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Sep 18, 2011

Dear Man

A Guest Post by Shoshanna Jaskoll

Dear Man,

Hi, its me, Woman. It’s... been a while. And even longer since we frolicked in the garden of Eden, huh? Was nice back then... before you told me that God said not to touch the tree, but actually, what He said was not to eat from the tree…

Such a world of difference between touching and eating- don’t you think? Like the difference between looking and lusting? Between appreciating and desiring? Between wanting and taking…

But I digress. When the snake proved that I would not die by touching the tree, I thought perhaps you had misunderstood, that the message somehow was incorrect. For you would never mislead me.

But, how to show you? So, I took of the fruit and gave you to eat too... and then, the world went black.

It was then that you revealed that the prohibition had been against eating from the tree and not as you had taught me, from touching the tree. You told me that we had just betrayed our Creator.

I wanted to die. I didn’t understand why you had told me something false; something that was not commanded of us. But I had no time to contemplate, for you told me to hide and to make us clothing.

And then He searched for us- called out and asked where you were. And you did the one thing I could never have expected.

You betrayed me- and as you did the world changed. The garden, so green and glorious, dulled to a shadow of what had been. The vibrant cobalt sky paled in shame of your act. The Earth hardened herself against you.

I was your other half, the being you longed for, the only other person in the entire universe. And yet, you screamed out:

‘The woman you gave me- She made me eat!’

I can still hear that scream; it resonates in my soul and in the pieces of my heart.

And it reaches through the years and translates into Yiddish, in the Pashkevilles plastered on the streets, in the tomatoes, eggs and stink bombs thrown at my daughters.

It’s the women! The women are our downfall!

You are still screaming. And I am still hurting.


I have watched over the years as slowly, my daughters have gotten out from underneath the shame of the sin you foisted upon me. I have seen them grow more educated, more respected, and more successful in all fields.

They contribute so much to the world.

I will not allow you to take that from them, to make them feel shame, to hide their accomplishments to throw YOUR sins upon their shoulders.

It has been said that in secular law men have rights, but in Judaism men have responsibilities.

It’s a subtle difference, but it is the entire difference.

You see, according our Creator’s actual word each of us must fulfill our obligations

Man, it is your responsibility to fulfill your commandments and to not transgress your prohibitions.

It is upon you to ensure that you fulfill your obligations.

It is not your right to insist that others fulfill theirs.

It is not our obligation to arrange our lives, dress and behavior according to your warped and distorted interpretation of Gd’s word.

You are erasing my daughters from the society in which they were born and belong. You blur them from pictures, refuse them the right to go to school in peace and persecute them for your failings.

We are to cover up- to be modest lest you sin because of us. And yet, when this modesty infringes on your pleasure, a witch hunt ensues.

You scream our sins from rooftops as you hide behind dirty diapers. You harass my daughters off of buses. You cut off their voices to make yourselves more comfortable.

But who holds you accountable, Man?

Understand this.

My daughters are stronger than I was. They are not so naïve. They no longer rely on your interpretations to tell them how to act.

We are educated. We are wise. We are proud.

We will not let you shame us again.

Gd gave us free choice. It is not yours to take away


  1. A beautiful modern Midrash. Thank you, Shoshana. It made me cry.

  2. Brilliant article!

  3. Wow! I love this. I live in a tiny town in America and probably do not understand fully the ramifications of this article, but it needed to be said. I only wish we could scream this from the rooftops. It's a delicate balance to to be a partner in Creation and yet a humble quiet creature. The power we hold as women should be revered and respected, but most of the time it is punished and silenced. It's better, but it's not perfect. Todah Raba!

  4. Shoshanna, a very powerful and resonating piece. However I wish you would not be guilty yourself of precisely what you write against and shut men as men. I reject all forms of original sin, be they catholic or feminist.

  5. Anonymous: It is cowardly for you to respond to this post, which beautifully expresses the plight of women in today's society, from behind a pseudonym. One may not have to agree with the author but at least have enough courage to show your name and stand by your words.

  6. This was not a man-bash. All good men need to fight this too!l And I say to you and other good men, apologies, but it needed to be said.

  7. Excellent article! Love it.

  8. For this I gave up Lilith?


  9. Kol Hakavod! Well done. Don't apologize - it definitely needed to be said.

  10. Dear 'Anonymous2'-

    Its not me that says men need to work the land and provide for their family- thats straight Torah. Rashi, Rambam... etc worked! But if you and your wife want it to be that she carries and births your kids and then leaves them with a stranger so she can go to work and still live on very little- that is YOUR CHOICE. Leave my choice as mine.

