Why does Judaism command women to keep their bodies covered? Is there something shameful or evil about a woman's body? If men can't control their urges then it's their problem, not women's. Why should a woman have to hide herself just so others shouldn't be tempted?
You are assuming that the only reason for modest dress is to avoid temptation. While this may be the case in other religions, for Judaism this is not true. The Jewish way of modest dress is not so much about how other people view women, but more about how women view themselves.
Covering something doesn't always mean being ashamed of it. Have you ever noticed how we treat a Torah scroll? We never leave it lying around open. It is hidden behind many layers. The Torah is kept inside a synagogue, in the Ark, behind a curtain, wrapped in a mantle, held tightly closed with a belt. It is only ever taken out when it is to be used for its holy purpose, to be read during the prayer service. For those special times we carefully draw the curtain, open the doors of the ark, bring out the Torah, uncover it and unwrap it. As soon as we have finished we immediately wrap it up again and put it away.
Why do we do all this? Why do we go to such trouble to conceal the Torah? Are we ashamed of it? Is there something to hide? Is there something ugly about the Torah?
Of course not. The opposite is true.
Because the Torah is our holiest object, because it is so sacred and special and precious, we never leave it exposed unnecessarily. We keep it under wraps because we don't want to treat it lightly, we don't want to become too casual with it. Were the Torah to be always open and visible, it may become too familiar, and its sanctity minimised. By keeping it away from sight and only bringing it out for the appropriate times, we maintain our reverence and respect for the Torah.
The same is with our bodies. The body is the holy creation of G-d. It is the sacred house of the soul. The way we maintain our respect for the body is by keeping it covered. Not because it is shameful, but because it is so beautiful and precious.
This is true for men's bodies too, and modest dress applies to them as well. But it is even more so for women. The feminine body has a beauty and a power that far surpasses the masculine. The Kabbalists teach that a woman's body has a deeper beauty because her soul comes from a higher place. For this reason her body must be kept discretely covered.
In a world where the woman's body has been reduced to a cheap advertising gimmick, we need no proof for the truth of this wisdom. Where all is exposed, nothing is sacred. But that which is truly precious to us, we keep under wraps.
I know I will get married one day. I just wonder why it is taking so long. I have friends who got engaged to the first person they ever dated, and are now married with kids. Yet here I am, many years and many many dates later, and I still haven't met the right person. Have I done something wrong, maybe in a past life, to deserve this as punishment?
There are many possible reasons why you haven't found the right one yet. But the mere fact that you are still waiting doesn't necessarily mean there is something wrong with you.
The Talmud compares the miracle of finding a soulmate to the miracle of G-d splitting the Red Sea. When the Israelites left Egypt, on their journey to the Promised Land, a vast sea stood in front of them. The most unexpected miracle happened when a path opened up in the sea and they were able to cross it on dry land.
The truth is, the Red Sea is not along the direct route from Egypt to Israel. G-d led them on a detour, just so they could experience the miracle of the splitting of the sea. Walking on the dry seabed, with the waters standing as walls to each side, was a direct experience of the hand of G-d. Once it was done they could leave and continue on their journey, forever changed by the supernatural occurrence they witnessed.
A little known fact about this wondrous sea crossing is that the Israelites didn't cross the sea from one side to another, but they actually came out on the same side of the sea as they entered in. The path was a big U-shape, beginning and ending on the very same bank of the sea.
This means that not everyone spent the same amount of time traversing the sea. Those Israelites who were on the inside lane had a short sojourn in the dried-up sea, while those on the outside lane would have trekked a long way in and then a long way out to get back to the seashore.
Why did some have to be in the sea for longer than others? Perhaps some people needed to bask in G-d's miracle for longer to truly absorb it. Or perhaps some could handle more divine revelation than others. The longer they spent in the sea, the deeper the experience of the divine wonder. Either way, each person spent the exact amount of time in the sea that they needed.
So too with the search for love. Some have a quick path to finding their soulmate. Others take longer. Is that a punishment? Not necessarily. Some souls need more work to get to their Promised Land, because they have the depth of character to handle it. Other souls have a smoother path because they wouldn't be able to handle any more. But each soul goes on the path that is right for them.
So maybe you're on the outside lane, so the trip is taking a little longer. Hold on tight, you too will get through the sea. Even if you there's no end in sight, keep the faith, it may be just around the next bend.
SERVICES AT NEFESH ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Friday Night Candlelighting 7:48pm (not before 6:38pm)
Shabbos Service - 6:30pm followed by Tu Bishvat Fruit Kiddush in honour of Mendel Moss' birthday
Class - The Spiritual Parsha 9am
Morning Service 10am -12:20pm followed by Kiddush sponsored by Jacqui Eliovson in honour of the yahrzeit of Peter John Eliovson z'l - Long Life
and in honour of naming Gail and David Eliovson's baby daughter - Mazel tov! Kiddush also in honour of naming of Jacqui and Avishay Ziv's baby daughter and in honour of her grandparents Moshe, Gila and Elizabeth who are visiting Sydney - Mazel Tov!
