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By Tzvi Fishman
6/30/2009, 12:00 AM

Some people mistakenly think that only men have to guard the commandment, “Thou shall not stray after your heart and your eyes.” This is a misconception. The obligation to sanctify one’s life, and come ever closer to G-d, applies equally to Jewish women and men.

With these words, Rabbi Shmuel Eliahu, Chief Rabbi of the holy city of Tzfat, continued his class on the challenges of summer vacation. What follows is a paraphrase of his reminders for women to follow:

Novels about illicit romances at a big no-no!


A Jewish woman, who is enjoined to be a holy member of the holy Jewish Nation, cannot read books or newspapers that portray the immoral sides of life in a favorable light. A woman has a heart just as a man does. She too has to guard the purity of her heart, which is the organ that directs her life endeavors. The commandment not to stray after the heart and the eyes applies to her as well. Thus a woman has to guard herself from watching movies that portray evil as good, and immoral relationships as acceptable standards of behavior.  For when a woman watches movies like these, or reads unwholesome novels, her physical health may appear to be unaffected, but her heart undergoes serious moral and spiritual damage. Her heart is no longer connected to G-d.

"You shall not stray after your heart and your eyes."

Thus it is forbidden for women to watch immodest movies, just as it is for men. By watching these movies, a woman will sink into a certain spiritual pollution that she may not recognize, but which will lead her further and further from G-d, until she engages in forbidden actions as well.

G-d is at the beach as well.


Concerning outings to the beach, there are those who ask if a woman can frequent a beach where there is a male lifeguard. Since he is considered preoccupied with safeguarding the security of the bathers in the water, he is not there to gaze at the women. Thus a woman can go to a beach where there is a male lifeguard on duty. Of course, there is always room to act as modestly as one can, by wearing a lightweight robe and a head covering, but this is not an obligation. All the same, a woman should observe a few general rules. She should not wear an immodest bathing suit (and also waste considerable money on a few strips of cloth, padding the bank account of immoral merchants). Furthermore, a woman should not wear an immodest bathing suit, even when only women are present. Also, a woman should not sit or sunbathe on the beach directly in front of the lifeguard, or in his line of sight.


This permission does not extend to taking a swimming class with a male instructor. Since close proximity, and even touching, is involved, swimming instruction should be sought from a woman.  


The halachah differs concerning a driving instructor. In this case, although they are in close proximity, there is absolutely no need for the instructor to touch the student driver. While it is preferable to learn how to drive from a qualified woman instructor, there are many excellent male driving teachers with a reputation for behaving in the proper, modest fashion, who don’t talk about unnecessary matters, and who don’t touch their students, nor venture beyond the outskirts of the center of the city.


When it comes to a hair stylist, a woman must go to a woman and not to a man.


Another thing that needs reminding – except in the case of a physician during medical examination and treatment, it is forbidden for a man to touch a woman who is not his wife. It makes no difference if she is single or married, in her menstrual state or not. According to the Rambam, this is a prohibition from the Torah.  Therefore, in a situation of shaking hands, when a woman extends her hand to a man, or when a man extends his hand to a women, the other should refrain.  One should not worry that the other will feel affronted by not shaking hands, since today everyone knows (in Israel), both the religious or secular public, that a religious person is prevented from shaking hands with the opposite sex because of our beliefs, and there is no affront in this. The contrary is true – people who extend his or her hand to a religious man or woman, it is they who are causing the affront by not respecting the values and feelings of the other.

"Nice to meet you!"

Needless to say, all kinds of pats, hugs, and kisses between men and woman are forbidden, even if this is the custom between members of a family. All of these so-called gestures of politeness are the customs of the gentiles. If this type of behavior is found in any Jewish congregation, it should be stopped, since no blessing results from this at all.

Families need to be reminded of this. A father can embrace and kiss his daughter, and a mother can embrace and kiss her son. Sisters and brothers can shake hands, but kissing and embracing is a foul and foolish practice. Any other type of contact between family members, aunts, uncles, cousins, half or adopted siblings, is prohibited (Shulchan Aruch, Aven HaEzer, 21:7).


The more a person adheres to the laws of modesty the better chance he or she has of marrying early and leading a happy family life. Modesty is beneficial in this world and in the world to come. Wherever modesty is lacking people get married late, or never at all, and divorce is rampant.

May it be G-d’s will, that in the merit of educating our children in the ways of holiness and modesty, they will have the blessing of establishing wholesome, healthy, and happy homes, filled with faith and the reverence of G-d.