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  12. It is totally unacceptable (and totally asur) to personally and publicly attack someone. Rafi. I ask that you remove that comment by anonymous3

  13. hey anonymous three,

    in what imaginary utopian planet do you live where people just prance around and get all their needs paid for by others??????????? others that have bills to pay, kids to feed and yet still get criticized and disrespected by IDIOTS like you???

    well, im waiting for an answer

    and just in case you forgot....DERECH ERETZ KADMA LATORAH

  14. Dear anonymouses,

    ארור מכה רעהו בסתר ואמר כל העם אמן.

    Now go back to your caves.

  15. I can't believe I have to elucidate this, but here goes. This is not a rant against chareidim. Full Stop. Try reading. Just read. Then think.

  16. whoa. im anno 1 and i dont agree with anno 2 and three's harsh comments. my point was only that shoshana is clearly spewing familiar rhetoric using the orot situation as a springboard. its wrong. its being what i quoted before,

    "‘The woman you gave me- She made me eat!’

    I can still hear that scream; it resonates in my soul and in the pieces of my heart.

    And it reaches through the years and translates into Yiddish, in the Pashkevilles plastered on the streets, in the tomatoes, eggs and stink bombs thrown at my daughters.

    It’s the women! The women are our downfall!"

  17. I have said this before to you Shoshanna and I will say it again - take a forthright and intelligent woman and think of her personality as though she is a man and tell me honestly do you now have a problem with her strength, her honestly and her judgment. I don’t think you all would - so stop judging so harshly people!

  18. Anon 2 and 3. I am prepared to put my name against my comments and you are not.

    RafiG, maybe you should just close the comments here?

  19. The fact that there are people who attack anonymously on the Internet does not make it a good thing. If you have something to say, come into the open, choose your words as you would when speaking to the person face to face and say it. It is cowardly to hide behind the supposed anonymity of the Internet (and BTW the Internet is not anonymous, a web site owner has identifying information of everyone who visits it) in order to make ad hominem attacks.

    Incidentally a good article to read on the subject of Internet etiquette is this characteristically excellent article by Rav Yuval Cherlow.

  20. a name doesn't lend any legitimacy to an argument like this. what would it change? The arguments are based off of the writers essay. its not a "with me or against me" situation. raffe gold made that mistake and we haven't heard from him since. come on! Orot is a terrible thing and these guys are wrong but what does that have to do with this essay!! are you people reading it?

  21. i see the essay as more about an overall attitude. orot, the burqas, face blurring are all symptoms of the overall attitude

  22. the work issue has been removed from the post. it was added as an afterthought and the author asked me to remove it. feel free to discuss the main point of the article, and not the one line that became a diversion

  23. "anon'

    a- he said worse things than that

    b- No

    c- i find it interesting that all the cowards who cannot put names to their words but fling mud at everyone focus on one line of the entire post that Rafi G correctly summarized. It is an overall attitude. That erases women from society and makes anything feminine asur until they have use for it.

    I do find it disgustingly ironic that those who do this ALSO send their women out into the work force which normally means they must be educated.

    Also, I will no longer be responding to anyone lacking the dignity and respect for themselves and their peers by not signing their names. If you'd like to call me names and rant about that- go for it. I'm not interested.

    and FTR- my only agenda is for all allowed to have their relationship to Gd and people without other people defining it or judging us for it.

  24. i never mentioned the work issue. Do you think that the problems in BS between the charedim and DL is because of inequalities to women?

  25. Many women (probably not all) are more than happy to go work while the husband learns. If this is the case, why does it bother you?

    Well, they are taught that it is the right thing to do from an early age. What else do you expect them to think?

    But I am against all types of anti-Torah teaching to our children, including this kind (that men are supposed to learn and not work).

  26. An amazing post from the heart. To the cowards who hide behind "anonymous" I can only say cower as we know the evil and fear that lurk in your heart, to scared to show yourself even by name on a blog. I salute the author and have nothing but disdain for the so-called members of my gender who sully all men with their reprehensible behavior.

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  29. And thanks to all of you who have shown support. It really means a lot and i hope that together we can fight this tendency towards extremism and end it before more of our daughters are hurt by it.

  30. I agree, in theory perhaps, that all extremism needs to be fought including the extremism of the dati leumi slash modern orthodox. I am just not sure where you see that extremism, and how often. How often are DL extremists fighting to force their ways on other people?
    And no, I do not consider talking to be attempts at forcing. People can talk all they want, the extremists are the ones who use violence to achieve their goals. So when are dati leumi extremists using such methods to achieve goals (of what i am not sure - getting chareidim to work? to join the army? to take away buildings? to vote mafdal?)

