Monday, March 19, 2007

Chivalry, Mentchlichkeit, & Busses

Two weeks ago a woman’s letter was printed in a Frum newspaper, questioning why no man offered her a seat on a bus and she was compelled to stand the entire ride, often falling onto seated male passengers, an obvious lack of Tznius.

In response someone (presumably a man) wrote, that all things being equal we find no source in Halacha for a woman to be given preference over a man or vice versa, and therefore chivalry has no place amongst Frum Jews. Regarding her complaint that she found herself falling on male passengers; he responded that having men standing and falling on female passengers is not a better alternative.

I would like to express my feelings on the matter.

Firstly, contrary to the second letter-writer’s statement we actually do find instances of chivalry in Halacha.

The Mishnah in Horios (13a) states that in regard to sustaining and returning lost objects one should service a man first, whilst in regards to clothing and rescuing, a woman would take precedence. (The Beis Yosef (YD 251) explains that when the Mishnah mentions “sustaining”, it refers to saving lives and in this a man comes before a woman, however in regards to charity a woman takes priority similar to the Halacha that she takes priority in receiving clothing.)

Furthermore the Gemorah states (Brachos 61a & Eiruvin 18b) that if a man and woman simultaneously reach a narrow passageway the man should go first since it is improper for him to walk behind a woman. The Gemorah then adds that this Halacha applies even to a husband and wife, and Rashi (Eiruvin ibid.) explains since it is unbecoming for a husband to walk behind his wife.

It is quite clear that there exist Halachos mandating whether and when, a man or woman take precedence.

Also, the letter-writer fails to realize that with all societal chivalry aside, Mentchlichkeit is a basic and far-reaching Halacha. Without unnecessarily going into details, everyone understands that most women could use a seat more than the average man. Therefore basic human decency suggests that a man relinquish his seat in favor of a woman. Being a Mentch and interacting with society in a fine and decent manner, is understood to be included in the adage of Derech Eretz Kodmah LaTorah.

As for his point that having men standing and falling on top of women is just as severe a breach in Tznius; what he fails to recognize is that for whatever the reason the male passengers usually greatly outnumber the female passengers on these Frum busses. Having some men stand would generally not lead to men falling on seated women as these men can, and should, stand between seated men. Women, on the other hand, if left standing will generally find themselves standing between men which could lead to un-Tzniusdik results.

If one would only be aware of the true situation, one would realize that the woman’s complaint was valid; not necessarily from the standpoint of chivalry but from the standpoint of Mentchlichkeit & Tznius.


Anonymous said...

wow, nice to see that with all your talents and maalos you are a talmid chochem too

I agree with you, and it's so true that menthlichkeit is an important issue, which so many neglect.

This can bring us to another issue of some chasidish and yeshivish people having a problem how to offer a seat, a ride, or any other favor, like holding the door, to a women,

this was discussed already by a few blogers, but is there always stil what to say on the topic

rafi g said...

very good points you make. I would add that lack of something in halacha does not make the opposite true. Meaning in this example, even if chivalry is not in halacha (though you show it is) does not mean that it is better for men to sit. I would say that in such a case one should act in the way of darkei shalom which would dictate giving it up for the woman

socialworker/frustrated mom said...

That is very interesting to note. Thank you for the info, all that you say makes lots of sense and I love seeing it in sources thanks.

socialworker/frustrated mom said...

btw I think you should write a letter to the editor!:)

steve said...

This is especially true if the woman is an elderly gentile. It would be a Kiddush Hashem if a young frum Jew gives her his seat, and a tremendous Chillul Hashem if he refuses to.

Mel said...

That would be the case for any woman. It is a complete chillul Hashem for a gentleman to not offer a seat on a bus to a standing lady. I know I look down at them, and you can be sure people who grew up on Westerns would feel the same way!

As far as falling down on people, that is a bit far-fetched of a madreiga. Somethings are called accidents because they weren't anticipated and couldn't be avoided. I don't think the halachos of tznius really come into play in this instance, and it is a woman trying to come up with some fill in for a longer complaint, or the alternative, she isn't very thought out. Either way, it is not "felt" in tznius to accidentally bump into a guy's briefcase.

Nice Post

Shpitzle Shtrimpkind said...

The problem abounds when mentchlichkeit gets weighed against halachik precaution. Often men excuse themselves from common decency because of tsnuis. Helping out a strange woman exposes a man to more contact. Many men choose to take their seats and try to not even pay attention to the standing women. It is so in many other situations. The questions is, when does mentchlichkeit precede precaution?

Men make it a habit not to acknowledge women altogether. This has always been bothersome to me because at times a woman may especially need a little help. At what point should a man step in?

From a women's point of view it may seem arrogant and hurtful to be ignored when you're obviously in need of assistance.

happywithhislot said...

it doesnt come as a surprise, as charedim would demand a woman give up her seat so a man can sit.

Anonymous said...

