Thursday, December 27, 2012

Shemirat Einayim Stories

This week's Pahad David has some interesting Shemirat Einayim stories (stories about guarding one's eyes) on page 2 of the newsletter, based on the Midrash that says that Yosef merited greatness due to his not deriving benefit from a woman that was not his:
  • R' Tzemah Mazuz of Kisei Rahamim heard second-hand that when Rav Ovadia Yosef Shlit"a's wife passed away in 5754, Baba Elazar ZT"L asked Rav Ovadia how he merited to have children who were all Talmidei Hachamim and Tzadikkim.

    Rav Ovadia initially said simply that Hashem give him a gift.  However, Baba Elazar was not impressed and said Hashem doesn't give gifts for nothing, so what merit did he have that allowed him to have righteous children?

    Rav Ovadia repeated again that simply Hashem gave that blessing to him. Baba Elazar pressed him and pressed him and said, "I'm not leaving here until you reveal your secret."

    Rav Ovadia finally said, "You know, dozens of years ago, I was a Dayan in a Petah Tikva Beit Din, and couples came there to get divorced. Most of the couples were not Torah-observant, so most of the women were not dressed modestly. And we, the judges, needed to investigate, ask questions, talk and try to make peace. This was not easy!

    "And never did I - Has Veshalom - lift up my eyes to see with whom I am speaking. I spoke and my eyes were looking down on the floor." In place of the holiness of the eyes, HKB"H knows to compensate properly, as Haza"l say למען ייטב לך ולבניך אחריך - theft and illicit relationships that people desire constantly, when someone stays away from them, HKB"H pays back that much more.
  • Rav Moshe Aharon Pinto ZT"L had people come to him often for blessings, including women, but everyone attested to the fact that he didn't look at the women who came to him.  His rabbanit - Rabbanit Mazal Pinto Telit"a - tried to test this on him.  She changed her clothes and head-covering and went in to her own home to get a blessing from her husband, changing her natural voice.  Her disguise was so good that no one there recognized her in her own home. 

    When she went to see him, he asked her, "What is your name?"

    "Mazal."

    "Mazal, the daughter of whom?"

    "Mazal bat Simha."

    The rav smiled and said, "You have the same name as my wife and your mother is the same as her mother." He blessed her with good wishes.

    She asked if he could also bless her children.

    "You have a husband?"

    "Yes."

    "And what's his name?"

    "Moshe Aharon."

    "Ha, ha! Your name is like my wife's name, your mother's name is like her mother's name, and your husband's name is exactly like mine!" He blessed her again.

    Afterwards, the rabbanit mentioned the names of her children, and he said, "BeHasdei Hashem! Hashem put here a woman whose name is like my wife's, her mother's like my wife's mother's, her husband's like me, and her children like mine! Such providence!"

    Suddenly, the woman started laughing and asked her husband, "Have you forgotten me? Don't you know who I am?" Then, the rav understood that it was his wife, and asked her why she did this trick. She answered, "I wanted to test you to make sure you didn't stare at women. The whole time I mentioned the names, I thought that maybe curiosity would cause you to stare, but you never did. Now I understand that you are a true tzaddik."

    However, Rav Moshe Aharon didn't like what she did, and told her that she should not have done so. "What if I looked out of curiosity? There is a Yetzer Hara that tried to get me to look, but thank G-d, I overcame it and did not look. Even if I did look, really you are my wife, but what if you were really another woman..."
  • It says in the book Si'ah Sarfei Kodesh that once some people were praising Rav Kook ZT"L for his Shemirat Einayim in front of Rav Yosef Chaim Sonnenfeld ZT"L in that whenever someone walked into the room, he would look down so as not to see something he shouldn't and that whenever he talked to women with halachic questions, he would answer them with his eyes closed. 

    Rav Sonnenfeld answered, "If so, he will have a greater portion in the next world."

