My shabbos evenings are sometimes very enlightening. As a Jewish mother in the city, my afternoon outings extend to the end of the gates on the window. While the kids, in sweaters, watch the cars go by, I watch out for the latest Chassidic fashion trends.
This shabbos I enjoyed a particular sight that spoofed this yenta’s interest. A young girl, about 17, was rushing down the block. Under a very short (and I’m learning, stylish) jacket I identified what was a popular long robe.
Her face spelled innocence. I guessed she was still in school and was learning all about a Jewish girl’s ‘kroyn’; her modesty. To her the defintion of an immodest girl is probably something about hair being a quarter inch below the chin, a sweater with a neck one can breathe out of, or stockings that aren't winterized. One very bold crime on her list is going outside in a long robe.
The poor girl had no idea she was doing something that she might need to knock another slicha into her heart for. She simply held the robe up, gathering all the fabric in something that resembled a flower at her crotch. Her rear, well, I’ll say it left very little to the imagination.
It got me to wonder if the emphasis on modesty without understanding its purpose doesn’t sometimes do exactly what we are trying to avoid, make a sexual statement.
As kids my parents would be very careful about keeping the boys and girls apart. We’d run out of the bathtub with the naked tush and Mother would frantically yell for the boys not to look. Well, it didn’t last long till they really wanted to look.
For now I let my children bath together and don’t make a big deal about it. I don’t think I’ll make a fuss about the grown up boy giving ‘shalom’ for the sister when he comes home from yeshiva either. I don’t think I’ll angrily talk about an immodest woman’s top so much, putting adjectives to it as ‘horrible’ and ‘so mees’.
The key to our structural homes is modesty, but we cannot explain the concept to our children until a few days before one gets ready to build his/her own home. So we set rules with hopes that it’ll keep us on the right track. We think up the most drastic methods and let our good hearted kids take it to their own extends...
Those hardly-bar-mitzvah boys walking with their face stuck in the side walk. The girls walking into a busy road when a man comes their way. The seventeen year old bochur’ll that’s hesitant to take the plastic glasses off, even when the mother says he’s ready. The girl that insists her mother must buy her four sizes bigger clothing…
All this is nice. The intentions are so pure. It’s a kiddish hashem.
So long as it doesn’t defeat the purpose.