Shabbos Makeup for Dummies

Photo from blog.showmakeup.com

I just read two crazy articles in the Daily Mail and New York Post that discuss ways to make cosmetics last throughout Shabbos and Yom Tov.  The articles interview orthodox women who have developed creative methods for extending the wear of their makeup for 24-48 hours.  Some of the tips mentioned were:

– sipping soup through a straw on Friday night so as not to disturb their lipstick

– telling their husbands not to touch them on Shabbos or Yom Tov for fear of ruining their makeup

– putting on rouge in multiple layers to make it last

– not eating anything oily over Shabbos or Yom Tov so that skin won’t get greasy and makeup slick off

– using a black Sharpie permanent marker as eyeliner before Shabbos or Yom Tov

– spraying hairspray over eyes and cheeks to set makeup into place (only an expensive brand like $25 Kenra spray does the trick)

– use  ‘a whole pound of gel and mousse’ in your hair before Shabbos or Yom Tov so that it stays put the entire time

– sleep with a sock over your head to keep hair from becoming frizzy

– apply ‘drag queen foundation’ before Shabbos and sleep all night on your back

I enjoy wearing makeup with the best of them, but some of this advice is ridiculous and dangerous.  I certainly hope that people take these suggestions with a grain of salt.  I don’t think it’s common for orthodox Jewish women to put permanent marker on their eyes or spray hairspray into their faces to make their makeup last all Shabbos.   I have never witnessed a woman sipping soup through a straw in order to preserve her lipstick, and I would imagine that most would be embarrassed in front of hosts or guests to do so.

Of course, many of us would like to be able to wear our weekday makeup on Shabbos or Yom Tov.  That being said, for me, following the advice above would take away from the simcha of Shabbos and Yom Tov.  I just can’t bring myself to care that much about my makeup that I would alter my behavior to such an extent.  One consolation is that since we aren’t allowed to take photos on Shabbos or Yom Tov, there is no evidence of how pale or blotchy we look without it!

Kosher Jews?

Photo from mspkosher.org

Reading a Jewish Press article the other week on the Women of the Wall controversy, one phrase stood out.  It was in this paragraph –

“A senior UTJ source told Kikar Hashabbat that they’re not looking to create a counter provocation, only to prove to all the people of Israel that kosher Jewish women are the true women of the Wall, who pray and supplicate by the Kotel year-round, not just on Rosh Chodesh, and not to start riots.”

In general, the first thing people think of when they hear the word kosher is food.  Kosher refers to the laws that govern all things food related for the Jewish people.  Nowadays, the term kosher has expanded to mean, “proper” or “reputable,” regarding any type transaction or situation.  There is also the flip side of “not kosher” meaning, “unacceptable” or “disreputable.”

Of course, I have heard the description of “kosher” used before to describe people.  The most commonly used example is that of kosher aidim, or, orthodox Jewish men who can serve as witnesses in Jewish legal proceedings.  For example, at an orthodox Jewish wedding, there needs to be two orthodox Jewish male witnesses to watch the groom put the ring on the bride’s finger.  The ketubah, or wedding contract, also needs to be signed by two orthodox Jewish male witnesses.   The witnesses cannot be related to the bride or groom.  A man who is not religiously observant is not considered to be a valid witness, hence, not kosher.

Somehow, hearing about a “kosher witness” from a legal perspective, makes it less distasteful.  I suppose I liken the term to knowledgeable or unknowledgeable in the ways of halacha (Jewish law).  It is better to have someone as a witness to a legal ceremony who understands the meaning behind the proceedings and all the steps entailed.  However, hearing the term “kosher” or “not kosher” applied to people as a means of insulting someone’s character, or, elevating another’s character based on their subjective level of religious observance, bothers me.

I feel like the distinction made between a “kosher Jew” and a “non-kosher Jew” only serves to divide the secular and religious communities even further.  You can tell how strongly frum people feel toward things that are treif (non-kosher) and things that are kosher by their reactions to mistakenly eating non-kosher food.  This article in Matzav shows the horror people feel when seeing orthodox children being given treif food by their babysitters.  Another article in The Jewish Week describes a recent kosher scandal where a store owner in California is accused of smuggling in non-certified meat and passing it off as kosher.

