Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Blurring the Line of "Reality" and "Bitachon"

One Shabbos, it was really hot out, and I had committed to going to someone for the meal. I felt the need for sunscreen, since a 25 minute walk at midday can't be very beneficial to the fair-skinned. So I have this liquid aerosol spray stuff, that, to be quite honest, I'm not sure I can use on Shabbos. You can't spray it directly in your face; the bottle tells you to spray into your hand, and rub on your face. Liquid.

I thought to myself, "should I assume that by virtue of being careful about Shabbos, the sun will have no effect on me whatsoever?" Or, should I believe in science, and think, "Sun. Ultra-Violet Rays. Skin damage (or G-d forbid, worse)..." Seventeen magazine had a whole section on skin a while ago, and those articles (probably the only thing worth reading in there) convinced me of the importance of sunscreen. Anyway, I was afraid that using sunscreen would show a lack of Bitachon, but not using it would be not doing my Hishtadlus. I guess it always comes down to that.

I guess you could compare it to the whole Neshama Yeseira thing: Many people claim that if they eat Kokosh cake on Shabbos, they won't gain weight. Because it's Shabbos. I think they just won't gain weight because of pure science. If they treat themselves to a small portion once a week, they probably won't gain. I wouldn't attribute that to Shabbos.

Similarly, I was taking a core class in college, and sometimes there are old tests available. Until a Rabbi in seminary said it was okay, I was very against it. I still don't like using them, but if it's a tool that's available, and legitimate, then I feel it's alright. When I went to pick them up, however, the girl said, "Oh, I don't know if anyone was able to sneak anything new," (since they changed the curriculum) I was shocked, disappointed, and conflicted. 'Do you know how these were obtained?" I asked. "I dunno," she replied casually. "You think it wasn't legitimate?" She shrugged, and said, "possibly." So here I was the night before a test, faced with this dilemma. I was dying to see what the exam questions were like. Just to see how they ask the questions to get a feel for it.

Again, I was met with the same thing. "If G-d sees that there's a test here, and it could be legit, and it could be not, and I'm not looking at it, does that guarantee a better grade on the test?" It's not like cheating, but I guess here you could compare it. One knows that if he cheats, he may get a better grade down here, but his grade "up there" is an F.

Keep in mind, though, that the sunscreen, I was doubtful as to whether it was assur. Same as the tests. So it wasn't completely defiant.

23 Comments:

At 7/31/2007 10:55 AM, Anonymous Chani said...

It's a hard call. I would say that you should try to do whatever it is that you think Hashem would want you to do(if you can figure out what that is) & leave the calculations up to Hashem. I can't say that it's easy or that I'm very good at doing it, but I think that's the right thing to do.

 
At 7/31/2007 11:06 AM, Anonymous ursil said...

I don't think that it is within our realm of understanding of the way G-d runs the world to be able to say that the outcome of a given situation can be attributed to whether or not you made the good/ethical/religiously motivation decision. These decisions should be carefully weighed and decided given the facts (halachic or otherwise), and leave it at that.

Think of it this way: if the world worked as you posited there would never be a reason to paskin l'kula based on mitigating circumstances, something which is done frequently by rabbanim. Indeed, there are those out there who choose to exist on a plane of "complete faith" in G-d, but I don't believe this is required of us or even commendable.

 
At 7/31/2007 1:21 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

as far as i know, the issur is with smearing. if you dab, it probably isn't a prob.

 
At 7/31/2007 11:20 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't pretend to be up on the halacha on this, but when there's a clear health issue involved, like with the sunscreen, and it's time for you to be held to account, how do you know they won't let you off with a plea of "guilty with an explanation."

If they let you do that in traffic court, kal v'homer in the heavenly court. At least that's the way I'd look at it.

Ichabod Chrain

 
At 8/01/2007 7:45 AM, Blogger Notsofrummie said...

