Friday, August 27, 2010

Are you only virtually sorry?

It's so approprriate to find someone post about this during the month of Ellu when I was thinking about apologies and forgiveness. There is no indication of a Jewish connection.
I wonder if anyone has actually asked a halachic question about these new methods of seeking forgiveness.  Does texting, emailing, and posting on a site each count as one of the three apology approaches one is supposed to make in order to really obtain forgiveness from someone one has hurt?

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Thursday, August 26, 2010

Take a guess

What touts itself as "a quick fix for unannounced guest, in-laws and odd neighbors?"

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Sunday, August 22, 2010

Tall, dark, and frugal

Does frugality count as one of a person's attractions?According to the New York Times article, "How to Be Frugal and Still Be Asked on Dates" it is not generally considered so.  That finding is based on the Ing survey it quotes at the beginning:
 In June, the company asked 1,000 people which words would come to mind if someone was fixing them up on a blind date with someone described as frugal.
Just 3.7 percent answered “sexy,” while 15 percent picked “boring” and 27 percent chose “stingy.”
Just 3.7% considered frugality as a quality to be desired in a prospective mate.  But far more found it uninteresting, and even more considered it the antithesis of the virtue of generosity.

“Frugality may or may not have anything to do with how much he loves you,” said BJ Gallagher, 61, an experienced online dater and author of several self-help books for women. “'But for a lot of women, love looks like ‘"Take care of me and give me things.’ ”

Interesting to contrast this with the expectation in the right wing world of shidduchim where a  man is still expected to foot the bill, though, in this case, the man is the bride's father. The single man's worth is often tied to a real dollar amount.  A top notch boy would draw 6 figures, which may be paid out over a number of  years of support. In such situations, the bride's father would have to practice some frugality for his own household in order to be able to support another one, and sometimes a few more, depending on how many daughters he has.  The young man, though, is not expected to practice frugality, as he is to spend his parents' money on dates that include dinners and other expenses so that he doesn't look cheap.  At the engagement, he would drop another couple of hundred on an an impressive floral arrangement and a diamond and gold braceletThat is to swiftly be followed by an engagement ringthat can be flaunted by his bride-to-be, and so on and so forth.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Thoughts on a bumper sticker

This morning I saw a bumper sticker that said, "If it isn't fun, why do it?"  It seemed to be promoting Ben & Jerry's ice cream with the notion that you can decide to only do what you find fun.  Just stop to think for a moment what would happen if people truly adopted this as their guiding principle in life.  It isn't fun to change your baby's diapers.  It isn't fun to bring your baby in for shots. Toilet training, certainly, isn't fun, and neither is doing the laundry it often generates.  Homeowrk is neither fun for kids nor for the parents who usually have to walk them through it. Paying bills is not most people's definition of fun.  Filling out tax forms is far from fun.  The list goes on and on.  Much of what we have to do in life is not fun.  We do it because life is not just about having fun; it is about living up to your responsibilities as an adult, spouse, parent, and citizen.

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Thursday, August 12, 2010

Let's get the facts straight on what the GRA did and didn't say about tznius

See the post and comment at 

Here is what it does say, as the blogger found:
The people who do make this equation (again, google) seem to derive it from the last paragraph of the Iggeres, where the GR"A writes to his mother:
אהובתי אמי, ידעתי שאינך צריכה למוסר שלי כי ידעתי כי צנועה את
They infer from here that if you have tzniyus you don't need the rest of the Iggeres, meaning the exhortations to talmud torah, yiras shamayim, learning mussar, etc. If you have tzniyus you have it all already.

B'mechilas kvodam of those who read the Iggeres this way, I don't think it makes any sense. What the Iggeres means is that tzniyus, here referring to modesty as a character trait (I don't even see how you can have a hava amina that the GR"A was talking about his mother's skirt length), is indicative of already possessing other fine character traits, hence additional musar is superfluous. You don't need to remind a modest person not to speak lashon hara, not to aimlessly wander the marketplace, etc.

Also, don't forget the context. This is not a line of gemara or a pasuk - it's a letter and the GR"A is addressing his mother.
An example of how the quote has become distorted is in one of the blogger's comments: 
Just to follow up, the entire quote has become distorted and pulled out of context. For example, this ( review of "Six Diaries -- Six Teens Take a Look at Tznius" quotes the following dialogue from the book --

"The Vilna Gaon says that what Torah is to a man, tznius is to a woman. The girls were unimpressed. I wasn't worried, and continued developing this thought. This means, I told them, that if Torah is the fuel that feeds the man's neshamah, then tznius is the fuel that feeds the woman's neshamah."
I looked it up in Falk's book Oz Vehadar Levusha: Modesty -An Adornment for Life
On p. 36, Falk begins a section C. entitled "What Torah Does for men, tznius does for women."
1.Tznius is an antidote to theyetzer horah. On p. 37, he says, "a woman, whose function is to establish and manage a home and family, does not have Torah learning to counteract her yetzer horah." He goes on to claim the power of tznius is such that "when kept properly is all encompassing. It gives so much kedusha and strength to the woman that she is capable of outwitting the yetzer horah and withstanding its relentless pressure."

