(For more ideas about Tziniut,
Modern novels, movies, magazines, and
television programs which fantasize and glorify the notion of "romantic
love" are describing a type of ideal relationship that may exist in
literary form or in the poetic imagination, but which bears very little
resemblance to what love is all about in the everyday world of real life.
People who read love stories or watch TV should realize that while
courtship, chivalry, romance and passion do play their separate and
respective roles in the dramatic awakening and eventual attainment of
satisfaction in love, these are all elements in a process, but they do not
by any means add up to the whole of the love experience.
Nor is romantic love an end in itself, so that it cannot and should not be
accepted in defense of any type of behavior in any male-female
relationship which is less than a properly controlled one. Such
explanations as "We couldn't help ourselves, we just fell in love," or,
"We didn't realize what was happening" are excuses, not reasons, because
people usually do realize very well indeed what is happening. They all too
often try to convince themselves that certain forms of intimacy are
justified because the two individuals concerned happen to be truly in
love. To fool oneself through this tactic is to lose control over oneself.
Romantic love is not always related to real love, especially when it
ignores the true personalities and mutual interest of those involved. To
be ruled by one's emotions and feelings, uncontrolled and undirected by
logic, values and clear thinking, with no clear sense of goals and
responsibility, is to ignore the only factors which can establish a firm
foundation for a permanent and mature life-long relationship.
The theme repeated everywhere in novels and movies is that "I am in love
and my love is beyond my control"; "I fell in love"; it was as though
someone pushed me off a cliff and it was all accidental and unintentional.
The Jewish approach warns us not to "love in spite of yourself," but to
love "because of yourself." Find out what you're headed for. Enter into
the love relationship with your eyes open, not with your eyes closed.
Don't accept blind dates, unless you know who the potential partner is.
If you find that you are "falling," realize while your eyes are still
open, while you can still think clearly and objectively, who this person
is for whom you are falling. By whom, I refer to background, commitment,
education, character, personality, family, friends, values, concern for
others, goals and ideals -- the things that really count -- not the
external, superficial things, some of which may be "put on."
Fall in love with the real person inside the skin. Fall in love
deliberately, with control, not on the rebound, or because you're
simply "in love with love." Fall in love only after you have come to know
yourself, not because you feel insecure and think "no one loves me," and
not because you don't get along with your parents and are anxious to leave
home. Don't let your craving for acceptance or love lead you to throw
yourself at the first person who gives you a tumble or is "pliable" in
All this is a matter of decency, honesty and fairness to yourself, to the
other person involved, and to your family and Jewish tradition. It is a
pre-condition of authentic and lasting love. Let the woman use her
"feminine charm"; it's her legitimate prerogative, a healthy manifestation
of her femininity. It's quite one thing to be charmed by it, but don't be
taken in. Don't let it blind you; don't fall for it. If you take the
romantic love angle too seriously, you will lose your proper place in the
marital relationship and, with it, lose your dignity and your role as
master of your destiny.
Young men, too, often employ a trickery more harmful and more dangerous
than that employed by women. There is no ultimate danger if a girl employs
her femininity to charm a young man into turning a fleeting interest into
a more serious one. Young men, however, sometimes deceive a young woman
into thinking that they are in love, while all they want is a physical
relationship. Intimacy without true love, commitment and permanence is a
price too high to pay.
FRIENDSHIP BEFORE MARRIAGE
Why does Jewish tradition demand that the relationship between men and
women before marriage stop at the point of physical contact? And why is
such restraint, forbidding even mere "touching" ("negiah" in Hebrew) so
crucial a factor in the successful observance of those laws that define
the Jewish standards of family loyalty and interpersonal relationships?
Jewish law states that once a young woman begins menstruating, she assumes
the status of nidah, and remains, from that point on, "off limits" in
regard to physical contact with men, until the day of her marriage. Just
prior to her marriage ceremony she removes the nidah status, in accordance
with Jewish law, by immersing herself in the waters of a mikveh (a body of
water used only for spiritual sanctification), and may then be approached
by her husband. As a married woman she becomes nidah once again with each
onset of a menstrual period, marital relations must then be suspended
until she immerses herself once more in a mikveh, at least one week after
the completion of each menstrual period.
It will be acknowledged, even by those unaware of this law, that the sense
of touch in male-female relationships often constitutes a type of
borderline where simple association begins to pass from the area of
friendship into the area of intimacy. In any male-female relationship, it
is easier to maintain self control up to the point of physical contact
because, from the moment of contact on, control becomes much more
difficult. Also, once the principle of "no contact" has been violated,
there are often no other barriers effective enough in helping two people
to restrain themselves from further kinds of involvement that could lead
naturally to a intimacy.
