It’s getting harder and harder for me to retain respect for the rabbinic leadership that allows something like this to happen:
A 14-year-old girl from Beitar Illite was taken to the Hadassah Ein Kerem Hospital in Jerusalem after an unknown person spilled acid on her face, legs and stomach, causing light burn wounds. The act has been attributed to a representative of the so-called ‘modesty guard’ in this town.
I don’t even want to hear that this isn’t the fault of the rabbis. That this is one troubled teenage boy who did this (who, by the way, made a mistake about the girl he was attacking). Because behavior like this is a symptom of a much larger problem. A problem of a culture that has no concept of normal human behavior. That really thinks that physically maiming a young girl is preferable to whatever she was wearing (something tells me it wasn’t something you or I would think was scandalous in the least). That’s teh fault of the rabbis, because it is a culture they create and implicitly condone. This is the kind of behavior that should have every rabbi in Beiter Ilit and Ramat Bet Shemesh and elsewhere calling out that physical intimidation and harassment is assur in all respects, and worse in all ways than personal immodesty (whatever that may even mean). But they don’t. Instead, the come out with proclamations that ban wig stores because they have head shots of women wearing wigs in the window. They come out with announcements that “Each and every father and husband has an obligation to vigilantly ensure that his wife’s and daughters’ dress is in accordance with the laws of modesty,” (quoted here and blogged here) which just fuel the fire of men and boys thinking they can get away with things like this. They come out with announcements that blame catastrophes like Hurricane Katrina on immodestly dressed women. And they announce things like this:
Women must not wear pants even when they are home alone, Rabbi Shlomi Aviner has ruled. “In general, a woman must always wear modest clothes even when she is alone and in the dar.”
This is what we need right now from our rabbinic leadership? This is the kind of thing people are worrying about? Don’t be surprised if the next story we hear about this is about some man crashing into a woman’s bedroom to see what she’s wearing to sleep. And if he doesn’t like it, he’ll be sure to beat her for it. And, meanwhile, is that even true, halachicly? Is a woman never allowed to undress? What about to bathe? To be physically intimate with her husband? Are pajama pants really the scourge of society that Rav Aviner makes them out to be? I have trouble believing that. I really do.
This is getting completely out of hand. I don’t even know how else to say it. Which is why I’m losing faith in the rabbinic leadership. Because the priorities are out of whack, and the decisions are questionable. And, in my mind, that taints all of their decisions with the same stain of overzealous overreaching and disrespect for humankind (women, specifically) that I can’t accept as a person or as a Jew.