We Had Bas Yisroel Class in Seventh and Eighth Grade

45 minutes twice a week.

Do I need to say anything else?

Taught by my favorite 5th grade teacher and least favorite 7th & 8th grade teacher, it was like boot-camp finishing school for aidel maidels.

We covered tznius, refinement, proper comportment, dress, behavior in public, and oh, tznius, all covered with a heavy dosage of ma’amarei chazal and Maimonidean interpretation of Tehillim 45:14.

This class got me in trouble with a friend when it came to high school interviews. More about that later.

But about Tehillim 45:14 – If you were wondering what the context of the line was, here is the Machon Mamre translation:

. 11 ‘Hearken, O daughter, and consider, and incline thine ear; forget also thine own people, and thy father’s house;
יב  וְיִתְאָו הַמֶּלֶךְ יָפְיֵךְ:    כִּי-הוּא אֲדֹנַיִךְ, וְהִשְׁתַּחֲוִי-לוֹ. 12 So shall the king desire thy beauty; for he is thy lord; and do homage unto him.
יג  וּבַת-צֹר:    בְּמִנְחָה, פָּנַיִךְ יְחַלּוּ–עֲשִׁירֵי עָם. 13 And, O daughter of Tyre, the richest of the people shall entreat thy favour with a gift.’
יד  כָּל-כְּבוּדָּה בַת-מֶלֶךְ פְּנִימָה;    מִמִּשְׁבְּצוֹת זָהָב לְבוּשָׁהּ. 14 All glorious is the king’s daughter within the palace; her raiment is of chequer work inwrought with gold.
טו  לִרְקָמוֹת, תּוּבַל לַמֶּלֶךְ:    בְּתוּלוֹת אַחֲרֶיהָ, רֵעוֹתֶיהָ–מוּבָאוֹת לָךְ. 15 She shall be led unto the king on richly woven stuff; the virgins her companions in her train being brought unto thee.
טז  תּוּבַלְנָה, בִּשְׂמָחֹת וָגִיל;    תְּבֹאֶינָה, בְּהֵיכַל מֶלֶךְ. 16 They shall be led with gladness and rejoicing; they shall enter into the king’s palace.
יז  תַּחַת אֲבֹתֶיךָ, יִהְיוּ בָנֶיךָ;    תְּשִׁיתֵמוֹ לְשָׂרִים, בְּכָל-הָאָרֶץ. 17 Instead of thy fathers shall be thy sons, whom thou shalt make princes in all the land.
יח  אַזְכִּירָה שִׁמְךָ, בְּכָל-דֹּר וָדֹר;    עַל-כֵּן עַמִּים יְהוֹדוּךָ, לְעֹלָם וָעֶד. 18 I will make thy name to be remembered in all generations; therefore shall the peoples praise thee for ever and ever.

Rambam pulls pasuk 14 as proof for his belief that women should stay in their homes all the time, except once a month if they need to do a grocery run because the maid is on vacation. Like all subsequent applications of the bas yisroel = bas melech theorum, it suffered from the notion that Jewish women never have to exert themselves. Like most things Rambam, it didn’t really catch on in literal practice, but the concept is still haunting us today.

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We Had Bas Yisroel Class in Seventh and Eighth Grade

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