    I am not really sure where DL extremists are and what they are trying to achieve, but in theory I agree

  31. just talk doesnt an extremist make.

    ex·trem·ist (k-strmst)
    One who advocates or resorts to measures beyond the norm, especially in politics.

    is talking, or not respecting, really resorting to measures beyond the norm?
    if that's the worst type of extremism the DL can come up with, the chareidim, extreme or otherwise, have nothing to worry about

  32. Rafi G(Money). My point is that the deti leumi/modern orthodox are not accepting of the differences of the chareidim just like the chareidim are not accepting of the differences of the dati leumi. Both are wrong and both want the other side to be like them. There are 70 faces of Torah and each Jew's soul is naturally attracted to a certain type of Judaism. One neshama connects to what the dati leumi movement stands for and another neshama connects to what the chareidim stand for. If both were to understand that each neshama is different we would not try to go change the other person. Here I am talking about regular chareidim. I am not talking about the particular sect in BS. They have big issues.

  33. Thank you so much, Shoshanna, for voicing profound truths. And thanks, Rafi, for the *hachnasat orchim*. I'd like to join in the discussion and apologize, in advance, for the length of my post.

    Though our girls are older, I try to do my part at Orot as often as I can at dismissal time (and was around for both tomato and eggs incidents.. not fun..)in order to form some kind of barrier between the thugs and the innocent girls (and boys)who have no idea why they provoke such reactions from strange men in black.

    I believe these offenses have to be dealt with legally and I have tremendous respect and appreciation for Rabbi Dov Lipman and all the others who tirelessly work to bring that about.

    However, I want to sharpen some points underlying Shoshanna's beautifully-expressed message, if I may.

    As I see it, the bottom line of the particular Jewish-male-mindset Shoshanna describes is that the essence of women (and, obviously, this is a generalization, but broad strokes will be helpful here, I hope) has to do with their sexuality. Unlike men, who are credited with so many components and dimensions, women are perceived, first of all, vis a vis their physiological make-up. As this touches on biological, erotic, emotional elements, I think it is this that explains the fear and sense of threat that men who don't "get beyond" the very initial differences between the genders, feel and act upon. To these men, women are constant threats, just waiting to corrupt and lead them astray, rather than equal-worth partners in life's journeys, blessed with the same God-given capabilities, gifts, visions, goals, values that they themselves have. What a waste and what a shame.

    There is much to say about Halacha here (*hilchot yichud*, *kol isha*, *eshet ish* etc.) and how it might reflect some of this, but I don't want to overstay my welcome..

  34. Beautiful post Shoshana. On a practical level I think there's a way to disable anonymous posting.

  35. This is anonymous commenter #26. I just want to say I think it is getting confusing with all the different anonymous posters. ;-)

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  37. Rachely-

    Thank you for actually reading and comprehending the message. Your insights are spot on and part of the greater discussion that must be had if we are to move on as a people and not destroy ourselves from within.

    As I mentioned, this extremism is not just in over/undersexed grown men objectifying and shouting 'schnitzel' at little girls and using them in their battle of dominance in a given area, but in the removal of women from publications, shul lists, magazines etc. For Gd's sake they blurred styrafome heads!! This is far from normal, but it is becoming our norm.

    Yes, we as a people have a lot of fixing to do, but the BM was not destroyed because little girls went to school or because women rode on the front donkey!!

    Thank you for bringing the discussion back to where it should be.

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  41. Thank you, Shoshanna.

    Personally, I decided to no longer read the new business magazine, after I saw how women were not respectfully represented in it in the last issue, and have boycotted the no. 11 bus for many months now, finding the (now legally forbidden)separation on it humiliating.

    Yishar kochech. I, for one, am right behind you!

    but in the removal of women from publications, shul lists, magazines etc. For Gd's sake they blurred styrafome heads!! This is far from normal, but it is becoming our norm.

  42. Oops, sorry for copying part of Shoshanna's message into mine (I wanted to relate to it clearly while writing) and not deleting. My mistake.

  43. Anon 8:19am - The BHM was destroyed because of Sinas Chinam, ie. telling chareidim that they need to go to work because that is what I respect.

    I'm not sure if this statement falls under sinat chinam. I suppose it depends on motivations. If a person simply hates Charedim and thinks they should be punished by working (serving army, etc), then perhaps it does. But that isn't the view of most people who want Charedim to work. Most people who want Charedim to work, want it because they realize that a country with a sizable and growing percentage of people that don't regularly work is damaging to the economy, and because of the growth over the long-term may be fatal to the economy (and perhaps even country). As far as the national service issue, the motivations are also rarely from the hatred, but more because national service is a kind of common denominator that unifies a nation and gives each person a common stake in its survival. Outside of Charedim, the army unifies the country like nothing else does.

  44. anonymous of 8:06 - that was inappropriate and uncalled for.

