Our trip is ending soon. I haven't posted a blog in a long time, not because I haven't written any, but because I have been feeling very lost in the world of Orthodox Judaism. I have been cautious and not posting several blogs in fear of offending anyone.
I started my journey here with an aversion to covering my hair. I slowly transitioned from wearing a hat to wrapping my hair with beautiful scarves every day. Around a month ago I felt a strong need to remove my hair covering and feel the wind in my hair. I wanted to look in the mirror and see my hair wrapped around my face. I didn't want to feel compelled to cover my hair. One evening when leaving the gym I felt mischievous and removed my hair covering. I felt alive. I felt free. I decided to continue covering my hair but was open to uncovering it when it felt necessary.
The past several weeks have seen an unraveling of my devotion to covering my hair. I have gone out with my friends and with my husband without a head covering or only a thin shiny headband adoring my hair. And I feel fine. I don't feel like my hair is drawing unnecessary sexual attention.
I am also tired of covering all of my body. Right now it's so hot in Jerusalem and I'm in layers and I smell like a goat. There is not enough deodorant in the world to mask the stink of a hot sweaty mess. I miss my leggings and mini-skirt combo with cotton t-shirt. I longingly look at women in sundresses with their shoulders and arms exposed.
My understanding is women are strongly encouraged to cover their elbows and their knees and their chests to keep men from having inappropriate sexual thoughts. I don't buy it. I look around and I see plenty of men looking at women in sexual ways - women who are fully covered and women who are not. Yesterday on the train I saw a man in black and white (which represents very Orthodox) staring at a 14 year old girl who was fully covered. His eyes roamed all over her body repeatedly. I almost yelled at him across the train to "guard his eyes," because he was so lewd and inappropriate. I have also seen plenty of men in black and white not look at women at all. I'm not calling religious men hypocrites, but I have to disagree that the key to preventing men from having sexual thoughts is forcing women to cover up their entire bodies. If this was true, then women in Arab countries who wore burqas would prevent themselves from being raped or sexually harassed SOURCE .
Men's inability to control their sexuality is their problem. I'm tired of blaming women. I'm tired of learning it's the woman's responsibility to prevent men from behaving inappropriately. A woman who is wearing provocative clothing does not deserve to be raped; a man who rapes a woman is a rapist, that's it. On the other hand, I am bothered by advertisements which primarily rely on the sexuality of women to sell goods. A woman is sexy in barely anything and a man is sexy in a suit. There's a double standard here. Either both should barely wear anything or both should be covered up. Interestingly in Orthodox Judaism both sexes are encouraged to cover up - skin that should not be seen is understood to be impure for both sexes. Our bodies, for both sexes, need to be private in public and saved for our spouses. I respect this concept; however, I have tried and failed to embrace it for my own life. I don't want to only wear skirts and long sleeve tops the rest of my life. I want to wear jeans, I want to tank tops and I want to wear whatever I want without having to apologize or feel stigmatized by my community.
So this has been going back and forth in my mind for the past month. I see the merit in wearing more clothes and I also see the merit in giving less weight of importance on the clothes women wear.
Last week I prayed at one of the holiest places a Jew, or anyone, can pray. I prayed underneath the Muslim Quarter at the closest spot a Jew can pray to the Holy of Holies which is currently housed in the Dome of the Rock. Jews are forbidden by the Muslims and the Orthodox Jewish leaders to enter the building. However, we can pray at the closest point by a small wall adjacent to where we believe God's presence dwells. The Western Wall is actually one of the four walls that are part of the Temple Mount. It has become a sacred spot of Judaism but the holiest part is the Holy of Holies area. If you ever have a chance, take a moment and say hello. It's a righteous spot. I sat by the wall and placed my face against the cool stone and I cried out with all my heart to God. I asked for clarity about covering my hair and my body. I asked for help to understand what did it mean to be a religious Jew. I felt like I got the answers I needed. I walked away feeling comfortable that my relationship with God did not hinge on covering my hair or covering my body. I cried tears that cleaned my soul of the agony I suffered trying to be true to myself and also become someone I thought was "more holy" or living life the "right" way.
I have stepped away from thinking of Orthodox Jews as people who live the right way and a path to work towards attaining. I prefer to be satisfied with where I am instead. I cannot continue to live as myself while secretly thinking someone else is living life better than me. I think there are many paths to a relationship with God. I know I am not done with covering my hair, I bought some beautiful scarves I would wear with pleasure. Perhaps in six months, a year, or twenty years I will decide that covering my hair and my body is the path to God. However, at this point in my life, after many months of trying to live this lifestyle, I am clear that I cannot maintain this way of life. It does not feel true for me right now.
“Hashem (G-d) is close to all who call out to Him, to all who call upon Him in truth” (Psalms 145:18).
It does not say Hashem is close to all those who are righteous. It does not say to all those who are pious. It does not say to all those who are holy.
But to all those who call out. Anyone who calls out to Hashem, Hashem will immediately come near, so to speak. The only criterion is that we must call out to Him in truth. The insignia of Hashem is truth. Hashem loves truth, and knows the truth so there is nothing to hide anyhow. Therefore, speak to Hashem in truth. Speak to Him sincerely and from the depth of your heart, and then Hashem will be very close to you. And when Hashem is close, your prayers and supplications will be willingly accepted (if they are for your best, of course). - Rabbi Yosef Mizrachi
Meet the Blogger!
I'm a mom. A writer. A lover of good fantasy. A proponent of nursing when possible. A birth advocate. I am absolutely horrible at keeping my house clean or the dishes washed or the laundry done. I strongly believe in women having a positive birth. When we start to respect women's rights to birth the way they want, we can start to treat women as equal people in this world.
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