The Time We Got Handed Bnos Melachim Newsletters

This story is also from Rose. Her conclusion: “Then, two years later the principal got ousted and the school went downhill quickly, and now they’re embroiled in a legal battle and scandal.” 

My principal in elementary school was really good – there’s been some positive stories about her on this blog already. She had a requirement that any paper handed out by any teacher had to be signed by her. Any homework or anything. I remember sitting in her office once because I was in trouble and she had a huge stack of papers to go through for the entire school.

She was very involved.

Once we got handed out a Bnos Melachim newsletter. It had tznius standards that were… not in line with the school’s. Things like your skirts need to be four inches below the waist and four inches of fabric out from the waist (so it isn’t snug), opaque tights and the like.

There were also three stories for inspiration. One was about a girl who threw out her skirts so she could buy new ones, and paid with a post-dated check because she had no money and had none coming in (which I think is technically stealing?)  and for some reason the check didn’t bounce; Hashem magically made the money appear in her account.

One of the other stories was about a woman who wanted to take a class to help her special-needs child. But the class was going to be mixed. She didn’t know what to do — how could she compromise her ideals, but how could she not do everything to help her child? I forget how it worked out, but in the end she didn’t need to compromise.

Many parents read the tznius standards and called the school to complain. They wore nude tights. They didn’t want to have to deal with the inevitable grilling from their 8th graders.

The principal gathered our classes together and came in and apologized that we got handed this newsletter, explaining that the standards expressed therein didn’t match those of the school.

But she added that the story about the special-needs kid’s mother did make her tear up, and she pointed out that disagreeing with something doesn’t mean you have to throw out any value it has.

She also offered to take back any newsletters that anyone wanted to get out of their possession.

The Time We Got Handed Bnos Melachim Newsletters

The Time My Teacher Assumed Too Much

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*

The Time My Teacher Assumed Too Much

Purim Torah

It has come to my attention that the principal of a major metropolitan girls school informed her students that it is not tznius for them to walk in the streets on this most joyous of holidays. They should be quietly slipping in and out of cars, if they must go out.

Don’t let the post title fool you. I didn’t make this up.

Purim Torah

Things My Teacher Said About Tznius

Every once in a while I need to run a new post on this subject, because there’s an endless supply of insane things that Bais Yaakov teachers say on the subject of tznius:

“…that I need to zip my sweater all the way up. Leaving it all the way open looks sloppy, and halfway zipped will attract male attention.”

 

“I had a chassidish teacher in 7th grade who was waaaay too extreme for the girls in my school. Once she was at our class melave malka and was horrified to see that we were all wearing nude tights. She gave us a whole mussar speech about how terrible nude tights are (although most other teachers wore them). She ended with a fiery “Only bulletproof tights are fireproof — from the fires of gehenom!’ We were like “Waaaat?” Then a girl raised her hand and said, “But Mrs.  Principal wears nude tights too. Are you going to tell her this too?”

 

“I was told that my jean skirt is the cause of the churban.”

“Like, retroactively?”

“No, for each generation the Bais Hamikdash is not rebuilt, it’s like we destroyed it, and in our generation, it was my skirt that did it.”

 

“I was told that my jean skirt is the cause of the churban.”

“Like, retroactively?”

“No, for each generation the Bais Hamikdash is not rebuilt, it’s like we destroyed it, and in our generation, it was my skirt that did it.”

 

I was wearing knee  socks that slipped down, revealing an inch of knee. My teacher said, “I’m not used to seeing that much leg.”

Things My Teacher Said About Tznius

The Thing My Teacher Read to Us in Class

This was read to the class in a girls high school: 

Tl;dr — girl insists on wearing her hair immodestly long, dies of brain tumor as a result.

revital_eng – link to pdf

A letter from Revital בס”ד

My dear sisters,

I am writing to you in my last moments, with the last threads of my strength. I am writing to you with blood and tears, from the bottom of my broken and tormented heart. Yes, I, Revital Avraham, 19 years old, am standing on the threshold of death, so young, but already feeling all the gates of life shutting slowly before me. I am like a beautiful flower closing its petals.

Like all of you, I had my dreams about love, husband, children and social position. But Hashem has decided otherwise, and I know today that if I had lived differently, nothing would have happened. I was born in a religious family from the center of Israel. From the day I can remember, I knew I was a beautiful child. From kindergarten, I attracted everybody’s attention, and I knew I had been blessed with a rare beauty, and I am not exaggerating.

Even though people were talking my exceptional beauty, my dear and wise parents tried to minimize the effect of such a gift on me, and made all possible efforts to put the whole family on daily routine. But I was a bright child, and I cherished more and more my beauty. My friends encouragements made me understand that beauty can buy anything in this world – friendship, position and honor. I learned to exploit it for my goals, I wore clothes which draw attention, my very long hair caused astonishment and envy, and every detail in my appearance was thoroughly taken care of. I enjoyed the long looks of people everywhere I went – to my deep regret.