The reason halacha indicates a woman comes first in charity is not because of chivalry. As you indicated when saving lives a man comes first. In chivalrous societies saving a womans life before a man is the ultimate fulfillment of being chivalous (i.e. I refer you to what occured on the Titanic as it sank.) By us Yidden it is the complete opposite--save the mans life first.

Mel said...

Halachik precaution never plays a role in these cases. Halachik precaution dictates not taking the bus, but when faced with such a situation face to face there is no doubt that it is an obligation to acknowledge women, especially if they are in need of a little assistance.
This ignoring women is a psychological shortcoming which stems from the stigma's of our system. It is still far from ideal.

The facts are that some of things are common sense, and one cant blame religion for their inability to separate practical halacha from systematic reflexes.

Anonymous said...

One other thing, I completely disagree with you that mentchlichkeit requires a man to give his seat to a woman. If you were correct that by doing so he would prevent he woman from falling on a man (or falling in general) while at the sam time the man is not likely to fall (or at least not on a woman) I would agree with you. But I think that is a far far fetched example. In those limited circumstances you may be correct.

Let me ask you, if we agree that there is no issue of anyone potentially falling, but it is just a tirchu (for either her or him) to stand, would you agree that the man should not stand up for the woman? I believe that is obvious. Furthermore, a woman should stand up and give her seat to a talmid chochom, even younger than her. (I think, but am not certain at the moment, that this is beferish halacha.) Disagree?

P.S. please note I am not referring to a woman with a child (or pregnant) in my example.

SephardiLady said...

Anon 9:07's comment above points to what I believe is an underlying issues regarding issues of menschlekeit or chivalry, as the case might be.

Many seem to like to point out where Judaism is the "complete opposite" to make a havdala of sorts being yisrael l'amim. Too few like to concentrate on what is proper behavior, especially when that proper behavior is practiced by much of the Western world.

It is not at all necessary to try to make a distinction in all areas of life. And if others do the right thing, it doesn't bring Judaism now, or whatever other weird psychology I've seen expressed by laity and Rabbis alike. Giving a woman on a seat on a bus (especially a pregnant woman or an older woman-or man for that matter) is something that need not be overanalyzed. It should be more of a reflex.

Unfortunately, it seems that not all of our reflexes are working properly. For example, an older lady and neighbor of mine fell on the icy snow outside of a shiur in a more right wing neighborhood. This neighbor is extremely tzenua, but was in disbelief when not only was she not offered help in standing, but no one asked if she was alright! I could tell more stories, I'm sure you could to. But that is not the point. The point is that being a mentch should come naturally and if it isn't we should look to see if we are training our sons properly.

I know that as a mother I would be appauled if my own son or daughter did not offer his/her seat on a bus or a train to someone elderly or to a women, especially if she was pregnant.

Making a Kiddush Hashem is not just an activity we should reserve for non-Jews only. Our reflexes should lead us to making a kiddush Hashem in front of our fellow Jews also.

Anonymous said...

Please excuse my complete ignorance, but how is it that the ''average woman needs the seat more than the typical man''? Discomfort yes, but need?

Assuming all things being equal, no elderly, no child, no pregnancy, why does a young woman need the seat more than a young man? It is a matter of discomfort for one of the parties. This whole idea comes from secular society. It isn't a mentchlichkeit issue.

Are you suggesting that a healthy young man ought to give his seat up to a healthy young woman? Or do you refer to a special situation--in which case it isn't a man / woman / chivalry issue, but a chesed for whatever reason.

Mel said...


This has nothing to do with need, or discomfort, it has to do with respect. If your mommy didn't teach you to respect ladies, like a gentleman should (and yes this has halachik basis), than you shouldn't be involved in this discussion.

A narcissist thinks in terms of I, why should I give up my seat. The true torah perspective should be, why do I deserve this seat more than someone else. We see in numerous places the respect due to ladies.

What I don't get is why you would make a fuss over something as easy as giving up a seat on the bus. It's like arguing for the sake of arguing. Even if it wasn't an obligation, and it was only a "sufek" kidush Hashem, and you are quite comfortable, at the bare minimum, you would of done a nice thing. I imagine that feeling of giving of yourself would keep you warm long after you got off the bus. This isn't academic, it's practical. Be a Mentsch, it's not costin you all that much.

Anonymous said...

Mel - Yidden are brought up on the Torah, not Westerns. I'm sorry, but our hashkofos are far different, as I base my life on the Torah not Westerns. As far as respect, what about the woman respecting the man by standing up for him--especially if he is a Talmid Chochim. This entire chivalrous narishkeit (i.e. opening a door for a woman, letting her go in first, etc.) is based upon Western culture.

IFT - The halachas you cite are not based upon chivalry, despite any slight resemblance it may bear. Your example of if you can only save ones life, a man or a woman, halachacially you must save the mans life first demonstrate that.

mj said...

nice point

but in regard to giving a women clothes and charity isnt it because it isnt derech of an isha to be mahzir al hapsachim and it would be not tznius for her to have to go door to door while for a man it isnt a problem

Anonymous said...

mj - that is basically the point I've been trying to make, in so many words. These halachos are not based on ''chivalry values.''

