Monday, January 28, 2008

Frozen In Time -- A Perfect Example

Last week, I posted about how some sections of our community seem to be "frozen in time." Oddly enough, I was given just the perfect example of this over the weekend.

It was reported last week that a group called “Council for the Purity of the Camp” in Israel arranged for men-only driving lessons in Israel, thus sparing Chareidim from having to take driving classes with immodestly clad (secular) women. I personally don't have a problem with that. If they want to take segregated classes, that's fine and well. However, there was an interesting coda to the article:

[Rabbi Yitzchok] Ayneh Also told the Jpost that there was no need for a special women-only course since “Chareidi women are not supposed to drive.”

“In America it is accepted that Chareidi women drive. But in many communities here in the Holy Land, if a woman drives her husband is kicked out of the synagogue.”

Over on Yeshiva World, the discussion pretty much ignored the idea of sex-segregated classes (which was the point of the article) and focused on the last point. One commentator suggested that banning women from driving was a "beutiful (sic) hidur of tzinius" and should be emulated. When pressed for some halachic justification for banning women from driving, he came up with this:

the chazon ish who said that a car is a keli ish and that therefore women should not be driving it.

Now, I don't know if the commentator is correct. I don't know if the Chazon Ish really made such a ruling or if it really serves as the justification in those communities today. However, *if it does*, it provides a great example to my "frozen in time" point.

The Chazon Ish died in 1953. The world is 1953 (which was 55 years ago) was a much different place than it is today. Back then, cars were much more expensive (relative to the yearly earnings of an individual) and *very few* families had more than one car*. Because of the nature of the society in which we live, most often it was the man of the family who drove the car. As a result, there was little need for most women to learn to drive. Consequently, the number of female drivers was very low compared to the number of male drivers. That being the realia of the situation, the case could be made that a car was a k'li ish.

However, that is not the world that we live in today. Today many families own two (or more) cars. Today, many more women drive -- even with their husbands sitting next to them in the passenger seat. One would be hard pressed to make the case today that a car is exclusively (or even predominantly) a k'li ish. That's just not the society that we live in. Today, cars are driven in large numbers by women and, in fact, cars are *specifically marketed* to women. The world has changed -- but yet certain sectors of our community still seem to be frozen in time.**

The Wolf

* The same could be said of many products. Remember the line in Back To The Future when Marty tells his mother and grandfather that he has three televisions in his house? His grandfather thinks he's kidding because no one had more then one back in 1955.

** What's even odder is that given the fact that these same communities accept nishtanu hat'vaim (that nature has changed) to explain discrepancies between Chazal's science and ours, you'd think they'd be open to the idea of society and the world around them changing.


Anonymous said...

We live in an age of religious imbecility.Sending out women to work so a man can stay at home or in the bais medrash should be a direct violation of the concept of "kvodah bas melech penima"....In addition,by not earning a living and providing for his wife,a man violates the terms of the kesubah gives her....Ah,but who cares about that when we can come up with some wacko Purim Torah to prevent women from driving?

-suitepotato- said...

The only reasons my wife does drive are her epilepsy and my insurance budget.

Other than that...

queeniesmom said...

This has been an issue in certain sections of London for a while; it can be one of the reasons to deny acceptance to certain schools. What's truly amazing is that it's ok for a woman to go by taxi but not to drive herself. The logic truly escapes me.

Disclaimer - I drive the "mommy car", a van. How else do you do carpool?

As I read this, all I kept thinking of was Saudi Arabia. How is that most people go on about how "backwards and discriminatory" the Saudis are but just shake their heads when it comes from "one of us"? Like you the logic of this escapes me.

This move towards more and more isolationism is scary because we're loosing our center, both ends are becoming polarized. I would hate to see a massive schism develop but we seem to be headed that way.

Great post as always! thanks for the wonderful read. Hope your diet is going well.

Lubab No More said...

This reminds me of the argument for why women shouldn't wear pants. In America today pants are no more "beged ish" than a car is "keli ish".

At my office it is rare for a woman to wear a skirt to work. And all the suits and pants women do wear are modest, anything less would be unprofessional.

Why should these two issues be treated differently?

BrooklynWolf said...


To be fair, just about any posek will agree with you that wearing women's pants is not an issue with regard to beged ish. There is, however, a separate tznius issue.

The Wolf

Anonymous said...

I didn't see anyone on the Yeshiva World post, or here explain what's wrong with a woman using k'li ish. I don't pretend to know, but off hand, I'd suspect that if someone looked at the reason, and sorted out all the arguments, we'd see that it applies only in limited circumstances, and has nothing to do with cars.

What also bothers me about the comment on Yeshiva World, is that at one point the commenter talks about the beautiful hidur of tzinius but then later justifies it by saying that the rabbis came up with this, and they're wiser than him so he'll go along with it.

I don't see what's beautiful about not driving, but what really doesn't make sense is his trying to say both. You can say something is a good idea and should be emulated, or you can say that it doesn't make sense to me but I'll trust the rabbis, but I don't see how you can say both.

Ichabod Chrain