Saturday, 8 May 2010


(click on image to enlarge)

R Yohanan says: We learn fear of sin from a maiden (betullah). He heard of a maiden who would prostrate herself saying "Master of the World! You created Gan Eden and Gehinnom (hell), the righteous and the wicked. May it Be Your Will that I not cause men to sin."

for years I toed the line. believed in the reciprocal community arrangement of mitzvot. we are all responsible for each other and we all help each other fulfil what they need to fulfil. the laws of tznuit (modesty) are there because we do not live as isolated selves but we are connected to and affect others around us. So women have been covering up in order to help men have a more spiritual life... but what do we get in return? is there any support from the men to our spirituality?

The discussion about modest dress normally begins with a worthy line about keeping the female body beautiful and special - the king's daughter's beauty is within, but ends with shame and disgrace. judging women and their bodies and labelling, not as beautiful or special, but vessels for sin and temptation to sinful behaviour. walking talking yetzer horas (evil inclination). Making women ashamed not celebratory of their bodies, their curves, their sexual selves.

Like an alcoholic blaming the bottle of wine for their own inability to only have 1 or 2 glasses, the men blame the women for tempting them, for their lack of control.

going back to the quote, the maiden (the hebrew is betullah, a virgin) this sexually inexperienced young girl is praying to God because she is afraid of sin. but whose sin is it? Not hers, but the men who may be aroused by her body. Her body who the 'Master' created.

This is a story that men tell themselves about women. It allows men to abdicate their sexual responsibility as they tell themselves that women have taken this role on. It sexualises young women, and puts their bodies in a context of shame and disgrace.