Jul 3, 2014
Some Stuff Should Remain Private
Illustration photo by nokhoog_buchachon

Op-Ed: Sometimes when men and women comment together on Facebook and Instagram it feels wrong; it feels like an inappropriate social event.

By Rabbi Mordechai Lipskier,
Director of The Beis Medrash in Crown Heights

A friend mentioned to me that his child's camp posts pictures on Instagram and allows parents to comment on them. He, however, feels uncomfortable with it. "As a frum Jew, having the men and women comment together feels wrong; it feels like an inappropriate social event."

Is he too sensitive, or does he have a point?

In this week's parsha, Bilam praises the Jews for their modesty"How good are your tents Jacob, your dwellings Israel". He was impressed that the Jewish nation pitched their tents in a way that the doors faced away from each other, so they couldn't see into their neighbors' homes.

According to the medrash, the doors Bilam referred to are actually the doors of shuls and batei medrash. He prophesied that these doors would never close, i.e., Jews would always have places to daven and learn.

The Frierdiker Rebbe harmonizes the two explanations, giving profound and relevant depth to Bilam's words.

It's easy to find fault with our fellow Jew, but when it comes to ourselves, we're quick to overlook our shortcomings and focus on our strong points. In truth, it should be the other way around. We know ourselves well, and we should be critical of our shortcomings. When it comes to judging a fellow Jew, we never know the full picture and should try to see only the good.

How can we change our mindset and begin to think this way?

Most of us behave differently at shul and at home. In shul, there's an atmosphere of kedusha, davening and learning, and it's quite natural to get swept along with the fervor. At home, on the other hand, the atmosphere is usually more private and relaxed physically and spiritually requiring much more internal motivation to be on our best behavior.

Bilam's message, "Let the doors of your homes face away from each other," is a timeless reminder.

1) Preserve the privacy and sanctity of your life, and 2) Don't judge your friend in his homedon't even peek through the window in case you see something unimpressive. Instead, notice him in shul. See that he davens with a minyan three times a day and admire his dedication to the daily shiur. This is who he really is.

By seeing our fellow Jews in this light, we'll be able to help them reach the ultimate goal of become strong and dedicated at home too.

Ironically, in 2014 the internet wants us to give up what Bilam considered our most unique quality. As we post pictures on Facebook and other social media, all it takes is the click of a button before we find ourselves in someone else's home.

Some people are quick to share pictures on Facebook that they would not even hang on their dining room wall because of the intimacy shown! What goes on at home should stay at home. Let's not open ourselves up for judgment by advertising the parts of our lives that should stay private and sacred.

Instead, let's preserve our privacy and sanctity. And, let's make the time we spend at shul, a shiur, a farbrengen or in the beis medrashi.e., when we are engaging in our best behaviora time for people to notice and "judge" us. And with time, it will trickle back into our home behavior.

So we can probably assume that Bilam would not approve of the summer camp's posts on Instagram...

May we be encouraged by this week's parsha to preserve the sanctity and privacy of our homes, so Bilam's blessing can be fulfilled in the fullest sense.

Rabbi Mordechai Lipskier and his wife direct The Beis Medrash and The Beis Medrash Woman's Circle in Crown Heights. To reach him or to receive his weekly Dvar Torah emails, email: RabbiMotty@TheBeisMedrash.com.

