This one is from BaisYaakovLiberal:
My teacher was talking about the power of habit. She told a story to illustrate her point. There was a rabbi (sorry, I don’t remember his name) who never put his hand below his waist.
When he passed away, people tried to straighten out his arms [for burial] but they remained straight.
Clueless girl: “Why did he keep his hands there?”
Teacher: “It’s an inyan of zehirus.”
Clueless girl: *Looks confused*
Me: *cracks up*
This past year, while following along in the Chumash, I came across something astounding. It was the story of Reuven switching his father’s bed from one tent to another. Except that’s not actually what it said. The meforshim argue a bit. Nobody likes the pshat. But um, there is the pshat. It’s amazing I missed it for 29 years. Well, not really amazing. What you learn in school colors how you read the text forever after. I’m constantly astounded to discover that what’s in the text, and the Midrashic, Rashi version I remember, are often very, very different stories.
And then there’s the parts you just never learn. For the longest time, I thought Yehuda and Tamar just sat down for tea on the side of the road and chatted for a bit while the other shepherds went on ahead. I didn’t really get why her producing the staff saved her, later on, but whatever. Things were different back then. You can’t ask too many questions about these stories.
So I was amused, but not astounded by this story from Rachel:
It was a normal weekly Shabbos table and we were discussing the parsha. My father said something about Dina being raped by Shechem.
“What? No way!” my sister exclaims. “That’s not what happened. I learned that he married her because she went out and wasn’t tznius.”
My father showed her the Rashi. She was shocked.
Well, the next day in school, my sister couldn’t wait to spread this perspective-changing information. She passed a note to her friend during class. Obviously, that wasn’t the last note on the subject. There was a flurry of back and forth and of course the teacher caught them, confiscated the note, and read it.
Next thing, my mother is getting a call about it from the teacher! Apparently it was inappropriate for my father to teach his daughter Rashi. Or maybe it was inappropriate for my sister to tell her friends the Rashi. Either way, the teacher wanted my mother to know that she was informing the principal about the dissemination of this Rashi through my sister.
Luckily, the principal was more reasonable than the teacher. She told the teacher to let it go, and did not make a big deal out of it.
Story from Rachel.
This story was sent in by Dreamer, who was profoundly innocent for longer than you’d think possible.
I was in eighth grade and and we learned that Rivkah was an akarah for 20 years before she had Yaakov & Esav at the ripe old age of 23.
I raised my hand to ask the obvious (to me) question: “How could she have been an akarah for so long if you can’t even have kids until you’re 12?”
This was a perfectly innocent statement. I had no idea where babies came from or the significance of menarche. I was just repeating a fact I’d been told, probably by my mother when younger.
The teacher looked at me for a very. long. time. Then she ignored me and went on with her lesson.
I still think it’s a valid question.
Editor’s note: I never realized that Rivkah gave birth so young!
From An Anon BY Girl
Bais Yaakov provided me with a wonderful foundation for higher learning.
Yes, you read that right.
See, it started in seventh grade navi class.
We were learning about Dovid HaMelech, who had trouble keeping warm later in life. He had disrespected clothing, that time that he stuck it to Shaul by cutting off a piece of his cloak and going “nyah nyah, look how close I got to you, I could have killed you but I didn’t, who’s the bad guy now.” So clothing refused to keep him warm, and an old man has got to keep warm.
The posuk says:
1 And king David was old, he came into his old age, and they covered him with clothes, but he was not warmed. א וְהַמֶּלֶךְ דָּוִד זָקֵן בָּא בַּיָּמִים וַיְכַסֻּהוּ בַּבְּגָדִים וְלֹא יִחַם לוֹ:
2 And his servants said to him, “Let them seek for my lord the king a young girl, a virgin, and she shall stand before the king, and she shall be to him a warmer, and she shall lie in your lap, and it shall be warm for my lord the king.” בוַיֹּאמְרוּ לוֹ עֲבָדָיו יְבַקְשׁוּ לַאדֹנִי הַמֶּלֶךְ נַעֲרָה בְתוּלָה וְעָמְדָה לִפְנֵי הַמֶּלֶךְ וּתְהִי לוֹ סֹכֶנֶת וְשָׁכְבָה בְחֵיקֶךָ וְחַם לַאדֹנִי הַמֶּלֶךְ:
3 And they sought a beautiful young girl throughout the borders of Israel, and found Abishag the Shunemitess and brought her to the king. גוַיְבַקְשׁוּ נַעֲרָה יָפָה בְּכֹל גְּבוּל יִשְׂרָאֵל וַיִּמְצְאוּ אֶת אֲבִישַׁג הַשּׁוּנַמִּית וַיָּבִאוּ אֹתָהּ לַמֶּלֶךְ:
4 And the young girl was very beautiful, and she was a warmer to the king, and she ministered to him, but the king did not know her. דוְהַנַּעֲרָה יָפָה עַד מְאֹד וַתְּהִי לַמֶּלֶךְ סֹכֶנֶת וַתְּשָׁרְתֵהוּ וְהַמֶּלֶךְ לֹא יְדָעָהּ:
My teacher was a lovely girl, straight out of seminary, doing her year of teaching while waiting for her bashert. In seminary they teach you all sorts of wisdom about teaching. But she must have slept through the day when they discussed how to hide from your students that the Torah actually talks about sex quite openly, even if it was just to clarify that it didn’t happen.
At least we know that she is emesdig and has a hard time lying.
Because when we got to these psukim and she was translating for us, she stuttered and stammered, and said, “They found a young girl to keep him warm. We don’t really know what that means.”
I was too young to look in Metsudas Dovid and Metsudas Tzion on my own then, but this struck me as somewhat puzzling. With all those thousands of years of study, had no one attempted an explanation about how a young girl could keep an old king warm?
When I got home from school that day, I expressed my confusion about this to my mother.
“Of course we know what that means!” she said. She didn’t tell me what it means, though.
After that, I knew that whenever a teacher said something that struck me as “off,” I would do well to find out some more on my own. I developed many methods of finding out information, which of course stood me in good stead when I started college.
And I have to say I’m grateful to my naïve and inexperienced and clueless Bais Yakkov teachers for that.