A Must Read for Women

This article in Salon magazine by Lauren Shields is a must read for all women. She decided to give up the “fashion rat-race” and spent nine months dressing modestly – and learned quite a lot along the way.

I am now working in an environment with many young secular Israelis, mostly women. I am amazed at what is acceptable, even in a semi-professional environment. Bra straps are everywhere (I know I am old, but I was taught that you shouldn’t let your slip show. Letting your bra strap show was unthinkable). I am also a bit appalled at how many people, especially young women, have tatoos. Granted, Orthodox Judaism forbids tatooing oneself, and perhaps that adds to my feelings of discomfort when I see them. On the other hand, I remember a time when tatoos were for guys who wanted to look tough.

In any case, clothing and makeup are only noticed on the first or second encounter with someone. After that their personality and behavior are what you remember about people, and then what is covered or not covered makes no difference.

Dedicated with Love to All Mothers of Boys

I absolutely loved this video. It sums up what it is like raising boys – just multiply by the number of young men under your care and enjoy!

I Couldn’t Agree More

I couldn’t agree more with Leah Aharoni in this opinion piece. What do you think?

Sisterhood Support

Now that Purim is behind us, Jewish women all over the world start what for some is a very stressful month – the time before Pesach (Passover). Some have known for a while where they will be for seder and some are just deciding now. Some have started to clean already and others are refusing to even think about it.

What we all have in common though, is the almost Pavlovian reaction to seeing another Jewish woman during this month – the inevitable question “what have you done so far for Pesach?”.

I’ve thought a lot about this situation, and I have come to the conclusion that what we are looking for when asking this question is not information (who really cares how your neighbor or friend does the cleaning?) but emotional support. What we really want to hear is that someone else is farther behind than where we think we ought to be at the given moment – so that we can feel less guilty about procrastinating, and less stressed out about the whole thing. After all, if Mrs. X has so much more to do than I do then surely I will be able to manage in the end. In addition, we also want to show off a bit, giving ourselves a pat on the back for whatever work we have done so far, and giving us further incentive to do more so we can brag again.

The main problem with the above scenario is that we don’t always hear what we want to hear. If your neighbor has done way more than you have then instead of the emotional support you are looking for you get a tremendous source of stress.

In addition, the conversation can take an insidious turn if we start to talk about what the other members of our family are doing to help. We all know women who are married to angels from heaven who not only know how to clean like professionals, but are willing to do this cleaning after long days of work, and do the cleaning EXACTLY as we would. Others have daughters – and sometimes sons, who are tremendously helpful and just live to ask “what more can I do to help, mom?” Most of us, of course, are married to wonderful but regular men who don’t exactly fit into this category, and have children who don’t think cleaning for Pesach is a top priority. Comparing our families is not only deadly for shalom bayit (peace in the home) but it almost always just adds to our anxiety and stress and feelings of jealousy.

What we should really be doing during this month is giving each other support. Asking “how are you doing” and responding that “yeah, this time of year is tough” and reminding each other that we somehow all get through it is what we really should be doing. I for one am going to give it a try this year. Who is with me?

The “Unsung” Heroines

Rafi at LifeinIsrael has an interesting post about a young religious woman who has competed in the singing competition The Voice here in Israel. For those of you who don’t know, women singing in front of men is prohibited by halacha (Jewish law) as it is seen as immodest and provocative. (For those who doubt that this is so – just look at this beautiful girl and listen to her sing. I can’t think of anything more provocative than that – even if she is dressed modestly).  A woman is allowed to perform for other women.

What concerns a lot of people is that her decision to go against halacha in this case is very public, and other religious girls will see this and perhaps follow her example.

What bothers me is the fact that there are literally thousands of girls who may be as talented as she is, but choose to follow the halacha and either channel their talents in other ways (performing for women only, for example) or who focus on other things in their lives. These girls do not have a public “heroine” who represents them, and perhaps they think that they are alone.

We need to let these girls know that it is praiseworthy to follow the law and keep to values that have sustained the Jewish people for thousands of years. They need to hear that they are heroines for resisting the temptation of temporary fame.  They need to be recognized for being modest – in the truest sense of the term. Real modesty is not measured only by skirt or sleeve length, it is measured in a more holistic way – by the choices a woman makes and her behavior.