In my view, you cant use your bitochon in everything in life. Your aint gonna walk in the middle of the Belt pkway and believe you wont get hit. I am guilty of sometimes thinking if i take out my car from a good legal spot to go learn the night before alternate sides the spot will still be there when i come back in an hour. sometimes its there, sometimes not. The equal chance even if i took my car out to go to a bar.

 
At 8/01/2007 3:05 PM, Blogger a senior said...

wow that is so not the attitude our skewl instilled in us. like seriously in all the scenarios u sed im like what, no!? u will gain weight with the cake like u would on a weekday, u should protect ur skin, shabbos wont. and ur grade will suck even if u did the right thing- who taught ya to have such fake bitchon or am i the apicores here

 
At 8/02/2007 1:43 AM, Blogger Orthoprax said...

"I thought to myself, "should I assume that by virtue of being careful about Shabbos, the sun will have no effect on me whatsoever?""

Take a step back and look at that concept objectively. Fervently observing rituals will lead to what amounts to magical protection? Sounds like Voodoo.

Halachic observance _is_ a sacrifice in many respects, but be observant for the right reasons - for the meaning and the enhancement of life in general, not because of vulgar superstitions.

 
At 8/02/2007 11:12 AM, Blogger Michelle said...

It's liquid, so I am almost sure it is okay. There's a doubt that it isn't, and that's what got to me.

You all raise fair points.

Senior-i guess now we know that we don't go to the same school.

i guess you can compare it to the stories about kollel families coming thisclose to being evicted, and suddenly receive a check for the precise amount of rent, because of their Bitachon.

I don't think walking in the middle of the Belt Parkway is the same as not putting on sunscreen. The shul vs. bar comparison seemed more apt. Because I am sure there are times one returns from doing s/t assur and easily finds a spot, and the other way around. I guess it's like a "Tzaddik V'Rah Lo, Rasha V'Tov Lo," or whatever it is.

 
At 8/02/2007 12:03 PM, Anonymous G said...

Live and learn.
If you are concerned about the sun then no longer set up meals that are 25 minutes away.
I realize that this does not answer your Q directly but in a larger sense it does. Along the same line as O-Prax; If the halacha is important to you then you will try to take it into account ahead of time. Obviously stuff comes up that you can't anticipate and that can be annoying...nobody ever said life was a cake walk :)

 
At 8/02/2007 6:06 PM, Blogger Orthoprax said...

Michelle,

"i guess you can compare it to the stories about kollel families coming thisclose to being evicted, and suddenly receive a check for the precise amount of rent, because of their Bitachon."

Do you really believe those stories actually happen? Nine times out of ten they are keeping key information from the reader or are made up from whole cloth.

How many of those same kollel families are making ends meet because of their bitachon in the father-in-law or simply charity?

 
At 8/03/2007 11:24 AM, Blogger Michelle said...

g- in a way i disagree with that approach. Certainly halacha should be foremost on my mind, but that sounds a little wrong. Not sure why, though. What if the meal 25 minutes away is doing a mitzvah?

Orthoprax--I don't live under a rock, so I do not believe those stories. I already feel bad for saying that bec. in Bais Yaakov, that'd be a lack of Bitachon.

 
At 8/03/2007 1:09 PM, Blogger Orthoprax said...

"in a way i disagree with that approach. Certainly halacha should be foremost on my mind, but that sounds a little wrong. Not sure why, though."

In that I agree. Being observant ought not mean that you shouldn't live your life. Being concerned about sun exposure should not restrict you to your home on Shabbos. You live by Halacha, not for Halacha.

In my perspective, Halacha should not be like a barrier but should be like going another route. The Halachic path should not be a dead end.


"I already feel bad for saying that bec. in Bais Yaakov, that'd be a lack of Bitachon."

Too bad for B"Y then, eh?