    Also, Rav Yitzhak Arieli, the author of Einayim Lamishpat, learned with Rav Kook as his Havruta for many hours of the day for over 3 years and when they learned, they were in a locked door and no one left for any reason barring saving a life. Rav Arieli attested to the fact that throughout those years, Rav Kook did not see the form of a woman at all.

17 Comments:

At Thu Dec 27, 06:18:00 PM 2012, Blogger joshwaxman said...

interesting, though you can guess my reservations about #1.

in terms of #1, aside from those concerns, does a Dayan need to look at both litigants? As (non-rabbi) Amnon Yitzchak pointed out recently, one should not judge unless both parties are before him. if i were a woman and in a divorce proceeding, and the judge only looked at my husband's face and not my own, i would wonder whether i was able to present my case to an equal extent. and it might unnerve me, such that i could not present my own position as confidently. that is, i wonder if tznius concerns should really take hold in such a situation.

 
At Thu Dec 27, 06:21:00 PM 2012, Blogger joshwaxman said...

it could be that he didn't look at the husbands either, though...

 
At Thu Dec 27, 06:27:00 PM 2012, Blogger joshwaxman said...

to add to the above, there is this opinion in sefer Chassidim:
"writes that a dayan is forbidden to look at the faces of the litigants when
they state their claims, in keeping with our Sages’ teaching that it is forbidden to
look at the face of a wicked person (Megillah 28a). If they present conflicting stories,
one of them is obviously telling an untruth. When the case opens, the dayan must
assume that they are both capable of lying."

Do you know the general practice in batei dinim?

 
At Fri Dec 28, 03:51:00 AM 2012, Anonymous Anonymous said...

http://thepartialview.blogspot.com/2012/12/thurrsday-night-session-recap-at-agudah.html

 
At Fri Dec 28, 10:38:00 AM 2012, Blogger joshwaxman said...

yaak:

given the trends today, of e.g. taking women out of frum magazines, do you think that these "interesting" stories promote or discourage the vision of Judaism you would like to see?

 
At Fri Dec 28, 10:50:00 AM 2012, Blogger yaak said...

Promote - without a doubt.

I wish we were on their level. Unfortunately, we are not.

Re: removing women from magazines, I don't see it as a negative thing - the clientele of those magazines want to be able to see a magazine without women. And I fully support that as an extension of Shemirat Einayim.

I do, however, have a problem with a photo being photoshopped to take women out and not note that the women have been taken out. That seems like Geneivat Da'at to me.

 
At Fri Dec 28, 12:24:00 PM 2012, Blogger joshwaxman said...

" the clientele of those magazines want to be able to see a magazine without women"

i'm not so sure is true of all the clientele. and i don't wish we were on their level, because i don't think it is a higher level. i wish people were on the level of interacting with women as human beings, rather than sources of enticement and seduction, and realizing that, if they do feel an attraction, the solution is to grapple with it, but still stay engaged in the normal world. and certainly not (as is often the logical or illogical conclusion of this attitude) to enforce hadarat nashim.

i think more highly of those rabbis who confidently engaged the world and did not sin (such as Yosef HaTzadik) than those who e.g. decide to build, at the cost of millions, private underground walkways so that they do not need to even see a woman. Hashem wants us to be healthy human beings, who engage in the world. Accepting nezirut is an aveira.

shabbat shalom,
josh

 
At Fri Dec 28, 01:07:00 PM 2012, Blogger yaak said...

i'm not so sure is true of all the clientele

OK, but if I own a restaurant and 70% eats Halav Setam while 30% only eat Halav Yisrael, what would I, as a restaurant owner, do to accomodate the minority customers. It might slightly hurt the wallets of the Halav Setam people, but that's the cost of doing business.

and i don't wish we were on their level, because i don't think it is a higher level
So, when Avraham Avinu is praised by Haza"l for not knowing what Sarah looked like, that is not a higher level?
When Tamar is praised by Haza"l for not letting Yehuda know what she looked like, that is not a higher level?

i wish people were on the level of interacting with women as human beings, rather than sources of enticement and seduction, and realizing that, if they do feel an attraction, the solution is to grapple with it, but still stay engaged in the normal world. and certainly not (as is often the logical or illogical conclusion of this attitude) to enforce hadarat nashim.

