Tag Archive | Orthodox Judaism

To Bibi Netanyahu: A Message from Israeli Nationlists

Do not think that we voted for you, and gave you such a huge margin over Hertzog, because we like you.

We do not necessarily like the way you lead.

But we voted you in, because the thought of Hertzog leading a leftist government, that possibly included Arabs, sounded like the beginning of Israel’s demise.

And we love Israel.  We love our country, and would like to celebrate Yom Ha’atzmaut (Israel Independence Day) knowing that unless someone nukes us, or the sun blows up, we will probably still be around to celebrate next year’s Yom Ha’atzmaut.  We do not want to celebrate Yom Ha’atzmaut, in about two months, knowing that by next year, Israel will be no more, because half will be given away and the other half will be so bombarded with rockets that normal life will become completely impossible.

And therefore, Bibi, we voted you in, to lead a right wing government that gives us a chance at a future; a government that does not mean complete suicide by giving in to terrorists, murderers, by pretending to be their friends.

Bibi, you owe the religious, and nationalists, a lot.  Because so many of us wanted to keep you strong, to ensure that you would lead the government and not Hertzog; because of this, you lead the biggest party by far, and the rest of us are small in comparison.

You would not be this powerful without it.  We gave you our votes, and we did it happily, because we love our country – and not because we love you.

Bibi, if you prove that you love our country less than we love it, you will be out of office.  We ask that you stick to your word and keep a two-state suicidal solution off the table.  Stand tall, let us defend ourselves, stick up for what we, as nationalists, know is right.  And do not give in to world pressure.

Because otherwise, you will soon find yourself with no coalition, headed for primaries that you will not win, and another election that you will definitely not win – because we helped you out, in our communal time of need – we helped you, because you were the one who had the power to help us – and you cheated us, by going back on your word and becoming a leftist, and by compromising our integrity, our identity as a Jewish State, and our security.

Stick to your word, and do not cheat us, the nationalists, millions of whom are religious nationalists, who voted you in.

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Election 2015 – Preliminary Results

We won – and we lost.

Likud came out six mandates ahead of Avoda ((Labor;) or rather, Hahitachdut HaTzionit (Zionist Union)).

Hertzog, unless Kulanu (“Together”, headed by Moshe Kachlon) will sit with the Arabs, will not be able to form a coalition.

In order to form a coalition, you need 61 mandates.

Hertzog has 24; Yesh Atid has 11; Meretz has 4.  24+11+4=39

If he takes Kulanu, which has 10 mandates, he will get 49.  The Arabs have 14 mandates; if Hertzog takes them in addition to Kulanu, then he will have 63 mandates, or, in other words, a coalition.  If Kachlon doesn’t agree to sit with the Arabs – and being a former Likud member, and whose voters are right-wing, he very possibly may not agree – then Hertzog has no coalition.  Yay!!

The chareidi parties, Shas and Aguda (UTJ) will not sit with Yair Lapid (Yesh Atid), because he is the one who spearheaded the campaign to force chareidim into the army.  Technically, the chareidim are more worth it than Lapid, because together, they have 14 mandates, while Lapid has only 11.  But Hertzog’s natural partner is Yesh Atid, and he will take the chareidim (some of whom will probably agree to sit with Arabs, some of whom will probably not) only as a last resort – unless a miracle occurs and they agree to sit with Lapid, which is highly unlikely.

Let’s take a look at Bibi.  I was right last time, and maybe I will be right this time.  Last time I said, why not just take Lapid and Bennett?  With Likud, Lapid, and Bennett, we already have a coalition, and because it is only three parties, it was expected to be stable (less demands, less zigzgging, less chance of it toppling over stupidities; Lapid proved stupider than I thought and therefore the potentially stable coalition was very unstable).

At any rate:

Bibi has 30 mandates; Bayit Yehudi has 8; Shas has 7; Yisrael Beiteinu and Aguda (UTJ) have six each. 30+8+7+6+6=57.  It’s still just short of a coalition, but if Kulanu joins them, then they will have 67, which is a good coalition.  Will it happen?  Actually, it’s very likely.

What does it depend on?  A few things:

1. That Kulanu refuse to sit with Arabs, and agree to join Bibi.

2. That the chareidim not insist on changing the draft law, and agree to sit with Bibi without making completely unreasonable demands.

