Monday, July 26, 2010

to b'av or not tu b'av....

Ok, so the title is little cliche. Here we are, on Tu b'Av, the Jewish day of romance. Hey, where's my date?

Once upon a time, the Jewish women would all borrow each other white dresses and go dancing in the fields in hopes of attracting a husband. Times were different, weren't they? Nowadays we erect great big giant walls and the women dance behind them. I don't understand how, back in those days it wasn't considered un-tznius for women to be dancing in front of the men.


  1. From Professor Marc Shapiro:

    Along these lines, it is very interesting to see how haredi and hardal authors deal with Ta’anit 4:8, which describes how young women in search of husbands would dance in front of the young men. (In a future post I will discuss whether they did so also on Yom Kippur or only on the 15th of Av.) Many assume that this didn’t raise any tzeniut problems, because in the days of the Second Temple the young men were at a much higher level than today. They could be trusted not to set their eyes on beauty but on spiritual traits, which were somehow best conveyed through the women’s dancing . . .

    According to R. Shimon Schwab, in ancient days the women danced in circles, which was more modest than what occurs today. It was therefore permitted for the men to gaze upon them. See R. Yitzhak Abadi, Or Yitzhak, vol. 2, p. 251. You can be sure that today, no matter how modest the dancing, it would be regarded as a violation of tzeniut for the men to watch the women.

  2. women danced in circles so it was ok? Wow, if that doesn't sound like the chareidi making excuses for the Torah...

    Esther won the king in a beauty pageant. Plus, isn't there midrash that the king expected his women to parade around naked for his guests?

    Let's face it, the Torah is not some goody two shoes storybook they like to make it out to be. People are VERY real in the Torah. It's high time we start acknowledging the fact that Jews are more real than what society thinks a religious person should be like.

  3. Well, hang on, Achasveirosh was not a Jewish king. His behavior isn't relevant for what is and is not sniut. The entire Tu B'Av thing works perfectly well without that sort of argument.

    (And here's a related question: If one were to buy into the charedi apologetics about the dancing not having any impact on the men, then why did the women dance?)

  4. 10:03 AM respondsJuly 28, 2010 at 12:28 AM

    The book of Esther is certainly not the G-rated Disney story that young kids are told. Beauty pageant? "In the evening [each maiden] would come, and in the morning, she would return to a second harem ... she would not again come to the king unless the king desired her and she was called by name." (Esther 2:14) As for Esther, well basically this was government-sponsored rape; (non-Jewish) King Achashveirosh wanted, King Achashveirosh got, she had no choice. (Well, not until Chapter 5, but that was to save the Jewish people.)

    Achashveirosh had been a Persian stableboy who climbed his way to the top. His wife Vashti was Babylonian royalty, which was the most royal blood he had. His calling her to show up in her birthday suit may have been less about entertainment, and more about "showing off what he'd gotten", or more likely, trying to demean her and show everyone he was really boss. (Malbim says the orders were -- she should enter without a crown, and only put it on in his presence.) Achashveirosh is definitely not a role-model (though we can learn something about domestic abuse from him).

    The Talmud says that when Moses went to receive the Torah, the always-perfect angels said, "what? That flawed, born-of-woman thing here?" And G-d says, if you're a perfect, non-physical being, who needs a Torah?

    So yes the Torah -- both Bible and Talmud -- are far deeper and more profound (and hence not always G-rated) in their account for human complexity than the Sunday-school version. How that gets translated into recommended Jewish practice today ... differs greatly across different streams of Orthodoxy.

  5. Talmudic law differs from present day orthodox halacha. Modern day’s orthodox rabbis have as much to do with the Talmud as voodoo doctors have to do with John Hopkins school of medicine.
    If you see a difference between what the Talmud says and what orthodox rabbis say it says you are on a long road to discovery and amazing fact. Orthodox rabbis always lie. They can never tell you straight what the Talmud says. Rabbis lie about the Talmud to get it fit their agendas (which are always to get their sexual and other physical needs; and above all to get that one need that goes beyond all other needs --Power. For that is what they become rabbis --to be able to tell gullible Jews how to live their lives. Most orthodox rabbis today are what the zohar calls Torah scholar demons. (See Lekutai Moharan Vol. 1 chapter 12)

  6. Josh, Whether he was a non-Jewish king or not, look at the fact that we do this story every year. Also, he may not have been Jewish but, Esther sure was. She was encouraged to become a part of this by uncle Mordchai. THAT is the problem. The fact that we learn about it, THAT might be a problem.