Mel said...


You are outright wrong! You are making up halachos and hashkafos.

Saving lives has to do with value, not respect.

Derech Eretz goes along way. The parameters are very broad, and I would be happy to cite you numerous gemaros and chazal which discuss such matters, albeit in old fashion manifestations.

But, even if you were right, and it is a western nareshkeit, I don't get why you still wouldn't do it.

You are fooling yourself to think the Torah provides protection for people like you who have no regard for Tzelem Elokhim which alone would be enough of a reason to give your seat to anyone man or woman. Aside from the facts that you are deluding yourself. See the Rambam in Hilchos Talmud Torah about respect for a Talmud chacham being defered to an almana. Also, you should probably review the yom kippur liturgy again to see how you beg G-d for forgiveness for thinkin g that you deserve more respect than anyone else around you.

You can also look in the Chovos Halevavos about the gedarim of Tzelem Elokhim.

Not to mention what the chofetz chaim writes in his Kol Kisvei about proper decorum around ladies.

You missed the boat completely, and I hope you treat your wife better than that!

SephardiLady said...

Assuming all things being equal,

They are never "equal." Let's not be silly.

Anonymous said...

Mel - Unfortunatey you are the one sadly mistaken in this case. Trying to ''drey'' the Torah and halachos around corrupt Western culture and the ''Western''movies you grew up with and obviously love, has no basis in halacha, Yiddishkeit, or Torah values. And no I don't want to engage in any western values--and its corrupts culture--whether or not you don't understand ''why I wouldn't do it'' anyways as you so elequently put it.

And your point regarding Tzelem Elokim applies equally regarding man and woman. There are times when it is appropiate to give a man or woman your seat for whatever reason. But you being a man and she being a woman is an insufficient basis on its own.

And by engaging in an ad hominem argument by saying ''I hope you treat your wife better than that'', when you lose the argument on the merits, is typical of the values you are espousing.

Sephardi - As I clearly stated, I am referring to a situation of a healthy young man and a healthy young woman.

Mel said...


You misread my original post. I did not grow up on westerns,It was a reference to gentiles who would view you in a bad light for not being a gentleman, a complete chilul hashem no matter whether it has it's place in halacha or not.

Separate from that, I am getting bored with this pointless debate. I am discussing practical halacha and hashkofa and you are hiding behind abstract and misguided religious excuses.

Your view, though logical to you is based on a faulty premise. You have no entitlement to the seat on the bus aside from the western decorum system of first come first serve. this very same system dictates be it western or common decency to offer your seat to a lady or an elderly gentleman. (no, paying doesn't give you a seat entitlement)
You have to start thinking things through a little more clearly before running your mouth.

The personal attack about how you treat your wife was deliberate and called for. It was after a source-based argument which you failed to acknowledge. IT was my And ONE shot.

the views you are expressing are completely unfounded, krum, and wrong. feel free to consult your local orthodox rabbi on the matter. (I will give 10-1 odds they will put you in your place.) (If daas torah can't do the trick try learning pirkei avos a couple times, see what true yidishe ethics are.

Good Luck in your quest back to G-D, I hope you find your way one day.

Anonymous said...

We all know the real reason any guy gives up his seat for a woman is to get a phone number. Get off your pedestals and stop pretending your chivalrous, when you are just lonely!

Anonymous said...

Mel - by once again engaging in ad hominem attacks, and this time actually defending the use of ad hominem arguments no less!, you prove you have no argument grounded in any facts or basis. This is the most classical usage of ad hominem arguments.

No, I hope never to be seduced by the corrupt western culture that has chivalry as one of its 'mitzvos.' This hogwash of a ''gentelman must give his seat to the young lady'' is firmly and exclusively a figmant of western culture. It has NO basis in the Torah, any which way you try to drey it as being some sort of halachic obligation that you feel while not written anywhere, must somehow be self-understood halacha. I once again point out your affinity to ''Western'' movies you demonstrated in your first post in this discussion. This is what is driving your agenda here.

Of course once you run out of any valid arguments, you ''get bored with this pointless debate'', another elequent statement you have made.

I suspect that Anon9:53's comments (immediately after yours) are more in line with your chivalry. In fact that sentiment is what drives chivalry in western culture, and wherever else it may be practiced. A method to 'hit' upon a lady in good society as a true ''gentelman.'' All of western culture are based upon these corrupt values, that lean toward immorality guised under being a ''gentelman.''

Mel said...

LOL. You crack me up.

Anonymous said...

The idea that a man should give up his seat for a healthy young women is outrageous.

Anonymous said...

What I also don't get is why Frum Ladies are riding buses. It is an issur deoraisa for them to leave the house.

How dare they break the halacha and have taina's on men for ignoring their rishus.

Tznius? IS it tznius to write to the editor of a publication?