3. That no one else on the right make completely unreasonable demands or refuse to sit with each other.

4. That Netanyahu and Hertzog not agree to a unity government.

If any of the first three happen, we are headed for new elections.  If the last one happens, we are in big trouble.

I am also very frustrated that 3+ mandates of right wing votes went to trash.  Like in previous elections, a lot of right wing votes went to a start-up party that no one was entirely sure would pass the threshold.  Last time, it was Otzma L’Yisrael, and 66,775 votes went down the drain.  This time, it was Yachad, and 118,368 votes went down the drain.  Also remember that last time, the minimum was 2 mandates; this time, the minimum was raised to 4 mandates.  Especially during these elections, when every right wing vote mattered, losing that many votes is a huge frustration and loss.  Wherever you would’ve put them – Shas, Aguda, Bayit Yehudi – they would have done something.  If they had all gone to Bayit Yehudi, then they would have 11 mandates instead of 8.  Let’s say some were taken from Shas and some from Aguda, as well as those from Bayit Yehudi – Bayit Yehudi would have 9, Shas would have 8, Aguda would have 7.  And possibly one of those would have gained two extra seats, because it’s not just 3 mandates – it’s 3+, which means that Yachad’s extra, plus someone else’s extra, might’ve added a second mandate to one of those.

Remember we said that a right-wing government, without Kulanu, had 57 mandates?  If we had those 3+, we might very well have had a coalition right there, even without worrying about who Kachlon will join.  Isn’t that a shame?  I, and many other right wing voters, think it is.

The Best Purim

I think Purim was always the holiday I liked least, for the simple reason that too many people get drunk.  I will note here that despite what most people think, if you read the Shulchan Aruch, you will find that the vast majority of Ashkenazi poskim who commentate the book (rabbis who tell us what the halacha, or Jewish law, is) forbid getting drunk.  The Beit Yosef, a Sefardi rav and the author of the Shulchan Aruch, does not advocate getting drunk, either.  In the Shulchan Aruch, he writes the language of the Gemara, “a person is required ‘levisumei’ [ed: commonly translated as getting drunk, but it is not certain that that is the only understanding of the word] until he cannot differentiate [between ‘cursed is Haman; blessed is Mordechai’].”  In his commentary on the Shulchan Aruch, called the Beit Yosef, he opines very strongly against getting drunk.

In other words, people who get drunk on Purim should learn halacha.  Tipsy, maybe is okay, IF (according to Jewish law) you know that you will still be in charge of your faculties.  Drunk – absolutely not.  Most people do not know this; I am not sure why.  Probably for the same reason that most people don’t know that a baby’s gut doesn’t fully close until around six months, so anything they eat dribbles directly into the bloodstream.  We expect people to be educated and know the things that are important to proper living, and are basic to the values that they claim to hold dear.  In reality, it doesn’t work that way.

Israelis also have an odd habit of using firecrackers around Purim.  We will simply say that this is a nasty practice and Yitzchak and I both hate it.  Thankfully, where we live now, there are fewer firecrackers, and hardly any drunks.

Now that I have fully explained why other Purims were worse, let’s go back to the title of this post: Why was this Purim the best?

First of, all, we did all the shopping beforehand.  Second, the mishloach manot that we prepared were simple: yogurt, some cherry tomatoes and cucumber sticks, and a pita, placed in a disposable bowl and wrapped in cellophane.  We froze the pitot so that they would stay fresh, and the rest of it, including the bowl, I prepared the night before.

Third, and this is what made the biggest difference: Yitzchak went to shul, to daven maariv [the evening prayer] and hear the megilla.  I stayed home with Shlomo and Tova.  He arranged with a friend that he would borrow the friend’s megilla at 10:30pm and return in at 7am the next morning, when they met in shul.  Then, Yitzchak came home and read the megilla for me, while I nursed Tova.  After that, we went to bed, and set the alarm for 5:30.  At 5:30 we woke up, said the morning brachot (blessings), and at 5:45 Yitzchak read for me again, while I nursed Tova in bed.  Sometime towards the end, Shlomo woke up; when Yitzchak finished reading, we did some last-minute things, and he left for shul, with four mishloach manot in his hand.

