Friday Candle Lighting: 4:26 pm
Shabbat Ends: 5:14 pm
Respect and Dignity
“After these things, his master’s wife cast her eyes upon Yosef and she said, ‘Lie with me.’”(39:7) “And so it was – she coaxed Yosef day after day….” (39:10)
Wondrous as search engines may be, they don’t find everything. Without success I searched for an article I distinctly remember reading a few years ago. It was about a leading Wall Street law office that had introduced rules of office conduct which bore a striking resemblance to halachic norms of conduct between women and men.
Female employees were encouraged to wear modest and non-provocative clothing, and to communicate in a respectfully polite but non-intimate manner. Staying behind after hours alone in the office to finish work was prohibited, and discussions about private life between co-employees or employees and their bosses were also discouraged. Fraternal pecking-on-the-cheek was frowned upon. (Author’s note: If anyone remembers where this article appeared, please contact me at email@example.com)
“And so it was – she coaxed Yosef day after day….” (39:10)
The Talmud (Yoma 35b) says that Zuleika (Potiphar’s wife) tried every way possible to entice him. Yosef was outstandingly handsome — so much so that whenever he passed by, women peeling citrus fruit with sharp knives would cut their fingers without feeling the pain, so entranced were they by his beauty.
Zuleika tried to seduce Yosef for over a year. She began by changing her dress three times a day to attract his attention. When this failed, she tried bribing him with a thousand talents of gold. One day, Zuleika found her opportunity. The day of the Nile’s over-flowing was a national religious holiday. Potiphar’s entire household went out to join the singing and dancing in praise of the Nile god. Ever the faithful servant, Yosef excused himself from these festivities and stayed at home to attend to his master’s bookkeeping. Zuleika, pretending to have a headache, also stayed at home, knowing that she and Yosef would be alone together in the house.
She dressed in her finest clothes and bedecked her hair with a crown of jewels. She perfumed herself with scent and her house with incense, and then she draped herself across the doorway where Yosef would have to pass to get to his work. Only the vision of the face of his holy father Yaakov prevented Yosef from succumbing to Zuleika’s blandishments.
There can be no doubt of the enormous power of physical attraction. Freud understood that this was the fundamental psychological motivation in man.
The Talmud (Kiddushin 30b) says, “(said G-d): I created the yetzer hara – (the desire for illicit relations) – and I created the Torah as its antidote.
Interestingly, the word for antidote – tavlin – can also be translated as “spice.” The Torah is the “spice of life.” When food lacks taste, quantity substitutes for quality, and we eat more in the vain search for satisfaction. The Torah puts spice into marriage, and in the vast majority of cases this prevents the mistaken search for illicit recreational excursions outside its hallowed boundaries.
My sister (a”h) used to say, “Sex is the screen-saver that comes on in a man’s mind when it’s unoccupied.”
Lord Acton said, “Power tends to corrupt and absolute power tends to corrupt absolutely.” The Ghengis Khans of today ride around Hollywood not on horseback, but in limos.
The more powerful a Jew without Torah is, the more likely he is to fall prey his yetzer hara and the easy pickings that surround him. Don’t get me wrong. I am in no way condoning the disgusting behavior of the moguls of Hollywood and Washington, or London for that matter. But without Torah a man’s “screen-saver” will flash across his mind given even minimal visual stimulation — let alone the un-dress code of the typical Hollywood starlet.
While society at large espouses standards of immodesty and fraternization between the sexes, is it any wonder that #MeToo scandals continue to appear with almost boring regularity?
Many is the time when I demur from shaking a lady’s hand, and try to finesse the moment by saying, “Please excuse me but my wife does my shaking for me.” Gila Manolson in her book “The Magic Touch” tells of an interesting experiment back in the days of “call phones”. The subject of the experiment was asked for a dime to make a phone call by the experimenter. If the experimenter touched the arm of the subject of the experiment, it turned out that he was far more likely to give him a dime. Touch is magic. And thus, Jewish Law goes to great — and to the mind of some — absurd lengths to nip any incipient inappropriate feelings in the bud.
If a woman wishes to be treated with the respect that she deserves, she could well take a page out of the book of the “Jewish Woman of Valor”.