I hate that some jews think that their modern views of being good people takes precendence over what the torah clearly dicatates in such cases. Cry me a river. If she can leave the house, she can stand for a stop or two.

Mel said...

Now I understand. Indeed you guys are right. Let's treat woman like second class citizens, and ignore them.
It's people like you who enable Abusive Husbands to exist. What A Shame!!!


Your argument about western civilization is completely unfounded. Cutting yourself out from the ways of the world is not only foolish and ignorant, and extremely irresponsible, it is also completely misguided and unfounded.

Besides, it won't kill you to go lifnim mishuras hadin, and do a nice thing. (will it?)

Anonymous said...

For the record, the 2 Anonymous comments between Mel11:01 and Mel11:32, were not mine. (Anon9:53 was not me either.) They appear to be Mel himself making obnoxious arguments that he could then appear to refute, when he was unable to refute my valid argments.

IFT, if you wish, you can verify if those 2 Anonymous I.P. addresses match Mel's I.P. address.

Anonymous said...

Now that Mel has been caught with his pants down, I did a quick review of my comments above and can conclude that I posted all the anonymous comments above except 9:53 and the 2 between Mel11:01 and Mel11:32 all of which are obnoxious arguments that he could then appear to refute. I will no longer engage or otherwise acknowledge that individual--he can't answer the argument so he engages in underhanded tactics.

One other thing--I re-read Shpitzle's point above, and wanted to comment. As to what takes precedance between mentchlichkeit/common decency and halachik precaution/tzinius; it would seem to me (and I stand to be corrected) that halachik precaution, which are enacted by the Rabbonim, do take precedance. Afterall, the Rabbonim enacted these precautions for a purpose. And social interactions which involve mentchlichkeit issues may be precisely the reason why the Rabbonim enacted these precautions! (Due to where these social interactions may ultimately lead--in the most extreme circumstances--which is what many of the Rabbinic precautions were inacted for.)

Mel said...

Grasping for Hairs?!

UNCLE SAM said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
devora said...


As regards the case of the healthy woman and healthy man, you are understandably viewing things through the eyes of a male. As a healthy young woman myself, I for one would be insulted if a healthy man stoodup for me. Does he think I am weak or needy?
If giving ones seat to someone who is just as physically able to stand is derech eretz, I see no reason why I. as a woman, shouldn't then stand up for a healthy man.

Anonymous said...

Devora - Well put and beutifully said.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

Somehow I suspect Mel is up to his old tricks with that last comment.

Mel said...

I concede. The letter to the publication was clearly a woman looking to vent. Right or wrong, No one has a claim on someone for not giving up their seat.
Will I still offer my seat? Yeah, because that is what I feel is appropriate and right. Still, I won't judge someone for not doing the same.


No one minds if you want to stand, It is certainly your choice. But, taking offense at someone for offering the seat because it challenges your strength as woman, is reading way too deep into a nice deed. You shouldn't take life so seriously.

Anonymous said...

What about Devora's good point that she finds it just as much derech eretz to stand up for a man?

Stephanie said...

Excellent points!

SephardiLady said...

Devora-Are you insulted when a date pays for dinner also? I do not mean to be flippant at all, but it is good to learn to receive (I'm still working on that myself). A former date of mine approximately 10 years ago pointed that out to me because I had a somewhat similiar stance to you. I'm glad that he did point it out.

devora said...

Anon, Thanks

I take life seriously when I think something is important. So...I seriously would like to know, :)
if a woman your equal in health and age stood up for you, would you consider it a nice deed?

I appreciate the question. I do prefer to split the bill, and will usually gently convey that.
For me it's not about learning to receive. In my close relationships there is much mutual giving and receiving.
Especially on a first date, I just don't think it is about a genuine desire to give out of friendship, but rather a statement about expected social roles and inequality.
Again, if it were really about the beauty of giving/receiving, why doesn't the woman pay for the man an equal number of times?

Bas~Melech said...

OK, I have no time to read 40 comments now, but I have been following those letters with an urge to respond myself.

Personally, I'd like to set aside the chivalry for a moment. I'm willing to play by "first come first served," unless the woman in question is frail or expectant, in which case I think it would be very appropriate for anyone of any gender to make a seat available to her.

My issue is this:
Just about every time I am on a religious bus, where they are so frum that they have separate seating for men and women, I notice that many if not the majority of the men spread out their briefcase, hat, tefillin or what-have-you on the seat next to them. This obviously limits the seating options for others.

To these men (I do not see nearly as many women doing this. The women are usually crammed as tightly as they can be with their various packages and children) I say:
If you don't want to sit next to a woman, then sit next to a man!

Why should they wait until the bus is full, wondering why can't someone else be the one to shove over? I see these men make themselves comfortable, put their hats beside them so that every other man feels compelled to move to the next row back, and then promptly fall asleep so they won't see when a woman comes on and stands there in the aisle trying to figure out if and where she is allowed to sit.

