Friday, June 06, 2008
In Hebrew "dai" (pronounced die) means enough.

Judaism is a beautiful tradition. I am an atheist, but I still identify as a Jew because I love the tradition in which I was born.

At its heart, Judaism encourages and even demands questioning. It talks of integrity, respect, caring for others. It is a tradition of wonderful and horrible stories, all of which can be used to learn how to better care for ourselves, our families and the people of the world or to hate, divide and to indulge our personal agendas.

Once again, the tradition that I love is being twisted by a few into justification for violence against women. This week, a 14 year old girl was attacked by members of the ad hoc modesty patrol in Beitar Illit because she was wearing pants and a t-shirt. After confirming her identity, the young man poured a bottle of acid on her. According to YNET, the family has been threatened previously and the focus of these threats has been the 18 year old sister of the victim.


The Jewish legal tradition is embodied in a corpus of law and mechanisms for making legal decisions known as Halacha.

While Judaism is not a pacifist tradition, allowing self-defense, it does not permit the harassment of others. It does not permit a gang of vigilantes to judge, determine sentencing and punish those who are not following Halacha. Some would argue that this is, in fact, self-defense, some would argue that they are preventing a sin from being committed. I would argue that is justification for behavior that advances a personal and selfish agenda.

Chazal (Sanhedrin 72a): "If someone comes to kill you, act first and kill him." This rule applies not only to self-defense but also to defending the lives of others. Moreover, it also applies to someone who engages in sexual assault (Sanhedrin 73a). Thus, one must kill (if no other alternative is available) someone who is attempting to murder or rape. But a 14 year old girl in a Charedi neighborhood was doing none of those things but dressing contrary to the norm in her community. Wearing a t-shirt and slacks is not a punishable offense. Under any halacha.

Standards of modesty (tznua) are becoming increasingly stringent not only in Israel, but in Charedi communities worldwide.

Women must include a seam in their stockings so it is clear they are not bare-legged. Schoolgirls cannot wear shiny shoes that could reflect their underwear. Clothing in pink, red, orange or otherwise bright colors are not only not to be worn, they are not to be sold in stores within Charedi communities else the store may be burned to the ground. Recently a sheitel (wig) store in New York was boycotted because the windows exhibited advertisements for wigs that included pictures of women. Separate shopping hours for men and women, separate buses for men and women are becoming more common in certain Israeli cities.

Devoid of contact with members of the opposite sex from an early age (other than immediate family), are Charedi men becoming hypersensitive sex maniacs? Does Judaism really believe that men are nothing but walking libidos? Isn't this all Bittul Torah (wasting time that could be spent on Torah study)?

This is not the Judaism I know. This is not the tradition I love. Judaism is full of laws and traditions that I may not agree with, but laws, for believers, with which I sympathize. This trend is a distortion of these rules into unrecognizable restrictions on women, judgment by mob rule.

For a believer, G-d alone can judge. I cannot imagine how, other than the greed and arrogance of knowing that you are right and all others are wrong, can justify this behavior.


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Blogger Kath said...

Excellent and valid, thank you for sharing your viewpoint. Personally, I find it distressing when people misinterpret or just outright revise the teachings of their own spiritual belief system to justify doing harm or restricting the freedom of others.

As you said, for a believer God only can judge. But as a non-believer, good luck on justifying that behavior to me as something the God of your understanding supports.

Blogger twinsetellen said...

It seems no religion has a monopoly on being bent to serve the power hungry or perhaps the fearful.

Blogger J. said...

99.9% of men are misogynistic. The vast majority of men will take any context and or opportunity to do something horrific toward a woman.

Blogger WineGrrl said...

IMO a lot of men in a lot of countries/cultures would restrict women this way if they could get away with it; however, I would hope that this is not representative of all Charedi communities.

Blogger gentle_storm said...

Well-stated, Faith. I like to read your words and your thoughts -- they are always thoughtfully and eloquently expressed.
I do struggle with the idea of devoting oneself to one person or deity/relgion, and then making decisions using that as a "reason"/justification for one's actions -- especially when they seem so far off (from an outsider's perspective) from what is really being taught.

love you, faith.

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