On p. 37 he refers to the GRA and quotes the same close to the letter to his mother that Chaim quoted above, "My dear mother, I know that you do not rquire my mussar, for I am aware that you ara a tzanua." It is Falk's own huge leap of logic that brings him to conclude from that phrase alone, " He was convinced, that just as being steeped in Torah enables a man to combat his 'lower self', so too, being steeped in tznius enables a woman to be victorious in the same way."

It is proven, thus, that the GRA never said what people say he did, and that people confuse what Falk argues for with what the GRA actually said.

He does have a bit more to hang his hat on when quoting the Chazon Ish, but that relies on a secondary source:
Falk p.42: "It is appropriate in this context to quote from the life story of Rebbetzin Karelitz a.h. the mother of Hagaon Harav Nissim Karelitz shlita ('Silence is Thy Praise' p. 106)
"'How much the Chazon Ish valued the modesty of a Jewish woman as perhaps best evident in the response he once gave when asked, 'What can a young lady do to match the merit of young man's learning?'

"'Let her work on her tznius!' he answered."

Even that, though, does not exactly equate the effectiveness of tznius with that of Torah but merely suggests it as something women could occupy themselves with. I wonder a bit at this, though, because Chazal clearly said that women earn Olam Haba through the Torah learning of their husbands and sons -- not through their tznius. Perhaps this was a suggestion for a woman who was unmarried and childless.

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Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Stacking the deck for shidduchim

The internet can certainly be a bad thing for the Jews.  I am not thinking about anti-Semitic sites, Messianic sites, the bloggers who get a bad rap, or even the loads of tiflus that abounds on social sites.  I am thinking about how it gave rise to shidduch resumes and specious research.

I picked up the latest copy of the magazine referenced in  It includes an article entitled "Present an Effective Shidduch Resume and Reference List" by Judy Akoros.  Judy, who boasts of  her accomplishments in redting and making shidduchim, also boasts of having graduated from Columbia and being a principal at an unnamed girls' high school in her bio.  So there are the credentials that set out to put her in the best possible lights, much as she advises for those who compose their shidduch resumes.

She starts her article by saying, "I have just finished reviewing resumes for an available position at our high school."  She then goes on to describe how she had to toss out  17 for sloppiness, which "is symptomatic of a person with sloppy work habits."  She then "reviewed the last three by googling the condidates' names, discarding two after finding that one had just come out of jail for a DWI offense and another because of her inappropriate online pictures."  Now, she informs us, she is only down to one.  Then she shifts to the topic of the article by saying, "I haven't only been reviewing resumes for the new teaching position.  I've been helping my sister review shidduch resumes for my nephew."

By juxtaposing the two, she makes it clear that she regards the shidduch applicant with the same scrutiny as she does the job applicant.  To make it even more obvious, the central box of types declares: "IN THE WORKFORCE, A RESUME IS AN OPPORTUNITY TO CAREFULLY CRAFT AN IMAGE AND PUT YOUR BEST FOOT FORWARD.  IN SHIDDUCHIM, THE PAPER THAT PRESENTS YOU TO PEOPLE SHOULD BE THE SAME." Take that, all you people who insist that there is a difference to you hope to emphasize by calling it a profile!

  As for the implication that merely googling the person's name will reveal whatever the person wishes to conceal, that is simply not true.  Google only brings up web results.  If a person's arrest did not get mentioned in a public web forum, it will not be found on Google.  There are sites that will offer to obtain a full background check on a person, including arrests, law suits, etc., but those go through services that require membership and a fee.  Another limitation of Google, as well as even more specialized search services, such is that there tend to be more than one person in the world and even the country with the exact same name.  A search on my name reveals a lot of results that are not even related to me.  There are a 2 of us on LinkedIn and even more on Facebook, not to mention all those who are not actively on the web but still on the record.  I am not even the sole blogger under my name, though it is safe to say that I am the only blogging under the name of Kallah Magazine.