Of course, in a world without the Yetzer Hara, that would be the ideal, but we live in a world where the Yetzer Hara grabs us at every moment. Until the day that the Yetzer Hara is slaughtered, we have to take precautions.

And, as you mentioned, some of the precautions people make go overboard. This should not be something we enforce on others - it is, however, an ideal that each individual should strive for.

You mentioned Yosef Hatzaddik. He too prevented Esav Harasha from viewing his mother Rahel. Do you still think as highly of him?

Accepting nezirut is an aveira.

Accepting Nezirut from wine - in most cases - is an aveira. Taking personal precautions to prevent gazing at women is commended. There is no comparison.

 
At Fri Dec 28, 02:08:00 PM 2012, Blogger joshwaxman said...

"So, when Avraham Avinu is praised by Haza"l for not knowing what Sarah looked like, that is not a higher level?"

yes, because they didn't think that people would actually follow through with that midrash literally and practically.

and i've never understood that midrash to mean that Avraham didn't know what she LOOKED light, but that he didn't realize her full beauty. From Chabad's translation (I think from Judaica Press): "until now, he did not recognize her [beauty] because of the modesty of both of them, but now he recognized her [beauty] through an incident." That is, הכיר בה does not mean that he did not recognize her, but that he did not recognize this trait in her.

Tamar is a different, more complex issue. They are midrashically attributing excessive tznius to her as a counterbalance to the peshat non-tznius actions she took, in order to stress her righteousness through all this. And so they take what they know is the peshat -- that NOW she was covering her face -- and midrashically reinterpret it into THEN she was covering her face. It is the sick tznius burqa cults who take this as evidence that this is how women should act nowadays.

Yosef prevented Esav, who was a rasha, from looking at his mother, as a protective measure. But Yaakov was criticized for locking his daughter in a box.

The reasoning behind Nezirut also applies to other situations beyond just wine.

"OK, but if I own a restaurant..."
It does not just hurt their wallets. Let us say grocery stores only stocked chalav yisrael, which had the negative attribute that it spoiled. And people who hold by Chalav Stam (haCompanies) cannot obtain non-spoiled milk.

There is a *positive* benefit of having women out in the world, and having representation in magazines that portray that world. (And in past decades, even some very frum people were not opposed to it.) The Chalav Yisrael example you gave operates under the (incorrect, IMHO) assumption that Chalav Yisrael (and erasing women from the perceived world) is only positive.

 
At Fri Dec 28, 02:39:00 PM 2012, Blogger yaak said...

yes, because they didn't think that people would actually follow through with that midrash literally and practically.

So you mean to tell me that Haza"l is not coming to teach us practical lessons from the stories of the Avot? That is lunacy.

and i've never understood that midrash to mean

I agree with how JP and Chabad explain Avraham and Sarah. It still is praising Avraham for not recognizing her beauty. How did he come to not recognize her beauty if not by guarding his eyes???

Tamar is a different, more complex issue.

I don't care how the "sick tznius cults" take it. Just because they take it to the wrong extreme, that means we should take it to the other extreme and say that Haza"l made it up and it never happened??? If that is "only" a derush and not peshat, how does the story make any sense? It doesn't. What Haza"l say is the peshat.

Yosef prevented Esav, who was a rasha, from looking at his mother, as a protective measure.

So, you agree that shemirat einayim is a good thing. Good.

But Yaakov was criticized for locking his daughter in a box.

Yes, because it should have led to marriage!!!! It is assur not to look at one's wife before marrying her.

Re: spoiled milk, [rolling my eyes and snorting].

There is a *positive* benefit of having women out in the world

No argument from me here, as long as it's done with modesty.

The Chalav Yisrael example you gave operates under the (incorrect, IMHO) assumption that Chalav Yisrael (and erasing women from the perceived world) is only positive.