Most Read Most Comments

Opinions and Comments
Thank you! Shocking to hear that the Rebbes camps are encouraging chassidishe people to open instagram accounts in order to see pictures of their children in camp!
(7/3/2014 9:24:36 PM)
Timely advice
Thank you for the encouragement!
(7/3/2014 9:36:35 PM)
Well said
Excellent article. Thank you for saying what needs to be said.
(7/3/2014 10:10:20 PM)
Agree !
Nice ! I also find it inappropriate for woman to post pictures of themselves on Facebook . There is a sensitivity that seems to be missing .
(7/3/2014 10:14:55 PM)
What is missing? Censorship?
(7/3/2014 10:28:31 PM)
Come on COL
Some "stuff should remain private?" Couldn't you think of a more intelligent sounding title? Your site is an accurate representation of the general studies education (or lack thereof) of your readers. Congratulations. Another article where people who can't write make an argument for something totally not worth arguing about. Where's an article about why authors like this are using the word "stuff" so freely as adults?
(7/3/2014 10:34:42 PM)
#4 excuse me?!
It's inappropriate for a woman to post pictures of herself, but it's ok for a man?
(7/3/2014 10:54:13 PM)
This must be the biggest problem in chabad COMMON
(7/3/2014 10:58:59 PM)
Finally someone addressing the issues that had made uncomfortable for a very long time.
(7/3/2014 11:03:48 PM)
I bit the bullet and closed my facebook account a while ago and it was the best decision.
(7/3/2014 11:09:08 PM)
Finally on COL
Something well written!
(7/3/2014 11:24:56 PM)
We should have a seperation b/w men and women comments on collive..the fact that bochurim r reading womens comments is highely inappropriate.
(7/3/2014 11:37:32 PM)
it's too open. From the cookies you baked to an evening out, everything gets posted without discretion. I don't have a facebook account, and wouldn't even open one when the yeshivot wanted us to "like" them so they could get points. I'm glad others are also uncomfortable with this everything goes attitude
(7/3/2014 11:38:55 PM)
Is the point of the article whether it's ok for mixed commenting on camp pictures, or posting private things on the internet?
(7/4/2014 12:05:08 AM)
To #10
I didn't close my Facebook account --- because I had never
opened one!
(7/4/2014 12:24:34 AM)
Message to #6
1-The title is a play on words!
2- Don't judge a "title" by its cover!
3- the article was written very well, and the comments should reflect it.
(7/4/2014 12:39:27 AM)
To Rabbi Lipskier
I am afraid you are making a Cholent of privacy and Tznius, two things which are NOT the same.

Privacy is relative. Privacy evolves. Tznius is Halacha.

It is understandable that people may be uncomfortable with the idea of sharing and commenting on pictures on FB and Instagram, but the fact is that this is now becoming the norm. This is no longer considered "private" to the new generation, and over the years will no longer be considered private at all. Whether or not this is a breach of Tznius is something you need to ask your local Rov. (I wouldn't be so quick to jump to conclusions and assume that it is not Tznius just because you are "uncomfortable" with it.)

When I first saw wedding and L'chaim pictures on Chabad websites I was taken aback. I was uncomfortable with it and quite surprised. Prior to this I always felt that wedding and L'chaim pictures were "private". But over time this has evolved and I have warmed up to the idea, and I think many others have as well.

Again, just because you are UNCOMFORTABLE with something because you feel that it is PRIVATE, it does NOT necessarily mean that it is not Tznius.
(7/4/2014 1:07:08 AM)
Too funny. Lol.
(7/4/2014 1:11:43 AM)
Are we or are we not chassidim of the Rebbe? Uncomfortable as this may be, Lubavitch is a CHASSIDUS first and foremost - which happens to do outreach, and for outreach purposes we have to do certain things. BUT AT THE CORE - would the Rebbe permit this?
I am shocked at the comments -what is wrong with posting women's pictures.... TZNIUS! KOL KEVUDAH BAS MELECH PNIMA... come on...
All those commenting on the use of the word "STUFF" - get a life - I am a PhD and this is perfectly well written. You are using it as an excuse to ignore the message!
Do so many people nowadays really not understand that we should be Chassidishe yidden, no we shouldn't be on FB/Instagram etc. COMMON!
(7/4/2014 4:10:26 AM)
No no no
Why is everyone saying it's not tznius for men to read women's comments? Why not the other way around?
(7/4/2014 4:54:00 AM)
i agree
I think all women should wear burqas and a muzzle, and only be allowed out of the house between 12-2
(7/4/2014 8:47:37 AM)
kol hakavod, right on target
I was shocked to see that the wife of a shliach has a FB account with an inappropriate picture of herself (posing in a way not befitting a bas melech) whereas he himself doesn't even have an account because it's not 'chsiddish'. If husbands don't say anything to the lack of tznius of their wives...
(7/4/2014 8:56:33 AM)
how times have changed...
you can see from the many critical comments how far we are from the essence of tznius... the new generation doesnt' even
get it....
(7/4/2014 9:04:24 AM)
That is so wrong and insensitive.
(7/4/2014 9:24:33 AM)
I guess looking at wedding photos would be considered wrong too, no?
(7/4/2014 9:28:39 AM)
crown heights
point is, i dont need to see choosonim and kallhas posing inappropriately just like the outside world and the goyshe world. its discusting and disgraceful, its so common that many people dont see how its wrong.
would you bring me behind your bedroom door.
(7/4/2014 9:33:04 AM)
Go back to ride on camels .....
Don't use electricity - no Inernet - no problems ......
(7/4/2014 9:55:33 AM)
How does FACEbook connect to what the Besht said about looking at someone and seeing what needs correction and really you are looking at the reflection of your own face and need to see what you need to correct? Always wondered that about the name. At least for me, may I open the books more of Tanya, chumash, siddur, tehillim, sichos etc. and close the Facebook page more, as well as reading 'news' on the internet.
(7/4/2014 9:57:53 AM)
Im soooooo happy Hashem gave me the Seichel not to go to FB Bichlall!
(7/4/2014 10:25:35 AM)
Men! Keep your women in check! It's about time we took back our traditional values. And what's more, women should not work or drive for that matter, they belong at home raising the children, cleaning, and cooking. And that way you will see the birthrate going up too if that is all that women can do.