To me, this bespeaks hostility and selfishness between Jews, and I don't like it. Not because I want a seat-- I rarely take these buses, and there is usually a seat somewhere. But since when does a Jew make others feel unwelcome? If second graders want to say, "I don't want you to sit next to me!" That's natural and I hope their teacher will talk them into being nice. But one who is old enough to have a streimel sitting next to them, should no longer be thinking only of himself. (btw, I think that if the hat will get its own seat, it should pay its own fare. I did.)

Anonymous said...

Sephardi - life is about giving not receiving, and I think that is a far more important (and harder) trait for one to learn.

Bas Melech - I completely agree with you.

Anonymous said...

One thing I think IFT should clarify is what his position of the traditional definition of chivalry is in Judaism. Holding the door open for the lady, letting the lady go in first, etc. It would appear to violate tzinius (i.e. walking behind a woman.)

And the post demonstrates where halacha insists the man must receive precedance. Following the rules of chivalry would require the opposite (that the lady come first) even in those circumstances. It would thus be that the halacha is not based upon chivalry.

It is interesting to note that secular society has already moved away from the chivalrous ideals that in the past may have defined it. This was likely due to the ''womans lib'' movement. I noticed sometimes that Judaism is a few generations behind secular 'styles.' Imagine George Washington (or any of the other founding fathers) with a shtreimel. They wouldn't need any other change of wardrobe to look like a good Satmar chosid!

Anonymous said...

An interesting phenomenon I noticed here is that some of the woman commentators are more anti-chivalry than the men!

Also, the halachas regarding chesed/mentchlichkeit/common decency are gender neutral.

Mel said...


I would certainly view it as someone trying to do a nice thing.

I would probably take some offense at the insinuation if it wasn't done with a smile, but you have to separate the two things at play here. (a) There is the persons decision to give up their comfort to assist someone else, and (b)there is the "apparent" insinuation that I need the seat more than her. However, since I know that is not the case on our imaginary bus, because "all the things being equal" is at play. I would than have to defer to my better judgment, that she is doing it out of respect, or because I deserve it more, or for some unknown reason short of my "apparent" neediness.

As far as taking important things seriously, I really don't think this discussion falls under the implicit criteria of "importance".


though I concede to you about the whole bus thing. I would like to point one thing out to you. The Torah permits and forbids certain things. These halachos are fairly clear, and easy to apply to the progression of manking. If walking behind a lady is prohibited, that doesn't mean you must reject all of chivalry.
Chivalry is a concept which changes and evolves. If it is prohibited to do some of the things considered chivalrous, don't do those things. This certainly doesn't mean that everything else is inappropriate or prohibited. (Although to be fair, it does tell us that the modern thought behind chivalry is not k'halacha, because it clearly fails under those criteria.)

Anonymous said...

One of the tzinius ''precautions'' many Rabbonim implore is to avoid gazing or looking at, or unnecessarily conversing with a woman. (Before jumping on how wrong that is, the fact is that it is prescribed by our Rabbis, not laymen. Perhaps not every Rabbi implores it, but one cannot attack our Rabbinic ordinances one does not like or subscribe to.)

Now this, especially in todays ''modern'' society, can come across as impolite, rude, ''unmentchlich'', etc. But the fact remains that so long as the leaders of klal yisroel, in their great wisdom, imposed such ordinances upon us, we must accept their judgement as wiser than ours, whether we agree or understand their 'logic' or not.

(Again reiterate that I am not stating that I know that every daas torah implores this particular point. I am merely making the general idea that some things in life may seem 'wrong' to us laymen, yet we must folow the path set out for us by daas torah.)

Mel said...

Anonymous, you are absolutely correct, and flirting with girls, or excessive talk even with ones wife is discussed in pirkei avos.

However, saying good morning, or giving someone directions, or just acknowledging someone would not necessarily fall under these criteria.

you have to use your best judgment to separate the two.

Anonymous said...

Its difficult to know where to draw the line. And even when drawn, it is still a very fine line. Even yet, it is easy to mistakenly cross that line. The sins that can stem from this area when left unchecked, are from the greatest sins by mankind. Which is why there are many tikonos to keep far away from that line. And sometimes it may seem too stringent. But it is far better to err on the side of caution, especially in as a sensitive topic as this, then to make a mistake the other way.

Mel said...

I think a good way to assess where that line is based on what an outside observer would consider rude. (i.e. ignoring someone asking for directions.)

Anonymous said...

The line I was referring to was inter-gender relations and tzinius.

What an average American outside observer may consider to be rude, may well be necessary due to tzinius regulations. This may even be the case with a jewish observer who is not familiar with all the intricacies of the tzinius laws.

Anonymous said...

i.e. if a woman wants to shake a mans hand, the man must refuse despite it being ''rude'' or impolite. (I am aware if you dig deep enough you may find a 'heter.' But most ehrlich yidden are not looking for a heter, and wish to follow the letter of the law 'by the book.') And I'm not even necessarily talking about an interview or job-related, but stam a woman wants to thank you for something with a handshake.

There are many other situations that fall into the same dillema as above.

megapixel said...