Mincha 7:45pm followed by Seudah Shlishis and Maariv
Shabbos ends 8:46pm
Monday 8am (public holiday)
Tue - Fri 7am
Chassidus Shiur Bosi Legani 5713, Mon and Thurs 8:00-8:45am
I always take off my wedding ring before I play basketball so I don't jam my finger. Now, I can't find it. We looked everywhere and I really feel bad for misplacing it. I know there is a prayer I can read to find lost items. Can you please help...
There is a Talmudic quote that is traditionally said when looking for a lost object:
Rabbi Binyomin said: Everyone is blind until G-d illuminates their eyes, as it states (Genesis 21:19), "And G-d opened her eyes and she saw a well of water."
Rabbi Binyomin is giving an example of someone who couldn't see the obvious until G-d intervened. The Book of Genesis tells of the maidservant Hagar, who was wandering through the desert without water. In fact there was a well nearby, she simply didn't see it.
The tradition is to recite this formula when you can't find something, and there are countless stories of people immediately finding whatever they lost after saying these words.
This is more than just a magical incantation. It reminds us of a profound truth. We are so often blind to the things around us. What you are looking for may be right in front of you, but you don't have eyes to see it. There are amazing opportunities staring you in the face, but you are looking the other way. You are surrounded by wonderful people, and you haven't even noticed. The jewellery you think you lost is within reach, if only G-d illuminates your eyes.
Most importantly, the tradition teaches that reciting this passage is not enough. You also have to give a donation to charity. If you want G-d to illuminate your eyes, you have to illuminate the lives of the needy.
But the truth is, even that's not enough. Say the quote above, give some charity. But there's one more thing you need to do to find the ring. Keep looking.
I have often heard it said that Judaism believes that women are more spiritual than men. This is supposed to explain why men have more religious obligations than women - men need these things to become closer to G-d, women are there already. But do we really believe that? Is it not just a patronising way to avoid the question of the different gender roles in Judaism?
I remember as a child being told that men and women are equal. I had a big problem with this. I asked, "If men and woman are equal, why do men and women never compete with each other in sports? You never see a man playing against a woman in tennis, or women's soccer teams facing men's, or a mixed gender 100 metre sprint. If we are all equal, why can't we compete together?"
The answer I received was unsatisfying. "Men are on average stronger physically than women. It would not be fair for them to compete against each other in sports which require bodily strength, because men would always win. But in every other way, men and women are equal."
This did not sit well with me. If men are superior to women in physical strength, but equal in all else, then men and women are not equal. Men have an edge. Unless there is some other area of human endeavour in which women are superior, we are not equal.
This bothered me for years. Until I learnt Judaism's attitude to women.
Women are more soulful than men. While men may excel in physical prowess, women are far ahead when it comes to spiritual strength. Women are more sensitive to matters of the soul, more receptive to ideas of faith, more drawn to the divine than men. The feminine soul has an openness to the abstract and a grasp of the intangible that a male soul can only yearn for. This is why G-d told Abraham, the first Jewish man, "Whatever Sarah your wife tells you, listen to her voice." She was the greater prophet, her soul more intuitive than his.
When I first heard this idea, it suddenly all made sense. There is indeed a balance between men and women. Men have stronger bodies, women have stronger souls.
Of course there are exceptions. Some women could beat any guy in an arm wrestle. And some men are more spiritually attuned than the women around them. But for the most part, men have bigger muscles, women have deeper feelings.
The Torah gives men more physical mitzvos, to tame the body and give the soul extra power. Women don't need this help. Because although men can jump higher in the air, women can reach higher into the heavens.
The word 'sinister' is Latin for 'left-handed.' Many ancient cultures saw left-handedness as a handicap, and would try to "convert" lefties to righties. What does Judaism have to say about being left-handed?
There is clear proof from the Torah that being left-handed is not an imperfection, and on the contrary can even be an advantage.
There was a judge who served in the high court in Jerusalem for eighty years. His name was Ehud ben Gera. The Book of Judges (3:15) describes him as being left-handed. The reason this personal detail is mentioned is that it is relevant to a fascinating story told there.
The Israelites were being oppressed at the time by the Moabite nation. Ehud came up with a plan to shake off the invaders. As leader of the Jewish people, he paid a visit to Eglon, king of Moab, supposedly to bring him a tribute from the Jewish people. But Ehud had a small sword hidden beneath his cloak. Because he was left-handed, his scabbard was on his right thigh, while most people being right-handed would have the scabbard on the left. As Eglon's guards did not see a bulge on his left side, they assumed he was unarmed and allowed him a private audience with the king. Ehud drew his sword and killed Eglon, then escaped out the window, thus ending the brutal Moabite oppression of the Jewish people in one left jab.
Ehud's left-handedness came to good use. But incidentally it teaches an interesting fact. Ehud was a judge. Jewish law stipulates that a person with any defect that may diminish the respect and dignity of his position in the eyes of the community cannot be appointed a judge. The fact that a left-handed man was a judge for eighty years shows that being a lefty was in no way seen as a defect. In Ehud's case, it made him a hero.