That left Shlomo and I with six to deliver; Shlomo helped me wrap them up (he held the cellophane while I wrapped the ribbon), and then I gave Shlomo breakfast, nursed Tova again (while Shlomo ate) we got dressed, and we left.  It was a quarter to nine.  At eleven-thirty we were all back at home, with me doing the obvious (i.e., nursing Tova again, since three hours had passed), while we sat for a bit to rest and eat.  Then we had Shlomo take a nap.  It sounds strange, but the big boy had been a VERY big boy while walking and delivering mishloach manot for two hours (we had made some for bus drivers, and Shlomo insisted on waiting for buses instead of using the time logically to finish the rounds, and then meet the bus with no wait time; we had also gone to the store to get diapers).  He was exhausted.  So he went to sleep, Tova went to sleep, and I went into the kitchen to prepare the meal, which, because we had surprise company, had been set for 3pm.  Then Yitzchak got called off to read the megilla for someone else; by the time he was finished reading, an hour later, I was also finished cooking.  Then we cleaned up, talked, ate, and guess who went back to bed . . . and Purim was over, pain-free, drunk-free, and very calmly.

Honestly, it was the calmest, nicest, Purim I’ve ever had, and I would do it again – even though Purim is my least-favorite holiday – in a heartbeat.

Potty-Training Attempt #3 – No Turning Back

This post was begun on January 30, 2014.

Success!  Well, sort of.

What happened was this:

Shlomo turned three in March.  Traditionally, when a boy turns three, you cut his hair for the first time (a ceremony called “upsherin/upshernish” by American Jews and called a “chalakah” by Israelis), and give him a kipa (religious head covering) and tzitzit. About a month before his birthday, his ganenet announced that there was NO WAY that he would have his chalakah in a diaper.  How can you put tzitzit on a kid with a poopy diaper?  I agreed with her, and said that I’m all for it, but as we both know, it’s not fully up to us.

She insisted that we go for it and try again.  It just had to work.  She’s been a ganenet for twenty years and never has a kid worn kipa and tzitzit with a diaper.  I agreed, not fully believing that it would work – after all, this is time three, right?  And the first two ended in failure because Shlomo was just too stubborn, and at the end of the day, no one can make you pee or poop in the toilet if you don’t want to.

So we went for it.  Diaper off in the morning, on only at bedtime.  Poop belongs in the potty.  And for some reason, which Yitzchak and I believe to be a desire to get us to leave him alone, it worked.  Sort of.  He held in his pee – usually.  Stayed dry, and peed in the toilet, just enough to satisfy us and get himself nominally out of diapers (which is what led to the title of this post – Shlomo was nominally trained, and therefore there was no turning back).  We think that he just figured that if he didn’t give in, we’d keep trying every so often until he did, so he might as well just give up, or at least pretend to.

After a while it became more frequent, with less accidents.  But still, poops were saved for the bedtime diaper.  We would put him in pajamas and a diaper, get ready to read him a book, and he would poop.  We were just happy that he wasn’t holding it in; a lot of kids do, and the ganenet, when she saw that he wasn’t pooping in gan, asked if he was pooping at home, because she was worried.

At some point, I’m not sure how, we got him to poop on the toilet.  Yitzchak says that it was the tablet that he received as a gift for his birthday, from Bubby (Yitzchak’s mother).  We also bribed him with cookies and make a big fuss over it.  After a while, when he was more comfortable pooping on the potty, we stopped making such a big deal of it, and on condition that one of us sit with him (usually Yitzchak because my nose is more sensitive than his) he agreed to poop prize-free.  When we started seeing him backslide, we at first returned the treats and then realized that he was abusing the privilege: He would put a small poop in the toilet, get the treat, and then make a big poop in diaper.  Haha, you silly parents.  You fell for it, again.  And again.  So we took away all treats until he made a successful poop in the potty with no poops in his underwear.  And that’s been our policy since.

We STILL backslide sometimes.  I’m not quite sure why.  This morning I was feeding him and something started to stink.  I couldn’t figure out what it was, until it hit me and I asked Yitzchak to check his diaper (Shlomo was still in pajamas).  Yep, poopy in the diaper.  But as mad as we were, we were also relieved – Shlomo hadn’t pooped in four days (and prior to that, had made a week’s worth of poops in his underwear).  This evening, Yitzchak brought the tablet, sat with him, and Shlomo pooped in the potty.  We praised him.  And he got his treats back.  Boy, was he proud of himself.  I just wish I knew how to keep the poop in the potty – and what motivates him to decide to go on potty-strike.

Yes, Yitzchak STILL sits with him.  Poops are in a potty.  Pees are standing up, peeing into the big toilet, like any guy on the street.  I think the poops go in the potty for three reasons: 1. He’s scared of sitting on the big toilet. 2. The toilet seat we have isn’t comfortable.  3. It’s easier to poop with your feet on the floor.  Plus, you get the lid of the real toilet as a table to drive cars on.

