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Mar 30, 2008

They are obsessed with women

Now that the big news has broken, we have to look back and try to figure out how it happened and what our take-away ought to be.

A number of months ago, several RBS residents reached out to Rabbi Yakov Horowitz (Rosh Yeshiva of Darchei Noam in Monsey and head of Project Y.E.S. of Agudas Yisrael) for guidance regarding the violence perpetrated by the kannoim of Bet Shemesh, after which Rav Horowitz bravely wrote several columns condemning the violence in the strongest terms here and here.

At the time, Rav Horowitz said something that turned out to be very prescient.

Rabbi Horowitz said that anybody who is violently forcing his chumrohs on others, and especially those who are physically assaulting women are prime candidates for being sexual predators, pedophiles and wife beaters. He repeatedly told us that over the course of time, it will become evident to all that a disproportionately high percentage of these thugs are not only abusing the women on the buses, but are committing far worse on those close to them. He said that, in his view, these people have a distorted and perverse obsession with women and sexual matters, as opposed to, lehavdil, true tzadikim, whose minds are preoccupied with torah and avodah. Tzadikim and true Chassidim make chumros – on themselves. And never resort to violence on others.

Yesterday, I spoke with Rabbi Horowitz about the subject and he pointed me to the sefer Kav Ha'Yashar chapter 52. The sefer says, I will summarize it briefly, that "A person who busies himself all day with davening with kavanah, and he walks with his tefillin all day long (an unusual behavior – a super-frum chumrah, as men typically remove their tefilin before leaving shul) - it looks like this person is very pious. You think that he must be a kosher and straight person who deals constantly with the holy work of heaven. But you do not really know what is in his heart. As Shlomo HaMelech wrote (in Koheles) - don't be too righteous or too evil, and Chazal said be wary of the "tzvu'im" (hypocrites) - they look like prushim (people who separate themselves from materialism), but they act like zimri, and then they request reward like Pinchas. Rather you should look for someone who is really a tzaddik" – one who is an honest and decent man.

When I asked Rabbi Horowitz what his guidelines were regarding healthy chumros and those mentioned above, he identified three areas:

  1. The chumroh is within the realm of the Torah and established Mesorah, and not way beyond what Mesorah advocates.
  2. The chumroh is personal and not imposed upon others. When a person is obsessed with forcing (as opposed to appropriately inspiring or encouraging others other people to keep those chumrohs), that is an indication something is wrong.
  3. When the person advocating the chumroh is ready to resort to violence to ensure that others adhere to it, that is a clear indication that something is wrong.

Rabbi Horowitz said that the concept of, “Kadesh atzmecha b’mutar lach,” taking on chumrohs – essentially removing oneself from things that are halachicly permitted) is a wonderful thing – especially in these times when society around us is in a moral free-fall. But a chumroh is personal. Nobody has any right to impose his own chumrohs on other people – especially through violence. .

I would like to add my thoughts to those of Rabbi Horowitz.

We, as members of frum society, are quick to denounce any public display of kulah. Yet we never see a public denouncement of people who are keeping chumrohs or any public display of chumrohs. The reason we do not is because we do not want to be seen as less frum or not accepting of someone who wants to do a chumroh and come close to Hashem.

Yet in essence it is the same thing. Just like we denounce the Kulah phenomenon, we need to equally denounce the chumroh phenomenon (not personal chumrohs, but when it meets the criteria mentioned above by Rabbi Horowitz).

I remember once I went to an oneg shabbos with a well respected guest Rabbi. He had a question and answer session and the discussion was centered around dressing Haredi. He said what he said, and I asked why there is such an issue with how to dress and that everyone should look the same. His answer was that dressing the part puts you in the social group. Once you are part of the group, in appearance, you can get away with a lot. If you look the part, they are forgiving on many things you might do not in accordance with the social group. He did not mean anything like what is going on here, he just meant issues of individuality on small scales. But it really includes people doing all sorts of things, even leading to the phenomenon discussed here.

Just because someone dresses from and talks with the words of Hashem, chumrohs Torah, does not mean he is someone that is really within the pale, and it does not mean he is somebody who's ways we need to accept.

This is a phenomenon that is something we should be wary of. When we see these people, just because they look super-frum and talk super-frum, we should be very, very wary of them. Their behavior is an indication that there is more going on behind the picture.

