Sunday, May 15, 2011

The Hillary Affair

It’s been a week since this controversy started, and I had resigned from writing about it, as I figured by Sunday people will have turned their attention to new issues.
To my surprise, the affair is still being discussed on the blogs and even on the radio. I can not follow all of it, and it is impossible for me to relate all the sides of the conflict. Most sides had aired their views even before Di Tzeitung published an altered photo of the White House Situation Room.
I do not know the halachic sources that prohibits publishing pictures of women. But considering the fact that this is written by a convert who did not have years in yeshiva to study those issues, this may not be a surprise.
I know plenty of Orthodox--i.e. written and published by Shomrei Torah uMitzvois publications--which publish such photos, of course taking under consideration some (sometimes only basic) standards of Tznius (modesty).
On the other hand, there are many newspapers and magazines which restrain themselves from printing such pictures. There are simply no pictures of women; pictures with women are altered, as these magazines’ standards of tznius do not allow them to place such pictures in their publications at all.
The fact that the picture of the Situation Room was altered by erasing from it Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and another top government female anti-terrorism specialist was wrong for only one reason: the White House did not allow altering their picture.
An apology was issued, and as I understand the White House didn’t have any objections about it--which may be sign that the apology was accepted. Why then, is this issue still in the Jewish media? Why does it still heat the air and computer keyboards?
Some argue that not publishing pictures of women proves that we believe in woman’s inferiority to man. It is so ridiculous that I will not dwell on the topic even for a minute. These people simply have no idea about the position of women in Hareidi and Orthodox society.
One thing I may say only, that such practice shows only inferiority of us – man… nebech.
Some of the disputants argue against altering the photos on the grounds of journalistic ethics. As I understand the ethics of journalism, it mandates that altered photographic material should not alter reality--as if it were not journalism, but rather propaganda. If so, there is no such thing as Jewish journalism; as every single Jewish source of information has and propagate an agenda. That’s how it is. Be it Hareidi or Modern Orthodox, there is almost no informative journalism anywhere within this spectrum. I think it is almost impossible for someone who guides his life by certain moral and religious standards not to have an agenda.
Even when facts are described as they happened, only selected facts are described in different outlets, be it Jewish or even general media. Omitting certain information, even while describing other facts in an honest and truthful manner, may distort reality in an extreme way.
I remember A few years ago there was huge demonstration in front of the Israeli consulate in Manhattan. Something like thirty thousand people were protesting against the killing by Israeli Police forces of Rabbi Daniel Biton. Thirty, ten or even three thousand people protesting anything in Manhattan would be covered in the media, right?
Three thousand visibly orthodox Jews protesting in the front of an Israeli consulate is newsworthy enough to fill up of at least few minutes of the nightly news, or a column of if not the front page, at least the third, of the local newspaper. Isn’t it? No, it wasn’t. Not a single media outlet in the country, proud of their democracy and freedom of press, mentioned this event. Nothing.
Maybe the media was busy with something bigger that night? A few nightly news broadcasts showed tenants picketing a broken sewer pipe in a Bronx apartment house on that very night. I saw some of it myself, and the rest I found through research. It was a shock for me to wake up one day in an America which I had never dreamed about.
But back to the main topic. It is not a rare practice for Hareidi newspapers and magazines to alter the photos of events where our wives and daughters are visible, just as they do with pictures of general events that depict ladies.
Is it Jewish law (Shulchan Aruch) which tells them to do so? Again, I don’t know. But even if it is not so, what is wrong if those outlets have such a practice, trying to meet the standards of tznius of perhaps only few of us? Do I miss anything because of this?
There is a Halacha not to listen to the voice of woman singing. (We will not discuss whether it applies to recordings as well as to live singing.) When I first learned this Halacha I was shocked by the explanation; I was told that a woman’s singing may arouse undesirable thoughts, thoughts a pious man should avoid, as they may lead to sinful acts.
Never in my life had I had such thoughts while listening to, for example, Janis Joplin or even Jean Baez. Nothing. However my rabbi explained to me that there are some people who may have such thoughts, and Halacha generally doesn't discriminate.
If a Hareidi newspaper does something in this spirit, then what is the problem for all the Hareidi bashers (who sometimes appear as if it is their goal in life to find everything to besmear Hareidim). More likely, they are looking for anything which may justify their more-than-lenient positions on key issues and established Halacha by ridiculing their more traditional brothers. Those self-proclaimed “defenders of true Judaism”--who frequently accuse Haredim of creating Hilul Hashem (desecration of Heavenly Name)--so many times bring to the general public issues which should be discussed only within the family, or at least with avoidance of publicity.
Who is really desecrator of the Name?

By Matys Weiser

Below another installment of Rav Hirsch's elucidation of meaning of sfira.

But the Torah remained the eternal and lasting possession, which compensated them for the absence of freedom and land during the centuries of night. Because of Torah and for Torah, freedom and land were once again in store for them one day on the great morrow of rejuvenation. When they counted the days and weeks before God, well might they express the wish that it still "may be His holy Will to build His Sanctuary once more, in our days, and to cause us to find our full share in His Torah!"

Yes, for good reason was it the practice of the Fathers to attach to this counting the hope that "God might one day again turn His favor toward us, give us His blessing, and cause His Countenance to shine among us." Have we not forfeited this favor and lost this blessing only because we had forgotten this very counting, the counting from freedom and land to the festival of the Torah? Did God not for precisely this reason turn away His shining Countenance from us?

Every page of the history of our national downfall testifies to the fact that we forfeited freedom and land only because we conceived of freedom and land as the final and highest purpose. We counted our days and weeks not from freedom and land to the Law, but rather from the Law to freedom and land.

We did not value freedom and land according to Jewish Truth, under which they should be valued only to the extent that they afford us the means to an ever more complete fulfillment of the Godly Law. Instead, in accordance with the popular delusions, we saw the Godly Law as being meaningful to us only in that it afforded, secured, and protected freedom and land for us. However, where we thought we could better and more independently secure and increase freedom and land through other means, acceptable everywhere else, we thoughtlessly exchanged the Godly Law as an impediment which had become useless, antiquated and stale. But this exchange was always a deception; and in the meantime we lost the single condition which permits us to hope for freedom and land.

No comments: