The reason I sit here today to write this article is not to bring out anything new that people don’t know. The points that will be mentioned are all obvious ones. But as an example-hold your hand close up to your face and try count the lines on it – you won’t be able to. Only if you move your hand further away, will the lines become clearer and therefore possible to count.
The obvious is not always so clear and in this particular case, that was the situation for me and I feel like it may be the same for others too. I am hoping that this will be an eye opener to girls like myself, school girls, post sem etc and all those that go through the following struggle. I hope that this article will have an effect and inspire them too. . The intention is not to criticise anyone, but simply my thoughts and opinions that will hopefully draw attention and like mentioned, inspiration. Please read until the end of the article to get the right idea.
I am a 20 year old girl F.F.B. (frum from birth), who was brought up in a Lubavitch family. I went through the whole ‘system’, from Lubavitch nursery all through to seminary, followed by working on shlichus whilst working at an office and studying for a qualification in a frum environment. On the surface, I am just another Lubavitch girl with my own struggles.
I can safely describe myself as a girl who is trying to be ma’alin bakodesh, not letting a day in my life go by without davening Shacharis, Mincha and Maariv, as well as learning chittas. My struggle that I face with every day is tznius.
The struggle is not that I wish I was able to dress in non-tznius clothing as such. I struggle with the ‘borderline’ markings; making sure my knees are covered when I sit, ensuring my collarbone is always 100% covered, and the like. This is my personal fight that I’m very aware of, and work on on a daily basis. Boruch Hashem my work is paying off and I am seeing improvement. However, life is about progress and work and good does not defeat evil overnight.
What always bothered me though, was to walk down the street and sense a glare from a mother or two in the community. Or to be told by the director of the Bnos Chabad program that I run that she received a phone call saying “Her hair is not what a Bnos Chabad leaders should look like…her neck line was slightly low today.”
Two different thoughts came to mind after being told about those phone calls. Firstly, on the one hand, I know that clothing does express a person’s personality and their middos. But at the same time, there’s a concept of not judging, dan lechaf zechus (you can not judge a book by it’s cover). I found that as quite a contradiction. Secondly,a chassid always has their struggles.
Can they not see that I am aware of my faults in tznius and that I’m working on it? I felt resentful towards the community around me. How can the adults be so close-minded and so quick to focus on the negativity? It hurt, it really did.
It was later, during a farbrengen on a Shabbaton I organised for one of the older classes in high school, that I decided to bring up my above-mentioned thoughts to the guest Rabbi.
“A girl I know struggles on specific levels of tznius. She is aware of what needs to be fixed and is working on it. Yes, it is understood that clothing does reflect ones middos , but doesn’t the concept of dan lechaf zechus apply? Why is it that when it comes to tznius, it seems that people disregard that and automatically make assumptions about people based on the way they are dressed?”
I hold the Rabbi’s answer as my motto today; it was truly amazing:
We can cry and scream at the world around us about how people can be so insensitive and point fingers at every wrong person. But what is it going to change? It most definitely is NOT going to change those you are frustrated with, even though they might be wrong in whatever they are doing. What will help the situation is when ‘I’ change. ‘I’ just have to work harder to prevent those people from viewing what they see – how can ‘I’ become a better person? How can ‘I’ work harder on my tznius for them to see it more clearly?
His answer brought to mind the saying: “Everyone wants to change the world, but no one is willing to change themselves.” It’s a concept that can be applied to everything in life. Before we start pointing fingers at others, it might be better stop and think how we can change ourselves, thereby changing the scenario and the way people see us.
When you point a finger at others, there are three fingers pointing back at you. We will become better people by taking comments from others as constructive criticism and acknowledging that there is room for change-moving away from our self love and ego. This concept also helped me realize that saying your chittas and davening will not redeem you for not being tznius. Tznius is what people see.
I have since taken that inspiration from that Friday night farbrengen and put it into practice I’ve seen such a change in not only my personality, but in my positivity towards the community as well. The negative phone calls regarding my tznius have changed to positive calls regarding my work with Bnos Chabad. It’s heart warming.
I’d like to end off with a personal story. I recently took upon myself to write a letter to the Rebbe every moitzei shabbos. Recently, I concluded a letter by writing about my struggle with tznius, which of course still exists in some form.I wrote that I was worried the bnos chabad girls I work with may get the wrong impression when they see me as a leader, and that maybe I should take a break to allow myself to focus on fixing the flaws I still have.
I placed my letter into “The Letters and the Spirit,” selected and arranged by Nissan Mindel. The response I received shocked me. (For those that have the book at home, the letter is on page 515 to read in detail.) In brief, the letter began with the Rebbe saying that he would like to mention the concluding point letter (which was shocking as it was a point mentioned right at the end) on the struggle on Yiddishkeit mentioned.
The Rebbe wrote that the struggle shouldn’t stop me from helping others who need my help as they cannot wait until I get around to helping myself. Helping others, the Rebbe said, may very well come to helping myself. The Rebbe went on to write that a chossid always has his/her own struggles and should always be yearning to go higher…
It was unbelievable to receive a response from the Rebbe that was so crystal clear. It was spiritually uplifting.
Finally, I’d like to mention to the adults of the community. When criticizing the girls in your communities, even those who you may be close to, say it in a kind and caring manner. When we see that you are criticizing us because you care we are quicker to accept your words and make changes in our lives.
May we all have the strength to recognize our faults and have the willpower and encouragement from those around us to be able to better ourselves and prepare the world for the coming of Moshiach now!