Shlomo is not potty trained at night yet, and honestly, I don’t expect him to be.  He stays dry when he naps during the day, even during long 4-5 hour naps (which we allow only when we are going to be up late and we need the quiet to prepare for a holiday).  But my siblings didn’t stay dry till age five or six, and even then, I remember walking them to the toilet in the middle of the night.  If I remember correctly, twice – once about an hour after they went to sleep, and once around ten or eleven at night.

And after talking to Yitzchak’s mother, I found that she had had a similar experience with her kids.  So with a combination of genes like that, and the knowledge the a lot of night training is physiological and not necessarily within the child’s control – we still buy diapers for the nighttime.  One Shabbat, we had forgotten.  Since we had been planning to experiment anyways, we let him sleep in underwear.  Suffice it to say, experiment failed.  When we see that the diaper is dry several mornings in a row, we will try again.

And with this, dear readers, I [hopefully] end our saga of potty training until next time – which will hopefully be only with the next kid.

A Freezing Weekend

I wrote this post last Friday, December 13.  But because I hadn’t edited it yet, it wasn’t published.  I also felt kind of funny writing about our Shabbat menu.  But the food came out good, and it was pretty filling, so I figure, why not.  Plus, it’s my only real-time snowstorm post.

Last Friday Yitzchak and I had an argument (more like a fight) over whether or not we should buy a radiator.  No, that’s not really what we fought about, that was just the trigger.

In the end, we decided that at the moment we didn’t need it, and we didn’t know if the winter would get cold enough that we would need it, so it could wait.  When the time came, we would rethink our decision.

The time came Wednesday afternoon.  Now, in all honesty, last week the temperatures were in the 20’s and high teens, and they suddenly dropped the low teens and single digits.  BIIIG difference.  Last week we got maximum five minutes of rain.  This week we had a power outage and it rained long enough for the parking lot to accumulate maybe a centimeter of water before it drained.  The parking lot, by the way, is big.  (If you’ve been following my blog, it’s in the picture Yitzchak took of the view from our kitchen window, posted around the time of our move.)

While Jerusalem, Judea, and Samaria are enjoying fifteen centimeters of snow, we just have cold weather.  Really cold weather.  Today’s high is 6 and the low is 1.  Tomorrow’s prediction improved around mid-morning today, rising from a high of five and a low of -2 to a high of 6 and a low of zero.  Not great but better.

So now all Yitzchak and I can think about is making sure we stay warm.  And part of that is having warm food for Shabbat.  Here’s what our Shabbat menu usually looks like:

Friday night – some kind of heavy soup, challa, maybe chumus/ techina.

Shabbat morning – mashed potatoes/couscous, salad, stir fry/cooked vegetables/baked green beans.

Shabbat afternoon (seuda shlishit) – salad, egg salad/tuna salad/deviled eggs, remains of mashed potatoes/couscous, chumus/techina.

Today we decided that we wanted cholent.  Last time I tried my hand at cholent was a few months after we got married, when we were hosting a friend and her fiance.  It flopped, big time.  I haven’t tried since.

But today we wanted cholent, and I wanted kishke, so I’m trying again.  We also decided that we felt like being “fancy” and so our Shabbat menu this week looks like this:

Friday night – challah, heavy soup.  Maybe a bit of kugel.

Shabbat morning – challah*, cholent (with vegetarian kishke that is basically flour, carrots, oil, and onions), kugel, salad.

Shabbat afternoon – kugel, salad, challah, chumus (hummus).  Maybe we’ll make eggs and maybe not.  (In the end, the eggs were used up after we prepared everything else.)

Ah, and obviously, every week we make a cake, usually either a yellow cake or a chocolate cake.  More on that later.

Hopefully, the weather will warm up.  Because this is awful.  In all honesty, though, I’m praying for a few centimeters of snow on Sunday morning so that a) I don’t have to feel guilty about leaving early, and b) I don’t have to teach half a class.  Because at this rate, it doesn’t look like everyone else will be back to normal by Sunday morning, and we have a LOT of out-of-town students.  It’s no fun teaching half a class – to say the least.

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*This is a guttural ‘ch’, it isn’t pronounced like “chair.”  You can listen here.

What Is Dating Like?