Back to the burqas and the kannoim. The Burqa ladies were not, as far as I know, imposing their way on other people. She had her group of followers, and maybe she used charisma or subconscious methods to get them to follow her, but they seemed to be non-violent and even unobtrusive - just doing their own thing.

The last person you would have expected to hear about this from is the Burqa woman. Yet we see that is where it happened, in the worst kind of way. As the police said, they have never seen anything as bad as the situation they are investigating in this case.

Just as it happened there, "al achas kama v'kama", how much more so, we must be wary of the public display and aggressiveness in enforcing chumrohs on the public.

Tzniyus is not a matter of a hemline or a sheitel style or a thickness of stocking (technical details notwithstanding). Tzniyus is a way of life of being modest and living the way Hashem wants us to. When the outcry is in public to, for example, separate the genders on the buses (and there is nothing wrong with separate buses, just the enforcing and insisting on them when it even comes to the point of using violence) or hang signs or tell people what to wear when they go certain places, that is no longer tzniyus, but the opposite of it.


  1. "We, as members of frum society, are quick to denounce any public display of kulah. Yet we never see a public denouncement of people who are keeping chumrohs or any public display of chumrohs. The reason we do not is because we do not want to be seen as less frum or not accepting of someone who wants to do a chumroh and come close to Hashem."

    Who is the "we," Paleface? :) You read my blog... :)

  2. Excellent post, thank you. I used to have my HS students read an article from '88 (Jewish Action/Rosh Hashana/5749/1988) by Rav Moshe Weinberger called 'Keeping Up With The Katz's - The Chumra Syndrome, An Halachic Inquiry'. They were scandalized to learn that chumrot are NOT automatically appropriate or a good thing. Shows how faulty and distorted our education is...

  3. Excellent is correct. This should be widely disseminated.

  4. Well, I linked to this article on my blog.

    Rafi, this WAS excellent. And this IS one of the things I decry on my blog in general. It's not the chumrahs. It's the chumrah-happy environment (not just Jewish, by the way), and it's VERY dangerous. It's as "slippery a slope" as the other direction (completely shedding Torah and Mitzvos). They are two sides of the same hill.

  5. Am Kshe - thank for the link. But in truth, while you do decry it, in general most of your posts recently are saying how great Barak Obama is... :-)

    The truth is that this is something many bloggers do, and this is possibly why (or partially at least) Rabbi Horowitz is so supportive of the blog world, when most other Rabbonim are not.

    But my saying "we do not" is not referring to a few bloggers who do. We are the exception. Our society in general does not. Maybe we will be able to effect some change, with the rising influence of the blog world, and other media, but for now most of our frum society does not.

  6. Mordechai - is that article available somewhere online? do you have it to email to me? I would like to read it.

  7. Rabbi Horowitz sounds like a smart man.

  8. "People who are forgiving of people lax in their personal performance, even at the risk of missing a morning train themselves, walk with the Grace of Heaven."

    -Sefer Chasidei Yoni

  9. and they also sometimes have to walk to work because they miss the train!

  10. The people associated with the Burqa Babes DID impose their chumros on others.

    These yerushalmi women go around from house to house trying to convince women to stop wearing sheitels, etc.

  11. The whole idea of chumros and the charedization of Klal Yisroel needs some perspective.

    I am classified as "Anglo Charedi" or Charedi light and this move toward extremist ideals scares me.

    We in RBSA may look at these "burqa babes" as crazy (and they are) but how long will it be before our neighborhood begins to take on severe chumros?

    Each year my kid's schools seem to come up with new takanos be it in regard to dress, sport or even as to whether they can wear a knap/shoulder sack (for girls).

    My daughter's school warns us about whom our daughters should associate with (including girls from other Charedi schools).

    The Merkaz stores sport signs about tzinus as well as the billboard size ones on the side of Shefa Shuk.

    Every couple of days there are "well meaning" ushers advising me not to shop in Shefa Shuk.

    None of the local advertising papers seem to allow even a drawing of a girl (and when there is a picture it is fuzzed out).

    I can't believe that this bodes well for us as a neighborhood (or a nation).

    1. Trying to do what's rightMarch 29, 2017 9:49 PM

      so, why do you send your kids to schools like that?
      Why do educated, intelligent people become sheep when it comes to their children's education?

