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Is it Tznius to take public transit

I just received the following serious email from a woman I know in San Francisco.

Since I haven’t actually bought a car as of yet, I have been taking the MUNI and pondering this as the mass of humanity is jammed aboard bumping and grinding into one another as the bus bumps along the rough streets of San Francisco! Tikkun Olam vs Tzunius…

This is actually the first time I’ve thought of this issue, I remember thinking about the tzniusness of public events like rallies and non-mechitzadicke kiddushim – because of precisely what you mention. For instance, tznius may actually be quantifiable by the fact that if everyone on the bus was naked there may be forced penetration and therefore it couldn’t be too kosher.

I can only assume that by tikkun olam you mean out duty as frum Jews to save the planet from the ravages of global warming, but could global warming really be bad for San Francisco, I’ve been freezing my butt off all week riding my bike after work and I have wondered if everyone should buy large vehicles in order to speed up the eminent planet warming we hear of. Then again, global warming will undoubtedly be bad for the tznius industry, as it gets hotter and the ladies begin to do such scandalous things as uncover their elbows and wear flip flops in an effort to cool off.

Which begs me to wonder whether or not Jews, in their constant scrambling to do tikkun olan are even yotze in the mitzvah of environmental protection, do Jews get a mitzvah when they drive a prius instead of a crown vic? Or does driving a prius inhibit the mitzvah of pru-rivu? Having a smaller car may actually discourage people from having as many children as possible, because they don’t make many gas efficient mini-vans.

I am just trying to show you the ways of the gemara, one simple question of bumping and grinding with random strangers on the bus ride in San Francisco can really have such a long lasting halachic responsa and I am not even getting into the question of whether or not a women should even leave the house without her husband in the first place. I also wonder why you would purchase a car when the rabbonom in many places have stated that women should not drive cars and sit in the back seat lest someone think she become frivolous with her driver. What about the fact that by taking a bus, you are acknowledging that you have your own money, when it is clear that your husband owns you…there are so many issues that I can barely scratch the surface of the halachic issues involved. I would suggest you ask your local posek, but since the closest posek lives 400 miles away I’m not really sure what you should do.

Learning more about halachic tznius issues on 4torah.com

{ 141 comments… add one }
  • Talia bat Pessi September 19, 2011, 2:31 PM

    Our halacha rabbi last year actually told us that it’s a shomer negia issue to go onto a bus or subway during rush hour. At first I thought he was joking. He also said there’s some Chassidish sect that works from 7-11 to avoid the negia issues. I’m not sure what the rest of us are supposed to do.

    • JD September 19, 2011, 3:58 PM

      Just so you know, R’ Moshe Feinstein explicitely deals with this issue (and is leanient).

      The Chassidish community has a very different tradition to the Litvish/Yekkish/all-others with respect to male/female interactions so you shouldn’t be surprised if you observe them with a different set of standards. Note, their’s is not better or worse, per se (although certainly much more restrictive so it’s emotionally more challenging), but certainly different.

    • OfftheDwannaB September 19, 2011, 8:24 PM

      It used to be 7-11, but now theyre open 24 hours. I may be confusing different sects though. The dot, not the streimel, right?

  • Liora September 19, 2011, 2:49 PM

    ohhhh crimey I am sorry but it is all sooooo stupid sometimes… Unless you want to dig a giant moat and live within some guarded walls you are faced with the world. You do your best and be your best and that is all you can hope for. I wear flip flops, I wear short sleeves in the summer I ride public transportation during rush hour. I don’t have the patience anymore.. I don’t really think G*d wants me to suffer from heat stroke and the men who can’t control themselves around my feet and elbows well then they are not good men are they?? I am not responsible from them and I eat Rasberries… so there…

    • Hannah September 19, 2011, 2:56 PM

      Now I’ll be thinking about your toes. ARE YOU HAPPY NOW??? 😉

  • Hannah September 19, 2011, 2:55 PM

    Perhaps all these people should get telecommuting jobs, thus negating the issue entirely! If you never leave your home and become a shut-in, certainly this will fulfill all possible mitzvot related to this discussion. Further, by being constantly at home, you can optimize your time by both working, and taking your lunch break to get in some much-needed procreating time, so as to increase your brood.

    Then, neither one of you has to even OWN a car, and if your children do online-yeshiva, they never need to interact with another human being again (outside of the immediate family) until they finally reach 18, go to the shidduch maker, and begin the cycle all over again. Of course, actually going outside might cause them to burst into flames, as their pale, vitamin-D deficient skin feels sunlight for the first time and explodes in epidermial-terror. (Is “epidermial” a word? Meh, it is now…)

    But then, that also solves the shomer problem, doesn’t it? Win-Win, baby!

    • Susan September 19, 2011, 3:27 PM

      Are you crazy? The internet isn’t kosher. You shouldn’t even know how to operate a computer, let alone own one.

      • Dena September 19, 2011, 4:29 PM

        I just stay locked in my basement and I don’t have to worry about these things.