In most Orthodox Jewish communities, boys and girls are taught separately.  Sometimes they are in the same building but separate classes, but usually, there are different schools for boys and girls.  (There are educational advantages to this, just as there are disadvantages.)  Friendships are usually same-gender only.  In fact, the only really acceptable way to speak to someone of the other gender who is not related to you, is to date.

However, you can probably guess that by the time a person gets to the stage where they’re looking to get married, they don’t have too many friends of the opposite gender.  So, someone sets them up (or, increasingly, they find each other on a religious dating website, with or without a site matchmaker).

Here’s how it goes:

1) Someone suggests them/they see a profile that might be a good match.

2) They ask for references for the other person.

3) Someone they know and trust (but sometimes they themselves) calls  these people up to ask different questions about the prospective date’s personality, background, etc.  What we are checking here is that if they like each other, the marriage can work.  Sometimes you can like someone with totally different goals than you, who wants to live on a different continent.  That’s called heartbreak for nothing – you can’t build a home simultaneously  on two different continents.

4) If all sounds good, they meet.  There may or may not be a direct phone conversation between them if they were set up, though usually, there is.

Sometimes individuals who use dating sites skip the reference-checking stage.  Usually when that happens, they end up complaining that they have no idea why they were set up with this person or why they wasted their time and energy.  It’s not the best idea to skip it; the step is there for a reason.  A very good reason.

This whole system is called “shidduch dating”.  Some people find their own spouse, through casual meetings.  It’s not the norm and is usually considered to be more of a risk.  But it does happen.

Marriages that are set up with this system are may be low on passion, but they are usually very high on commitment.  “Young love,” is left to develop after the commitment has already been made.  There are, of course, some people for whom it never develops.  There are also some bad marriages that come out of this system.

But hey, if America has a 50% divorce rate, and there are couples who aren’t happy everywhere, it’s not too bad, right?  Everything has its pluses and minuses. . .

Anyways, yesterday, Yitzchak and I were talking, and I told him, “You know, I wonder what it would be like to date.  It kind of sounds interesting.”  He said, “I wonder, too.”

We’re married.  How come we don’t know what it’s like to date?

I had one date, with one guy, before I met Yitzchak.  I truly don’t know why we were set up, especially since we did the reference step (I didn’t do the calling).  He wanted to join his family business in South Africa.  I had just immigrated to Israel and was stuck here for at least another five years.  Nice guy, but really no point in a second date.

The second person I dated was Yitzchak.  I was his first.  And we didn’t go through the “shidduch system,” exactly.  We did the reference step, but we met on a forum.  I guess we were something between the DIY and the dating sites.  It wasn’t a dating site, although we weren’t the first couple to meet there.  There were risks, obviously, because online you have no idea who the other person is.  That’s why the reference step was super-important to both of us, and we didn’t meet or talk on the phone before it was finished and we knew that the other wasn’t a wanted criminal or some kind of abusive monster.

Even after we met, because of technical issues, we didn’t date the “regular” way, with two-hour dates twice a week or something.  Yitzchak insists that our dates were normal and most of his friends 3 or 4 had 8-hour dates, too.  I don’t know.  But it sure wasn’t what everyone does . . . and I’m curious to know how it works for everyone else.  Sure, I’ve heard stories, but it’s not the same.

And on the other hand . . . I know so many people who would gladly switch places with me, and we really do count ourselves lucky to have found each other so easily.  So even though we’re curious, I think it’s just better that we stay that way.  Everything has its pluses and minuses, right?

This is one big plus, with the only minus being curiosity – and the fact that I really don’t know what to answer my friends sometimes when they ask me for dating advice.

Truthfully, I don’t recommend trying to follow in our footsteps.  It was risky and it took a toll.  Yes, I did it.  But I didn’t plan it.  You kind of take what G-d gives you, you know?  But it’s not a good idea to go looking for risks or trouble, just for the sake of it.

The following is a diagram of how shidduch dating usually looks.  It’s a slight parody, but might make it easier to follow, in case I wasn’t clear.

Student Aliya (Immigration to Israel)

Yesterday I was thinking about how I moved to Israel.

Or rather, I was thinking about how, when I visited my family one summer, I met one of my eighth-grade teachers.  She asked what I was doing, how I was doing, where I was.  I told her that I was studying for a B.Ed. and had moved to Israel.