My teachers in high school tried to change my mind, but it was already too late – I was attracted to a magic circle called “to please and be outstanding”. I can remember one of my teachers’ words: “Revital, you have received a rare present, a special beauty – This is your trial in life, keep it carefully for the right person to come in your life”.

I was pretending to be convinced, but these words were just passing by my ears. I was addicted to my looks and did everything to bring people to admiration. I know today that I have caused hundreds or even thousands of people to fail because of my clothing. I was really enjoying it! And then I received a first warning sign.

One evening, while preparing an omelet in the kitchen, and made a brisk turn and my beautiful long hair got caught in the fire and became in seconds a red and fearful flame. I was saved, but my hair had gone. I remember my hysterical crying in the hospital, and my father trying to console me: “Revital, Hashem has made a miracle. You could have been entirely burnt! You have now an opportunity to change and leave your foolish attitude behind you”.

But I didn’t listen. I was 16 years old then, and within two years my hair grew back to what it was, and everything was forgotten. I was the queen of my class. My friends loved me, anything I wanted was granted, and I never was alone. I grew more and more beautiful with the years, and at 16, I began to put on make-up and tight clothes

. At this stage, I even got involved in some trouble. It is hard for me to write about it, but I think you can guess. I forgot to tell you about my grand-mother. She was a wonderful person, a real “Tzadekes” and I loved her very much. She was very sad and upset about my spiritual state of mind. She was giving me money to buy more decent clothes, but nothing helped!

She died before I was 17.

I cried a lot and didn’t know how to live without her, and for a brief period, I even became a little bit more religious. But time eased the pain, and within a few months I was back to my bad habits, boastful and immodest as ever. And then I received a second sign from above.

One night I had a dream about my grandmother. She was sitting on a stone and crying. I asked her why she was crying, and she pointed to her head without saying a word. I woke up very upset, but I forgot the whole thing very quickly, and this second sign melted away without any thought.

And then, I received the big blow. It came gradually but consistently. At the beginning, there were headaches, and my mother said I was tired and studying too much, that I should rest more, but deep down I felt it was something more serious. After a month, I couldn’t even stand because of the headaches, and I thought my head was going to explode. My mother and I were worried and anxious on our way to the doctor, to get the answers to all the examinations and analyses I had been through, but the doctor’s face revealed the fearful truth.

He said: “such a beautiful girl and so sick!” I burst into tears, asked for explanations. My mother and I were disoriented and helpless before this new and cruel reality: I had a cancerous tumor in my head. It was only a question of time. I don’t remember how we got home that day. I just remember tears, fear, confusion and pain.

And suddenly I remembered the dream, my grand-mother crying and pointing to her head! If only I had understood at the time the meaning of that dream, my life would have different! But I didn’t give any importance to this dream and went on with my life.

The next day, at the hospital, I began the treatment I never thought would be so painful. I felt death crawling slowly inside me, burning my bones, my blood, and my whole self.

Dear Hashem…You are all goodness, but I didn’t listen to you. Dear Father, I ignored your compassion and your messages.

The rest of my story is sad and painful, and I don’t even have the strength to write it. My wonderful hair fell [out]. Within a few months I was left completely bald, fearfully pale and weak. Every doctor I met was mentioning my rare beauty, and I, every time, felt my heart break a little bit more. Hashem had given me a precious gift, an outstanding beauty, and I had used it the wrong way, instead of keeping it intact and pure for a true cause.

Oh Hashem! Today I am 19 years old, living a tormented life. My days are counted, my illness is getting stronger and I feel death coming closer. I pray that my suffering be the atonement for my sins. I turn to you, my dear sisters, with a torn soul and a broken heart, and ask you to listen to my last words: be decent. There is Law and there is a Judge. And He sees all and knows all…and every one of our acts will be brought to judgment. I beg you: strengthen your decency, don’t wait for signs, please don’t… Do it for yourselves, do it for me! My pillow is soaked with tears. I am writing with tremendous efforts. Please pray for me and say that you’ll keep decent so that I recover and be healthy again. I beg you… I want to live.

Revital Avraham

Dear sisters, our decency is our power! How important it is!

Revital died a short time after writing this letter. Her last will was a request to publish it. Shall her memory be blessed and her message embraced by all! If you want to help us distribute this letter voluntarily please call 054-8461354

The Thing My Teacher Read to Us in Class

Kimchis: A Story Missing One Line

I think it’s time to revisit another story frequently quoted to Bais Yaakov students — but missing one line that changes it all.

The story is the story of Kimchis. It comes from Talmud Bavli, Yoma 47a and goes like this:

Kimchis had seven sons and all served as Kohanim Gedolim. The sages asked her: What did you do to deserve this? She said, in all my days, the pillars of my house never saw the braid of my hair.

And this is where the story ends, according to Bais Yaakov.