        • Anonymous September 19, 2011, 9:43 PM

          you should be in the kitchen

          • Hannah September 20, 2011, 4:41 AM

            She has a kitchen in her basement. Her husband throws her food scraps every once in a while, and then yells at her to fix her sheitle.

            Problem solved.

      • Hannah September 20, 2011, 4:43 AM

        I don’t. This comment is being transcribed by my words (all of which are approved by my husband).

        But FUTURE women could just have a computer that links directly to work (so no untznius interwebby surfing could occur), and then just return to their dark holes.

        ….wait, that didn’t come out right…..

  • jude folly September 19, 2011, 3:05 PM

    how is the community supposed to be “ohr l’goyim” if jews aren’t visible?… yes that means riding the bus. as one who has taken muni for eight years, i have personally foiled a wallet snatching and graffiti vandalism.

  • dorot September 19, 2011, 3:08 PM

    This is a problem easily solved by the frumke. Perhaps the men should think about wearing one as well (though they won’t). Wait, wasn’t there a personal mechitza product on this site at one point? Problem solved.

  • anonymous frequent commenter September 19, 2011, 4:22 PM

    Reminds me of the meaningful experience I had as a 16 year old in 1986, at Ben Gurion airport in Israel. I was part of a young crowd greeting Natan Sharansky as he arrived in Israel for the first time after being released from years of captivity in the USSR.

    I, a VERY innocent yeshiva boy, found myself in a packed crowd, who were all trying their best to see Sharansky talking on stage. This included the girl behind me, with her, um, torso tightly pressed against my back. And she kept jumping up on her tiptoes, trying to see over my shoulders. Nuff said.

    Very meaningful experience!

  • South Fallsburg September 19, 2011, 4:33 PM

    And the thought of still makes you wanna wank

  • A. Nuran September 19, 2011, 6:51 PM

    For fark’s sake. I know it’s satire, but a lot of people really do think it’s a serious religious issue. Remember that the Lubavitcher Rebbe took public transit and even *gasp* sat next to women he wasn’t related to. He didn’t think it was a problem. My ultra-frum grandparents didn’t think it was a problem. It wasn’t a problem until we had people with too much time and not enough common sense on their hands.

  • Lirehagi September 19, 2011, 7:19 PM

    I actually know some people who consider riding public transportation an issue. Hey, it’s their $$$…

  • Moty September 19, 2011, 8:13 PM

    Dude. That’s WHY I ride public transportation!

    • OfftheDwannaB September 19, 2011, 8:37 PM

      Same here! I also always use cash at the store so i get some sweet change-giving skin contact with the cashier. Yeah baby. I’m smooth.

      ‘Want me to double bag it sir?’ Oh yeah, you’d like that, you dirty dirty cashier girl.

      ‘Have a nice day.’ haha. You bet honeybuns.

      • Hannah September 20, 2011, 4:45 AM

        made. my. day.

  • Linda September 19, 2011, 9:27 PM

    I don’t drive so if I’m going to go anywhere beyond a mile from my home I take public transit or go with someone who owns a car.

    I must say the new fashion that younger girls have of wearing thick tights without a skirt is extremely sexy. Here I am, a heterosexual older women and I want to reach out and squeeze a bun or two. So far, I have been able to refrain.

    I bet those ladies meet lots of guys on the bus.

    • Lirehagi September 20, 2011, 2:51 PM

      My Russians tell me that back in the old country, a lot of people met their spouses while waiting for the bus. Remember, if the same people are waiting for nearly an hour for the bus, they get to talking.

      In more modern times, my friends and I have gotten hit on while using public transportation, but only if it’s one of us alone. (no idea why it has to be that way).

  • Anonymous September 20, 2011, 6:44 AM

    I don’t take public transit bc its gross! I don’t want nasty guys gawking at my long sheitle or my tush through my fitted skirt. Plus all those germs from holding the rail! Only my husband is allowed to see me holding the rail.
    I’ll stick to my SUV when I need to go shopping downtown or meet my girls for sushi. Besides, everywhere you go has valet!

  • Mendy September 20, 2011, 7:11 AM

    I don’t think the Lubavitcher Rebbe ever used public transpertaion. He would only leave CH for the ohel, and he used his car.

  • Philo September 20, 2011, 7:45 AM

    Add a new super-expense (yeshiva tuition, fancy sheitels, prime cuts of glatt beef at Pomegranate, etc) to frum life: taxis everywhere! The conscientious ben torah has a CHIYUV to take a taxi to Manhattan for work, due to the pritzus he might otherwise encounter. Either that, or pay for a parking garage.

  • Philo September 20, 2011, 8:01 AM

    The worst offender, of all public transportation, is the Monsey “chus” bus. The curtain down the middle ensures that there will be plenty of accidental bumping & rubbing through said curtain as the men & women try to navigate their respective halves of a narrow aisle.

  • StuartAC September 21, 2011, 8:37 AM

    Hey Mendy,
    The rebbe zt”l only rode in a caddy with the “D” knocked off. Don’t all Lubabs?

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