No one wants to erase women from the perceived world. Rather, men controlling their impulses in looking at women is only positive. Magazines not including women's pictures helps men in that goal.

Halav Yisrael is also positive.
Don't cry over spoiled milk.

 
At Sat Dec 29, 07:08:00 PM 2012, Blogger joshwaxman said...

I'll start with the easiest of these. Bli neder, the rest at a later date.

"If that is "only" a derush and not peshat, how does the story make any sense? It doesn't."

Of course it makes sense. Alas, that we cannot spot simple peshat in pesukim, once we have seen the midrash. I am fairly certain that Chazal can.

What do you mean the story does not make any sense?! Tamar covered her face *THEN*, when she met Yehuda at the crossroads, so that he did not recognize her.

Indeed, just look at the previous pasuk (14) which states וַתָּסַר בִּגְדֵי אַלְמְנוּתָהּ מֵעָלֶיהָ, וַתְּכַס בַּצָּעִיף וַתִּתְעַלָּף, וַתֵּשֶׁב בְּפֶתַח עֵינַיִם to see that the words כִּי כִסְּתָה פָּנֶיהָ in pasuk 15 means, on a peshat level, that she was covering her face now.

If you don't understand peshat, then you can never understand the beauty of what Chazal were doing with their derash.

kol tuv,
josh


 
At Sat Dec 29, 11:12:00 PM 2012, Blogger joshwaxman said...

hi yaak,

by now you've probably discovered that my ("nonsensical") peshat in Tamar is simply Rashi's peshat, and that Rashi labels what Chazal say there as midrash aggadah.

to move on to Avraham Avinu, perhaps it would be good to first explicitly note that on a peshat level, the pasuk in Lech Lecha (Bereishit 12:11) does not have Avraham only now recognizing this about Sarah. Rashi explicitly labels this as Midrash Aggadah, whereas the peshat is: "The simple meaning of the verse is: Behold, now the time has arrived when we must be concerned about your beauty. I have known already for a long time that you are of fair appearance, but now we are coming among..."

(The mechanisms of the midrash is interesting, but orthogonal. See how Onkelos always translates Na as Kean, meaning now...)

This is another case of peshat and derash in direct conflict. Whether we make derush of the derash or not is another matter.

However, it might well be that, with the midrash, Chazal intended to put forth an ideal towards which all should strive, in practical action. I don't know that every such midrash is really intended in such a way. There is a reason that, in general, you don't find halacha derived from midrash aggadah.

Within the midrash, I am not sure how to understand the "incident" by which Avraham recognized her beauty. We must turn to Rashi's source, which is Midrash Tanchuma, which reads:
באותה שעה הלכו שניהם, כיון שהגיע לפילי של מצרים ועמדו על היאור, ראה אברהם אבינו בבואה של שרה באותו נהר כחמה זורחת.

I am not so sure this means a reflection of her **face**. Compare to Ketubot 65a, where Chuma's arm was exposed and "lit up" the court with desire.

Tanchuma continues that מכאן אתה למד שלא היה יודע אותה קודם לכן, כדרך הנשים. It depends on how one understands "kederech hanashim".

I would not interpret this as Avraham Avinu never giving the slightest glance at Sarah, or never beforehand seeing her face -- in violation of the gemara in Kedushin that one is not permitted to marry via shaliach, not seeing the one he is marrying, because of a possible violation of veahavra lereacha kamocha. As indeed you mention, in terms of Dina! Didn't Avraham keep the Torah, even derabbanans? (See Etz Yosef, though, for an unsatisfactory answer.)

The halacha is that a tefach which is normally covered has the status of erva. So, in communities where they cover their feet, uncovered feet have that status. In communities where it is not so, it is not so. This accords with the psychological reality. If a community insists that the face of women be obscured, they effectively fetishize women's faces. Pinkie fingers, they fetishize women's pinkie fingers. Take women out of the domain, such as changing what is acceptable in a community and insisting, based on "frumkeit", that those pictures of rabbis with their rebbetzins can no longer be shown, and you have a negative effect of the attitude of the community.

