Some people put on a black hat and the whole world - G-d's whole
Torah, all reality around them - turns black, too.
I had dinner with such creatures Friday night.
My hosts - a friend from Seattle and her husband - were informed of my
upcoming arrival on Thursday night. They already had planned guests -
5 young Yeshiva guys from Neve Yaakov's prime (I'm sure) Yeshiva.
Being that it is not of Neve Yaakov's tradition to have Yeshiva boys
at the same table as a female, my hosts immediately called their Rabbi
What does their Rabbi tell them?
"Just introduce her as your sister."
I can elaborate on my impressions of a Rabbi who would suggest such a thing, but I think anyone reading this is just as nauseous.
If something is immodest or inappropriate, why does it matter who I
am? And is this really a circumstance that warrants making a guest
uncomfortable - let alone lying?
I brushed off the absurdity very casually. Some things are so
ridiculous that you can't even try to deal with them in a real way.
I had time to ready myself for the assumed awkwardness that would take
over the night as soon as the young lads arrived. Me and my friend
tested out the best seating strategies. So much thought can be put
into trying to be good, that evil and exploitation are oh so close.
Defying the point of sensitivity to modesty right there, we plotted
out potential circumstances with each seating arrangement. Totally
ridiculous, right? But if I would have refused to play the game and
said, "Whatever, I'm sure it will be fine" then surely I would have
been the one causal with modestly, careless with sin.
In the end, we decided on my friend at the head opposite her husband
and me sitting closely to her left. Two of the unlucky boys would have
to sit on my side, on chairs carefully placed at a good distance from
The circus started as soon as the young men arrived.I was never
actually introduced or officially recognized, so no real lying ever
Wait, back up.
I was recognized, alright.
I never felt myself in the presence of so many male minds like I did
just then. Boy, was I recognized. In a way that went beyond eye
contact, a good Shabbos, or my name. The five young dappers all
huddled on one side of the table, so to avoid actually approaching the
side with my seat that I was now standing behind.
I immediately felt embarrassed. I would practically hear their screams
of "Oh no! What now?" and, drum roll please "Who's going to have to
sit on her side?" It was so obvious what was going on underneath their
hats, inside their flushed out brains.
A total violation of all that is sacred. Right there across the table from me.
Kiddush had to be made. The night had to go on. Two of the boys from
the end eventually had to come to my side.
But the war wasn't over.
They both rushed to my side and had a silent argument over the seat
that was farthest from me. My hosts were making final preparations to
kiddush and the table, so perhaps these boys thought their pathetic
show went unnoticed.
But not by me.
The outright recognition of my female standing made me feel like my
nakedness had just been spread out like a tablecloth. I'm not
accustomed to such outright and deeply rooted immodesty and actually
felt my cheeks get red and my hands shake. It's only the small hint of
comedy in the whole thing that held back my tears.
One of the boys must have finally realized his own ridiculous. He
relented. The other guy won. After inching the seat beside me a little
further away, he took his seat.
I wanted to slap all of them. Like a mother might slap her child who
wanders into the street. Someone has to wake these guys up from their
dangerous slumber, from their blind existence. They think they;re
doing something so right, but their black view of the world has
blocked them from the very reasons they proceed like they do.
They were trying so hard to be holy, but they brought pornography to
the Shabbos table.
To those five yeshiva boys,
You look holy. I'll give you that. Your Rosh Yeshiva would probably
drown in pride from your performance, I must say.
But why did you have to splatter such a chaotic scene? Why did you
have to make an explosion from my presence, and reveal my insides to
each other? Why did you choose to be so aware of me and turn the table
to sin - to total corruption of modesty? Who were you to make me a
victim of your game?
Hear you me. Trust me.
I believe in modestly.
I believe in sacredness.
I believe in the sensitivities that should exist between male and female.
I believe in the strength of certain realities, and the awareness they require.
I believe in borders, and healthy barriers, and the beauty they promote.
I also believe in living the message.
I believe in peoples' feelings.
I believe in being inward, and maintaining subtlety there as well.
You believe in the external.
You believe in rules, in a game.
You believe in the power of sin.
You believe in violent refusal to sit aside a girl at a Shabbos table.
Of course, one of us looks and feels more righteous in the end. Great,
go for it. But don't do it in modesty's name. Modesty and sensitivity
had nothing to do with Friday night's events.
I hope you boys realize and solve the modesty crisis you've created
for yourselves. Before you get married, hopefully. But meanwhile,
please hold back the game, the insane intrusion of others' desire for
true modesty and sanctity.
Keep things in the right place. Don't' spill your issues with sin and
sexuality all over the Shabbos table.
You can go back to your Gemara now.