Monday, August 21, 2023

Rav Wosner: Women should not drive because of modesty and temperament which results in many accidents

Update: Just added the translation of the teshuva of Rav Binyamin Silber who permits driving

Because of the many misunderstandings of these teshuvos, I am providing the translations instead of the Hebrew

Rav Shmuel HaLevi Wosner (Shevet HaLevi 4:1.2): Question: Concerning the topic of tznius (modesty) regarding the fact that women learn and regularly drive cars. Answer: From experience I learned that this is something that is proper to clearly forbid. That is because learning to drive has already caused and continues to cause pritzus (immodesty) and this is diametrically opposite to the Jewish value that the honor of the Jewish woman (princess) is to remain inside (Tehillim 45:14). Similarly the driving itself is absolutely the opposite of the Jewish value that the honor of the Jewish woman (princess) is to remain inside (Tehilim 45:14).The woman who exposes herself through driving in the market and streets before the eyes of everyone is actively and passively causing others to sin. “And it is not the normal way of a woman to be riding” (Pesachim 3a-b). And even though the reality of a riding on an animal is not totally equivalent to our topic of driving a car – nevertheless it is not the normal way of a woman and the two are similar in many ways that it difficult to explain in writing.

My heart tells me that it is one of the reasons for major accidents which occur on the roads of Israel which claims many victims and has already kill many good and righteous people. This is combined with the sins that are done on the roads which create harmful angels which create a danger on the roads as I have explained elsewhere according to the discussion in Pesachim (112b) concerning the incident of Rabbi Chanina ben Dosa and Abaye.
Pesachim (112b): ‘And do not go out alone at night’, for it was taught: One should not go out alone at night, i.e., on the nights of neither Wednesday nor Sabbaths, because Igrath the daughter of Mahalath,25 she and one hundred eighty thousand destroying angels go forth, and each has permission to wreak destruction independently. Originally they were about a day. On one occasion she met R. Hanina b. Dosa [and] said to him, ‘Had they not made an announcement concerning you in Heaven, "Take heed of Hanina and his learning," I would have put you in danger.’ ‘If I am of account in Heaven,’ replied he, ‘I order you never to pass through settled regions.’ ‘I beg you,’ she pleaded, ‘leave me a little room.’ So he left her the nights of Sabbaths and the nights of Wednesdays. On another occasion she met Abaye. Said she to him, ‘Had they not made an announcement about you in Heaven, "Take heed of Nahmani26 and his learning," I would have put you in danger.’ ‘If I am of account in Heaven,’ replied he, ‘I order you never to pass through settled regions.’ But we see that she does pass through? — I will tell you: Those are the narrow paths [which they frequent], whence their horses bolt and come [into civilized places] bringing them along.

Rav Shmuel HaLevi Wosner (Shevet HaLevi 7:11): I received your letter December 4, 1946 which raised the problem of traffic accidents which are increasing due to our sins at present and Heaven forfend that the issue should be passed over in silence but it is necessary to express concern. Furthermore the Rambam(Hilchos Ta’anis 1:3) says that if a person doesn’t cry out and but simply says that the misfortune happened by chance – this is the way of cruelty. Let me comment regard the issue of repentance and women drivers. I am also concerned with this issue – “The blood of your brother calls out to me from the ground.” In my humble opinion there are many causes for traffic accidents.
1. Sins that are committed on the roads as is known and by means of the cars themselves. They create mazikim (demons) which stand on the roads and make demands and occasional take innocent souls. And if it were given for the eye to see them no one could endure the demons (Berachos 6a ) 
2. Female drivers – either because they create spiritual stumbling blocks for themselves or for others or because as is well known that the nature of women is that they can’t control themselves in dangerous and stressful situations and they are involved many times in these accidents. 
3. Alternatively the nature of this nation is to be impulsive and they speed and travel without considering the physical dangers to themselves or the danger to others – as we have witnessed hundreds of times and which is different from the drivers in other countries as is known. 
4. And the last and most important point is that which you wrote in your letter. That drivers here don’t show kindness on the roads and they don’t take hitch hikers into their cars who are hoping for such kindness. And many times it is a clear that they wouldn't lose anything to show such kindness. And this is expressed in verses in Job 6:14-15): 14. To him who is afflicted love is due from his friend; or else he forsakes the fear of the Almighty.15. My brothers have dealt deceitfully like a brook, and like the water courses which disappear;
And I enjoyed what you wrote regarding the verses about Tamar. And it is a great mitzva to raise awareness of these things and I have already done so recently in my public speeches. Your good friend who wishes you well and hopes for G-d’s kindness.