But I felt funny saying that.  Really, I didn’t live in Israel.  I mean, technically, I had.  But I kept coming back for the summers, because my “home” was a student dorm, that was closed in the summer, and where I switched apartments every school year.

I didn’t feel like I lived here.

Now, I live here.

When I think back to when I made aliya, I think it was a smart move.  The government gave me a huge subsidy for my degree.  They gave me a small, but helpful, rent subsidy (which disappeared, for reasons of bureaucracy, when I married Yitzchak).  I had a place to live, and during vacations, had people to stay with.

I paid a dorm fee and food.  I didn’t pay electricity, water, gas, property tax.  I paid for my schoolbooks and transportation, laundry and food.  I didn’t pay most of my tuition fees, or for rent during vacation.

It was a smart move.  It was a good thing to do.

And if you’re a single student, it’s probably a really good option.

Now, if – when? – I go to visit Canada, I can honestly say that we live in Israel.  We do.

And I don’t like to fly, so I am happy that we have our own little apartment here in Israel.

Once, I used to like flying.  That was when I was single.

Somehow, after we got married, I stopped liking flights.  Maybe it’s because of all the flying I did while we were engaged.  Maybe it’s because now, I fly with Yitzchak, and he packs differently and plans for flights differently.

Maybe it’s because we have Shlomo.

Maybe I’m just more tired and like to stay home more.

I don’t know.  Truthfully, I don’t care, either.

As long as we can stay happily at home.

But if my sister or brother asks whether they should make aliya and get a degree here – my answer will undoubtedly be yes.

It was a good choice.

Judaism and Feminism – Opposites or Synonyms?

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Many people seem to think that Judaism is chauvinistic.

It’s not.

Judaism is, and has always been, one of the more feminist religions out there.

Some of you will disagree.  How can Judaism be feminist when polygamy is allowed and polyandry is forbidden?  How can Judaism be feminist if a husband whose wife does not want to divorce him is allowed to remarry, but a wife whose husband refuses to divorce her has no such option?

There are many questions.  I do not pretend to have all the answers.  But I will try to give some examples here.

Remember, as obvious as some of these examples are, modern feminism is only a century old, and these laws have been around for more than 3000 years.

Here are some examples solely from Jewish law:

The Jewish marriage contract is called a ketuba.  The requirement to have a ketuba is at least 2000 years old.  Jews are not allowed to get married without one.  In fact, if your ketuba is lost, it must be replaced immediately, because without it, you are not allowed to live as a couple.

What does the ketuba say?

It says that the husband is required to provide his wife with:

1) medical care if she gets sick

2) redemption if she gets captured

3) financial stability

4) clothes

5) marital relations (this is a husband’s obligation to his wife, not the other way around)

6) a certain sum of money in the event of a divorce (the sum stipulated was a very nice sum then, but not so much now; however, many will add to it)

7) food

8) to pay for her burial

9) that she will live in his house and be supported from him if she is widowed

10) that her daughters will be supported by his property after she dies and until they get engaged, and that her sons will inherit the worth of her ketuba along with their shares of his property that they split with the other sons.

In return, the wife commits:

1) not to marry anyone else

2) that she will nurse her children

3) whatever she earns or finds becomes his property (this makes sense if he has to support her – it’s not fair for him to have to pay her expenses, while she keeps all profits she earns)

4) any benefits accrued from her property (fruits, interest) become his, and he inherits her (she inherits him, too, remember).

If he cannot afford a housekeeper, she takes care of the household duties.  If he can afford a housekeeper, he is required to hire one so that his wife will not have to take care of the house (if this is what she wants; she can elect to prefer the money to the housekeeper – it is solely her choice).

In addition, there are a few things that she is required to do for him, that cannot be delegated.  For instance, in the olden days, heating water and helping him wash his hands.  Today, it would be making his favorite type of cake for his birthday.  These things are not allowed to be delegated because they fall under the category of “chiba” (affection), i.e., Judaism requires the wife to show affection for her husband in a few simple, obvious ways.

If she is not happy, she can ask for a divorce, and he is required to give it to her.  In the olden days, the courts would beat him until he agreed.  Nowadays, Jewish courts no longer have such power, and it is much more difficult.  Excommunication sometimes works, but in today’s global society, finding a different community who does not know about the excommunication is not hard at all, and therefore forcing him to give her a divorce can be very difficult.  Therefore, prenuptial agreements, that are binding in all courts of law, are becoming more popular.

