Dec 26, 2007

Letters to the Editor: mehadrin (separate) buses

The Mishpacha (Hebrew) magazine a couple of weeks ago ran a "Letter to the Editor" about the separate buses. This past week they ran another "Letter to the Editor" that was a response to the original. I do not have the original any longer, but the response quotes the relevant part of the original, so I will rely on that...

[the original letter is quoted]"On the way to a Haredi city, they requested from 4 grandmothers (they were not so old and infirm) to move out of the front sets of 8 seats. The young man asked politely and was holding a letter from the Rav of the town (a recommendation? a demand? a request?). Of course we did not refuse his polite request. Still, all my life I grew up with the concept that the front rows of seats on the bus are for the handicapped and/or older people. What will happen to [the mitzva of] Respecting the elders?"

[the response now begins]"I, reading this, want to note:
1. Why is it called a "polite" request and not a "just" request? Honored grandmothers, the ones that had enough energy and strength to walk to the bus-stop, to wait for the bus, to alight the bus, suddenly they have no more energy to take a few more steps further into the bus in order to avoid causing (even if only m'safek - even if only possibly avoiding) men to falter with an issur d'oraisa?
2. If they were grandmothers, how can they not be aware that not too many years ago smoking was allowed on buses by law and people smoked with no limitations. Yet today if anybody would dare smoke on the bus, and if people would "politely" request the person stop smoking, would the person write a letter to a respectable newspaper that he did no refuse a "polite" request even though he grew up and remembers a time when smoking on buses was permitted?
3. What about [the mitzva of] And you should be holy, that is written in the Torah?"

This letter leaves me without many words.
I am not sure what issur d'oraisa" the writer is referring to in point #1. Looking at women is an issur d'oraisa? it does not say it anywhere in the Torah. It might be a middas chassidus, but an issur d'oraisa? I doubt he can be referring to erva in general, because he does not say there were dressed improperly, or their hair was uncovered, which even then I am not so sure it is an issur d'oraisa.
If the men are concerned about issurei d'oraisa (that as far as I know do not exist), they do not have to look. That in no way obligates the women to move to the back of the bus.

I am not sure how he compares elderly in the front of the bus to smoking on a bus. Smoking has been declared illegal. Elderly sitting in the front of the bus is not illegal.

If you go to any parking lot or public place, the reserved seats or parking spaces for the handicapped and the elderly (when applicable) are always in the easy access areas and where it would be quicker for them to come and go (closer to the stores, near the aisles and/or front of a room), etc. It is basic humanity, aside from the mitzva of respecting the elderly, to be considerate of the elderly. Yet this fellow says "If they could walk this far, they can walk a little farther".


  1. 2 more points:

    1) Even if there would be an issur d'oraisa involved for men to sit near women on a bus, the men could sit in the back.

    2) The writer of the letter used a different passuk, but one which is often thrown around in this context is "v'hayu machanecha kodesh" (I may be slightly mis-quoting, since I'm doing it from memory and am too lazy to check it out). The funny thing about this phrase is that it has to do with a battle-camp (specifically, burying your own excrement when you relieve yourself in a battle setting), which chareidim in general (let's face it, they are the ones throwing it around) hold is an environment which is not an appropriate place for "good" Jews.

  2. 1.he did not say the issur was for sitting next to them. I assumed he was referring to looking at them. If the men sat in the back, they would still be looking at them. Of course, they could always avert their eyes as the mussar sfarim say a person should always have his eyes cast downward...

    2.v'hayu machanecha kadosh is a quote oft used in this context, but that was not the one used in this letter. it was "v'hiskadashtem v'heyeetem kdoshim"...

  3. mipnei saivah takum, vehadarta pnei zakain apparently is only middas chasidus

  4. when i was 13 i spent the summer with my grandparents in sanhedria meruchevet (jerusalem). the buses went through a lot of haredi neighborhoods, and there were always women with lots of kids getting on. my grandfather taught me to always get up for them. today he would probably get beaten up as an enabler of pritzus for giving his seat in the front to women.

  5. Whatever happened to good old fashioned derech eretz?


  6. shaya - the original letter quoted the passuk vehadarta pnei zakein... I translated it simply as respect your elders.. the second letter contrasted that with the passuk vhiskadashtem

    wbm - derech eretz does not take precedence over an "issur d'oraisa" (from the letter writer's point of view)

    lion - yes he might be stoned...

  7. vlo sasuru i.e. looking.

  8. lakewood - I just looked it up to make sure I remembered correctly. Lo sasuru is not an issur in looking. It is an issur to follow your eyes and temptations... the ramban says it is referring to "minus" (apikorsus/heresy) and avodah zara. Others say it is regarding any aveira/taava. Nobody (at least not the direct meforshim in the mikraos gedolos) says it is referring specifically to arayos. And even if it is, as being included under any aveira, lo sasuru just means to not follow up on your desires, not to not look....

    And anyways, I do not think this situation was one where arayos was on display. These were (probably) modestly and appropriately dressed women. That is not arayos.

  9. I didn't appreciate the responder's tone. Makes me wonder who was older the old ladies writing originally or the responder.

  10. Having the women ride in the back of the bus brings our "american" collective memory back to a time when a particular ethnic group were being forced to ride "in the back of the bus".

    People are so concerned with being "frum" that derech eretz gets forgotten. Chaval this is what we are comming to?

  11. What chutzpa.. what business does have to decide that they have enough koach to walk to the back of the bus ?!?!

    I was taught never to ask my mother or grandmother to ever bring me stuff even if it was small and eas.. its not polite to say "hey mom can you get me a cup?" get up and get it yourself..

    So hasidim in america that ride the bus / train are over on a lo saseh ? rightttt


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