There was a rather lengthy article in last week’s Ha’aretz about the Charedi magazine, Mishpacha. I do not subscribe to it myself as it is a bit pricey, but I have read a few issues and I have found it to be quite a bit above average in the sense that it tackles a much wider variety of subjects than do other Charedi publications like the Yated, and HaModia. And make no mistake about Mishpacha’s Charedi perspective. They do not publish pictures of women, and they do not use words like breast (according to the Ha’Aretz article) even when discussing breast cancer. Though I have objected to such ridiculous and misplaced fanaticism in the past, I must give credit where credit is due. At least they discuss the issue.
And that is not all they discuss. They actually have a women’s section in the magazine. Something the other Charedi papers don't have.
Breast cancer is an issue that affects every community. Breast cancer has no Hashkafa. So I salute Mishpacha even though it refuses to use the word “breast”. (I’m not exactly sure what word they used in its place.) At least they try to keep their mostly Charedi readership informed about the latest advances, warn their readership about symptoms, and talk about treatments, prevention, etc.
But that got me to thinking. It makes no sense to me to be so hyper sensitive to sexual issues when the Torah and Chazal were not. To not use a word like “breast” in a medical context seems to take concept of Lashan Nekiah to an absurd extreme.
Avoiding use of any sexually based words is not a Torah standard. Avoiding use of a word like "breast" as though it were the Torah's biggest taboo is not how the Torah and Chazal aproached it. Nor did the Torah or Chazal shy away from using the love between a man and woman as an example of God's love for Israel.
We all know that this is the method of alliteration in Shir HaShirim. Its author, Shlomo HaMelech chooses the literary tool of male-female love to demonstrate God's love instead of the example of the non-sexual love between a parent and child which is also pretty strong. That is because the love between a man and a woman includes sexuality which makes it a far more intense love.
It isn’t only Shlomo HaMelech. The Gemarah is replete with references to the female breast. In a recent Daf Yomi (Yuma: 54A) the Gemarah had absolutely no problem using female breasts as the description of the way the Badim (poles) of the Aron looked as they protruded the into the Paroches in the first Beis HaMkidash: “Nirin K’Shnei Dadei HaIsha.” They appeared as the two breasts of a woman! (Although in the Bayis Rishon, the partition between the Kodesh HaKadoshim and the Heichal was a solid Amah thick stone wall, there was a portion in the middle … a kind of window… that had a cloth Paroches portion that the Badim protruded into.)
That same Gemarah then goes on further to describe God’s love for Israel. The curtain in the wall between the Kodesh HaKodoshim and the Heichal had a “straight through” view from center of the Ezras Yisroel so that people could see inside. The Kohanim would roll up that curtain so Am Yisroel could then see a demonstration of God’s love for Israel in the embrace of the Cherubim. The Kohanim would declare: Re’u Chibaschem Lifnei HaMakom K’Chibas Zachar U’Nekeva: Behold their embrace before the Omnipresent, (it) is like embrace of a male and female!
This is the Gemarah we are taking about, not some secular magazine, L’havdil Elef Havdolos.
Today, we can’t even mention the word breast in the context of women’s health issues. In my view this is taking Lashan Naki to an absurd and counter productive extreme. But… at least Mishpacha magazine talks about the issue so Kudos to them. The Yated and HaModia don’t dare even do that.