In any case where one witness is allowed to testify, women are also allowed to testify.  In any case where it is safe to say that finding other witnesses is impossible, a woman is allowed to testify.

Women are allowed to charge/sue/prosecute anyone they want in court (including their husbands), no questions asked.

If someone decided to force himself on her, he is obligated to marry her (unless she doesn’t want him) and provide her with everything mentioned above.

If a man wishes to take a second wife, he has to ask his first wife’s permission (today this is less relevant, since European Jews are no longer allowed to marry more than one wife).

Women have always been allowed to agree to marriage on condition that the husband never take a second wife.

In Judaism, women have always had the right to agree to or refuse marriage, and have usually exercised that right.

Each wife, in the case of polygamy, must be provided with her own income and her own house.  A man is not allowed to keep two wives in the same house, because this causes them heartache.

If someone gave the wife money and specified that her husband has no control over it, it remains hers to do with as she pleases.

The concept of marital rape has been recognized – and forbidden – in Judaism since Mishnaic times, if not since the times of the Bible.  Prosecuting it, though, is difficult under any circumstances (in today’s courts, too).  In all books on Jewish theory and law, including the Talmud, there are very scary threats presented regarding this issue.  And bear in mind, the Talmud was – is – rarely learned by women, so these threats and scares were presented to men only.

Judaism was also the first group in the entire world to forbid people from hitting their wives.

After age 12.5, a woman is not answerable to anyone until she chooses to marry.

From Jewish Midrashic literature:

In Jewish literature, Abraham is often famed and praised for being subservient to his wife.

Scholarly women have been in evidence since Biblical times, and praised for it.  It seems that our generation is the first to not wholly recognize and praise scholarly women; this probably came about as a reaction to the “Enlightenment,” as an attempt by certain groups to fight back (unsuccessfully).

In general:

Remind me: Who has to pray with a quorum of ten three times a day?  (Men – and trust me, if you have to do this every day, and it’s not just for fun, it can be really tough, and even a drag, sometimes.  My little brother used to joke that he wished he was a girl, because girls are so lucky . . . )  And who can pray whenever they want, wherever they want, as long as they pray once a day – and even the definition of “prayer” for women changes by whether your community is of European (Ashkenazi) or Sephardic descent?  (Women.)

And who has an obligation to study Torah during the day and at night?  (Men.)

And who has to say Shema twice a day?  (Men – again.)

And who, if they so decided, could take extended parental leave and never go back to work, whether the other spouse liked it or not, and every court would support their decision?  (Women.)

See what I mean?

I know there will be a lot of questions and arguments about this post, but I think it is important to write.

Jewish women, until today’s open, equal-rights movement, have always been in an enviable position.

Judaism does not look for converts.  People, however, since Biblical times, have seen in Judaism a forward movement with respect and equal rights, and have wanted to convert.  Especially for a woman, Judaism was a very attractive option.  2000 years ago, it gave her rights that no one else gave her, and it gave her respect, as well.

Today “equality” has taken hold, and some aspects of it make Judaism look outdated.  In truth, what we call “feminism” today, I often think of as “masculinism.”  But that’s a topic for a different post.

In the meantime, know that Judaism is not nearly as bad to women as you once thought it was . . . in fact, it’s pretty darn good.

Why Do Orthodox Women Cover Their Hair?

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As some of you may have noticed in this post, I cover my hair.  It sounds so funny to say it in English, but that is what it is.  I guess I am just used to the Hebrew.

The question that many ask is: Why?  Why do Orthodox Jewish women cover their hair?  And is this similar to what Muslim women do?

We’ll start with the second question, since it’s a lot shorter.  Jewish women and Muslim women cover their hair for different reasons, and in different ways, and therefore, there is pretty much no comparison between the two.

In short, Jewish law does its utmost to protect women.  Jewish law – and Jewish practice, excepting a few crazies who are not/were not accepted in mainstream Judaism – has always been kinder to women than the world around us, excepting perhaps (and only perhaps) today’s modern “feminism”.  2000 years ago, Jewish women were of enviable status, and thus it continued until today.  Muslim values (not Muslim laws – I have not read Islamic holy books; Muslim values – i.e., how much of the Muslim world today behaves.**) are the exact opposite.  Women are not respected, they do not have equal rights in any way, and they are not valued.  A woman is seen, in many ways, as an object, and it is her responsibility not to tempt men.  I know that many of my readers will have a lot of questions on Jewish womens’ dress – and possibly some objections to the simplistic way I have spoken about Jewish and Muslim law – and I welcome them.  This post, however, is solely about hair covering.

