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Running on Jewish Time

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Innocence Lost

[Just too tempting]

It seems that the standard for a shtark girl has become her skirt length, more than any other criteria.

Part of me wonders what has happened since our parent's generation where being frum and shtark meant kashrut and shabbos, minyan and hair-covering.

Are these expectations some artificial standard created by too much 'frummer than thou and thy parents'? Of labels so prolific and so specific.

A month ago, for reasons unnamed, I found myself at the same table as Rebbetzien Feldman of Ner Yisroel. A younger woman sat next to her, earnestly explaining her general situation
...My friends say I'm modern black."
The Rebbetzien looks up,
"Modern black! What is this modern black? You keep shulchan orech, you're a frum girl!' she repeats, shaking her head,"Modern black!"
I could have hugged the Rebbetzien for joy. So, nu, why aren't we held to that standard? Even given that I still fall short of that very lofty standard, (I dare not claim to keep every line of something that I have never read through) it seems to be far more honest than the vagaries and intricacies of the tides tzenuis that ebb and flow just as fashion does.

It seems for every barrier that the fashion of the outside world throws down, the Jewish world is intent on building three more. But for all the walls thrown up around us, something still seeps in. The awareness.

Sunday, my great aunt, sitting next to her husband of fifty odd years, leaned forward and told me very seriously.
It's important to date many different types of guys. It gives you experience, opens up human nature. In my day, you went out on Friday, and then on Saturday and on Sunday. And not all with the same boy, necessarily. And it was perfectly normal.
and then my great uncle leans forward,
But a kiss, mind you, that's something else entirely
There was something so charmingly innocent about these products of a time when my great uncle said he would call and my great aunt, waiting at the phone, was startled to find him knocking at the door.

All the sensitivities, all this awareness are a signs of innocence lost. When a date is not a chance to gain insight into one's fellow human being, but implies what my aunt calls 'all of this business.' Even we sheltered in our little bubbles of Jewish schools and communities, feel how expectant, how aware the rest of the world is.

When the question of "how is your social life?", whether from a rebbetzein or a college student, is not a question about your group of friends' plans for the weekend.

Modest women are the ones who speak and act with modesty. Who are innocent enough to talk simply without pretension or self-consciousness. Who doesn't mistake what needs to be done with the desire to make it known to the world. A modest woman talks to a person, not a 'date', to what they are and lets them unfold themselves in their own time.

So is modesty a fair and honest standard? Don't know. But keeping all of shulchan orech might be easier.


  • beautifull post. somehow i think we might be a little better off if we did that.

    besides from what i understand the more "shtark" you are the shorter and tighter the dress, which is kind of irronic

    By Blogger Halfnutcase, at 6:33 AM, February 09, 2006  

  • HNC: So true. My husband always laughs/is bewildered about how my mother, who is "in the black hat world" wears much shorter skirts than I do, and how she sent me a *short* maternity dress when I was pregnant - I never wear short dresses... And my stepfather once told me to push my hair covering back on my forehead to show some of my hair because I "looked like a nun!" Weird society...and judgemental.

    Masmida, this was a great post. I love Reb. Feldman - she's the one who used to be one of the "rebbetzins" at Neve, right? So smart and down-to-earth. Kids (and adults) are just exposed to so much nowadays...and there is no good judgement or censorship. Yeah.

    By Blogger SS, at 8:20 AM, February 09, 2006  

  • It is so true, Masmida. People are concocting more and more categories that put us in the box. It is a shame.

    But on the other hand, lets face it... these categories also narrow down the kind of people that we are so we can relate better. There are so many different mixes and these days especially in the shidduch world, it just helps understanding who the person is better.

    I disagree with the whole concept of categorizing. This is just the world we live in. Issues are issues. We are all struggling, some better some worse. If people stopped being intolerant and keeping an open mind, maybe it wouldn't be this way. But it is.

    By Blogger FrumGirl, at 5:17 PM, February 09, 2006  

  • the better question is what is innocence? only G-d can judge. We must judge favorably even if the person is known for that quality or lack there of

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7:51 PM, February 09, 2006  

  • So much said, so little to add. It's a shame how people run to follow, but precious few walk to lead. Sometimes we have to turn away from the group in order to find what's right. Unfortunately, girls are typecast very quickly. Kudos to those who do what they see as modest in their own eyes!

    By Blogger Josh, at 9:36 PM, February 09, 2006  

  • My daughters are very naturally modest. They have no problem with slits in the back of skirts that are too long and tight to walk in otherwise, but would never leave their room in a shirt that was tight enough to show bra lines. The school dress code,though, goes the other way...

    By the way, I see "frum" girls with these 'shrugs' tied over their shirts, and I wonder what that look has to do with tzniut.

    By Blogger tuesdaywishes, at 10:33 PM, February 09, 2006  

  • This was a great post! It's funny how I always grew up looking at a lot of BY girls. I would always say things like...gosh her skirt is barely to her knees. lol But I think you make a great point. Being tznis is really important, but so are so many other things.

    By Blogger Eshet Chayil, at 10:44 PM, February 09, 2006  

  • great post masmida.

    I happen to know Rebbetzin Feldman and she is an amazing woman.

    What you are saying is true and applies to guys to some degree, as well. I had a rebbe in high school that told me that if I had a twin brother and we were identical in every way, except that he wore a black hat and I didn't, that he was frummer than me. I asked him where in the shulchen aruch it says that you have to wear a black hat. I'm still waiting for my answer.

