Bits of Words Before the Hagim

We are almost at the end of Elul. And this means that the talk around us is about teshuva. Everyone tries to be more critical of themselves, more open to prayer, tzedakah, and understanding of the other. Everyone is thinking of doing more mitzvot. And, looks like everyone is preaching. Zniut! Wow, if we could only save the world by having no more than an inch of leg shown. dress

I remember once I was, actually, told by another woman that my problems in life came from my collar bone being exposed.

Now considering that my skirt is always below the knee, my elbows covered, and no décolleté can be spotted on me ever, I found this comment not only offensive but plain foolish.

We are so obsessed with the idea that a woman’s clothing can determine her attitude, and even fix EVERYONE’S problems with Jewish observance, that we forget that the word zniut means much more than just modesty in clothes. What about modesty in our minds and our behavior? One can be dressed in a long skirt, and be covered overall, but behave so arrogantly that no thought of teshuva will ever enter their mind.

And, it’s quite possible that both arrogance and humility are living in the same person and are pronounced even on the same day.

Tuesday after work, I was walking the street of New York from the Mid to the Upper West Side. The area, as well as my attitude gradually changed as I was walking:

Walking your packed streets

Hearing curses thrice a block

Remind me again – why am I here?

This is how I felt before I reached my destination – Mechon Hadar’s Community Beit Midrash Kick Off. I was happy to see some familiar faces from my Pardes summer learning.

Then, of course, I went to Yaffa‘s class on repentance. She started the class on teshuva with a quote from Rumi. rumiTalk about diversity!

Every one of us in the class, reading and thinking aloud about Adam’s fall, and our pursuit of perfection, which is by definition unattainable, commented that teshuva is really about being able to allow pain to surface, to experience it, and correct your mistakes as much as we can. I left uplifted, and happy to be in that kind of environment again.

Learning Torah, feeling the light within

Buzz in the Beit Midrash, where I belong

This is also my city

May we all work on the right way of teshuva, whatever this “right” may be for each one of us individually.

Shabbat Shalom!




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