I for one salute all of the “unsung heroines” out there. Kol haKavod!

On a Lighter Note…Introducing Yaldah Magazine

I received an email from the founder of Yaldah magazine, who thought I would be interested in helping promote this magazine written by and for Jewish girls. Leah Caras started the magazine when she was 14, and it has grown and prospered.

The magazine is now holding a Bat Mitzvah Essay Contest. Girls aged 8-15 are eligible. If you know a girl who would be interested have her check out the contest at this link.

The magazine looks great, and is a wonderful example of how girls can be creative and accomplished, without denying their own femininity and inherent modesty.

Celebrating Life

A very special event is coming up in Haifa. There will be a beauty pageant – for Holocaust survivors.

Yes, you read that right. Each contestant will enter the stage and share her story, and at the end one will be crowned.

I smiled when I first read the story, and then I found myself tearing up. The combination of a tragic past and the full embrace of life in spite of it, is very moving to me.

Instincts Kick In

There is a response team in our community that is in charge of handling trauma. This means that if G-d forbid someone is hurt or killed in an accident or by a terrorist attack, this team,( consisting of the Rabbi, social worker, security chief and other personnel) springs into action to take care of the family involved. Unfortunately this has happened a number of times where I live.

You can imagine, then, what I felt when seeing a group of cars including the security truck and the social worker’s car parked in front of my house, as I was coming back from the grocery store.

Instinct kicked in and I sent up a fervent prayer that nothing had happened to my family. 100% selfish – please G-d, take care of me and mine.

It turns out that a little boy had run into the street in front of our house and had fallen. The social worker happened to be driving in the street at the time, so she parked in our driveway and went to help him. She of course called the Magen David Adom ambulance and that brought the security truck. (Thank G-d the boy is ok).

I know I should feel guilty at my relief that it wasn’t about my husband and kids – but I don’t. During my morning prayers, in the place where you can put in your own personal requests, the first thing on my list is “please keep my family healthy and safe”. I have a nice laundry list after that, including prayers for others, including children for couples who have not been blessed yet. But the main blessing that I seek is the basic one, and this desire is hard-wired into my female soul.

Strange Offers

There is just over a week to go before Pesach (the holiday of Passover), and in the middle of cleaning, menu planning for the holiday, and purchasing food and clothing for the family, most women are looking at all of the chametz (leavened substances which are prohibited to eat or have in your house on Passover) that they still need to get rid of.

The very organized women will of course have menu plans for the next few days that use most of it. The less organized (I fall into this category) will have too much to use up.

One alternative is to donate the chametz to charity, but this only covers unopened packages. What do you do with the rest?

This is where the email comes in, and some of the very interesting, and strange offers to be found. About 6 months ago our yishuv decided to open a email list just for the women. This was done so that we could discuss both delicate matters such as our local mikveh, and more prosaic matters like requests for Purim costumes, recipes, hat sales, and the new exercise craze, Zomba.

Today I saw offers of opened bags of bread crumbs, pearl barley, and ice cream cones.

I have an opened box of lasagna noodles – too little to feed my family, but enough for a couple. Any takers?

Pain

This article in Ynetnews about infertility in the religious community made me very sad. As someone who has experienced both primary and secondary infertility, I could relate to what the women in the article said, although I personally found my faith to be a help to me.

My experience also has made me more sensitive to others who are going through the same situation. I pray every day for couples, some who live on my yishuv, who have not been blessed with children, yet, although they have been married for quite a while.

I don’t tell them this, though. One of the most difficult parts of being infertile is that in addition to the searing pain of childlessness is the humiliation of knowing your condition is public. I sometimes felt that I was wearing a sign on my back saying “go ahead, feel sorry for me”. That is why I think that the greatest gift you can give to an infertile couple is the gift of privacy. The only person I appreciated talking to me about my condition was the nurse on the yishuv, who referred me to a good doctor and helped with some of the treatments. The other comments sometimes made to me were well meaning but painful just the same.

Pray for people you know going through this pain, but talk about other things in their presence, unless they bring up the subject themselves. Thank G-d every day for the children you do have (which I have been lucky to be blessed with) and hope that they will also feel this joy.

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