  12. Rafi,

    Shavua Tov. I haven't seen the article online (I did a quick look). Email me, and I can scan it and email it back to you.

    myscher at comcast dot net.

    There haven't been enough articles like it over the years addressing the 'norms' and 'normalacy' (sp?) in halacha.

  13. clearly that is the case, if the only article available for you to show your students is from 1988!

  14. Anon,

    Unless they were actually being forceful, going door-to-door to try to get people to join one's group is no more of an imposition of one's views on others as is a guy going door-to-door selling encyclopedias. Annoying, yes, but not the same as imposing one's views.

  15. yoni - another blog (frumhouse) made a good point comparing it to Rav Sheinberg wearing all the tzitzis. When people approach him and mention they want to do similarly, he forbids them saying it is his personal chumroh and they should not do so. These women, the leader Keren and her followers, really hoped others, everyone else, would follow in her ways. Maybe she did not have the power to push her craziness more than she did, maybe she did not have the energy, who knows why not? But her goal was that others should imitate.

  16. To anonymous from March 30, 2008 1:34 AM:

    To all of us Anglos in R/BS who are worried about the extremism that is taking over -- remember one thing, Rav Nosson Kopshitz, who seems to attend every event at Magen Avos, is directly linked to the extremists. He supports the violence -- he personally called Binyamin Friedman a "Tzadik".

  17. Are we supposed to believe you about Rav Kopshitz,Mr. Anonymous?

  18. Great timing for your post... especially as we go into Pesah and the seasonal shtuth sweeps the Jewish nation, especially in Eretz Yisrael.

    Live free and eat qitniyot... and enjoy soft matzot.

  19. somebody sent to me (maybe it was this anon, maybe a different one) a couple of files in which you see the rabbonim coming out in support of Moshe Friedman and Fisher after he was released from jail after the violent protests. One of the pictures is him sitting with Rav Kopshitz. another is him sitting with Rav Tuvia Weiss (head of the Eidah Haredits) in Rav Kopshitzs house.

    I was saving it for another post, but the picture is real. It does not quote him, but whether he called him or did not call him a tzaddik is irrelevant to the fact that he does support him in his actions.

  20. Rafi,

    I actually thought of R. Scheinberg, but didn't mention it for two reasons. The one you mention, plus, it's not really a new chumrah which he came us with. His goal is to fulfill every existing opinion in regards to tzitzit. It's a very different approach from new syagim, such as men and women sitting in different parts of a bus, or the "burqa".

  21. "Am Kshe - thank for the link. But in truth, while you do decry it, in general most of your posts recently are saying how great Barak Obama is..."

    That's just more recently, and you KNOW it!!! :-) And he IS great!!! After all, we (sort of) share the same first name!

  22. Excellent post Rafi!

    You said:

    "The last person you would have expected to hear about this from is the Burqa woman."

    Actually, my Rebbe called it. When this lunatic, Rabbnit Keren, was first publicized a few months ago my Rebbe said that a woman who covers herself like that is actually exhibiting sign of Z'nus. I don't remember the exact reference, but it was related to the parsha of Tamar and that in acting like a prostitute she covered herself up.

  23. I can confirm the Kopshitz character assessment.

    His last name says everything about him.

    -Really Anonymous

  24. Regarding the comment posted by "Concerned": You're 100% correct that the rules made up by your kids' schools are extreme. The real question is why do you and so many others in this neighborhood choose to send your kids to schools that are not reflective of your values? BTW, I'm surprised that they allow parents to go on the internet.

  25. Trying to do what's rightMarch 29, 2017 9:51 PM

    What disturbs me here is that, Rafi, you yourself send to schools which embrace these humrot, combined with clear disrespect for other Jew.

    1. for example, which schools? most of my kids have been switched to other schools that I do not think fall into that category. one would be debatable

  26. Trying to do what's rightMarch 29, 2017 10:04 PM

    Imagine if, just for one month, all the airtime that rabbanim. teachers and parents put into "tznius" be filled with clarifying the halachic issues which relate to other people's property. Imagine if the rules we learn about Sefirat HaOmer start withe rules regarding what one may or may not use to make one's bonfire, and the obligation to RETURN a shopping cart one "finds" outside. Imagine if, instead of avoiding photographs of women on their fences, local building companies would be obsessed with avoiding building infractions. Imagine if children would obsessively look at their candy wrappers, not for extra hechsherim, but to ensure that they didn't litter.


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