 
At Sat Dec 29, 11:28:00 PM 2012, Blogger joshwaxman said...

In terms of Yosef HaTzaddik, I would again point out first that this is midrash, rather than peshat. Yet it might well reflect Chazal's attitude.

This is the midrash in question:
Joseph and Rachel drew near: In all cases, the mothers drew near before the sons, but in Rachel’s case, Joseph preceded her. He said, “My mother has a pretty figure. Perhaps that scoundrel will set his eyes on her. I will stand in front of her and prevent him from gazing upon her.” Because of this deed, Joseph merited the blessing (below 49:22), “over the eye” [meaning that he stood up in front of Esau’s eyes]. — [from Pesikta Rabbathi , ch. 12; Targum Jonathan ben Uzziel]

Rashi's source is Pesikta Rabbati, which states "He [Yosef] said: There is no woman more beautiful than my mother, and this wicked man is suspect on illicit relations. He placed himself first and stood before her so that Esav should not see her."

In other words, he rightly protected his mother from the possibility of rape. Nowhere is it implied that Yosef **always** stood in front of his mother, in front of normal, non-wicked people. Are you equating typical frum Jews to Esav HaRasha?! And this wasn't simply 'Oh, no! Tznius!'

Meanwhile, this same Yosef engaged the world, in Mitzrayim, and prevailed with his sanctity intact.

So yes, I still look up to Yosef.

 
At Sun Dec 30, 12:18:00 AM 2012, Blogger yaak said...

Re: Tamar, I'll grant you that it is not the peshat in the Peshuto shel mikra sense, and the Ramban explains how the peshat works, but according to the Midrash and the question posed by the Midrash, it makes no sense otherwise.

Re: Avraham, I think the Etz Yosef's answer is very satisfying.

Re: Yosef, you mentioned the Pesikta, but you failed to mention Bereishit Rabba 78:10 where the wording is simply:
אלא אמר יוסף הרשע הזה עינו רמה שלא יתלה עיניו ויביט את אמי וגבהה קומתו וכסה אותה...
having nothing to do with rape. And I am not equating frum Jews with Esav, but Esav who is a known Rasha would have *definitely* gazed upon her.

When Yosef engaged the world in Mitzrayim, where does it say that he engaged other women? And it is most definitely not obviously the case.

 
At Sun Dec 30, 12:53:00 AM 2012, Blogger yaak said...

More about Shemirat Einayim:

Nedarim 20a: רבי אחא ברבי יאשיה אומר כל הצופה בנשים סופו בא לידי עבירה


See also:

Rambam Hilchot Teshuva 4:4

Actually, just read everything here.

 
At Sun Dec 30, 12:53:00 AM 2012, Blogger joshwaxman said...

yes, the midrash asks a question to prompt / bolster the reinterpretation. (the answer to that question, by the way, is either that prostitutes covered their faces to hide their identities / be more seductive, or that some women in general covered their faces and that, since she was out at the crossroads and he did not recognize her, he thought her to be a zonah.)

"Avraham, I think the Etz Yosef's answer is very satisfying."

It is not satisfying (to me) because the simple peshat in the midrash is that it is only now that he realizes that she is beautiful, nothing to do with aging. Besides other bits of the wording that suggest to me that it is not talking about simply seeing her face. You are going to naturally continue to read sources in the way that preserves your worldview, despite any farfetched aspect to them.

Not that Yosef engaged other women. But he engaged the world, and when tayva reared its head, he dealt with it, and emerged victorious. He did not take stolen funds and use them to hide himself from the world, such that everyone labelled him a tzadik.

And even if the Midrash Rabba is ambiguous where Pesikta is less so, there is a difference between seeing and **gazing**.

kol tuv,
josh

 
At Mon Dec 31, 01:52:00 PM 2012, Anonymous Anonymous said...

http://thepartialview.blogspot.com/2012/12/motzei-shabbos-session-recap-at-agudah.html

 

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