Ethics

For the week ending 20 May 2006 / 22 Iyyar 5766

Stuck on the Bus

by Rabbi Mendel Weinbach zt'l
The Color of HeavenArtscroll

Question: While riding in a city bus one day I had the unpleasant experience of an immodestly dressed lady taking a seat next to me, something which strongly offended my religious sensitivities concerning physical contact between men and women. What was the right thing for me to do?

Answer: This is the same situation that once faced the Torah giant of the last generation, Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, zatzal. He rapidly made the calculation that if he would take another seat or even remain standing for the rest of the ride, this would severely offend the lady, who would realize that she was the cause of his discomfort. Although he was still a long way from his destination, Rav Auerbach rang the bell and got off the bus at the very next stop and waited for the next bus.

This should serve as a lesson in refraining from passing judgment on others. The lady in the case mentioned, as well as the one in your experience, were probably not even aware of your sensitivities and had no intention of discomforting you. They are the victims of a permissive culture and contact with them must be avoided in the most considerate way to avoid insulting them.

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