    I haven't seen you comment on my blog in a while. come check it out.

    By Blogger A Frum Idealist, at 9:48 AM, February 10, 2006  

  • Was innocence lost or reality gained?

    Innocence is a garden we were once kicked out of. We should keep the picture of that garden in mind, always, and expect to return there one day. But we should not forget we are standing on the outside and sword-weilding malachim are guarding the entrance.

    Move forward in life with the image of the garden in your mind, but do not deny the thorns and thistles of the reality we all presently exist in.

    We can be thankful for doses of reality we receive now, even if the reality is bitter. An ounce of bitter reality early on, often prevents a pound of bitter reality later on.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 2:10 PM, February 10, 2006  

  • this was a great post. tznius is important but it has become that how you dress defines the level of the rest of your frumness. If you don't wear knee socks it is impossible that you have good davening. If you have a double pierce it is impossible that you can qoute psukim and join in on halachic discussions. Atleast that's how it is around here. Too much is sitting on the length of a skirt, way too much for anyone to ever be allowed to grow.
    by the way, in all those old pictures of all the frumest women, not one of them is covering their hair. Things change, and that's great, but maybe some things were meant to stay the same.

    By Blogger araya(uh-ray-uh), at 3:26 PM, February 10, 2006  

  • I do think that the dress of a person reveals alot in most cases.
    It shows where this person feels more comfortable. If someone changes from yeshivish (white shirt dark pants) clothes to jeans and polo shirt..that mean that he feels more comfortable in a different environment than in a Bais hamidrash..now this could be for a good reason..it could be that he no longer goes into a yeshiva anymore because he's too busy..etc..

    But it is revealing..

    By Blogger David_on_the_Lake, at 8:50 PM, February 11, 2006  

  • masmida- hi! Your post was great!
    it's so funny, b/c i was just having a conversation with my students tonight in my car about this. one girl was asking me if i were "modern orthodox" -and my first reaction was to say no, i'm, uh.....not "ultra orthodox", but "very orthodox"? And then I went on to explain how it's very diificult to say how religious I believe myself to be in two words. Personally, I consider myself very orthodox because that's where I consider my direction to be headed towards. But in life, it takes a long time to grow, and change, and every single person has different nisyonos.
    Tznius might be easy for one and hard for another, and the tznius one might find it hard to keep shabbos but not the other. Every person cannot be shoved into a tiny box with a neat, two word label plastered on the lid. Every person serves G-d in their own way. The question is, how much do you want to serve Hashem?

    By Blogger Okee, at 11:31 PM, February 11, 2006  

  • Nice post.

    Just wondering "Shtark" is for a guy no?
    I havent heard "shtark" on a girl.

    By Blogger Moochy, at 12:21 PM, February 12, 2006  

  • I just wanted to say thank you for all the insightful comments, it's a question that bothers me especailly since, frankly my standard of dress is much higher than those around me that I have to re-evaluate modesty from time to time to keep prespective.

    kol tuv.

    I didn't mean to malign all bais ya'akov girls as fake. Just observe that the most emphasized quality is tzenius.

    Yep. Rbtzn. Feldman used to be at neve. Short skirts make me feel very uncomfortable also.

    I'm confused. Are you for catagorizing or not. I think whatever the utility of categorizing it should be with great hesistation and not in terms of better or worse.

    I do not mean innocence in the sense of never having sinned but rather a almost pure perspective, incomprehension of sin.

    Thanks. Not everybody needs to be a leader, but everyone has to have enough trust in those leader to question them in full confidence of an answer.

    Yom Shlishi-
    Natural Modesty is a treasure and something that I also learnt from my mother.

    Eshet Chayil-
    Thank you that's exactly the balance I was trying to strike.

    Frum Idealist-
    Perhaps it's that your twin brother would be announcing to his alleigence to the yeshiva world openly. Declaring this is where he feels most at home and that is a statement of strength 'frum' all by itself.

    No. Innocence was lost and reality was to. You're right we're locked out of the garden, but in that garden all the clothes we needed were the physical shapes that G-d formed to cover our souls. It is the soul and the self that is the essence of the person.

    The emphasis on tzeniut is an attempt to get back that innoncence. To look at people and not faces or anything lower.

    It's only once that we see the soul so clearly that body becomes the covering instead of a reality unto itself that we can look without being blinded.

    you're right that clothing is not necessarily an indication of what you know, but is an indication of who you identify with.

    Those older pictures, many of them were private pictures of the sort that you and I take when hanging out with our friends.

    Excellent point. Men's clothes generally tend to be a uniform of some sort. But it doesn't necessarily translate so well into women's clothes which mort of a statement of self rather than affliliation.

    Okee Jew-
    Kol HaKavod. and the more power to you.

    I think that its origionally a term for guys but is not always used for them. It means strong.

    By Blogger Masmida, at 4:03 PM, February 12, 2006  

  • Great post, as you say people of 40 years ago were certainly not less frum yet they seem to have done and said things that would label us as near goyim, how can you explain thta?

    By Blogger Pragmatician, at 6:30 AM, February 13, 2006  

  • No. People 40 years were less educated than we were. They were the products of homes that had largely abandoned Torah. So they educated themselves... and us...

    So their standard does not apply but thier goals still do.

    To live a Jewish life

    By Blogger Masmida, at 3:02 PM, February 13, 2006  

  • Excellent post! If only people would stop judging each other only based on outward appearance!

    By Blogger RebYidd, at 12:59 AM, February 16, 2006  

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