But here's a truly interesting thing coming from the woman who suggests that Google reveals all, her name does not come up anywhere.  Strange isn't it?  It is also somewhat strange that she boasts of her position but does not mention the school's name.  Given her own advice of deliberately omitting anything on your resume that is not wholly positive, that may be somewhat suspicious.  In offering her guidelines for the "family" section of the resume, she says: to "include your siblings and their spouses, if applicable.  Includes the names and numbers of machatonim, as long as your family has a positive relationship with them."  Did you catch that?  You only put in the contact info for the positives. Right, no one will ever guess that you're trying to hide something when you include your sister's in-laws but not your brother's.   You would think someone with a suspicious mind such as hers would have thought of that. 

Why do I insinuate she is suspicious?  That is because her advice for references is "NO SINGLE FRIENDS."  She offers an example of someone who sabotaged her suggested girl by telling the boy, "Shira is -- she is -- so unbeliebably tall -- like such a big girl -- really tall and big.. Oh, and she's really a great girl...."  The boy then dropped the Shira suggestion like a hot potato.  If you ask me, though, she is better off without such a superficial person who will pass on someone just because someone describes her as "tall and big."  The reference was supposed to have misrepresented a girl of 5'6 1/2"  in this case because he wanted people to ask for his sister rather than this Shira. Look, if this guy would stab someone in the back by lying like that, he has more serious problems than a single sister on his hands.  

Does anyone see how very stupid it is to play into this game and plot one's strategy in the way she suggests?  Most people have a single person in their circle of family and friends.  It is virtually impossible to eliminate anyone who would not have their own shidduch agenda.  Even if it is not one's daughter or sister, it could be one's niece, cousin, aunt, granddaughter,  neighbor, or former student. You'd have to find a recluse to serve as reference, and, obviously, that does not work.  Another point about references, people do not limit themselves to the ones they know you expect to only giving a glowing report.  When I researched the use and abuse of shidduch resumes for the article that appeared in Kallah Magazine (accessible now at!/topic.php?uid=166926033774&topic=15820) I heard from many mothers who said they make a point of going beyond the references on the resume. 

If you want to see a sample resume with names and other identifying features modified, you can, though the centered format is not in place at!/topic.php?uid=166926033774&topic=15820. I would hasten to point out, though, that in real life, the girl got engaged to someone who did not correspond to what she presented on her resume as what she was looking for.  There is, certainly, a lesson there about how reducing oneself to a piece of paper, or rather, as Judy suggests, a PDF, can close a lot of more doors than it opens.  As all recruiters and human resources people know, the primary function of a resume is to screen candidates out -- not in -- just as Judy did with her 19 resumes from applicants.  This resume system combines the quick-to-dismiss attitude of internet dating with the egotism already in place in shidduchim, to produce a monstrous hybrid that does not truly serve people who deserve consideration as individuals rather than vital statistics.

Of related interest

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Orthonomics: Guest Post: Debt is Harmful to All Those Around Them

Orthonomics: Guest Post: Debt is Harmful to All Those Around Them

of related interest:  the Spender of Saver quiz at

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Tuesday, August 10, 2010

The tznius legacy: not fit for translation?

 In the archive, I also found this post:
The Legacy of Maran Rav Aharon Kotler by Rabbi Yitzchok Dershowitz (Feldheim 2005) includes an appendix, which features, among other letters, a fascimile of the response by Rav Shneur Kotler and Rav Nosson Wachtfogel issued during aseret yemey tshuva of 5742 written in Hebrew. What I find interesting is that the letter also appears in English translation on the facing page, but the 8 point of hilchos tznius (like covering elbows, collarbone, etc.) are deliberately omitted from the English verison. The author even puts in a footnote: “The Tznius details were deleted from the English verion of this Tshuva. Please refer to the Hebrew.” So why were these 8 sentences not translated, as well? It certainly is not due to lack of space. I wonder if it is left out because it includes a requirement to wear stockings that are recognizable as such, which would make sheer stockings prohibited. Many women who would never dream of walking out in uncovered legs, do wear sheer stockings and, perhaps, are not ready to commit to opaque or seamed ones. I’m just guessing, though. Perhaps the author finds the details do not cover everything that has now been banned, like denim or too long or natural-looking sheitels, or falls, and that is the reason for keeping it relatively obscured in Hebrew. From another incident recorded in the book, it seems to be an assumption that girls would not be taught Hebrew.

