The One Shavuos Lesson That Really Stuck

Shavuos doesn’t have a whole lot of halacha or even minhag. And Megillas Rus has a whole lot of stuff that teachers would probably rather not go into in depth. So I guess it’s not surprising that we wind up with this… Story by TR. 

For most of my life, I attended Modern Orthodox schools. But I did spend a good chunk of time in a Charedi school where I was a complete fish out of water. However, the following tale is one I think all girls learned at some point in their schooling.

I was sitting with my good friend last Shabbat, an actual Bais Yaakov girl. We were sharing stories and suddenly I realized something. I have a weird “tznius police” character on my shoulder every time a woman bends down. I shall elaborate.

Every girl learns that Ruth is the most tznius woman in all of Tanach. We have this idea drilled into our heads over and over again. Why? Because when Ruth bent down in the field, she bent with her knees softly to the ground. Not at the waist leaving her bottom up in the air. Apparently, all the other women of the field were bending “bottoms up” which is why Ruth stood out.

Every time we had a tznius talk in school, camp, or anywhere else where tznius talks happen – someone mentions that tznius girls “Bend It Like Ruth”. Well I have come to realize that I carry around this weird terror and judgement. Every time I need to bend over I find myself being extremely careful to bend correctly. I’m also afraid that if I by mistake happen to bend the wrong way something ominous and terrible will occur to me. Every single time I see someone else bend over (Jewish or not) I am judging their form. Oh the horror should someone dare to bend “bottoms up” in public near me!

Ladies, last Friday night I realized that I too am brainwashed. Remember – always “Bend It Like Ruth” or you’ll never get a good shidduch.


It’s funny, because I totally identify with this. I don’t know what it is about Shavuos or Megillas Rus, but the one thing that really stuck with me over the years was the bending over lesson. Even stretching after a run I get incredibly self-conscious. I know my skirt is long enough but… the derriere in the air!

And yeah, this also colors my perception of other women. Watching my neighbor garden, I think “she’s bending over — that’s not tznius.” (Even though squatting in a garden is the #1 way to squash your flowers.) Watching the woman pick up litter around the neighborhood I think “Oh gosh she keeps bending over.” No woman bending at the waist is safe from my Tznius Patrol mental critique. 

Of course, if you aren’t trying to stretch your hamstrings (something every religious Jew needs to do; we sit too much) or protect your flowers, squatting is very much the more ergonomic way to go. So thank you Ruth for that, I suppose. 

The One Shavuos Lesson That Really Stuck

One thought on “The One Shavuos Lesson That Really Stuck

  1. It is so odd that Rus is held up as a paragon of tznius. I mean, it’s nice and all that she bent down “modestly,” but what do people think she was doing with Boaz in the barn?

    Also, if Rus stood out as exceptionally tznius because she bent her knees, that means that the norm for Jewish women at the time was to bend from the waist. The implication is that Rus, a Moabite woman, was more tznius than our holy imahos of 3000 years ago, and that bending from the waist would have been an innovation in Israelite modesty mores.


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