As a Jew who keeps kosher, I would also be very upset at being duped into believing I was buying kosher products, only to find out they were treif (especially at the exorbitant prices charged for kosher food!).  I also have had issues where babysitters have inadvertently brought non-kosher food into my home, and had to establish a zero tolerance policy for outside food.  However, I would never apply a zero tolerance policy toward another human being, especially a Jew, because they were less religiously observant than me.

I feel like the term kosher reduces people to objects, like pieces of meat, and self appointed judges can pronounce others kosher or treif on a whim.  Is the illusive achdus Jews hope to achieve only to be sought out with other Jews who look and behave like themselves?  Doesn’t achdus means that we care for and respect all Jews regardless of our differences?

Coming from a family of non-observant Jews, I can honestly say that in their hearts and minds, if not in their level of observance, they were kosher.  I have met so many orthodox people who talk the talk, but don’t walk the walk (I am including myself in this category at certain times in my life).  Standing side by side to be chosen as a kosher aid for a chuppah, the Jew wearing a black hat and suit would surely be chosen over my Grandpa Max in his denim work overalls and wool cap .  However, the likelihood would be that Grandpa, a good man down to his very soul, would be the true kosher witness to such an event.

Who is to say which is more important, bein adam l’chavero (commandments dealing with man and his fellow man) or bein adam l’Makom (commandments dealing with one’s relationship with God)?  Only Hashem can decide who is a “kosher Jew” and who is treif.

Now They Want Them to Pray in Public?

Women Of The Wall Attacked

Photo from Huffington Post and Getty Images

May 9, 2013 6:00pm

Haaretz reports that Rabbi Aharon Leib Shteinman has instructed the principals of girls’ seminaries in the Jerusalem area to send their students to conduct prayer services at the Western Wall this Friday morning.  Religious Zionist rabbis have also called for such a protest.  For the first time since their legal victory permitting them to pray at the Kotel outside of orthodox customs, the Women of the Wall (WOW), will hold their monthly Rosh Chodesh services.

I find it amusing that although the haredi community is decrying the victory of Women of the Wall, at the same time, they are inspired to encourage their girls to join WOW at the Kotel by holding counter services. This is the first time in recent memory that a Kol Koreh (call to action) has been issued concerning women, that doesn’t have anything to do with skirt lengths.

Shira Pruce, Director of Public Relations for the original Women of the Wall told The Jewish Press that she was honored and delighted for having inspired so many thousands of women to come and pray at the Kotel on Rosh Chodesh.

“If women of the Wall has inspired thousands of women to come to the Kotel, Amen V’amen,” she said.

For a community obsessed with wiping female images from the public eye, why send its girls right into the lens? Surely, the haredi rabbanim must know that the Kotel will be swarming with media taking videos and pictures on the women’s side.  Journalists are just waiting for a fight to break out tomorrow, although the rabbanim are calling for no violence.

It seems that when it serves the haredi community’s purposes, it’s fine to have women standing front and center posing for the cameras.  Haredi men finally got the memo that they look like misogynistic bullies, yelling and throwing things at non-haredi women coming to daven at the Kotel.  Now they are sending their women, really their girls, to fight this public relations battle for them.

If these seminary girls were truly outraged by the Women of the Wall, wouldn’t they have staged their own protest at the Kotel a long time ago?  To me, it seems like they are puppets on a string.  When the leader of a community instructs his followers to do something, are they really doing it of their own accord?

Despite the media circus, I hope that all girls and women davening at the Kotel on Friday are able to do so with kavvana and emunah.  They should have their tefillot answered for this new month of Sivan, whatever those prayers may be.

Update – Friday May 10, 2013 6:40am

Apparently the seminary girls really were a front for the agenda of the ultra orthodox rabbis in Jerusalem.  Ynet reported that haredim clashed violently with 400 Women of the Wall worshipers during their Rosh Chodesh services.  According to the article:

“A mass brawl erupted at the site at around 6:30 am, during which garbage, water, coffee and various objects were flung at dozens of Women of the Wall and police forming a human barrier between the female group and the ultra-Orthodox………..

