my son genuine and intense expressions of pleasure when he does something good, rather than just paying it lipservice and saying 'good boy'.

Like you intimated, (if I understood you correctly) it comes down to emphasizing positives rather than playing up negatives. (for example, the Janet Jackson Debacle of a few years ago ensured that everyone saw it (many times) rather than just letting it slide by and ignoring it, or making a big deal about something else)

The other side of the coin however is something the Lubavitcher Rebbe once said, that an indication of someone who is very ill spiritually is someone who doesn't even know that he's ill at all.

A person who has heightened their sensitivities has generally done so to work on themselves and bring about a change in themselves on a very deep level. The interim stages seem outrageous from the outside onlooker, but the final stages will (hopefully) make their intentions and aspirations clear.

The Reb Elimelech of Lizhensk said that when a Tzaddik starts out on his journey many of his actions seem very unnatural, and this is an indication that he is still working on himself, when the actions of a Tzaddik seem natural, enlightening and profound to those around them, then it is a sign that he has come into his own.

 
At October 23, 2007 at 9:44:00 AM EDT, Blogger A Talmid said...

A Segula for Shmiras Einayim
Sefer Hamidos (Re’iyah #9) says that when a man goes out to the market and is worried that he might come to hirhurim through his seeing beautiful women he should say the posuk: (Yeshaya 33, 7) הֵן אֶרְאֶלָּם צָעֲקוּ חֻצָה מַלְאֲכֵי שָׁלוֹם מַר יִבְכָּיוּן

 
At October 23, 2007 at 9:50:00 AM EDT, Blogger A Simple Jew said...

I find that at the moment that I catch myself slipping with shmiras einayim, I say Shema Yisroel to myself and concentrate on the words. Doing this refocuses me and wipes the slate clean in my mind.

 
At October 23, 2007 at 9:55:00 AM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you to A Talmid and A Simple Jew for two nice eitzos.

 
At October 23, 2007 at 10:26:00 AM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous 8:40 said...

I wanted to briefly address the second paragraph of Anonymous 6:20. In my opinion, (and it has already been made clear that Anonymous and I have somewhat different approaches to this issue), one should not shop with children in stores with immodest magazines displayed. I am not always “m’kayim” what I am “doresh” but still I believe this is the correct approach. When I do go into a store that has magazines with prutzos on the cover, I am quite unapologetic about placing another magazine in front of the offending ones. And I have gotten looks from clerks and other customers. Tough noogies!! They have no right to force me and my children to look at it. In fact, they have no moral right to display it at all but if they must, they can do it after I leave.

 
At October 23, 2007 at 10:34:00 AM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anonymous 6:20 said:

> A woman that went to see the Skverer Rebbe told me that he
> looks directly at women when speaking to them and she felt like
> it was a father speaking to his daughter.

Just to set the record straight -- the Skverer Rebbe, shlita, does speak in a very friendly manner with ladies, while he faces them. However, if you watch closely, you'll see that he focuses his eyes to the side so that he can't actually see the lady that he's talking to.

I also saw Reb Mordechai Schwab, zt"l, speak in a very friendly manner to ladies, but with his head turned ever so slightly to the side.

Many years ago, when I was oisaik in shidduchim, Reb Moshe Wolfson, shlita, recommended to me that I try to shift my gaze away from the meduberes in an inobtrusive way.

A Different Anonymous

 
At October 23, 2007 at 11:00:00 AM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous 8:40 said...

Thanks to A Different Anonymous. I never was present when the Skever Rebbe was speaking to a woman so I am only reporting one woman’s perception. Rav Schwab was famous for the warmth with which he greeted everyone including women, but as you say, he was subtle and did not look at them directly. When it comes to shidduchim, one really has to know themselves and also what the girl’s expectations are. If the m’duberes is a somewhat modern woman or a baalas t’shuvah, then it could be that they will take offense or in any case, not feel an appropriate sense of warnth from the bochur. Depending on who she is, she might say “Gevladig! A really frum boy who is more worried about yiras Shamayim than about a pretense of manners.” It just depends.

 
At October 23, 2007 at 12:02:00 PM EDT, Blogger A Talmid said...

