I have been in this major process of change the past 12 months. I was tried of just accepting what I was unhappy with. I was feeling stuck and I was sick of it. It had gone on for far too long. Then slowly I began to change. I began to reorganize my priorities and in a sense became more serious about what I want and the type of life I wish to lead. Growing to become the type of woman that G-d willing, one day, my children will look up to, learn from and grow to be like. Changing to attract the type of people I wish to experience and learn life from and with. So…
How did this start? This simply started over summer as I began to wear modest skirts and dresses so often that one of my friends didn’t even know that I owned a pair of jeans. Then came meeting this woman who is a sweet friend who encouraged and challenged me to read this book about an important daily prayer, the Shemonei Esrai, the Amidah. Its very much about praise and supplication before G-d, before HaShem *(Another name for G-d). This book subtly led to me reading the Shemonei Esrei on Shabbat. I wasn’t yet serious to do this every day but I did what I could. Then when I headed home after a summer away, I decided it was time to really change further. I began to wear skirts pretty much every day and read the Shemonei Esrei in the morning. It has led to more questions, reading more books and learning more. It has led to a stronger Jewish identity and a beautiful understanding and appreciation for Shabbat and the true rest that comes with it. Of course, its helpful and encouraging to have a community to grow with. However, this past week I have learned that you really just need the right study buddy, listener, advice-giver and friend. Of course, the more you have the better, I think, it seems so powerful!
Now onto modesty. What’s the deal with wearing modest skirts and shirts? I read this book, Outside Inside by Gila Manolson. It really gave me a better understanding of the importance. What it seems to boil down to is 2 things:
1. Dressing modestly allows men and even other women see your soul because they aren’t distracted by your attire per se.
2. It is a way to connect to Hashem and feel encouraged to stay pure.
3. Less distraction from obsession of outwards appearance.
I think this is powerful to think about. It led to an interesting discussion about working out and what should wear then as well as do men have to observe certain laws of modesty and the answer is yes.
Next we have this concept of touch and what I have been learning from my friend who is Shomer Negia, which means she doesn’t touch men and will not until she marries, when she will only touch her husband. Or at least that’s the concept behind it. Back in September when we met she shared with me how she was in the process of becoming and embracing this lifestyle more and I didn’t fully understand. She explained further. My friend suggested that at least from her experiences that when she didn’t touch men that she saw them more for who they were/are as well as how they treat(ed) her. It was interesting. However I don’t fully put this into practice. As much as I think hugs can be awkward, I still enjoy them and high-fiving my teammates, classmates, etc.. is just something that is such a part of my nature as of now. I will admit my experiences though in Israel this past time really seemed to click and support my friends Shomer Negia lifestyle. I was so excited to get to see one of my guy friends who lives there and see I really liked him and was stoked to get to see him. However I didn’t know how religious he was and what was proper or not so we ended up not hugging, no high fives, nothing. And I am actually really grateful for it. Why you might ask? Because I too, saw him for who he is, which he is a great guy. BUT, I also saw that he didn’t like me that way it seemed. And you know what, I am ok with it. All because I saw with clear eyes. However, I saw another guy friend one which is strictly a friend and when I was saying bye to him we hugged and he kissed my forehead. AND you know what, it was a nice gesture but it didn’t conjure up confused or mixed feelings. So here’s what my conclusions thus far are on the subject of touching those of the opposite gender before you are married.
1. If you have feelings (i.e. love or strong like) towards someone, not touching them physically allows you to see and hear clearly who they are and really experience and connect or disconnect with their soul.
2. If you do not have feelings (i.e. love or strong like) towards someone, touching them does not or shouldn’t create these strong chemical bonds.
So it is interesting based on my experiences and I haven’t fully decided which lifestyle I would prefer or if my above listed ideas are already the lifestyle I’ve chosen. It just seems important that especially when dating in search of your future spouse that you should consider who this person really is not just the feelings you get from physical contact. It could distract you, be a danger to you and you could lose out on one of the most beautiful things, I have heard of and that would be being in a healthy relationship where both of you are whole individuals coming together and multiplying to be one and creating a family and an impact on the world. Together.