Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

26 Adar II 5765 - April 6, 2005 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly









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Opinion & Comment
For What Careers Should Jewish Girls Study?

by M. HaChanochi

I want to comment on a matter that needs constant reinforcement. Although I am not a professional writer, since I have been requested by prominent rabbonim and educators to transmit the following message I decided to take part in this zikui horabim. I hope I will succeed in expressing myself properly in this article.

It is well known that many Jewish women make tremendous sacrifices to support their husbands so they can study Torah, and these noble women toil as hard as they can to make a living. How fortunate are we to have been zocheh to such mesirus nefesh for Torah! Boruch Hashem, from the outset the schools direct the talmidos to their goal of establishing homes of Torah, and are profoundly concerned as to how their talmidos fulfill these aspirations.

Lately the study of other professions apart from teaching has become popular. The topic of choosing a profession itself needs to be clarified, but this is not the aim of this article. Although those talmidos who choose teaching as their career are sure to work in suitable environments, other professions pose a danger of unsuitable working places.

It seems unnecessary to expound on the dangers of working at a non-religious owned business or office. Their tremendous obstacles to tznius and the kedushoh of am Yisroel are obvious. Even if we fool ourselves into believing that these places can be guaranteed to be free of any specific halachic questions such as yichud and others, our talmidos will, in many cases, be working together with men and women employees who are remote from Torah observance. Working in other rooms but at the same location and doing the same work is no solution. It is inconceivable to expose bnos Yisroel to such temptations.

Bais Yaakov educators invest years of hard work in fashioning the hearts of their students to protect the tohoroh in their neshomos. These girls are shielded within the chareidi society, a sort of teivas Noach, to be saved from the rampant flood outside. When working together with secular employees, one sentence or joke can sometimes penetrate like poison and destroy all of their chinuch. This is surely so when these women must work daily in such places. When this woman returns home, what type of new character envelopes her? What will be her attitude to her husband's yiras Shomayim? How will she educate her children? The answers are evident to any sensitive person.

I have been working in the field of education for many years and people have frequently requested of me to cite what Chazal, our kadmonim, and gedolei Torah, have written on the danger of environmental influence on others and especially on the purity of women and girls. Although I have gathered much material I will only cite some points that HaRav Elya Svei shlita made a few years ago during a meeting of educators.

HaRav Svei explained at length that Hashem created man in the most beneficial way to serve his goal in life: transmitting the Torah from father to son. He writes that after we contemplate this we will understand that this is true about the creation of woman too. A well-known statement of Chazal is that Chavah was created from a modest place in man and HaKodosh Boruch Hu therefore commanded every part of her body to be tzonu'a in all its actions. The main essence of a woman and her goal in life is tznius.

Rochel, the daughter of Kalbo Savu'a, married R' Akiva although when she married him he was an am ho'oretz forty years old. Why did the daughter of a rich person who was an extraordinary baal tzedokoh and who herself possessed virtuous character traits (as she showed throughout her life) decide to marry R' Akiva? Chazal write that "she saw he was modest." She saw in him the middoh of tznius and chose him as a partner in building their home even though he was then an am ho'oretz.

But why did she prefer the middoh of tznius, reckoning it as a basis for turning Akiva into a R' Akiva? Rochel understood that tznius is a requisite for acquiring Torah, and studying Torah with tznius is the way to becoming great in Torah. "Your thighs are like jewels, the work of the hands of an artist" (Shir HaShirim 7:3). "Tanna Dvei Rav Anan: Divrei Torah is compared to a thigh to teach us that just as a thigh is hidden divrei Torah should be hidden too" (Sukkah 49).

Now we will understand why the middoh of tznius is ingrained within women and is a basic requisite for her personality. The zchus of women is in their helping their husbands and sons to study Torah. When the trait of tznius is deeply rooted, that atmosphere dominates in her home and she will raise her sons to Torah with tznius, which is essential for acquiring Torah. The entire way a woman was created, with the middoh of tznius, was intended to help man transmit the Torah and fulfill it.

HaRav Elya Svei shlita says about this: "I felt it necessary to highlight this subject although it has been discussed in the past. Due to the present difficulties of livelihood and various other reasons, talented girls study office work such as computers. The results are that they work in places whose normal atmosphere is apt to damage their middoh of tznius. The atmosphere of these places of work and their style—in contrast to teaching and education—damages the refinement of a Jewish girl. Apparently all this is done with good intentions: to support a ben Torah and help him study diligently. The truth, however, is that a conflict between what is actually being done and the goals we are aspiring to is evident. Women were created with the trait of tznius so they can bequeath it to their household, since tznius is fundamental to the Torah's continuance and success in studying Torah, and any flaw in tznius is liable to, chas vesholom, be a flaw in Torah."

I will also cite how HaRav Svei concludes. What he said should be our foundation in the education of Jewish girls: "We therefore should be aware that a Jewish girl stands at the crossroads. Before a woman steps out onto the paths of life she needs to reflect about what she is doing and her plans in life. Do they serve the main duty of a woman— bequeathing the values of tznius to the coming generations?"

This was said in America where the atmosphere in society and places of work have ruined many homes. Why should we in Eretz Yisroel not learn from their experience as Israeli society has also become a place of hefkeirus like in America?

HaRav Elya Svei shlita has taught us that besides the problems created by non-kosher places of employment, they also destroy the building of a house of Torah. Some women think that they should continue working so their husbands can continue studying, and although they themselves decline in ruchniyus their husbands will grow in their Torah studies. Besides this being "sinning to help another person have a zchus" and "a mitzvah caused by an aveiroh" they will not attain their goal in life. They are contradicting themselves, as HaRav Svei explained. Anyone who thinks about this matter will understand it clearly and will not use these means to construct homes of Torah.

I therefore have a practical proposal that I have already discussed with eminent educators. Wherever various professions are being taught in Bais Yaakov seminaries a condition should be made with the girls. It should be clearly demanded from those who register, that talmidos will later work either in their homes (if possible according to the type of work) or at kosher places of work. Under no conditions should they work in places where the atmosphere does not help sustain homes of Torah but, on the contrary, wrecks the foundations of the Jewish home, chas vesholom. In the zchus of noshim tzidkoniyos may we be zocheh to the Geulah.

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