Yaakov, a 21-year-old haredi, said, “What these women are doing is disgraceful and against the Torah. We will continue to fight them. A woman draped in a tallit (prayer shawl) is ridiculous. Jews do not act this way. I am willing to get arrested. Some things justify a violent reaction.”

The Jerusalem Post reported that men were also spitting on the women and girls trying to pray:

“Rabbi Susan Silverman, comedian Sarah Silverman’s sister who prays with the Women of the Wall, was at the protest where she said that haredi men spit globs of spit on her three daughters. she told The Jerusalem Post. Silverman also said that the haredim threw coffee at the Women of the Wall activists and that a little girl next to her was hit in the head with something hard.”

To see photos of the conflict, see this Vos Iz Neias article.

That civil war that MK Uri Ariel predicted? Well, it’s happening.  Ultra orthodox men made sure of that this morning with their violent behavior.  Instead of confining the issue to compromising over the orthodox monopoly on prayer services at the Kotel, the issue has now been expanded to a war between secular and religious, modern orthodox and ultra orthodox.  It is tragic that this divide happened at the only remaining edifice of our Beis Hamikdash.

Conflict at Kotel as Women of the Wall Hold Prayers

JPostTV: Thousands of haredim protest Women of the Wall prayers at Kotel

Haredi Orthodox youth mob Western Wall in protest of women’s prayer service

Devorah Leff Bat Mitzvah with Women of the Wall

Haredi protesters confront ‘Women of the Wall’: clashes erupt at Western Wall in Jerusalem

Spies Like Us

Photo from winnipegfreepress.com

Twenty years ago, when my grandmother A”H, heard that I was moving to an orthodox community, she said, “Be prepared for everyone to get into your business.”  I had to smile at that, because my grandmother was one of the most gentle souls I have ever known, and not one to bad mouth any individual or community.

However, my grandma had been raised in a Jewish community in Russia, moved to another tight knit Jewish community on the west side of Chicago, and then moved again to the north side of Chicago next to a synagogue and quite a few orthodox neighbors.  She knew what she was talking about.  Despite living in a community that decries loshon horah or gossip of any kind, people around here sure seem to be well informed on the comings and goings of their brethren.  Well, sort of.

It’s not that people are peeping out their window curtains with spy glasses, it’s just that when you live in homes and apartments that are in such close proximity to each other, you naturally bump into your neighbors quite often.  Sometimes I think I have my exits and entries synchronized to my surrounding neighbors.  It seems like whenever I go out to my car, or pull back up in front of my house, at least one or two other folks are pulling up beside me.  If I ever think I can get away with quickly poking my uncovered head out the door to grab the morning paper, think again!  Those pesky Lubavitch Mesivta bachorim are filing past my front lawn on their way to their morning mikvah dip.

I have had times when people’s assumptions have left me stumped.  Like the time my neighbor asked me where my family went on our vacation.  What vacation?  “Oh, you know, the one you came back from last week?”  Huh?  “Yes, I saw your husband carrying suitcases out of your car!”  After a minute, I realized that she must have been referring to my husband bringing home our son from yeshiva for the weekend.

There was also the doozy when someone called me with concern to say that she had heard my husband had bacterial meningitis.  There was an unfortunate case of fatal meningitis in our community at that time.  My husband had recently lost a good deal of weight, and somehow, some people translated his weight loss to mean that he was the next victim of this deadly disease in our community.   Around that same time, someone else called to ask me if my husband had developed a brain tumor, as she knew someone with brain cancer who had also lost a lot of weight quickly.  Refute, nod, and smile.

Most of the time, I have to laugh as the misinterpretations that happen when people only rely on quick glimpses to form opinions.  However, sometimes these harmless mistakes in judgement can have more onerous results.  When we stop having accidental sightings of our fellow Jews that may or may not be incriminating, and start forming squads to purposely spy on our community members, there can be devastating consequences.

