Thursday, March 20, 2008


Striving for Holiness

by Akiva at Mystical Paths

Shiloh commented: "Modest is fine, but who's standards? One must wear a Jewish burka? We have a heck of a lot bigger problems then this version of 'spilling the seed'!! Damn will we ever wake up, I sadly doubt it. I completely understand why so many Jews run from Torah when it's been so misrepresented by erev rav for so many years. As a dog returns to his vomit so does a fool return to his foolishness. We better wake up, and that goes for all the power hungry rabbi's."

It has been taught, Gemora Niddah end of chapter 3, "An oath is administered to him [before birth, warning him]: 'Be righteous and be not wicked...'". (Opening words of Tanya)

We are obligated to strive to be righteous, to literally be a kingdom of priests, a holy people. Therefore, we have mitzvot of Hashem in abundance with which to focus upon, and by doing so, by following the commands of our Father in Heaven, particularly when they differ from the desires of this world, we are righteous and come a little closer to Heaven in this world.

But that's only half the battle. We must turn away from evil, we must suppress our desires for the gross physicality of this world. We must run from the blatant displays of sexuality of our times, and turn our backs on the excesses and rampant materialism.

At the obvious levels, that's easy. Guard your borders (watch what enters your eyes and ears). Don't get involved in activities that would immerse you within inappropriate influences. Build an appropriate environment around oneself.

However, this striving never stops. We want to get closer to Hashem. We've done all the above, now what? Now is where we must CLOSELY follow the examples of our gedolim, our holy sages, the holy leaders of our generation. For as we're striving, we can go too far...

There is a Baal Shem Tov story about a rav who was so afraid of violating any of the even most minor or unintentional provisions of Shabbat that he would sit quietly, in the dark, in his chair throughout Shabbat. (Because, for example, if he moved he could step on an insect or cause the air to move affecting the wick of the candle.) While he was ultra-meticulous in every negative detail of Shabbat, he completely lost the essence _and_ the mitzvah.

Judaism doesn't have monks. We aren't celibate, we don't sit quietly. We live life, and involve Hashem in this world, and our lives with Hashem. We celebrate the gift of live and the opportunties it brings, for our bodies and mitzvot and for our neshamas (souls).

(There are a very few exceptions. Mekubalim, kabbalists, to reach the highest spiritual levels required for their particular path, need to purify themselves from many aspects of the material world.)

An area of frequent conflict in all the above is Tzniut, modesty. We want holiness in our communities and environment. We don't want to see inappropriate images or revealing styles of dress. The Yetzer Hara (evil inclination) for physical relations is the 2nd strongest in this world (only the desire for physical survival, food, breathing, etc, are stronger). We must both use it properly and keep it tightly guarded.

Yet, what's "modest"? Modesty is a community standard, it changes with the time and place. What's reasonable in Brooklyn may not be reasonable in Meah Shearim. What was reasonable after World War II may not be reasonable after 60 years of relatively peaceful times.

This is where leadership is critical. A free for all, decide what you want, just doesn't fly. We must refer to our holy leaders to use their best judgment to set community standards. In this day and age of everyone decides his own path and complete personal freedom, the idea of a community standard to which one must abide seems to just drive people crazy. It's not democratic! It's not right! I can do what I want!

Welcome to the ways of the Yetzer Hara!

The photos above show a woman from a tiny group who's leader, striving for extremes of holiness, has set a standard requiring a BURKA for the Jewish women who follow her. This is not a Purim costume nor a Purim joke. No one, no religious authority, considers this required or desirable. Further, my daughter's first reaction upon seeing this was "I thought we're not supposed to dress in the way of the nations, and even more so our declared enemies." Is this the opposite extreme, also a trick of the Yetzer? Just taking "our own chochma", our own thinking, too far? Or a trend of the future?

Support the Path! - Posted at Mystical Paths,


  1. If models would wear this as a new trend, you would soon start seeing the whole country copying them...

    Anyway, I find the burka to be fascinating

  2. Anonymous:If you find the burka fascinating, you better start wearing it!:) if you lived in a country where you were forced to wear it,you would be calling the ones making you wear it fascists and dictators.

  3. Jews who wear (or force their wives to wear) burkas - it's like they're hiding from Hashem instead of reaching out to Hashem.

  4. If I wasn't scared that I'd be eventually forced to wear it, I'd say so what?! Let them do their avoda how they think best.

    My only concern is that it will eventually be imposed upon me.

  5. ??????????????
    whats her problem?


Welcome to Mystical Paths comments. Have your say here, but please keep the tone reasonably civil and avoid lashon hara.

Your comments are governed by our Terms of Use, Privacy, and Comments policies. We reserve the right to delete or edit your comments for any reason, or use them in a future article. That said, YOU are responsible for YOUR comments - not us.

Related Posts with Thumbnails