A woman might be pregnant in her 4th or 5th month and not showing, yet extremely uncomfortable.
by the way, I have noticed that men walking around get lifts all the time (even high school boys) but I walk around quite a bit, in all the years, only ONE person offered me a lift.

Jacob Da Jew said...

Ahh.. IFT ,go see my latest post on this topic as it has happened to me.

chaverah said...

interesting topic. I think that people have forgotten manners trying to base it on halacha. But i do have to admit I dont really understand why a woman needs the seat over the man. If she is heathly equaly to a male then why does she get preference? That being said the "old" and goyish" way of doing things is to treat a woman like a lady give her the seat, open the door for her, etc etc..

Married and Navigating Jewish Brooklyn said...

Unsure of how you even view it as tznius, unless you wish to bring upon yourself all the chumras that the Rabbis have decided to add onto. Brushing up accidentally against a woman doesn't break tznius and its just something you have to live with if you live in a city where Public Transportation is crowded.

No one knows why someone didn't give up his seat, but people shouldn't assume that just because a person looks young and fit doesn't mean something isn't wrong with them that they don't need the seat as well.

Missing Dates said...

As a woman, I don't expect people to give up their seats for me just because. & even when I was pregnant & uncomfortable, but not showing, I understood why people were not getting up. But then I got to the point where I was very visibly pregnant, trying to navigate rush hour & no one ever got up except for African American ladies and decrepit old men who got insulted when I suggested they need the seat more than I do. Once, this obviously non-Jewish lady yelled at a gaggle of high-school girls in BY uniforms who were just sitting there boggling at my belly like they had NO IDEA of how I got so fat. Another time, there was this guy standing there with a cast on his foot & no one got up (I was standing myself) Personally, I was brought up to get up for whoever looks as though they need a seat. & yes, pple cld have a hidden disability... but the entire subway car? & the thing is, I feel, if I'm standing & I see s/o needs a seat, as though I should say s/th to the pple who are sitting; but I don't want to target a/o specific b/c they might be the one with the valid reason for remaining seated; & I'm too shy to make loud announcements. But in situations like this I just feel I'm standing by & doing n/th. Any thoughts?

Anonymous said...

Missing Dates, again I notice the irony of how the ladies here are the strongest in their opinions against this ''chivalry'' business. As you said, it should be based upon need, regardless of the gender of either party. As in your first example the high-scholol girls should have given you a seat during your pregnancy. And as in your second example, someone should have given a seat to the guy in the cast (including a woman.)

Anonymous said...

Last I checked, it says "mipney seyvah takum". The only qualification is that the person either be elderly or older than you (depending on the interpretation you choose to follow).

Anonymous said...

From this discussion it is fair to conclude that ''chivalry'' and mentchlichkeit are two seperate issues, that may sometimes appear to artificially overlap. It is possible (indeed necessary) to be mentchlich at all times, without subscribing to the foreign concept of chivalry.

Anonymous said...

There is a well known story of the Klausenberger Rebbe ZTV'L after the war, in the D.P. camps in Germany (where he established a yeshiva until the yidden were able to emigrate), found a yiddishe girl who didn't have any socks covering her legs. So he immediately took off his own and gave it to her, saying it is far more important for her to cover her legs than himself (tzinius and mentchlichkeit hand-in-hand.)

Independent Frum Thinker said...

Dear Readers,

There seems to be some misunderstanding of the intent of my post.

Never did I insinuate that Halacha is based on chivalry. Halacha is the ultimate law as defined by the Torah, which needs no outside influence.

I was merely taking exception to the original letter-writer’s assumption that with all things being equal, women have no preference over men and vice-versa. To that I was pointing out that we do find quite a few instances in Halacha where men or women take precedence over one another. Granted these Halachos are not based on chivalry, but they are instances where although all things are equal nevertheless men or women would take precedence.

As for the specific case of giving up a seat for a woman; Firstly, I stand by my words that generally these busses have many more male riders than female ones. Therefore if a man would stand he would not find himself falling on other women, while a woman standing probably would.

As far as Mentchlichkeit is concerned, I feel that women generally could use the seat more than men. In my post I refrained from explaining why I feel that way, but since some commenters don’t seem to get it, I feel obliged to explain. Many women may be expecting even if one doesn’t realize it. By many women the first trimester is the most sensitive one, in terms of proper protection and rest (Also, one should keep in mind the first explanation of the Ramban (Breishis 31:35) as to why Rochel could not stand up when her father Lavan approached her.)
Yes, in the case of a young woman, there may be very little reason to give up a seat for her. However my post was referring to the more usual case of married and/or elderly women.

Obviously, giving up a seat should be done in the most Tzniusdike manner possible by avoiding any unnecessary chatter. But the act itself is one of Mentchlichkeit.

Independent Frum Thinker

P.S. An earlier version of this post was printed in the Yated Ne’eman (March 23) on page 116.


Nuch a chosid –
Thank you for the kind words.

Rafi G –
Good point.