A physical relationship is an essential element in the binding together of
two people in marriage. Before marriage, however, physical contact has the
effect of forging bonds without sincere commitment. [Therefore,
objectivity is distorted, and the essential relationship becomes
confused... are we really headed towards commitment? Are his words, "I
care only for what's best for you" grounded?] Any sort of physical contact
or intimacy, as it brings people closer together, tends to bind -- a kind
of glue as it were -- but as glue should be used to bind together only
when a permanent bond is decided upon, physical contact should begin only
after the marriage itself.
Some people will claim, with reasonable justification, that some of the
social practices which Jewish law prohibits, such as hand-holding, social
dancing, and goodnight kissing, are simply matters of form or social
grace, which people perform without attaching to them any great
significance. It is precisely this point that we are attempting to make.
As Jews, we take relationships between people much more seriously than
does "society." Jewish society cannot tolerate a situation where a young
man or woman is used, taken advantage of, or hurt. Nor can we accept, for
all the casualness of society, that kissing, or any form of expressing
affection, can ever be regarded lightheartedly or as a game or social
Most people who have dated know that even a casual goodnight kiss is just
a beginning. The nature of kissing and touching is such that it calls for
more and more... once you begin, it is hard to stop. If each date begins
with the understanding that before it ends there must be some kind of
physical contact, then a high point of the date is the physical
expression, and not a more intellectual or conversational type of
exchange, or the excitement of sharing each other's company.
If dating is limited to conversation, then each successive date can bring
new and more stimulating conversation, and a greater interplay of
personality. But if dating implies even the most casual physical contact,
it is natural that on each date you will want to have more; each partner
will feel impelled to give a little more, to let down a few more barriers,
until there is little left to surrender. The result is a transaction in
which the young woman is selling herself cheaply, and all too often,
suffers a loss of self-respect, self-worth, self-esteem, and in many
instances the breaking of the relationship.
WHAT IS TRULY BEAUTIFUL?
In order to master the fire of attraction rather than be consumed by it,
Judaism teaches the virtue and value of tzniut (modesty). The idea of
tzniut differs fundamentally from the non-Jewish concept of chastity,
which bears the connotation of prudishness and ignorance, arising from an
underlying Puritanical-Christian notion of the human body as evil and
"flesh as sinful."
The Torah concept of tzniut bears connotations of restraint, privacy, good
taste and dignity, which arise from the underlying acceptance of the human
body as a vessel of man's sacred soul. The body should always be properly
and tastefully covered, in order to preserve a sense of dignity, worth and
self-respect, rather than openly flaunted and thus debased. To the Jew,
tzniut is a major element of true beauty. True beauty lies not in what we
reveal, but in that which we conceal. Only a body properly clothed, not
openly flaunted, is a fitting vessel for containing the true human beauty
which lies beneath the surface of the physical self.
more about Tzinut here.
True feminine beauty has little in common with the artificial image of
beauty projected by American cosmetic firms, television screens and
advertising industries. The notion that true beauty, allure or happiness
is determined by the extent to which a girl approaches the ideal in a
physical sense is so much deceptive nonsense. The ideal is an arbitrary
and often cruel standard that causes much needless unhappiness for those
who take it too seriously, and as a result become slaves to a stereotyped
notion of beauty.
Real feminine beauty is a highly subjective, personal matter. It relates
to the totality of the image and presence of an individual's personality.
It is much more a reflection of poise, bearing, sensitivity, charm and
values than of any specific physical feature.
Young women, no matter how physically attractive, remain unconvinced
inwardly of their own real beauty until they begin to love and be loved.
Many obviously beautiful girls have sincerely protested, "But I'm not
pretty." This suggests two possible insights: first, that true beauty
exists "in the eyes of the beholder" -- that beauty is largely a
subjective highly personal phenomenon that gains true meaning in the
context of marriage; second, that a truly beautiful person is one who
loves and gives to another.
Both the conviction of beauty and mature love develop fully, deepen, and
are nurtured only in the context of married life. Many women feel
"beautiful" only after they have been so convinced by the devotion,
actions and attitudes of their loving husbands. This will explain why
women who do not fit the stereotype, and are not beautiful by Madison
Avenue criteria, are loved, admired and regarded as being highly
attractive and desirable by their husbands. In simple terms, a woman's
inner feeling of desirability and beauty may be an outgrowth and
reflection of her husband's love. By the same token, a devoted wife is by
far a more satisfying manifestation of a man's masculinity than any number
of casual conquests of which he may be able to boast.
In a sustained marital relationship, the external physical criteria of
attractiveness are harmonized with the primary personality factors. In
marriage, one soon discovers that deeds and attitudes are far more
important than artificial standards of mere physical beauty. A wife's
priorities and problems must become the husband's priorities and problems
-- and vice versa. There must be mutual dedication to common goals and to
each other's well being. Lacking these ingredients, all the physical
attractions in the world will not sustain a relationship, or provide
long-run happiness for either party.
|by Rabbi Pinchas
| from "Love, Dating, and Marriage." OU/NCSY,
New York, 1984
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