I am referring to the much written about London Modesty Violation Hotline.  As I don’t live in the Stamford Hill community in England, I can’t say if the Union of Orthodox Hebrew Congregations claim is true – that the hotline has been created due to public demand.  Maybe they are having some kind of major tznius crisis over there, with women walking down the lane in garments requiring double sided tape and jeggings with booty pad inserts.

My guess is that the women who live in the hotline’s targeted community are probably some of the most tzanua women in the orthodox world.  I’m beginning to think the modesty stringencies won’t stop until every last orthodox Jewish woman is wearing a burqa.

Why is it not mesirah to inform upon your fellow Jew?  Is it ok because the majority of tznius violations will inevitably be charged upon women?  The Shmuz website had an interesting dvar torah for Parshas Shelach that relates to spying on your fellow Jews,

“The Chofetz Chaim points out to us that the Torah reserves a curse for one who “hits his neighbor while hiding.” Chazal explain that this refers to someone who speaks loshon harah about his friend. Why am I so cavalier about what I say about him? Because he isn’t here. If he were standing right nearby, I would never say what I said. I say it only because he isn’t around. And in that sense I am hitting him while hiding.”

The hotline creators, Va’ad L’Toihar Hamachneh (Committee for the Purity of the Camp), make it clear that the privacy of the spy will be protected, even as the privacy of the accused’s won’t.  This sort of behavior seems to be exactly what the Chofetz Chaim is describing.  Where is the derech eretz in making snap judgements about people’s outer appearances or behaviors, and escalating the situation by calling a hotline of modesty enforcers?

Life experience has taught me that my judgement of others, and their judgement of me, is sometimes way off.  Sometimes the faulty conclusions are funny, sometimes disturbing, but sometimes life altering.  Even if the men running the hotline are only there to inform the perpetrator of the allegations and not issue a punishment, there will be repercussions for the woman being reported.  She might be punished by her parents, her husband, or lose the respect of her children.  Perhaps her eligibility for a shidduch will be diminished, her children’s enrollment at day school might be at risk, or her employment within the community threatened.

I have heard it said that Hashem judges each of us with the same compassion with which we judge others.  I expect, upon entering Olam Haba in 120 years, these holy members of the Va’ad L’Toihar Hamachneh will be greeted by rows of angels manning phone banks and hearing, “Call on line two!  Pick up line four please!  There’s a call on line ten!”

Yom Yerushalayim – A Day of Unity

Photo from zalmi.blogspot.com

Today is Yom Yerushalayim, also known as Jerusalem Day.  Yom Yerushalyim commemorates Jerusalem’s reunification in 1967.   This day begins on the 28th day of the month of Iyyar in the Hebrew calendar.  This date is significant in many ways, but one of the most important is the reclaiming of the Kotel for the Jewish people.

The Kotel has been in the news a lot lately because of the Women of the Wall controversy.   The issue has spread from women fighting for the right to wear tallisim, tefillin, and sing aloud at the Kotel, to the right of Jews of every denomination to be able to pray there in the custom that they prefer – and not be limited by the local orthodox custom.

I personally believe that for a universal Jewish symbol, such as the Kotel, there is no such thing as a “local custom.”  Just because there are Jews that live in close proximity to the Kotel, and there are Jews that are employed by the Kotel landmark, does not mean that their customs take precedence over another Jew’s from Australia, Denmark, the United States, or anywhere else in the world.  The Kotel belongs to every Jew, and every Jew has the right to feel at home there.

When I was “coming up” in the orthodox world, I met quite a few baalei teshuvahs who had spent time in Israel.  This was in the 1990s.  Many of them mentioned that they began their journey through an orthodox person coming up to them at the Kotel and asking if they needed help with the davening, or helping them to put on tefillin, or asking them if they had a place for shabbos.  The Kotel was used as a kiruv opportunity for many of the “locals” who lived and taught nearby.  What the heck happened?