Rav Chaim Volozhiner's approach of not looking down was mentioned. I had a Rebbe that said the same thing. I'm not here to say whether one should do this or not, but l'aniyas dati, perhaps this wouldn't be the same situation today. Back then it wasn't common for women to walk around with actual "ervah" exposed, which is assur to look at even not for pleasure, as opposed to just seeing an attractive woman dressed modestly, which isn't assur unless you want to get pleasure.

 
At October 23, 2007 at 12:05:00 PM EDT, Blogger A Simple Jew said...

A Talmid: Your comment made me recall this posting

 
At October 23, 2007 at 12:51:00 PM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous 8:40 said...

I hear what A Talmid is saying. Before I posted to the blog, I forwarded the post to a good friend for preview. He is a fairly modern person, not a kanoi by any means. He lives in Queens and works in Manhattan. His response was that one should walk in Manhattan looking down, not like Rav Chaim Voloziner.

 
At October 23, 2007 at 2:22:00 PM EDT, Blogger Neil Harris said...

Great post.

Another issue, is if you work in company and you're not the only frum person around. I've been asked by people I work with things like, "So-and-so is also Orthodox, but he is always staring at female X in our company. That's not very modest, is it?"

Often, the responsibility of being the 'observant' one in a secular setting keeps us on our toes.

 
At October 23, 2007 at 2:49:00 PM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The first commentor said: "It comes down to: nudity is not necessarily sexual, when in a nonsexual context we have no problem but when nudity or sexuality is used solely to gain attention or to sell something than we do our best to avoid it."

That is completely against the Torah Hakedosha. According to the Torah erva is erva. If halacha says that body part can't be exposed than you are not allowed to look at it even if is not enjoyable to you.

 
At October 23, 2007 at 2:55:00 PM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

No person is so blind as the one who will not see. What a waste of time and life to focus on such narishkeit.

 
At October 23, 2007 at 4:03:00 PM EDT, Anonymous Litvak said...

There are many good and valid points here.

Related to response # 1, the words of the Rambam come to mind, that machshovos arayos only gain strength/power (my loose translation) with a heart empty of chochmoh.

Also relevant to this discussion is what the definition of the term histaklus is. I have seen that it is along the lines of gazing intently. Just seeing something that passes by fleetingly is not in that category.

There is an omission here though, that is somewhat surprising, though not shocking. There is a Hassidic idea that one should be maaleh the machshovoh - e.g. if one sees a beautiful woman he should think who made her so beautiful, Hashem.....and thereby lift up the thought. It is somewhat delicate, sensitive, possibly controversial and vulnerable to misunderstanding and misapplication. But it is an old Hassidic practice and it's omission, in such a strongly Hassidic forum, is therefore noticed and noteworthy.

Another thing, is that there is a halocho not to walk in back of a woman. That is something that concerned Jews should be aware of.

 
At October 24, 2007 at 3:22:00 AM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

1) One who looks at the ground (or admires the architecture of the houses he's passing, or develops the sudden need to punch numbers into his cell phone whenever a woman approaches, or whatever else works) should keep in mind NOT to do so when crossing the street. Sounds obvious but in practice it's not at all obvious - cars approaching from behind are hard to notice, attractive people are hard NOT to notice. And in this situation cars are the bigger danger.

2) If you need to use the internet, try downloading the Firefox browser and the Adblock extension. That extension lets you block any image you choose from web pages you go to. Learn how to use it effectively.

 
At October 24, 2007 at 12:02:00 PM EDT, Blogger Shira Salamone said...

A couple of years ago, there was a blog named “Voices from Our Side of the Curtain” written by a group of frum women. Here’s something that one of them once wrote:

“Then they start with Tznius. Don’t get me wrong. I think Tznius is the best thing in the world for body image and woman’s sense of self-esteem. Except every teacher told me that the reason I had to wear long sleeves and skirts was because I didn’t want to cause inappropriate desires in a man. Because my body was a ticking time bomb, just waiting to explode and lead some man astray. Face it, my body was an act of sin waiting to happen. You have no idea how terrified I was of my own body. For years, I was afraid to even walk because my hips might twitch and send some guy the wrong message and then I would be the cause of impure thoughts. I’m still not fully comfortable in my own skin. I wondered about it. I wondered why G-d would give me a mitzvah that was wholly dependent on someone else. Tznius didn’t make me a better person. It just made sure that men didn’t become worse people and I couldn’t think of a single mitzvah like that which applied to men.”

