Sunday, January 12, 2014

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Impressed with the words of the Belzer

by Reb Akiva @ Mystical Paths

We frequently hear words of the gedolim – the Torah leaders of the generation.  But sadly these words are often filtered by the news, by the listeners, adjusted and changed for the points the listeners want to make – or even taking questions asked for a specific situation or specific person and told they apply to the klal (to all the [charedi] Jewish people).

Because of this we tend to hear EXTREME statements, RIDICULOUS positions and sometimes almost silly generalizations.  In hearing these we, G-d forbid, lose respect for the gedolim – the Torah leaders.  We question their wisdom, their Torah, and if they even understand circumstances people find themselves in today.  This is absolutely an attack of the Yetzer Hara, the evil inclination.  And it’s a double sided attack…

Not only is someone being convinced to zealously publicize words taken out of context, but we’re then affected by hearing it… We both lose! 

Today a synopsis of a speak by the Bezler Rebbe, shlita, to the women of his chassidus, was published.  By hearing the whole thing we hear that their Rebbe is not some crazy extremist, he’s wisely setting reasonable standards – reasonable for his community and not ridiculous even by objective religious standards!  He understands where his community is at, what he needs to strengthen, and what aspects need to simply be managed or lived with.

Here’s what he said…  REMEMBER, the target audience is Belzer Chassidic Women, among the most strict ultra-orthodox charedi communities in the world by ANY standard.

Addressing a kenos (conference) for the women in the Belz (ultra-orthodox charedi chassidic) community, the Rebbe Shlita instructed them to speak only in Yiddish and to be makpid (stand strong on the issue) on modest attire. “One does not have to dress in a displeasing way, but there is a moderate road” the Rebbe told the women.

The Rebbe explained it is insufficient to gather and acknowledge and praise HaKodosh Baruch Hu (the Holy One, Blessed Be He) but we must all accept a certain lifestyle and look ahead to the future. The tzibur (the congregation / community) must act appropriately, in line with “yiddisher kinder in a bayis Yehudi and bnos Yisrael (in like with Jewish children living in a religious home and the ways of the holy daughters of Israel)”.

The kenos on Wednesday night…was attended by thousands of women. The Rebbe… explained the matter of tznius (modesty) does not require explanation “for each one understands what is meant here”. He encourages the women to form groups that will study sifrei mussar (holy religious books of ethical teachings) and one may speak words of hisorarus (strengthening) with the others when they gather or travel to mekomos kedoshim (holy sites – a common practice for women to travel to Jewish holy sites throughout Israel and say prayers). The Rebbe encourages group recital of Tehillim (Psalms) as well as recitation on the individual level.

The Rebbe quoted the Chazon Ish (leading Israel rabbi – Torah leader of 2 generations ago), who was asked about modesty and that the Gemara (Talmud) teaches us how we have an evil inclination too, and Torah study is the medicine to counter this. Women however are not commanded to limud (learning) Torah so how can they conquer their yetzer hora. The Rebbe explained the Chazon Ish responded women accomplish this by modesty, adding it is critical for women to dress and speak appropriately, and this means in Yiddish and to take care not to speak loshon hora (gossip) or rechilus (spreading rumors). Clothing should not be too long or too short and certainly not too tight. Care must be taken to watch over the children, boys and girls alike, and how they interact with one another. “It is the job of parents to watch over children in the home” the Rebbe added.

The Rebbe then addressed the importance of wives supporting and encouraging husbands limud Torah, “even at the expense of time at home”, adding each chossid must set aside times for limud, and how must more so is the wives’ job critical when it comes to fulltime limud. The Rebbe acknowledges that one’s life style in this world may be marginal but this will earn them a fine lifestyle in the World to Come. He warns of those who have fallen in their Avodas Hashem (decreased in their mitzvot observance and divine service) because they failed to designate time for limud. The Rebbe did acknowledge that B”H there are countless number of avreichim (full time Torah learners – but he is not demanding that people be that) who are dedicated and applying themselves as they should to their limud Torah.

The Rebbe spoke of marrying off the children and when engaged in shidduchim (finding a spouse), one should not view oneself too big or small, and the same for the family of a potential shidduch. A recipe for shalom bayis (a good marriage) is not to become involved in the personal lives of the young couple if they can avoid doing so. Even when there is a need to comment or criticize, one should try doing so in a general vein rather than directing remarks at the young ones. The Rebbe warns intervention may take a toll on the shalom bayis of the young couple chas v’sholom (G-d forbid).

The Rebbe speaks of keeping a budget to permit managing with one’s income. This applies to marrying off the children too. One must remember when making a first chasenah (wedding) that there are other children at home too. Despite the fact we must live with faith and bitachon (trust) in HaKodesh Baruch Hu, a home must be managed with fiscal responsibility and one should not spend what one does not have.

The Rebbe adds it is a given that women must cover their heads following their chasenah and it is preferable not with a wig (it is a Jewish religious law for marriage women to cover their hair – different orthodox Jewish sects have different customs on HOW they do so). Those who wear a wig should have it covered as well, with a scarf of hat and not to follow those who simply wear a ribbon or band on a shteitel (wig) for this is not sufficient. One’s wig should not be the same color as one’s own hair and it should not be too long, for these are contrary to modesty standards (per the Rebbe setting of standards for HIS chassidic community – though for a top strict ultra-orthodox chassidic community, this is a pretty reasonable standard).

Care must be taken not to have unblocked (unfiltered) internet connectivity in the home or workplace for those who require connectivity, especially in a place where children may have access. This holds true for men and women alike and even kosher (filtered) internet is only permitted when it is required for parnasa (for one’s work or business).

The Rebbe concluded quoting Shlomo HaMelech ’שקר החן והבל היופי, אשה יראת ה’ היא תתהלל’, Glamor is a lie and beauty is vanity, but a woman who fears G-d is to be praised’, citing there is a difference if one wishes to dress elegantly for one’s husband or children, but one must dress appropriately when one goes into the street to avoid having people turn around and look.

“I hope I did not speak too little or too much. I said words that cannot be misinterpreted. I said everything in a direct succinct fashion to avoid any misunderstanding.”

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