Shabbos 64 Positive beauty  

 Modesty is an extremely important value in Torah life, both for men and for women, and although “tzenius” has many aspects, a very strong focus has been placed particularly in recent decades, on the modesty of woman’s dress.

This extra emphasis of an existing value can be explained by the changes in general society and super liberalization of dress standards, whereby extremely revealing and suggestive clothing has become the norm.

However, this has reached ridiculous extremes in some religious circles, where the very presence of women, either in person, or even in advertising, has become at best frowned upon, and at worst, been forcibly prevented.

In such circles, women and girls are often encouraged to dress as unattractively as possible, and stay out of the way, while their male counterparts face no such restrictions. 

There is no doubt in my mind that asides for the innate unfairness of treating women simply as if they are dangerous “eye candy” for hungry men and boys, such extreme treatment backfires, and causes the exact opposite of what is desired- men become over sensitized, often resulting in unhealthy, even abusive behavior, and woman become more and more sidelined, sometimes to the point that even  their relationship with their husbands is severely impacted .

On our Daf, we are told about more items which people are not allowed to wear on shabbos in a public domain, lest one take them off.

One example is a wig (sheitel or פאה נכרית) worn by women to look attractive.

The leading Amora, Rav ,tells us that although most things that are forbidden to wear in a public domain, may also not be worn in a shared courtyard which has no eiruv ( see Tosfos who holds that we are indeed discussing a courtyard without an eruv) there are a couple of exceptions.

One exception he mentions is the sheitel, which is allowed in a shared courtyard, while still forbidden in a true public domain for the above reason.

The reason for the leniency is that we do not want a woman to look less attractive to her husband, even in front of other people in a courtyard, so she doesn’t repulse him in general.

This despite the fact that there are other people in a shared courtyard, and certainly in a Karmelit, which according to Tosfos is also permitted .

It can also be noted that if it were not for the concern of a biblical desecration of shabbos laws, “chillul shabbos deorayso” in a true public domain, it would be permitted in the most crowded places too.

While the need for married women to be attractive  for their husbands might not go down so well in today’s liberal world, this is a totally different discussion for another occasion. 

What seems clear from this daf , however .is that there is absolutely no problem with married women looking good in public, in person , and certainly not in advertisements , so long as the basic  laws of modesty are kept, and this applies even more so to unmarried women of marriageable age who are supposed to be attractive to potential partners (see Kiddushin 30b)

These posts are intended to raise issues and stimulate further research and discussion on contemporary topics related to the daf . They are not intended as psak halacha .

Shabbos 63 Dangerous dogs 

Shabbos 63 Dangerous dogs

On this daf, Rabbi Aba brings the ruling of Rabbi Shimon ben Lakish, a leading first generation Amora, that one who keeps an “evil” dog in his house keeps kindness away from his house.

Rashi explains that because of the dangerous dog, poor people will be afraid to approach and ask for money.

The Gemara in Bava Batra( 7b) makes a similar point regarding a בית שער  (courtyard gate), saying that having a locked gate to one’s courtyard is also problematic for the same reason .


In Bava Kama( 46a) , the Gemora also states that one who keeps a dangerous dog in one’s house transgresses the prohibition of לא תשים דמים בביתך ( do not place blood in your house ), a prohibition against having perilous items or unguarded patios etc.

There is  much discussion as to what is considered an “evil”  dog, but both here and in the sugya in Bava Kama, a strong emphasis is placed on the danger scary dogs poise to pregnant women, who might be so terrified by it that they miscarry, chalila.

I was learning this Gemara with my 8 year old son, Noam, last night , and he reminded me about how when Julie was pregnant with him (and no, he didn’t know what was happening when he was in her womb..), the gate of our property fell ont her ,and although she was uninjured Boruch Hashem , she went to the hospital just to be sure that  the fright had not endangered the pregnancy.

It turned out that  he was indeed in distress, to the point that she almost had to have an emergency caesarean, many weeks too early .

I was far away in the Kruger park area at the time with a group of clients, it was night ,and there was no way to get back home , other than a 7 hour drive over treacherous mountain passes in the dark, something we decided was a bad idea, and my ability to be there added to the stress .

Boruch Hashem, he calmed down and all was fine- yet this personal experience made me extra sensitive to this issue , and in the daf today , a tragic story is told which didn’t end so well.

A pregnant woman went to a neighbor, as was the norm at the time for those who couldn’t afford their own oven , to use his oven to bake bread.

He had a dangerous dog, that barked so loudly at her that she miscarried.  Unaware of what happened, but seeing she was afraid, the man tried to calm her down, saying that the dog was harmless and  had its most dangerous teeth removed and claws cut.

Suffice to say, the woman told him she wanted nothing from him and it was already too late.

Chazal have various things to say about dogs, some very positive, some rather negative , and obviously things depend a lot on the type and nature of the dog, how  it is constrained, and other circumstances- when needed for security reasons , that is also a factor.

One thing, however, is clear to me from experience, and that is that in many places, people are simply unaware or totally ambivalent about the level of fear and stress that visitors get from their more aggressive 4 legged friends , and often get extremely defensive about it.

I remember as a child growing up in crime infested Johannesburg the terror I experienced every time I walked passed a house with a Rottweiler as it attacked the gate and made out as if it was about to charge me- on some occasions, large dogs actually jumped over those towering Joburg walls and though most were more bark than bite , I was more terrified of them than of the criminals .


And I was a kid who absolutely loved dogs and had 3 of my own!

A Jewish home is supposed to be an open home, where visitors, particularly the poor , feel welcome and at ease , and anything that causes it to be the opposite, other than valid security concerns, needs to be very carefully considered .