Response #6:
I think the most difficult part of shmiras einayim is with modestly dressed women.. . . . the guard is down when seeing a woman who is properly dressed, because there is nothing exposed that is forbidden, but it is still forbidden to look at even the small finger of a woman for pleasure. . . . I definitely understand those who walk through the streets looking down, as suggested in Tzetel Koton."

According to this hashkafah, it doesn’t matter how carefully a woman refrains from singing in the presence of men. According to this hashkafah, it doesn’t matter how careful a woman is to behave always in a proper manner. According to this hashkafah, it doesn’t matter how modestly a woman dresses. A woman isn’t a human being, she’s just “an act of sin waiting to happen.”

 
At October 24, 2007 at 12:12:00 PM EDT, Anonymous chabakuk elisha said...

Shira,

When I hear things like that I am deeply saddened. I really find it tragic that this is the way some people feel about Yiddishkeit.

 
At October 24, 2007 at 12:32:00 PM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

<< According to this hashkafah, it doesn’t matter how modestly a woman dresses. A woman isn’t a human being, she’s just “an act of sin waiting to happen.”>>

If she does nothing wrong there is no sin involved and she is not liable.

 
At October 24, 2007 at 12:43:00 PM EDT, Anonymous response #6 said...

shira salomone said:
"According to this hashkafah, it doesn’t matter how carefully a woman refrains from singing in the presence of men. According to this hashkafah, it doesn’t matter how careful a woman is to behave always in a proper manner. According to this hashkafah, it doesn’t matter how modestly a woman dresses. A woman isn’t a human being, she’s just “an act of sin waiting to happen.”

You did not understand that properly. The problem is with "the man" not with "the woman". If they are dressed properly they have nothing to worry about but I have to make sure I don't look lustfully at any part of a woman even if her face is the only thing I see. Just like a grocery store can sell milk and salami and doesn't have to worry about me eating them together, so too a woman doesn't have to worry if she doesn't go out of her way to entice men.

 
At October 24, 2007 at 12:55:00 PM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous 8:40 said...

Shira,

You quoted a women’s blog saying: “Because my body was a ticking time bomb, just waiting to explode and lead some man astray.” The writer gives the impression that her teacher said this. She didn’t. I wasn’t there and I’m not a Navi but I know, and if you’re honest you also know, that her teacher didn’t say that. All the more so she didn’t say that poster’s extrapolation: “Face it, my body blah blah blah. I am just so dirty and full of sin. Blah blah blah. I was completely crushed, terrified of looking at myself in the mirror, blah blah blah.” Were there some young women in that class that managed to not come away with her attitude? We both know that there were.

There is no question that some teachers have to do a better job of conveying how elevating and beautiful tzinus is and how it is the best thing for woman independently of what it does for men. But some young women with insufficient self-esteem going in, read a lot of stuff into what tzinus is. The discussion on this blog is really geared toward men. And that is fine. No different than the blog you quoted being geared toward women.

 
At October 24, 2007 at 1:08:00 PM EDT, Blogger A Simple Jew said...

Shira: You will probably appreciate this story.

 
At October 24, 2007 at 1:39:00 PM EDT, Blogger Shira Salamone said...

"When I hear things like that I am deeply saddened. I really find it tragic that this is the way some people feel about Yiddishkeit."

Chabakuk Elisha, I'm pretty sad about this, too, but I find it difficult *not* to come to the conclusion that halachah considers a woman a walking obscenity when even her pinky is deemed erva.

"The problem is with "the man" not with "the woman". True. Sometimes I think my Jewish brothers have no faith in their own ability to resist temptation.

"There is no question that some teachers have to do a better job of conveying how elevating and beautiful tzinus is and how it is the best thing for woman independently of what it does for men. But some young women with insufficient self-esteem going in, read a lot of stuff into what tzinus is."

And when the guys duck out the back door of the shul so as not to have to say "Gut Shabbos" to a woman, just because she's a woman, she's *not* supposed to feel insulted? How would you feel if every woman in the entire synagogue ducked out the back door in order to avoid saying "Gut Shabbos" to *you,* just because you're a man? Doesn't derech eretz or kavod habriyot apply to the mannner in which males deal with females, too?