 
At 8/04/2007 8:58 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Michelle,
I just read all your articles back to June of 2005 and you are a very entertaining writer. I am an ex-frum person who happened to click a link to this blog and couldnt stop reading it. I think I sense a theme in many of the articles. The hypocrisy around you is appalling to you (as it was to me). You ask valid open honest questions and get no valid answers (in my opinion because the entire system is invalid, although that is another megilla). I wish you well in life but unfortunately you are not from the "ignorance is bliss" crowd, so you will probably keep questioning looking for truth when sadly it doesnt seem to be easy to find. I mean that as a compliment as you are definately a thinker and as such cant have a blissful existence as some of the other "kool-aid" drinkers.

 
At 8/06/2007 9:10 AM, Anonymous G said...

"You live by Halacha, not for Halacha."
"In my perspective, Halacha should not be like a barrier but should be like going another route. The Halachic path should not be a dead end."

I agree wholeheartedly.

"What if the meal 25 minutes away is doing a mitzvah?"

Come now, that is being a little disingenuous. If said mitzvah was that important then you would find a way to perform it while still following the halachic guidelines.

"Being observant ought not mean that you shouldn't live your life. Being concerned about sun exposure should not restrict you to your home on Shabbos."

Again, this is not being fair and is not an accurate depiction of what keeping to halachic standards demands.

 
At 8/06/2007 1:01 PM, Anonymous megapixel said...

michelle- you left out the punchline. did you or did you not get a sunburn?
Kidding.
But, you need to put on your problem solving hat. if you need to walk, and you cant put on sunblock on shabbos you can always go for option 3 : WEAR A HAT!!!

 
At 8/06/2007 9:04 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Completely agree with Ortho about the Jewish fairy tales. I don't believe 99.9% of them.

 
At 8/06/2007 10:28 PM, Blogger Lost said...

I like the advice re. the hat! ;)

What amazes me is your honest and really non-cynical approach to bitachon and God.

As for the question, ask your LR.

 
At 8/07/2007 4:38 AM, Blogger Michelle said...

anon: 8:58---thanks so much!! your comment means a lot to me.
feel free to read back to July 2004!

i didn't think of the hat, but i shoulda done both.

mega-- i was afraid s/o would ask. now that i confirmed the spray was ok, i can tell you that i did use it, and BH didn't get a sunburn. obviously, the question remains whether I would have gotten burned without the sunscreen...

 
At 8/07/2007 2:41 PM, Anonymous Lance said...

Hi Michelle,
You’re a great writer and are clearly very talented, but I wish that you'd see the forest for the trees.
Where in the Torah does it say you should risk skin cancer or some other physical ailment by getting sunburned in order to follow the laws of shabbos?
To the contrary, doctors are able to drive to work and there are millions of other things that are permitted on shabbos--all under the stipulation that there are few things as important as doing everything possible to care for oneself and others lives.
Current and former Bais Yakov girls are so obsessed with following and understanding the laws that they often COMPLETELY miss out on fundamental aspects of the religion, which in this case is the incredible importance of life.
Anyone who begins to discuss "hallacha" or Jewish philosophy in a way that neglects to understand that key concept is starting down a dangerous slippery slope. Its arguments like that which have directly led to the bastardization of the religion.
The issue has NOTHING to do with "reality" or "bitachon." It's all about having the ability to understand what's REALLY important. Being Jewish is not easy, but NOWHERE does the Torah I've read and studied state that we must place ourselves in harms way to follow the rules.

 
At 8/13/2007 7:53 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

btw since when does someone get skin cancer from one exposure to the sun?

 
At 8/26/2007 8:34 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

About the sunscreen, I think that what you said is kinda stupid since doing something Assur on shabbos would not be doing your hishtadlus. I dont think that you are supposed to be Mechalel Shabbos to do your hishtadlus

 
At 9/25/2007 6:40 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

i spray the coppertone spray suncreen directly on my face. just close your eyes and all will be well...

 
At 9/25/2007 6:47 PM, Anonymous iyhbyyou said...

i spray the coppertone spray suncreen directly on my face. just close your eyes and all will be well...
(will now give myself an identity)

 

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