  45. Although perhaps 8:06 has shown why some men shouldn't be allowed on the internet. Or in the streets.

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  48. Kind of a kooky post, but I agree with your point. Two areas you may have wanted to give a little more thought to: 1."You scream our sins from rooftops." You make it sound like an actual sin. In reality, there is no sin, only an alleged sin, or an accused sin. 2. "It is not our obligation to arrange our lives, dress and behavior according to your warped and distorted interpretation of Gd’s word." This is the problem I have with sharing these articles with my secular friends. Why stoop to their level and attack their beliefs? Is it not their beliefs that you are taking issue with, but their imposition on your young children and innocent citizens, right? I really wish there was a better quality in writing on your part. This is not a personal attack, rather a critique I have about most of the Dati-Leumi posts I see in response to this terrible abuse. They are too emotional, kooky/inappropriately sassy, and frankly, the fringe Haredim who are doing this don't care about your feelings, sorry. Reason? Maybe. A clear rebuke from what they consider a higher power, or a Rav, Maybe a little more. Let's focus on the issue here: They are abusing young children in the name of G-d.

  49. I would interject that the pictures are not charedi but they are kannoi/kitzoni

  50. Sara-

    While it was the event that brought all of this to a boil, the Orot Banot issue is not THE issue of this piece. the issue of this piece is the constant and increasingly extreme measures taken to erase them from Jewish society in these circles.

    If you see a need for a certain type of article I sincerely suggest you write it- and pass it on!

  51. Shoshana: I'm a terrible writer, and I'm far away from this conflict, but maybe if I had all the facts! You say that there are "constant and increasingly extreme measures taken to erase them from Jewish society." Do you have any examples? Is this drawn from the chants of "Shiksa" etc. It's hard to know all of this in Nevada, but is that what these specific Haredim are alleging? That these girls should be cut off from Judaism? Why? Because of a difference of opinion in Sniut? I'm very curious, and would love to research this for my own Jewish education.

  52. Sarah, examples to fortify Shoshanna's claim, most of which she alluded to in her article:

    In the Orot context, which I can testify to, personally:

    1. Calling the girls "shikses". No, I don't think they thought out the Halachic repercussions, only came up with the cruellest slander in their jargon.

    2. Yelling "prtizes" at them, as they walk by.

    3. Protesting the very presence of a girl's school in their neighborhood (it isn't really theirs, but that's a different issue). If it were a boy's school - it would be all right.

    In other contexts:
    4. Blurring images of women in publications, including those of young girls and even dolls.

    5. When matching pictures of professionals to their names in a local magazine, there are no pictures of the women professionals.

    5. In the Haredi neighborhood, adjacent to mine, there is a sign asking women to walk only on the sidewalk opposite a certain shul.

    6. Certain posts in the BS list, advertising Torah lessons and other religious events, call for men's attendance only (and I don't mean shiurim with women-only or men-only contents, if there is such a thing).

    7. This I have not seen, only heard of, so I can't vouch for its accuracy - a certain food stand in RBS serves men alone (?!)

    8. The no. 11 bus line, in which it is expected for women to get on from the back side of the bus and not the front (this is now illegal, but from what I've seen, the women take this upon themselves just the same).

  53. Rachely, thanks for your reply. Yes, there is a larger issue here. I personally think that regardless of what is assur and what is permitted, I feel that indeed, this is a by-product of Israel, in it's democracy and good-will, coddling certain Charedim and allowing them to function in too much isolation a little too much. It's turning some into literal terrorists. I'm talking specifically about the ones who don't contribute to their country, and the ones who are given a runway to abuse young girls while the police stand there with their hands "tied". If they don't believe in the State of Israel, then why are they there, and why are they being allowed to make everyone's lives (specifically those who make it possible for them to live there) miserable? If they don't like it, they can get out. Where in the world can they live their lives completely unchecked as they can in Israel? It's verbal, emotional, and physical abuse when grown men yell out perverse rants to little girls, throw objects at them, and smoke in their faces as they are leaving school. Please let me know if there's anything you'd like us to do here in the States. My community is modern orthodox, some Charedi but normal, so I'd be preaching to the choir. I've also been reluctant to be very vocal of this, as I have many non-Jewish friends, and this is such a giant chilul Hashem, on their part, but it inevitably reflects as a whole.

  54. I also wanted to say how sorry I am that you have to go through this. We are rooting for you.

  55. Thanks, Sarah, for your empathy and support. Yes, we have much to work out here, building and shaping our State. Such multi-layered considerations, pressures, opposing interests and values etc.. But hopefully, God is with us here, guiding us along, and we'll eventually get it right :)!!
    Shana tova to you!


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