It seems to me that the chareidi community is rapidly headed toward a situation in which contact of just about any kind between males and females, other than spouses and daughters, will be virtually non-existent. Separate sides of the street? Separate shopping hours in the supermarket? And yes, Chabakuk Elisha, *that* makes me sad.

 
At October 24, 2007 at 1:58:00 PM EDT, Anonymous chabakuk elisha said...

I don't entirely agree with you, but we agree enough - and overall I am indeed saddened. Someone already posted a link to my thoughts here (http://asimplejew.blogspot.com/2005/07/chabakuk-elishas-comment-on-his.html ) but in truth there is too much to say about the issue.
The breakdown in relationships and the inability to relate is a sad fact that chareidim are forced to deal with nowadays (and it will be interesting to see where this leads), while on the other hand the more left-leaning communities where the intermingling is acceptable has it's own problems as well.
But I definitely think that anything that is taught in a way that isn't positive for the individual isn't taught properly. Mitzvos and Yiddishkeit should be a means to elevation, not vice-versa.

 
At October 24, 2007 at 1:59:00 PM EDT, Anonymous chabakuk elisha said...

Sorry, the link didn't work: http://asimplejew.blogspot.com/2005/07/chabakuk-elishas-comment-on-his.html

 
At October 24, 2007 at 3:33:00 PM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

ss said-
"And when the guys duck out the back door of the shul so as not to have to say "Gut Shabbos" to a woman, just because she's a woman, she's *not* supposed to feel insulted?"

I'm assuming based on this comment that you are single, because if a lady is married she doesn't need attention from any man but her husband. if this is correct then I sincerely pray that you find your bashert quickly. If you are married then I pray that your husband gives you more attention.

 
At October 24, 2007 at 5:04:00 PM EDT, Blogger yitz.. said...

I'd like to make a couple of technical comments. Shira, you suggested that "It just made sure that men didn’t become worse people and I couldn’t think of a single mitzvah like that which applied to men."

I wanted to point out there are a number of mitzwoth that involve both men AND women and whose sole purpose is not to mislead others.. it's called Mar'it Ayin. It is the reason behind a number of things being assur, drinking a cup of fish-blood for one extreme example.

Shira, you also said: "The problem is with "the man" not with "the woman". True. Sometimes I think my Jewish brothers have no faith in their own ability to resist temptation.

This is an assumption on your part. I won't go into details, and this is a very cliched topic, but you wouldn't believe how different men and women are in this particular regard. The potential costs justify the means in this case.

Otherwise, Shira, I agree with you one hundred percent that Derech Eretz mandates women being acknowledged and honored. (in the right contexts and the right settings)

 
At October 24, 2007 at 5:17:00 PM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

To all the women commenting-

you can't understand the temtations if you're not a man. generally women don't have the same reaction from seeing men as men seeing women

 
At October 24, 2007 at 5:52:00 PM EDT, Blogger Shira Salamone said...

"I'm assuming based on this comment that you are single, because if a lady is married she doesn't need attention from any man but her husband." For the record, I've been happily married for thirty years, and my husband is quite good at making a fuss over me, thank you very much. Attention has nothing to do with this, and common courtesy has *everything* to do with this.

A British chassid had this to say on the subject: "The late Rabbi Shlomo Baumgarten was the Rav of a yekkishe shul on the Hill and a great man. He would greet the ladies of the congregation, waiting to walk home with their cloven, with a polite Good Shabbes as he left the shul. With the Chassidisation of the Hill today, no Rav would risk being drummed out of town for that."

When did it become assur to be polite?

"I wanted to point out there are a number of mitzwoth that involve both men AND women and whose sole purpose is not to mislead others.. it's called Mar'it Ayin."

I (and/or the woman who originally wrote that) stand correctly. Thank you.

"you wouldn't believe how different men and women are in this particular regard. The potential costs justify the means in this case."

"you can't understand the temtations if you're not a man. generally women don't have the same reaction from seeing men as men seeing women"

My husband and I have discussed this very question. See here:

"Just how vulnerable is a guy to, um, visual stimulation, anyway? What if you see a woman in a low-cut blouse in the subway? Would you have a physical reaction?"

"I might," said my husband. "But so what? I can always distract myself and go about my business."