Skeptical students point out that there’s little blessing in having all seven of your children serve in a life-position in your lifetime, as it means they all died in your lifetime as well. This story, if anything, illustrates that the “my son, the doctor — at all costs” kind of  Jewish-mother pride runs deep, and old, and no less perversely than we roll our eyes at today.

But for the less cynical, this story is held up as an example that there is definite reward for taking tznius in general — and hair-covering in particular — to every possible extreme.

The skeptics will again point out that this is hardly a foolproof way to get worthy children, as anyone can see. But one’s own life experience can never be used to argue a Gemara, so this line of thought never gets very far.

I am now including the excerpt from Yoma here, for your examination.

Kimchis

If you actually examine it, you may be surprised. “Wait!” you’ll say. “There’s another line! You highlighted it, but you left it out of the translated quote!”

Yep. There is another line. And it goes like this:

[The sages] said to her: Many have done this and it didn’t work for them.

Yes, the sages were skeptics too. They didn’t think obsessive hair-covering “worked.”

There’s another version in the Yerushalmi, Megillah. In this one, Kimchis says the hair thing, and then she adds another item, about how the walls of her house never saw “imras cheluki.” Which I’ve seen translated as a part of her under-dress (petticoat? Bra strap?). I don’t have a great translation for it, but the nice thing about the internet is that if you put something out there, someone is going to come along and tell you that you’re wrong, so I’m putting this out here and waiting for results.

kimchis2_ink_li

Anyway, the response of the rabbis in the Yerushalmi is that “the flour of Kimchis is the finest quality flour” (it’s a pun on Kimchis = kemach, get it… groan), so in this case, they agreed that what she did was worthy.

So, the rabbis disagree with Kimchis when it’s just her hair. And they agree with her when she adds something about flashing a garment. Which suggests that if there’s any magic formula, it’s probably the garment one. (So let’s hope someone comes along to translate it.) Either way, it’s not the hair.

Yep. You’ve been lied to.

Kimchis: A Story Missing One Line

The Tznius Awareness Patrol

Personally, I’m a fan of dressing modestly. For men, this seems to be impressed naturally; Jewish standards are more closely aligned with secular standards, and the rest (rumpled white shirt, black suit that doesn’t fit) is socially enforced (or enabled). For the female half of the Jewish people, standards are far removed from what is available for purchase by design (“stylish isn’t tznius”) that special training programs have to be instituted to convince teenage girls to go through the effort of dressing as demanded. Here’s a story from lyl about the Tznius Awareness Program in her school, aka, TAP.

One of the main ways our school tried to teach us tznius was through the Rosh Chodesh program. You were allowed to wear whatever you wanted on Rosh Chodesh. At our 9th grade orientation they told us we were not supposed to go out and buy special clothing for Rosh Chodesh; just wear what we had. The idea was that they could give us feedback on our wardrobes. Of course, all of us had heard about rosh chodesh when we got accepted in 8th grade and were instructed by upperclassmen to buy rosh Chodesh skirts.

The way you’d get feedback was, they had these stickers you could wear asking for feedback on what you were wearing. The school’s official statement is that they only give feedback to those students wearing stickers, but students who don’t want feedback will get often coerced into sticker wearing by smiling TAP people. Teachers would carry around buttons that read “I check out” to be given to students who are dressed properly. One year to streamline things the 7th period teachers were tasked with handing out the buttons. So as not to embarrass the students the teacher would call you out of class, ask you to spin around, and tell you what was right or wrong about your outfit. Once, my friend was told by a teacher that she looked so awesome “both hip and tznius” that the teacher wanted to call her out as an example in front of the entire class, but didn’t want to embarrass her.

The darker side was that every Rosh Chodesh, a couple students would be sent home to change. It didn’t matter if half the school was wearing the same offensive skirt; Students whose skirts were deemed too tight would be sent home each Rosh Chodesh as an example to us all. You never knew if it was going to be you or your friend, even if you were dressed identically. That happened to a friend once. She said she didn’t know why she even came back to school after; if they send you home, stay home. She started wearing the uniform on Rosh Chodesh that year.

Around that time was when those tube skirts came into style. You know those stretchy, t-shirt fabric skirts people use for layering these days? Everyone had them. Some people could get away with wearing them on Rosh Chodesh and some people couldn’t. To explain why, a teacher gave us a quick lesson on how we have to be aware of how our “bottom looks” in one of those skirts. Which is just another way of saying, if you have any curves, wear a muumuu. I had curves and I really wanted to wear those skirts, but that’s another story.

Eventually, most people did buy a Rosh Chodesh wardrobe. It was easier (if not cheaper) than going through the eyeballing and selection process. Other students just wore their uniform to school on Rosh Chodesh as well. One of my friends got kudos from the (male) principal for it. He generally kept away from all the hemline analyzing, but would give out buttons to the girls who wore their uniforms.

The Tznius Awareness Patrol