Erev Rosh Hashana, I went to Kever Rachel to pray in a serene atmosphere and plan goals for the New Year. As I entered the women’s section I saw a woman in a long cape, the hat underneath pulled low over her forehead. Her daughter who was about 10 was in a shapeless gray and black dress with big squares and another girl about 4 was in the same type of dress but with something like a shampoo cape around her shoulders. It was as if they were saying: ‘we’re sexually alluring so we’re dressed hideously in shapeless clothes and with our shoulders/my ears hidden so we won’t arouse men’. The first thing that usually enters my mind when I go to pray is the need to focus. Instead, it was “what the f*ck?!”
I mumbled some prayers while seething at this woman. When she got up, I told her that this wasn’t Judaism. I asked why she was dressed this way and she replied that this was how women dressed 200 years ago in photos. Hello, there weren’t photos 200 years ago! Also, I told her that perhaps she had seen a portrait of someone in the winter. It certainly was the norm 200 years ago to wear a cape since there weren’t duffle coats. But today, although chareidi girls wear tights, their clothes have some shape. Let’s call this what it is: child abuse. When you’re putting out the message that men are going to be aroused from seeing the form of your young daughter’s shoulders, you are saying that your child is here only to mature and have sex. You are teaching her that she is poision and causing men to sin. You are telling her she is only an object and that when she is 17 she’ll be given to a man chosen for her so he can use her. This isn’t Judaism, and this attitude is revolting!
That afternoon, I went to to see my neighbor who was sitting, exhausted. She told me that she couldn’t go out for any meals during chag since she was watching two young grandchildren. Their parents and 5 siblings had gone to-where else-Uman. All through the holiday I heard this sweet girl screaming for her mother.
At shul on Rosh Hashana, I reveled in feeling nachat sitting next to my daughter. There was a solemn, uplifting atmosphere and I felt as if I was in the Beit HaMikdash. Why are people running to the Ukraine which is the most anti-Semitic country on Earth? Are they so ignorant they don’t realize that Chmielnicki murdered so many Jews that only a few women remained to continue Jewish life in Eastern Europe? Don’t they realize that the Ukranians were even more enthusiastic than the Nazis in murdering Jews during the Shoah? How is it normal to force your kids to live in poverty without proper shoes or clothes, why would a mother leave her children to dance around someone’s grave? Certainly with kids she can’t do any more praying than she would in Israel.
I feel as if we are entering a very dangerous time, when thousands of people will abandon our rich Torah-based Judaism to sink deeper and deeper into the chasm of a cult-based society. It’s one thing for a single person to daven or observe Judaism as he/she wishes. But forcing your children to develop these cultic rituals is child abuse. Parents have physically abused their kids while following the dictates of a messianic figure. And then these kids are going to hit and kill their children when they become adults or the smart ones will realize that they were raised in a cult, not in Judaism. They will feel deceived and very angry. They might kill themselves physically or feel dead spiritually.
The shofar which we listen to on Rosh Hashana wakes us up and leads us towards introspection. But now, we can’t just evaluate ourselves but the state of our society. We must implore our National Religious and Chareidi leaders to stop this madness. Dress modestly but don’t suppress the children. Find a quiet site to daven in, even arrange for a group of families to camp together but don’t run to dance on a grave. Either we reach towards the sun or we descend into darkness. It’s up to each of us to light a candle and strengthen the beautiful light that emanates from the true traditions of Judaism.