"Otherwise, Shira, I agree with you one hundred percent that Derech Eretz mandates women being acknowledged and honored. (in the right contexts and the right settings)."

Thanks, Yitz! Respect is exactly what I'm talking about.

 
At October 24, 2007 at 9:00:00 PM EDT, Anonymous comment #6 said...

Just for the record on comment#6

This is what I try to work on - not staring at women for pleasure. Why would anyone have an issue with that. I'm not asking modestly dressed women to do anything. And I talk and interact with women normally. If I'm at a mixed seating affair, I have no problem sitting together with my wife and other couples. And yes I do talk to women, BUT I don't look for pleasure. (It is quite common to hear men discussing how good looking so and so is. I won't do that, as that is completeley forbidden) I'm still trying to figure out why someone would care if men are trying to improve themselves in an area that Hashem wants us to improve on.

 
At October 24, 2007 at 10:26:00 PM EDT, Blogger Shira Salamone said...

Comment#6, I think this may be a classic case of unintended consequences and/or taking a good idea too far. I have no problem with men who " . . . do talk to women, BUT . . . don't look for pleasure." That's commendable. I do have a problem with those who are so bound and determined to avoid temptation that they avoid women like the plague. We are not a disease. It's just distressing to some of us when a man says that he has just as much trouble "guarding his eyes" when with modestly-dressed women as with immodestly dressed ones. That's like telling women that no matter what we do, we cause trouble. I find this attitude offensive because it implies that a woman is an object, namely, a michshol. I'm not a michshol, I'm a person.

 
At October 25, 2007 at 12:15:00 AM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"It's just distressing to some of us when a man says that he has just as much trouble "guarding his eyes" when with modestly-dressed women as with immodestly dressed ones. That's like telling women that no matter what we do, we cause trouble. I find this attitude offensive because it implies that a woman is an object, namely, a michshol. I'm not a michshol, I'm a person."

If someone has such a problem what should he do? ignore it. also, it's not your problem, you haven't a need to worry and it shouldn't bother you. no one is telling woman that they are a michshol (if the are dressed tznius. we are only trying to improve ourselves. and btw "Chazal" say that men can't look at the pinky of a lady lustfully. If you want to start up with Chazal that's your perogative.

 
At October 25, 2007 at 10:26:00 AM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

forget about a man having a physical reaction, when one has an improper thought there is a zivig between the right and left side of the brain, chochma and bina. which creates "shin daleds". we don't want those guys around.

 
At October 25, 2007 at 6:29:00 PM EDT, Blogger Shira Salamone said...

"it's not your problem, you haven't a need to worry and it shouldn't bother you. no one is telling woman that they are a michshol (if the are dressed tznius. we are only trying to improve ourselves." In theory, you’re right—this discipline is for men, and is commendable. In practice, however, if taken too far (as I was saying), it can lead to extreme practices such as this. I just wonder whether the approach of separating men from women whenever feasible isn't counterproductive. It seems to me that that kind of extreme avoidance could very well lead to "an effect of magnifying the yetzer."

 
At October 25, 2007 at 6:39:00 PM EDT, Blogger Shira Salamone said...

Oh my--A Simple Jew, I missed your link entirely, until just now. Thanks! I do, indeed, appreciate that story.

 
At October 25, 2007 at 7:03:00 PM EDT, Blogger Shira Salamone said...

Chabakuk Elisha, I just caught up with the post to which you linked, as well. " . . . it is not at all practical or realistic to live life in seclusion - thus, we must go about our business as normal people do. In addition, we must have respect for others - so, special care must be taken not to offend women. Many women in today's society will take offence and assume that you are looking down at them if they are not treated as equals; we must be sure that women are respected and treated with dignity." That's exactly what I have in mind. Thank you.

It can be difficult to walk a fine line between avoiding temptation and showing respect. Being a Jew has its challenges. But being Jewish also provides us with wonderful opportunities. To quote one of my favorite tehillim, "Ivdu et Hashem b'simchah."

 
At October 26, 2007 at 8:32:00 AM EDT, Anonymous Michoel said...