At the request of Mother In Israel, I provided the text in my own translation in the comments section as follows:
(you can check p. 552 of the book cited above for the original):
1) Head covering constitutes all the hair of the head, and the one who wears a kerchief call a tichel has to be careful that it will be of a size that would cover all the hair and also to pay attention that it will fit behind the head in a fashion that no hair will show even if it is blown by the wind, etc.
2) A woman who goes to her doorway has to be very careful that she be dressed in a tzanua and fitting fashion, appropriate enough to be seen by others.
3) Dresses have to cover the arm, including the elbow in any position even if the arms are stretched, etc.
4) Dresses have to cover the knees even when she sits or walks.
5) Dresses have to cover the upper body so that the collarbone remains covered.
6) There should not be slits in the dresses that reveal part of the knee or leg.
7) Her legs have to be covered with stockings [the word used is “garbiyonim”] when she goes out of the house* and it should be recognizable that she is wearing them. [from this I derived in my post above that the stockings would have to be opaque or seamed to show up as stockings rather than bare legs]
8) It is superfluous to add that it is necessary to pay attention to the ways of tznius and its importance in dress and the styles worn in the matters understood by everyone, on top of what is possible to specify and also there is no need to specify. [The English translation on this part does appear but most inaccurately as: “It is superfluous to mention that care be taken that the style and manner of dress conform to the ideals of tznius [written in Hebrew] and true dignity of a bas Yisrael [in Hebrew]]——————————————————————-
R’ Falk’s book on tznius actually goes into far more detail and is far more machmir—down to tightness of fit and color.

*Note that the proviso for stockings includes a mention of "when she goes out of the house," even though point #2 indicates that in house and outside standards are one and the same if someone comes to the door.  So there is a hint here that the stockings are not covering real erva.

It's hot; we're not

Though I don't like to repeat myself, this piece was posted back in April 2007, which means it is in the archive of my Wordpress blog and not easily found. And it certainly is hot out!

Top 10 reasons for keeping tznius even in warm weather

You expose far less skin to harmful UV rays.
Head coverings keep the sun from beating down on your head and remove the worry for bad hair days (N/A for those who only wear sheitels)
You don’t need a full toning and waxing prep to go to the beach because you are fully clothed.
You don’t have to worry if tank tops are appropriate where you’re going—they simply never are appropriate.
You get buzzed on sight into Boro Park stores.
Your sleeve choice is limited to 3/4 or long—for faster wardrobe decisions.
Your girls are much more easily spotted in public playgrounds in long skirts and sleeves than the girls dressed in shorts and T-shirts.
And if you visit some other places, you may get complimented by some religious Christians on keeping your daughters modestly dressed despite the girls’ current fashion.
And for those who do not bare their feet in sandals with no stockings—you do not need a pedicure just to step outside.
But, as I am fond of saying, ,(and my husband insists is a misinterpretation) mitzvos lav lehenos nithnu We don’t do mitzvos for their benefit but simply because we are required to do them by halacha.

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Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Tradition versus traditionalesque

Tradition versus traditionalesque

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Tuesday, August 03, 2010

A Look at L'Engle

After my daughter took some Madeline L'Engle books out of the library, I started (re)reading them. I do recall reading some of them before, but not all.   Some I've never read before, like Meet the Austins.  This book is less thrilling than the more famous A Wrinkle in Time.  It does not include supernatural adventures in which children save the universe.  It is more of a view into family life for a parallel family to the O'Keefes who do cross paths in some ways in later books in the chronicle. 

What I found striking about the Austins is that they are presented as the ideal family with loving, supportive, and insightful parents who gather everyone around to hear the mother read out loud every night. Nevertheless, spanking is taken for granted as an appropriate punishment for children of 10 and 11.  This book dates back to 1960 when, I suppose, it was not considered socially unacceptable.  The parent do much that is good and instill excellent values in their children, including responsibility for chores, taking care of the younger ones, honesty, creativity, and thrift.  The book is written from one of the children's point of view, and she does accept her parents, who are called "Mother" and "Daddy,"  as paradigms.  In many ways they are, but I doubt there are many parents like that today. 

From the L'Engle books that are clear in my mind, I can highly recommend  A Wrinkle in Time.  Most of the sequels to it are quite good.  However, I would recommend parental discretion for A House Like a Lotus.  I don't normally screen my children's books (in part because I don't have the time to read everything they take out), but I told my daughter not to read that one. Many Waters, which features the twin brothers of the heroine of the first book placed before the flood does not work so well; it has some hints of sensuality but nothing explicit.  Dragons in the Water is interesting on its own terms, though it doesn't really trace much of the O'Keefe family, despite the presence of the characters in the book.

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Monday, August 02, 2010

Another frugal date idea

I really like this area of the city; it's right across from where the Graduate Center was located at the time I was enrolled and attended classes on the 40th floor of the Grace Building.  Of course, the park is much improved since then with a great number of activities available free.  The lounge is also free -- no overpriced drinks required to keep your seat on a swing, rocker, Adirondack chair, or bar stool.

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