Rabbi Benyamin Zilber (Az Nidberu 13:80): Question: Concerning a matter which was recently publicized – the claim that it is prohibited for women to drive car. I don’t understand their claims because it is possible for women to learn how to drive with female instructors in a manner that there is no aspect of immodesty. In particular I know that their are many well known major rosh yeshivos outside of Israel that their wives drive their cars. In fact rather than being something negative this is a major help to their husbands who are gedolei Torah that they don’t have to disturb themselves and take away from their precious time which is dedicated to spreading Torah. It also relieves them of the burden of household tasks in that the talmid chachom does not need to waste his time learning how to drive and then drive from place to place. Furthermore it is accepted outside of Israel by many bnei Torah who are G-d fearing chareidi Jews who learn in Kollel – that their wives do all the household tasks as well as earn a living in order that they might be able to learn Torah without distraction and wasted time. Their wives learn to drive in order to take away the many burdens to time wasters that if their husbands would be required to drive they would have to waste time from their studies many times for the sake of household chores and earning a living. And in particular I heard that one of the gedolei hador was asked by an avreich talmid chachom and G-d fearer whether it was better that he should learn to drive in order that his wife would not drive herself for the needs of making a living? The gadol responded that it would be better that his wife learned how to drive [in a manner that would preserve modesty with a woman teacher etc.] and that he should not learn because it would lead to being distracted with doing household chores and making a living and thus he would not be able to study Torah in a proper manner. Because I am hearing conflicting views on this matter and I would appreciate hearing your deep understanding of this matter. 

Answer:... I have received your letter about your reasonable concerns about announcements around Bnei Brak that it is prohibited for women to drive cars. I am also astonished about these notices. For example, even though Pesachim (3b) states that to mention women riding on donkeys is not refined speech because of the separation of their legs – nevertheless women did ride on donkeys and camels and it is likely that they themselves rode them themselves. The gemora was not bothered by the fact of women driving but rather just mentioned that riding the animals isn’t refined speech. So why should it be forbidden for them to drive in their cars when there isn’t an issue of separation of their legs? Driving a car has nothing to do with the issue of modesty. In fact the opposite is true since they are enclosed in a container which is called an automobile and they prevent men having the problem of walking behind a woman or walking between two women and also staring at them. (The problem is only if a woman driver is a rare thing and that fact causes men to stare at them).

Our Sages say that closing one’s eyes is a protective shield against seeing inappropriate sexually arousing things. In other words when your eyes are closed not only is there no problem of “the eye sees and the heart desires” but it also influences the level of lustful arousal. But what happens if someone would bring in the chareidi community something for which closing the eyes doesn’t help. That is because it is impossible to walk the streets with your eyes closed. Consequently there is a problem in a situation where women enhance their beauty with transparent nylon stockings and as in known - a women’s leg is ervah (sexually arousing) even below the knee. This is exacerbated now that women go with stylish shoes that make noise that can be heard at a distance. And even pious women who wear black stockings are not careful about this. Regarding this issue, the Ramchal (Chapter 11) has written, “In this manner it is prohibited because of sexually provocation all that which is licentious or close to it – and this applies to all the senses whether we are talking about movement or seeing or speech or hearing – even thoughts.”

I personally have been in the middle of the evening Shemone Esrai prayer on the second floor –while women are walking below. I can hear the clicking of their shoes and this interferes with my concentration on my prayers. So all of this is prevented when a woman encloses herself inside a car! And regarding the claim that by driving a car women will go out more often into the street – I don’t know what they are talking about. We see that the streets are packed and full of women – at least 90% are women. But if they are traveling in a car they don’t increase their presence on the streets. In fact the opposite is true. Because that which they need a half hour to do when they are walking they can do by car in a number of minutes.

And this that you mention a well known talmid chachom who prohibits women driving – you certainly are referring to my good friend the great gaon and posek of the community – Rav Shmuel Wosner. However that which has been publicized lately in his name, is that this prohibition is only meant as a chumra (pious extra strictness) and not as an actual halachic prohibition. And according to what I have written, it is not understandable what the chumra is in this matter? I already had the opportunity a number of years ago to talk with him about this matter and mention that this issue of women drivers has absolutely no relevance to the issue of modesty. And if people adopt a stringency because of modesty in a situation where it is inappropriate to be strict – it results in causing a leniency.

I don’t know the identity of the authors of these proclamations who have signed with various names. However it seems that that their main competence is to search and find some problem and then they build great structures and then go to rabbis and they paint a very black picture and obviously these rabbis nod their heads in sympathy and afterwards these people go and publicize prohibitions in the name of these rabbis. However these matters affect human dignity and well as human relations because when matters like this are publicized, they become immediately perceived as authoritative. Anyone who goes against the proclamation is criticized as being lenient and refusing to listen to the gedolim of the generation. Labeling someone like this can damage shidduchim.

To summarize, I personally do not see the slightest basis to be more concerned for women drivers than for men drivers. In fact the opposite is true because it is better to minimize the women from walking on the streets which requires men to close their eyes if they meet them. While it is likely that there are negative aspects of women drivers but those are things they share in common with the men drivers. The scholars ignore these issues in a man because they think it is necessary for men to drive because of earing a living or for health reasons. But the truth is that relevant on occasion for women also. It is obvious that a particular group of people that accepts a common authority can make takanos (decrees) according to their belief system and feelings. But this is only on the condition that these community decrees are not publicized outside of the group and in newspapers - so that those who do not obey these decrees will not be perceived as sinning. They will thus fulfill the prayer “Place in our hearts that everyone sees the good of our friends and not their faults.” Ultimately this is the halacha of Shulchan Aruch (O.C. 608), that it is necessary to know when to protest.

No comments :

Post a Comment

please use either your real name or a pseudonym.