Sunday, May 08, 2011

Tznius or Stupidity?

I don’t know whether to laugh or cry. But I do know one thing. The kind of Chumros that caused a photo to be illegally altered by a religious newspaper (Der Zeitung) makes me want to just scream! The photo in question is rather famous one. I first saw it on a blog called Circus Tent. It shows the original photo and the altered one. As Matzav says, this photo is already iconic.

It is the one (above) featuring the President and members of his administration in the Situation Room watching intently as US Navy Seals carried out with precision their daring mission to kill one of the biggest mass murderers of our time, Osama bin Laden.

What this religious newspaper did was photoshop it to remove the image of Secretary of Defense Hillary Clinton and another female in the background. Aside from the fact that the paper violated the explicit conditions of use by the White House that accompanied the photo, I’m sure that if Mrs. Clinton found out about it, she probably at first was angry and after an explanation probably had a good laugh about it.

That’s what religious Jews need right now. To be laughed at.

OK. Although I don’t agree I understand the reason they did this. They do not publish any pictures of women no matter how Tznius they may be. They believe that pictures of women will provoke lascivious thoughts in men. They will therefore never publish even so much as a picture of a female hand! I have personal knowledge of that. It used to upset me but I have since chilled. They have a right to do whatever they want and adopt whatever religious stringencies they want. If they think it’s inappropriate for men to see pictures of fully clothed women, it is their right to never publish them.

But when they violate the law and cause potential ridicule it crosses a line for me. They do not have the right to break the law nor do they have the right to cause ridicule of the Jewish people. They should have either published the full picture, or not published it at all.

I have reverted to not being chilled. This episode has once again raised my contempt for this Chumra. Sure, provocative pictures should not be published in a religious newspaper. But it is ridiculous to say that any picture of a woman will cause improper thoughts in men. Where to draw a line between provocative pictures and innocuous ones is perhaps difficult. But there are certainly pictures that are in no way provocative. This picture is one of them. Photoshopping out the Secretary of State here was an exercise in absolute foolishness and stupidity. They accomplished nothing except to make us look like idiots. There was no protection of Jewish sexual mores here at all.

I know that some people are going to say leave them alone they are who they are and we have nothing to do with them.

Sorry I can’t do that. Kol Yisorel Areivim Zeh LaZeh. All Jews are responsible for one another. They are a valuable part of Klal Yisroel. We have an obligation to see to their welfare especially when they behave in ways that affect all of us. We have an obligation to prevent them from making Judaism look foolish and stupid.

They represent not only themselves but all of Klal Yisroel. Their actions do not reflect only their own values to the world, they reflect all of ours. They have a responsibility to be a light unto the nations just like every other Jew. They have an even greater responsibility for that to fellow Jews. Especially if they are secular.

Perhaps they will argue that this picture was in a Yiddish language paper and meant only for their own readers who are sympathetic to their views.

Wrong answer. In the age of the internet there is no such thing as thinking no one else will notice.

If I were a secular Jew who saw the photoshopped picture and was told it was done for Tznius reasons, I would be on the floor rolling with laughter and running as far and fast away from Orthodoxy as I could.

I have heard the argument made that the opposite is true. That their obsession with Tznius is actually a positive thing. That the secular world will see how moral we are and admire and praise the Jewish people for their high level of sexual morality. That might be true up to a point. As long as we don’t make fools of ourselves. Photoshopping this picture will not elicit such praise. It will elicit ridicule.

This is what they have accomplished here. And Yes - that makes me angry and I’m going to say so!