Sep 30, 2014

Pouring Fuel on the Fire

This picture is the title of a brochure called "aWEARness," from 2002.  aWEARness was an organization that produced brochures pamphlets etc. to promote tznius among frum people.  In case it's not large enough to make out: It shows a bus in Israel destroyed by a suicide bomber with a Tehillim above the flames and it asks whether we can extinguish the fire of destruction with the tears of our Tehillim while simultaneously pouring the gasoline of immodesty on the flames.  I found the four page flyer in shul. That's just the front cover. It contained divrei Torah and stories.

It is a very blunt, provocative message, inspired by those who say that calamities are predominantly caused by extensive loshon hara and lack of tzinus.  This is supported by the fact that where the Torah discusses tumah, the Torah says: ‘I, Hashem, will be dwell among them in the midst of their uncleanness.’ Meaning that even when the Jewish people are not worthy, Hashem is with them. The only place where it says Hashem does not dwell with them is when there is ervah (nakedness). The Torah says, if there is immodesty, ervah, Hashem says I leave.” This (immodesty) is the only issue upon which Hashem’s presence being with us or not depends.  

טו. כִּי יְהֹוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ מִתְהַלֵּךְ | בְּקֶרֶב מַחֲנֶךָ לְהַצִּילְךָ וְלָתֵת אֹיְבֶיךָ לְפָנֶיךָ וְהָיָה מַחֲנֶיךָ קָדוֹשׁ וְלֹא יִרְאֶה בְךָ עֶרְוַת דָּבָר וְשָׁב מֵאַחֲרֶיךָ: For the Lord, your God, goes along in the midst of your camp, to rescue you and to deliver your enemies before you. [Therefore,] your camp shall be holy, so that He should not see anything unseemly among you and would turn away from you. (Devarim 23:15)

What angers people greatly is the presumption that we can declare which sins cause tragedies.  After all, there are also the serious sins of bittul Torah, stealing, talking in shul during davening and chilul Shabbos.  But the point here is not to say immodesty causes tragedies.  There's a concept known as "tovel v'sheretz b'yado" - immersing (for purity) while holding a creeping creature (which confers impurity). The cover of this 4 sided brochure conveys this point. It notes the incongruity of praying for Hashem's mercy while simultaneously transgressing His will. It is not aimed at tinokim sh'nishbu. It is aimed at those who have learned the halachos. So the question for those who vehemently disagree with this method of promoting tznius is: Do you disagree with the premise? Do you think you can extinguish the fire while fueling the flames?

If yes, what is your reasoning? Is it that you compartmentalize and say that Hashem accepts your Tehillim while ignoring lack of tznius?

What if you wanted something from your boss or had an important meeting arranged with the mayor on behalf of the Jewish community. Do you think your boss would be receptive to your request if you didn't get around to completing the work he assigned you, although he had told you about the deadline? Do you think the mayor would be amenable to your request if you had just made the headlines for being caught doing something illegal?

to be continued

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