Thank you for your kind words, and as noted above an earlier draft if my post was printed as a letter to the editor.

Steve –

Shpitzle –
Due to very clear-cut Halachos about the interaction of men and women, some may go too far and avoid doing what would be Halachikly acceptable and even proper.
It is a very hard balance. Keeping the proper distance, yet doing what must be done.

Anonymous Mar 19 (numerous comments) & Mel –
Please read what I wrote before responding to the comments individually. I think it addresses your concerns.

SephardiLady –
As I wrote to Shpitzle, due to the Halachos mandating separation of the genders, some have gone to far. Leaving a woman lying in the street hurt is wrong. It is not easy to have the proper Halachik balance between not interacting unnecessarily and yet doing what is expected in certain circumstances. But we should all aspire to reach it.

MJ –
True. I was merely showing that Halacha occasionally dictates that men or women take precedence. Not due to chivalry, but practically speaking all things are not equal.

Devorah –
As I wrote above, I was not referring to a young healthy lady.

Stephanie –
Thank you.

Bas Melech –
Taking up two seats which will lead to others (men or women) standing, is absolutely selfish and wrong. Maybe some of those who act this way will read your comment and realize their selfish mistake.

Anonymous Mar 21, 7:54 –
We Frum Jews are not guided by chivalry rather by Halacha. When Halacha mandates that we do something, we do. If it mandates that we don’t, we don’t.

Anonymous Mar 21, 10:44 –
Good point. As I wrote above in my preface, it should be done with the minimal interaction necessary.

Megapixel –
Good point and I spelled it out myself above in my preface.

Jacob Da Jew –
Will try.

Chaverah –
I think I answered your questions above in my preface.

Married and Navigating –
I must disagree with the way you refer to the Chumros of Rabbonim.

Missing dates –
Unfortunately, some people need more education in regards to proper behavior. Perhaps you should have mentioned something to those BY girls, not on a personal level that you needed a seat, rather on an academic level that they should learn appropriate behavior for the future.

Are you saying that aside from an elderly person there is no reason to give up one’s seat?! It also says Derech Eretz Kodmah LaTorah. Leaving a cripple (as in Missing Date’s example) or an expectant mother (as in mine) standing is wrong.

Anonymous Mar 23, 11:55 –
Very well said.

Anonymous Mar 23, 1:04 –
Thank you for sharing that with us. It does bring out the point that one should always keep a balance.

Anonymous said...

IFT, do you feel that any married woman should be treated as if she were pregnant--since it may be possible she is pregnant?

Also, it is a misnomer to use the term chivalry in this discussion, as chivalry implies something halacha does not (in fact sometimes the opposite i.e. in the situation of saving a persons life, who comes first)?

Anonymous said...

Regarding your response to Shpitzle, there are additional chumros that many Rabbonim (i.e. the Satmar Rebbe) insist be followed regarding tzinius that others may not necessarily follow. Therefore, one cannot judge another who may appear to be overly stringent in the balance between tzinius and mentchlichkeit.

On an unrelated question, from what does the ''independent'' in your title imply you are independent from? (Or from who does it imply you think independently from?)

Chaim said...

I think by titling this post chivalry and claiming "that we actually do find instances of chivalry in Halacha", threw off a lot of the comments here. It made people think you meant chivalry as defined by general society, rather than a redefined version.

Chaim said...

Just to add to my comment. Obviously chivalry in many instances is against halacha (like you pointed out in your main post above.)

You probably should have just titled it Tzinius, Mentchlichkeit, & Busses (and left chivalry out.)

BTW it is preferable (though not mandatory) to spell the plural of bus as buses. This is because "busses" is the plural (as well as third-person singular) of the word "buss." (Sorry for being so picky :-)

Semgirl said...

Exceptionally well wriiten post, this blog is really starting to take stape. All the previous commenters have basically said it all.

All I going to add is you cant stress everything. The more that men are into gender-sickness, the less they are into being gentlemen, 'menslic' or whatever you want to define it.

Chaim said...

sem, shape?

gender-seperation (of non immediate family) is a necessary component of a healthy and Torahdik lifestyle. It doesn't reduce ones mentchlichkeit, rather it really adds to being a gentleman.

Anonymous said...

The letter you refer to was in the Yated. Why don't you give eth newspaper credit?

Elisheva said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Anon11:30 - I think IFT wrote that letter to the editor in Yated. Am I correct? Also, what name was IFT's letter in Yated signed with?

How was it different from this post? (or was it exact?)

Elisheva said...


I have wanted to comment on your blog so many times, but simply never got around to it. I had no time to read all the comments, sorry, but the post is very well put.

I actually had a similar post very long ago, lol, so you might want to check it out. Just keep in mind that it might be a little too girl-oriented for this blog. I don't know. Especially cause I was still single then, so it was like from a whole different wavelength. Here is my post.

I really wish I can comment more here, cause I really like your attitude and ideas. I have to say I was surprised at your take on the school thing and thought you were so off, it surprised me, cause you usually seem so on the money. I had wanted to comment then, but, as usual, lol, I did not get around to it...