How have relations deteriorated between the orthodox and the secular to the point where both sides see the other as enemies?  Both sides can only lose by cutting off the other.  How is it that a religion that prides itself on valuing the neshama (soul) over the guf (body) is so judgmental about outer appearances?  Why is a man not wearing a kippah or a woman wearing pants automatically dismissed as a lost cause?  Doesn’t someone not wearing a frum uniform still have a Jewish soul?  Aren’t they still a life put here on earth by Hashem?

I can tell you that this kind of dismissal hurts first hand.  I remember when I first joined my orthodox community and was “shul hopping.”  I was trying to find a congregation where I would feel comfortable as a newbie to the orthodox world.  Being a rather shy person who doesn’t like large crowds, I first went looking at some of the smaller congregations in my area.  I found one synagogue that didn’t have a lot of young people, but was quaint and cozy, and the davening didn’t go so fast that I couldn’t keep up.  I went there for a month or two, until one day, there was an onsite shul barbecue.

The barbecue was on a Sunday, the day I normally spent time with my parents.  I invited them to come along, excited to introduce them to my new spiritual stomping grounds.  I felt a little bit anxious, because my parents were not quite as excited about my new found religious zeal as I was.   I was hoping that the small size of the group and the fact that many of the congregants were in their age bracket would help make them feel at home.

Looking back, I know that we stood out by our mode of dress.  My father did not wear a kippah (he may have taken one from the kippah bin in the lobby after arriving), my mother wore slacks and short sleeves, and neither she nor I were covering our hair.  Although I had been davening there for a some weeks, I really hadn’t gotten to know the majority of the congregants beyond saying, “Good shabbos.”  We did get some curious looks at the food booths, as if to say, “How did they find their way here?’

I found the inner sanctuary to be beautiful, and knew that my mother would appreciate seeing the inside.  I asked her to come indoors with me so that I could show her the shul.  We went inside and as I opened the door to the women’s section, I felt someone tap me on the shoulder.  I turned around to find an annoyed middle-aged woman staring us down.

This “keeper of the crypt” informed me that no one was allowed inside the building at this time.  I tried to explain that I simply wanted to show my mother the beautiful interior of the shul.  She reiterated that “they” didn’t want people “running around” inside the building and making a mess during the barbeque.  Indignant, I took my mother’s hand and we marched away out of the building, as the woman stood like a sentry blocking the door to the beis knesset.

I believe that if my mother and I had been dressed in below the knee skirts, long sleeves, and wigs it would not have been a problem if we wanted to take a peek inside the shul.   It was the fact that we were obvious outsiders, and didn’t belong, that was the real problem.  However, I did belong more than she knew, as one of my husband’s relatives was actually a board member of the shul.  My husband let his relative know what happened, and he gave her a call.  To be fair, she left an apologetic message on my answering machine.  But, being an immature person in my early twenties, I chose to ignore the call instead of explaining why her attitude had been so hurtful.

You see, I was so hoping to make a positive impression on my non-frum parents.  I wanted them to see how non-judgmental and welcoming the orthodox community could be.  I was not off to an auspicious start.

You never know what spark lies within someone.  Fortunately, I was already committed to a life of torah observance, and I wasn’t going to let one Debbie Downer get in the way of my goals.  However, my parents, not so much.  It isn’t that this one woman caused them not to be religious.  That decision was due to many factors that took place mostly before I was even born.  It’s that this woman could have made a possible difference in causing them to become religious.  At the very least, she could have made a kiddush Hashem and left them with a positive impression of religious Jews.  One positive interaction is all it takes.

This to me, is the tragedy of the Kotel controversy.  How many opportunities to turn Jews onto Judaism have been missed?  How many Jews have come to their homeland, only to be made to feel like they don’t belong?  Is the kiruv boom over, and a new wariness of secular Jews taken over?  It’s ironic that this is all coming to a head at the holiest Jewish site in the world.  Can we really expect the Beis Hamikdosh to be rebuilt under this growing sinas chinam (baseless hatred)?  Yom Yerushalayim is a day of unity and celebration for every Jew.  Those of us who are outwardly religious need to be aware of the power we hold in our hands – the power to turn a spark into a bright flame or the power to extinguish that spark forever.