Helping not modest?

From the YWN coffee room…..a lady asks the following question :

Walking down the street today, I encountered a young father shlepping up the steps a double stroller along side of him a young child who he was also trying to help up. Is it tznuis for me to help him up with the carriage?

(Wonderful sentence structure…sigh)

There were a good many people who replied telling her it’s a mitzvah to help a fellow Jew. There were also those replies that told her indeed it isn’t tzanuah, in fact one went so far as to say that issues of negiah (inappropriate touching) or Niddah arise.

I don’t know, folks. Someone needs help, you help. You don’t stop to have a halachic internal argument about the pros and cons of helping someone who obviously needs it. It was suggested on that site that if they carry the stroller together it isn’t proper, especially if she is a Niddah. Let’s go further – what if someone saw her helping a man who isn’t her husband with a stroller and a kid that wasn’t hers. Maybe, just maybe, they might think something inappropriate about her or him. So therefore don’t bother helping anyone of the opposite sex, you know, just so that other people won’t perhaps think wrongly of you. Again, is that how people want to live their life – based on what others think of them? Should we not be living our lives to serve God not man?

As a mom who struggled with double strollers any help was appreciated, male or female. How have we got to this point that we have to be so hyper aware of breathing in case we might do it wrong??!!

ETA: apparently fanatical stupidity goes back a long way. with thanks to Rabbi Josh Yuter who provided me with the following source:

39. B. Sotah 21aWhat is a foolish pietist like? — E.g., a woman is drowning in the river, and he says: ‘It is improper for me to look upon her and rescue her’ 39. תלמוד בבלי מסכת סוטה דף כא עמוד ב היכי דמי חסיד שוטה? כגון דקא טבעה איתתא בנהרא, ואמר: לאו אורח ארעא לאיסתכולי בה ואצולה
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19 Comments

  1. Ari says:

    It’s not as if this will get yentas’ tongues wagging, will it? :>) Seriously, it’s an obligation for one person to help another. In Parshat Mishpatim, it says that it’s an obligation to do so. I certainly don’t see that it says, “except if it’s a person of the opposite gender.” Ridiculous, but you’re right — we’re always looking over our shoulder. Nonsense.

  2. Ari says:

    For the sticklers out there: Exodus 23:6 – “If you see the donkey of someone you hate crouching under his burden, would you refrain from helping him? You shall help repeatedly with him.”

    All the more so if someone you don’t hate, right?

    And for the nudnicks who will intepret this pasuk as asking the neighbor to only help the donkey, and not the man, then I think it’s obvious that if you would ease the burden on a donkey, then you would surely ease the burden for a human. Silly that I would even have to say that, but . . .

  3. Jess says:

    Absolutely, help, by all means! Is it more “tznius” for a man walk past a woman who has just fallen because he thinks it might be “inappropriate” to help?
    The appropriate response in any situation where you see someone requiring assistance, whether they’ve fallen, shlepping double strollers… is to help! One shouldn’t even have to think about it. It should be a natural instinct to help a fellow human. The part that is unnatural, is how it’s become a question of modesty to help someone of the opposite sex.
    If I see a bearded man fall, I would rush to assist him, and I would expect the same. If he refuses my help because I’m a woman, that’s his prerogative.
    But I would hope that if the tables were turned, he wouldn’t hesitate in helping me.

  4. shorty says:

    i suppose it could be mandatory that everyone carry a portable mechitza on them at all times, for cases like this. :)

  5. Rachel Ann says:

    So in agreement with everyone. Of course help; I can’t imagine not helping. Reminds me of the frum guy who wouldn’t give me directions when I was lost…Dang. I’m 52, and not a Mata Hari…give me a break! Telling me yeshar yeshar would have given him illicit thoughts?

    Sad to see how far we have come. Help. If a person gets turned on because you helped them down the stairs with the stroller, or opened a door for them, or picked up the umbrella they dropped or whatever, thats a sad commentary about where their mind is.

    • batya from NJ says:

      but rachel ann, that is how israelis give directions, yashar yashar & eventually you’ll get there :)!

  6. tesyaa says:

    Hadassah, this is a great post! I would offer to help, of course, but I wouldn’t be surprised if my help was turned down.

  7. Y Kohn says:

    She has a Torah obligation to help. Not helping is a false sense of Tznius. But the story of the Talmud does not apply here since we are not talking about a life threatening situation.

    As for ‘nidah’ issues; the one who raised it is a pure am haaretz. Laws of ‘harchaka’ only apply to husband and wife as a fence to not come close during nidah.

    Helping with a carriage for a stranger is not only permited it is a ‘chiyuv’ and I do it all the time. Of course one must act with tact, some women are embarrassed. Itself a sign of one’s Jewishness; is to be shy.

  8. HaSafran says:

    Just further evidence that there are a number of Jews out there who have completely lost the ability to think for themselves. We’ve become the Chosen Sheeple.

  9. Agreed, agreed, agreed. I worry about myself. What others want to say, they will whether I encourage them or not.

  10. Otir says:

    I have an understanding of halakha as being a guide for oneself’s spiritual path, and I am not a very good observant – for myself. I have a problem when halakha is used by self-proclaiming observants in order to judge what others do in a practical situation like the one you just described.

    The fact that the question is raised as if it was an halachic matter makes me think that those wondering if it is tzius or not, is like in the Sotah 21.a example showing how they lose sight of what Torah is truly about, and putting a rule before the greater law. If you hadn’t written it yourself, yes, I would have called it fanatical stupidity, and added that it can lead to hillul hashem because this is because of fanatical judgments like those that the general observant population is frowned upon by others who think they are all like that.

    Fanatism is never a good path in my own book.

  11. Lady Lock and Load says:

    Does this mean that if a man asks me for tzadakah I should not hand it to him? Should I place it on a table for him to pick it up, or throw a dollar on the floor?

    • HSaboMilner says:

      Lady LnL – has no one ever asked you to do that before? Jess – there are men collecting for tzedakah that have come to my door, and they refuse to take money directly from my hand. If you don’t want my money just say so, otherwise take it from the proffered hand. I think it’s rude and chutzpahdik.

  12. masmid says:

    That Gemara discusses the case of a Chassid Shoteh- one whose adherence to legal standards is so extreme that it does not leave room for common sense, pragmatic, and meta-halakhic/ethical allowances. As that case was not one of pikuach nefesh, there is no halakhic imperative to help that man, although there certainly is an ethical one.

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