    I was attracted to the "realness" of the Torah but, in the almost two years since I've converted, I've been seeing a side of Judaism more like the one "no one" describes.

    10:03am, right. I understood that the girls competed to replace Vashti by way of beauty pageant. I suppose that was probably NAKED beauty pageant. Yet we are told to look up to Esther when in fact, her behavior is anything but acceptable by today's standards.

    Of course, I could get into how good little FFB Jewish girls REALLY act versus how people think they act. I know one thing, the number of FFB girls who have told me they are not virgins it really surprised me. People just go about their business, dress the right way and everyone assumes they are shomer... or maybe like me, they somehow know better but, they are sick of the system so they don't care to make much a peep about what they know. I've known this for a while and you all see I haven't even bothered to blog it.

  7. Anyhow, I tend to think that things were different and the whole tnzuis thing wasn't such an issue. As "no one" points out, there is a great deal of power tripping amongst Rabbeim today. The entire yeshivish movement, to me, smacks itself of arrogance and if only these precious little Speech Therapist women would wake up and realize their men spent much of the day playing basketball or foozball.

    One delusional convert told me, "well maybe they want to do this to make sure there's Torah in the home." Funny! The yeshivish breed blatantly goes against the Torah's requirement that a man support his family with a trade rather than the hand of charity or worse, stealing.

  8. I don't know who got started this "beauty pageant" idea. If I'm reading Esther Chapter 2 correctly, the king ordered all the eligible women rounded up to his harem (whether they liked it or not), and he um, *met* with one of them each night; when he got to Esther, he said "aha this is my queen." (Really horrible, when you think about it.) Esther just went along with orders, and not doing so would have meant the death penalty (if she'd been married previously, the Talmud says this would be considered rape, not cheating); she did the best she could given her situation, I don't think there was a "tznius" vs "non-tznius" option for her. Note that the book is written from the perspective of the Persian government at the time, so it's just matter-of-fact about the king's behavior.

    I did once hear of someone who saw an illustrated book of Esther and asked, "but she wasn't dressed tznius!" -- Missing the picture.

  9. There are several basic quality items in torah--tenach Talmud rambam the arizal and rebbi nachman.
    Most the rest is all trash
    As for power tripping among rabbis --well first of all they are not rabbis they are charismatic amai haaretz. Most rabbis today could not read for you a simple page of gemara and most are not interested in what the gemara has to say.
    Once many years ago the authority of a rabbi depended on his being knowledgeable in the Talmud.
    Today they use the authority and charisama of Talmud to hide their true intentions.

  10. 10:03am, This is what I'm deprived of because of my limited Hebrew. I don't doubt it. They always like to sugar coat these things.

    Ok, I've spent the day writing a paper that is still not done. I must go to visit the schluffenmonster so, I can finish the paper tomorrow.

  11. This is why we should bring bac Aramaic as the Jewish lingua franca (so to speak). Big shock! The Talmud was written in Aramaic, not some medieval German dialect that people insist on speaking because is is from Eastern Europe and therefore "holy." (Yes, I did read somewhere that Yiddish is considered a "heilige loshon").
    Also, I wish someone would talk about the "red string". I believe that is considered witchcraft, which is a BIG no-no according to the Torah.

  12. To go along with what 10:03 said, that is why at first Esther resisted going to the king to beg for mercy for the Jewish people--according to a midrash or Rashi (forgot which)--she and Mordechai were married, and since all the previous times she'd been with Achashveirosh it was because she was forced to or be killed, it wasn't considered adultery and she was still allowed to be with Mordechai--once she went to him voluntarily, that would be it and she could never go back to Mordechai. So that was the sacrifice that both Esther and Mordechai made to save the Jews.

    Also, re: immodest behavior of FFB girls...I don't doubt that it goes on, but there are many more who do not...take it from me, I am in my 30's, FFB, BY educated, not yet married, have always been shomer negiah even though I went to a "regular" college, work in a secular place (OK, I do shake hands, but that's it), etc. But people are people, and for some reason the regular, ordinary ones going about doing what they should go unnoticed and it's the flamboyant ones acting out who really stand out...(that also goes for the "benchwarmers" in kollel).

    I don't think the red string is considered witchcraft; if it is a "genuine" one, it is part of a thread that has been wrapped around the gravesite of the Matriarch Rachel and is supposed to guard against an ayin hara (which is something to do with Kabballah, I guess, and I don't know too much about that).