Another difference is that Jewish women cover only their hair.  Muslim women cover their hair, parts of their faces, and their necks.  This is a huge difference, both to the woman and to how society views her.

Now for the first question of why Jewish women cover their hair at all.

The source for Jewish women covering their hair is in Bamidbar (Numbers) 5:18, where it speaks about a sotah.  A sotah is a woman who has been accused of adultery (today we do not accuse women of this because we do not have a Temple; if her husband accuses her they are forbidden to live together permanently).  The Chumash (Pentateuch) states that the kohen (Jewish priest), “. . . reveals the hair of the sotah.”

Since we are talking about deciding whether or not a woman committed adultery, this woman is not being seen in a positive light.  Therefore, the kohen uncovering her hair is part of the process of shaming her into admitting her crime.  Which means, therefore, that her hair is usually covered, and it is considered shameful for her to reveal it.  And since we are talking about adultery, and a single woman cannot commit adultery (because she has no husband), we learn (though there are differing opinions) that only married women need to cover their hair.

This analysis of the Chumash (Pentateuch) was written as a law already in the times of the Gemara (Talmud) in Ketubot 72a.  Modern halacha (Jewish law) also states this in the Shulchan Aruch, in the section of Even Ha’ezer (Code of Jewish Law, section 3) 21:2.*

Some of you will ask why it is shameful for a Jewish woman not to cover her hair.  The reason is simple: Most people who are married (we hope) are happy with that fact.  Just like a woman proudly wears a wedding ring, Jewish women proudly cover their hair.  And, in fact, in previous times, a hair covering served the purpose that a wedding ring serves today – to show people that she is a married woman and unavailable to others.  Think about it.  Have you never, ever met a single mother who was not embarrassed, at some point, that she did not have a wedding ring?  Have you never heard of someone who put on a ring that resembled a wedding ring, so that she would fit in?  This is the idea.  The kohen, in order to embarrass her so that she will admit her wrong and not have to be punished as severely, is taking off her wedding ring in front of a crowd – except that taking a ring off a finger is much less obvious than taking off a hair covering.  She is embarrassed.  It is shameful for her.  She acted as if she had the right to act like she was single, and now she is being portrayed as someone who forgot her commitment or didn’t care enough.

And from this, we learn that if uncovering her hair is so shameful (because covering it is a sign she is married), then married women must cover their hair.  If you see a woman with a head covering, you know that there is no point in trying to start with her.  Simple as that.

Here’s another thought: How long do women spend doing their hair each day?  Yeah, that’s what I thought.  If so, she obviously thinks that her hair is very attractive and very important to her good looks.  Shouldn’t that attractiveness be reserved for her husband?  Why is she flaunting her gorgeous hair to the whole world?  She has no need to flirt with any of them.  Of this reason, I say, hmmm.  It is something to think about.  I was never one to spend a long time on my hair, never one to flaunt it, never one to flirt.  But there are many others who are not like me.  And it is the majority, not the exception, who are the basis for creating laws.  So, take it or leave it.  It is something to think about.

At the end of this post, I would like to refer you to two sites:

1) AskMoses, who generously provided me with the sources (the answers I knew already, but I was too lazy to find the sources myself).  This site answers many, many, many questions about Judaism, and they do an excellent job.

2) Wrapunzel, a site dedicated to hair covering.  She uses mostly (if not only) scarves, and it is a beautiful site that gives the idea of hair covering a much nicer rap (pun not intended) than it usually gets.

*Just for your knowledge – this is the only part of womens’ dress that is actually mentioned in the Chumash (Pentateuch) and in Shulchan Aruch (the Code of Jewish Law).  The rest of the dress code was written for men and later adapted to both men and women.  Meaning, men are also required to dress modestly; the onus is not solely on the woman. 

However, a Jewish woman is not allowed to decide to dress immodestly, because of what we call, “The Law of Judith” (das Yehudis); i.e., Jewish women took these stringencies upon themselves over the years, and it became incorporated into what a Jewish woman is required to do.  So yes, it was a choice for previous generations, and they chose to follow a certain dress code.  But after a few decades (or hundred years), the rabbis gave this dress code their approval, and now it is binding.  But it is by no means on the same level as a Biblical command.

**As I have long suspected, there is a large gap between what the Quran dictates and what is actually practiced.