Mrs. Salamone,
Ironically, the article that you linked too describing "extreme practices" has some untznius advertising on that page. The fact that you didn't even notice it or feel that it was inappropriate to link to, clearly shows that the sensitivities to such issues, for men and women, are miles apart. There is often a longing expressed for the good old days before Yiddishkeit became dominated by fanatics, when we got along, and men and women could communicate comfortably. But it is really a delusion. I have not confirmed this from an outside source but I was told by an elderly Talmid Chacham that in Kelm in Lithuanian, men and women also walked on oppoosite sides of the road. And this has been the practice in Kiryas Yoel (on the main road leading to the beis hakeneses) for many years. If things were somewhat more "normal" in some areas, it is clear that societal standards of modesty where much higher. We live in very different times and that requires new approaches.

I do hear your points and don't mean to be insensitive. You mentioned a rav that wouldn't be willing to say hello to women in these times because he would have been run out. But you should admit that in his times he may also have been subject to societal pressure to be sociable and perhaps he would have been run out for upholding a stricter standard of separation.

 
At October 26, 2007 at 1:16:00 PM EDT, Blogger Shira Salamone said...

"Ironically, the article that you linked too describing "extreme practices" has some untznius advertising on that page. The fact that you didn't even notice it or feel that it was inappropriate to link to, clearly shows that the sensitivities to such issues, for men and women, are miles apart." You're right on one count--I didn't notice. Interesting. I clicked on the link several times, and got two television-show ads at the top, plus several different date-seeking ads at the bottom. All the date-seeking ads were "head shots"--even if the woman had been wearing low-cut clothing, you wouldn't have been able to see that, because the photos didn't show anything below roughly the shoulders. But I'm not so sure about your assumption, "The fact that you didn't even notice it or feel that it was inappropriate to link to, clearly shows that the sensitivities to such issues, for men and women, are miles apart." After 30 years of marriage, I think I know my husband well enough to assume that *he* wouldn't have noticed, either.

A Simple Jew wrote, in this post, "I was told by my Rav, an adam gadol, that the correct approach is that which is advocated by Rav Chaim Volozhiner. To not walk with one’s head down trying to entirely avoid seeing anything untzinus. My Rav explained that when one does that, unavoidably he will eventually slip and raise his eyes at the wrong time. This has an effect of magnifying the yetzer, and making it burn more strongly and with a sudden force."

You may disagree with me, but I think that one can be overly sensitive to the lack of tzniut, to the point that its ability to distract you is actually magnified.

"We live in very different times and that requires new approaches." I hear you there. I, myself, am not particular happy to see that low-cut clothing has become the norm in many places. (I, myself, have been called a prude for *not* wearing such clothing--modesty in dress is not necessarily a given in my social circles.) Nevertheless, I think too much avoidance can lead to hypersensitivity, which can make one overreact rather than ignore.

"I do hear your points and don't mean to be insensitive. You mentioned a rav that wouldn't be willing to say hello to women in these times because he would have been run out. But you should admit that in his times he may also have been subject to societal pressure to be sociable and perhaps he would have been run out for upholding a stricter standard of separation." As you may be able to discern from what I've written, I would have been one of the first in line to apply such "societal pressure." Suffice it to say that we clearly have different ideas of what constitutes appropriate behavior for a congregational rabbi. Ignoring half the congregation (or "n'sheihem," if you insist) certainly wouldn't earn him very made plus points in my book.

 
At October 26, 2007 at 1:20:00 PM EDT, Blogger A Simple Jew said...

Shira: Correction - I did not write what you attributed to me. The person who wrote Response #1 wrote that.

I am an anonymous blogger, but I do claim whether or not I wrote something.

:)

 
At October 27, 2007 at 8:26:00 PM EDT, Blogger Shira Salamone said...

Sorry for the confusion.

 
At November 4, 2007 at 10:49:00 PM EST, Blogger Jack's Shack said...

I don't understand. I haven't any problem separating thoughts/feelings when I need to.

A beautiful woman is a beautiful woman regardless of what she wears or how she wears it.

Again, when I need to focus I just bear down and do it.

 
At May 3, 2009 at 11:28:00 PM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

we could benefit from stories about the sages in this regard. i love the story i heard about the rashbi and his students walking down the street staring straight ahead and not wavering in their glances at all.

 
At September 22, 2009 at 3:10:00 PM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just chanced upon your blog and I wanted to see if I could contact you via email to discuss some things.

My email address is: dlewk21@yahoo.com

Please send me a blank email and I will respond.

Thanks so much!

Dan

 

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