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Atrue story: A very close friend who sup­ported me greatly when my hus­band was ill in­vited me to her son’s bar mitz­vah last week. On the phone, I jok­ingly ad­mit­ted to not own­ing gar­biy­onim (thick stock­ings) and laugh­ingly said that I hoped she didn’t mind if I came with­out. She re­sponded that it was up to me. The next day, hav­ing re­flected, she called to give me mus­sar (a moral­ity les­son) about skirt length, makeup and the im­moral­ity of shei­t­els. She pleaded that this was not about our re­la­tion­ship, but that of mine with Hashem [God].

What’s your take, ladies?

A per­co­lat­ing Tzippi Sha-ked:

I find it alarm­ing when the “Pam Peled” in me emerges. (No, not lib­er­at­ing, as she would mut­ter!) I mean the be­lief that the haredi world is cultish and only re­motely re­sem­bles the Ju­daism that Peled ad­vo­cates. Yet I ad­mit to hav­ing those thoughts re­cently when a very dear haredi friend in­vited me to her son’s bar mitz­vah.

Our friend­ship is com­plex. I was in­stru­men­tal in bring­ing her to Yid­dishkeit (she turned haredi); later, she was there for me dur­ing my hus­band’s ill­ness. So, there was no way I wasn’t go­ing to at­tend her simha.

Af­ter her “mus­sar” call to dress suit­ably (and I fully re­al­ize she meant well), I groaned and bris­tled a bit. No shei­tel, no makeup, long skirt – oh my! It wasn’t my proudest mo­ment when I asked my son to be on the look­out while I sneaked into the car, so my neigh­bors wouldn’t won­der why I had turned “Mea She’arim” on them.

Things got even more complicated when I ar­rived at the Jerusalem venue and saw a for­mer boyfriend (the host’s brother) stand­ing sen­try at the door. There was zero chance I was go­ing to let him see me. (Proof Hashem has a sense of hu­mor.) I stalled un­til he en­tered the men’s side. I spent the evening crouch­ing, avoid­ing and in ill hu­mor. My host’s sec­u­lar fam­ily mem­bers were (of course) dressed to suit their own com­fort. They seemed star­tled to see me in this uni­form.

I ac­ceded to my friend’s sug­gested terms be­cause her friend­ship means a lot to me. But I have to ad­mit that, un­for­tu­nately, I didn’t do it with a good at­ti­tude.

Danit Shemesh:

Modesty is a con­cept not to be taken lightly. Tzippi, my dear friend, was the very one who in­tro­duced the no­tion to me some 30 years ago. I asked her to look af­ter my dar­ling two-year-old first­born on the cam­pus lawn, while I re­turned some li­brary books. (Re­mem­ber, Tzipp?) Tzippi gazed at her lov­ingly and, in my ab­sence, sent a lit­tle prayer up­ward that this girl would not wan­der the earth barely cov­ered like her mom was do­ing; that her mother (me) would be smart enough to teach her fem­i­nine in­tegrity, self-love, and modesty of dress and be­hav­ior. Watch out for Sha-ked’s prayers!

Yes, when hosts and guests are ex­tremely dif­fer­ent, it can be un­com­fort­able. I once at­tended a rel­a­tive’s huppa where the bride wore Saran wrap. While I won­dered what state­ment she was mak­ing, I re­served judg­ment. To each her own.

There is Halacha (law) and there are min­hagim (cus­toms). Cov­er­ing el­bows, knees and chest is Halacha. Wear­ing socks is a tra­di­tional com­mu­nal cus­tom.

The rab­bis teach us to at­tend to the other’s “this world” (ma­te­rial com­forts) and our own “next world” (spir­i­tual evo­lu­tion). We don’t need to teach oth­ers how to re­late to Hashem.

Yet this in­ci­dent sounds like some­thing a ba’al teshuva (one who be­comes re­li­gious) would do. We are a breed of our own. We try re­ally hard, earnestly over­achiev­ing, but our way of life never feels to­tally nat­u­ral. We are “new driv­ers” on the road of life ad in­fini­tum, never feel­ing com­fort­able, for­ever need­ing to teach oth­ers how to drive. Gotta love us!

The im­por­tant thing is to in­vite each other. With no judg­ment.

Pam Peled:

You know what? I can’t quite take this sub­ject se­ri­ously. I keep think­ing of our spot school-uni­form checks; teach­ers sneak­ing up on un­sus­pect­ing pupils and whip­ping them off to the toi­lets, where we knelt while they mea­sured, with a ruler, the dis­tance from ground to hem­line. More than four fin­gers worth of gap and you were sent home for emer­gency skirt-length­en­ing. One day some protest­ing se­niors strolled into school with an­kle-length skirts; they were sent home, too.

So I keep won­der­ing ex­actly how Hashem eval­u­ates his re­la­tion­ship with the mul­ti­tudi­nous women in his life. (Is it all the women in the world? Or just the Jewish ones? Do you have to be pi­ous to war­rant a re­la­tion­ship with the Blessed Be He? What about ladies who keep Shab­bat but slip into jeans and flip-flops on un­holy days? Does He need a ruler, or can He de­ter­mine just by sight if skirts pass muster?)

No won­der there are wars break­ing out all over the place, and refugees strug­gling, and can­cer strik­ing down our best; no won­der there is wife-beat­ing and child mo­lesta­tion and drought, mud­slides and famine. Poor God is sim­ply del­uged with mea­sur­ing dress-length and cal­cu­lat­ing whether stock­ings are the cor­rect de­nier; he can’t cope with any­thing else. I’m sorry, I just can’t love it.

What isn’t so funny, how­ever, is how Sha-ked kow­towed, and how we all kow­tow, to this ut­ter crazi­ness. So we pay more for our food, and fly to Cyprus to get mar­ried, and our boys spend more time in the army be­cause their boys don’t go.

It’s not that hi­lar­i­ous af­ter all.

The rab­bis teach us to at­tend to the other’s ‘this world’ (ma­te­rial com­forts) and our own ‘next world’ (spir­i­tual evo­lu­tion)

Com­ments and ques­tions: 3ladies3lat­[email protected]; www.face­book.com/3ladies3lat­tes


‘DOES [GOD] need a ruler, or can he de­ter­mine just by sight if skirts pass muster?’

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