Last night, while rushing to get ready for a bar mitzvah, I left my bedroom to find my daughter cowering on the couch.
"There are two scary looking women knocking at the door non-stop," she told me.
I noticed she had surreptitiously locked the safety latch at the top of the door. Warily, I looked through the peephole. And beheld a woman, dressed in a flowing caftan with two shawls draped over her head, pinned beneath her chin, accompanied by an older, shawl-clad woman clutching a young child. They didn't look so scary to me; they looked, well, unusual. I opened the door.
They asked if they could speak with me for a moment. I told them I was on my way to a bar mitzvah. They promised it would only take a short time. They were sweet and friendly and completely guileless. I smiled reluctant agreement.
The younger, heavily draped woman, began to speak. She spoke about how important it is to excel in loving each other instead of in-fighting and baseless hatred. She was sincere and straightforward. She went on to speak about the power of the Jewish woman in effecting salvation for the entire nation. She spoke, in a quietly impassioned way, about the need for the holy, exalted woman to conduct herself according to the rules of modesty, and the tragic results of breaches in tznius, modesty, that have sprung up today. She talked about the horrible sin of wearing wigs.
So I stood there, wearing my newly coiffed Shabbos wig, listening to this young, earnest woman, covered from head to toe in yards and yards of heavy fabric in 100 degree heat. And I listened to what she said, opening my mind to her words. She spoke for an hour. My daughter listened too.
Much of what she said resonated with truth. Some of it my logical mind automatically rejected; it's unimportant to repeat those parts in this post. After she left, kissing me on the cheek, I found myself turning over her emotional speech--a plea, really--to search for my truth.
"Why didn't you close the door on her?" a friend asked, when I related this incident, which left me pensive.
"Why should I close my door?" I said. "I'm always interested in hearing other opinions. Maybe there's something I need to hear from this woman, something she's been sent to tell me."
My husband disagrees. He points out--and rightly so--that wearing heavy coverings on the head and body is not an appropriate mode of dress for today's Jewish woman and that extremist views do more harm than good. I know my husband is wise and on-target and there is a lot of truth in what he says. At the same time, I am loathe to discount my last-night visitors out-of-hand. Even if they are 90% misguided, there is still that 10% I need to take to heart.
Again, there is that struggle; the struggle that I think defines all of Life, what King David referred to as the "gesher tzar me'od", the very narrow bridge. When is an open mind absolutely necessary in order to learn and grow? And when is an open mind actually dangerous because it lets too much in?
About Riva Pomerantz
I'm a freelance writer, widely published in several magazines including the internationally-distributed Ami Magazine and Mishpacha Jewish Family Weekly. Riva's work also appears on the award-winning website www.aish.com, amongst others. You can buy my books here.