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Thursday
Nov072019

REPREHENSIBLE!

“How could she? That’s reprehensible!”

Not everyone is happy with media attention, especially when speaking about social media.

The outraged party, a frum lady, participated in an event to promote wearing sheitlach, promoting tz’nius in general, and here she appears in videos posted on someone’s social media page. Religious Jewish magazines typically don’t feature pictures of women, even in the mainstream women’s magazines!

And this wasn’t just anyone who posted the footage – it was the guest speaker! Not only that – it was a Lubavitcher shlucha.

***

When it comes to tz’nius, the Rebbe is its biggest advocate. I came across this in a sicha:

Attention should be directed to the caution required when a Jewish woman or girl travels in a taxi or car if the driver is a man (to avoid the concern of yichud, etc.) … A practicing rav should be consulted to determine the various laws and precise details of the matter. (Seifer HaSichos 5751, pg. 87, Footnote 116) 

The Rebbe’s words of caution appear where he tells how in recent times, Jewish women reach out to inspire other women in venues outside their homes. True, the approach of women is characterized by the private domain – “Kol k’vuda bas melech p’nima – All the honor of the princess is within” – but even when taking the wellsprings of Judaism outward to the public, they do so with the modesty of private life, with self-respect and dignity. Their transportation is therefore also governed by this sensitivity.

It is interesting to note how in Torah, modest dress is relative to the occasion. Rivka Imeinu covers her face only when approaching Yitzchok, her husband-to-be. Sara Imeinu was totally concealed when crossing the border to Egypt, ervas ha’aretz, where licentiousness prevailed.

Official Chabad outreach initiatives often feature women. Clearly there are times and places where it is deemed appropriate. Lashing out blindly at this approach is akin to rebuking a Jewish man who trims his beard for not following Chabad’s stricter observance of the matter.

***

In any event, the ability to tightrope walk modest behavior while attending to the need for outreach – the power to do so comes from Leah Imeinu, symbol of t’shuva: “Leah is connected with avodas baalei t’shuva, penitents, whereas Rachel pertains to avodas ha’tzaddikim, the perfectly righteous.” In this spirit, Leah proclaims, “Hashem has seen my misery” and “G-d has heard that I am shunned” (VaYeitzei 29:32-33), “an expression of bitterness and distance from Hashem, connected with avodas ha’t’shuva.” (LS 35, pg. 153, FN 39).

Thus, Leah was not outwardly attractive (at least compared to Rachel). Leah’s beauty dimmed from suffering her presumed fate of marrying the wicked Eisav. Tears of anguish washed away her beauty: “The eyes of Leah were rakos, tender.”

Here, however, Leah’s sensitivity and suffering were actually the source of her strength, fueling her prayer. In its merit she had the power to transform even the wickedness of Eisav: “Prayer is potent, for it nullified the decree [that Leah would marry Eisav] and it even granted her the merit of marrying Yaakov prior to her sister” (Bereishis Rabba 70:16, 71:2). Leah confronted Eisav spiritually, in prayer. The result was the transformation of her own destiny into the overt, outward goodness of uniting with Yaakov Avinu (“Leah went out to meet him, etc.”).

“Like mother, like daughter,” Leah’s daughter Dina is also characterized by going out of the private domain – to inspire people to return to G-d. The tragic result of her outreach (being taken captive by the prince, Sh’chem) was not the result of her own impropriety but quite the opposite. It was her father Yaakov’s punishment for withholding her from marrying Eisav, for she had the power to transform his evil (something beyond the power of even the coveted blessings of Yitzchok Avinu, who intended to bless Eisav to bring out the good in him).

“This very fact illustrates how Dina’s venturing out was not something inappropriate. It was, rather, with the G-dly intent of having a positive influence on the women of Sh’chem” (LS 35, pg. 154).

In fact, the natural influence of women and their heightened sensitivity (rachos) brings them greater success than men in drawing the hearts of others to serve G-d. This superiority is clearly apparent in their efforts to inspire others towards Torah and avodas Hashem – pleasantly and peacefully. This more delicate approach brings far greater success (and the results are deeper and more sustainable) than approaching the matter with rebuke and conflict (as is the nature of men – “the way of man is to conquer” —Rashi on B’Reishis 1:28). (Ibid pg. 155)

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