There is a letter in this week's (Pesach) Yated about the school issue, which I think says it all. It says what I would have wanted to comment, plus way more.

Keep up your great work of posting good topics. I love that you don't just complain and whine. You don't sound embittered like so many other blogs do. Thanx.


Anonymous said...

Certainly are a lot of hot topics to choose from in the jewish world of blogging.

It may not be as exciting, but if anyone has a original torah story they would like to share, I am putting together a collection of massah's in a very novel format.You can email to with contact information.With all the talk about plagiarism... if the story is used and you so desire you can be given full credit for submitting it. (If it is not used you still get credit for trying)

Chaim said...

When you wrote that "Firstly, contrary to the second letter-writer’s statement we actually do find instances of chivalry in Halacha." you are saying that the instances of when halacha states that a woman is treated first, that is an instance of chivalry in halacha?

How would you define the instances of when halacha states you help a man first (like if a man and a woman are drowning c'v, you first save the mans life)?

Anonymous said...

I've ridden buses thousands of times and have never noticed males giving up their seat unless the woman was elderly, handicapped or pregnant.

Chaim said...

12:31, that exactly is what to expect. Those are the situations when one would be expected to give up the seat. A man is not expected to give up the seat to someone because she is female.

Chaim said...

Next topic (game?):

Where in the world is IFT?

jewmaican20 said...

Wow. Thanks for this post, which is by far one of the most lucid takes on this issue I've heard as of yet.
In my case, I would usually stand on the bus near the doors holding onto the straps that are there SO THAT PEOPLE DON'T FALL. But I digress...this is the world we live in...

The Dreamer said...

IFT - did you disappear?

We miss your posts...

State Trooper said...

IFT where are you? We miss your posts. Are you the NJ governor stuck in the hospital?

Chaim said...

Refuah Shelamo!

Maybe it got too hot here.

Anonymous said...

time for a new post

goygirl said...

I am looking forward to more posts IFT.

Hope you'll get back into it soon. :-)

goyboy said...

mi two

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Pat said...


Pat said...

IFT dead or alive? You decide.



Hey said...

The "Rabbinic authorities" didn't allow for polite notification to comrade bloggers? Or did the "Rabbinic authorities" track down and blackmail IFT to shut up?

Pat said...

How dare you talk about the Rabbonim with that kind of language (blackmail.)

steve said...

Considering that this post was about mentchlichkeit, it was very unmentchlickeit of IFT to walk away without a goodbye or an explanation.

Jacob Da Jew said...

I'll second Steve.

Politzei said...

Perhaps that announcement is a prank.

chaim the IFT fan said...

steve -
do you know IFT? Maybe he's sick, maybe something happened to him. I'm shocked at your comment. you should be ashamed of what you wrote.

Politzei said...

Maybe he is tired of the shmutz known as the Internet.

steve said...

I apologize for my comment and I sincerely hope that IFT is okay. Maybe he's been extremely busy and I only wish him the best.

Politzei said...

IFT will soon return with a bigger, badder blog.

hey said...


I guess you are ignorant. I envy your innocence.

Politzei said...

hey - and I pity your guilt.

Anonymous said...


And with that, Ladies & Gentlemen we wrap up the former blog knows as IFT.

Anonymous said...


And with this, we start anew!

Sara with NO H said...

ok Im not reading any of the other comments because I'm too tired and lazy...sorry.

My opinion on this post..

I think whether a person is a man or a woman, and they need a seat, they should get one. Plain and simple. If I'm sitting for a long time on a bus and a man gets on that looks like he's had a hard day, I'll get up and give him a place to sit. When I was pregnant, I didn't have trouble standing on a bus without falling into mens' laps. I don't understand why any woman would be stumbling all over herself and other people trying to stand unless she was in stilettos...doubt that, considering this was a frum woman.

If I was on the bus and she had been standing for awhile, I would've let her sit. I don't think this should be a matter of women and men at all. Nisht tznius?? Give me a break. I think if a person is tired and you're not...let them sit, but I really don't want to hear about someone complaining that only because they're a lady they deserve a seat. Maybe he had a broken toe? No one gives anyone the benefit of the doubt anymore.

Anonymous said...

Sara, Gut gezugt!

zachdus said...

I love your blog. Where'd you go?

הצעיר שלמה בן רפאל לבית שריקי ס"ט said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

As a frum man in his mid 50s, I will sometimes want to offer my seat to a woman who needs it (older, in a leg cast, or pregnant). Unless the woman is clearly older than me, I don't feel comfortable in engaging in conversation with her. Under such circumstances, I would rise from my seat and nod in her direction.

The example of the woman who fell seems to be a clear case of when to set aside the usual rules of avoidance.I would speak to her and offer assistance in helping her up.

bucket trucks said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

I suck coz I only appear to be able to think of one joke and one joke alone...

Why did the plane crash into the house????


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