; )
(7/4/2014 10:45:48 AM)
So true...
Well written article! FB is such a waste of time.
(7/4/2014 10:47:05 AM)
I'm sure.....
I think most would agree with #21.

So right you are.
(7/4/2014 11:20:04 AM)
#17 makes a very good point
As does Rabbi Lipskier. The fifth shulchan aruch needs to be pulled out at this point...
(7/4/2014 11:28:32 AM)
To 17
To understand just how fast privacy evolves (or, more acuratly, devolves) reflect on the men going after the women of Midyan and then exposing themselves the Pe'or... You're trying to sound intelligent but you're actually ignorant. Tznius is, and never was, a black-and-white issue, it always was relative. People can used to anything, does that make it right? You should begin learning chasiddus.
(7/4/2014 11:37:28 AM)
Its a real shame a fantastic Dvar Torah has been overshadowed by a terrible example and apparent misunderstanding of social media.

Let me start by saying, I 100% agree with the point. The stuff I have seen on my facebook feed (because I follow the person or a friend liked a photo) is inappropriate, we are definitely out of touch with "Let the doors of your homes face away from each other,". It is quite true that people post online things they would never do in public, be it tznius or otherwise. (Personally my online rule is to never write or post anything I would not be willing to do/say infront of EVERYONE I know.)

I dont think anyone would argue that Facebook (and any other form of social media) has its problems, but commenting is not the big issue here. If commenting is the problem, why is COL different, because of the animosity? Facebook is public, everyone you know can and WILL see it. No the problem is not commenting, the problem is private messaging, posting photos, liking inappropriate photos or articles (that I now show up in my feed), interacting with distant relatives, having a joking conversation with a woman on some community groups, wasted time and more.

Now thats kinda minor and the Dvar Torah still stands, but perhaps the authors misunderstanding of social media is what prompted him to attack a camp for using instagram. "Instead, notice him in shul. See that he davens with a minyan three times a day and admire his dedication to the daily shiur." Has the author looked at the camps instagram account? These are not photos of a girl showing off her new makeover, these are photos of boys learning, doing Mivtzoim, enjoying a trip, and other random camp activities. They are sharing photos of the boys when they are "engaging in our best behaviora time for people to notice and "judge" us"!! The sort of interaction you get is "Yaaaaay Mendel, love mommy".

I would argue Bilam would be just fine with it.

Comment #17 makes a great point about privacy these days. It seems to me the author is out of touch with what is going on, and this is a big problem if your going to try to tell teen girls not to post starbucks selfies. Context is very VERY important when it comes to these things and the context changes drastically when you talk about different social platforms.

So congratulations on reaffirming the opinions of the 40-year-old-stay-at-home-moms who have no facebook to begin with, while the young people you where talking to, who will never actually leave social media, are making comments about clothing our woman in burkas.
(7/4/2014 12:54:51 PM)
agree with 17
there is a difference between privacy and tznius.
These days, people post pictures of everything, from the lunch they made to evenings out.
While everyone may not agree with it, that's okay.
Posing in a picture in a non tznius way is wrong
posting a picture is not.
(7/4/2014 1:55:27 PM)
17 and 36
You're not saying the same thing. 17 is saying that privacy changes with time. According to that, if we work long and hard enough we'll reach the point where we're comfortable being in the state they were before cheit eitz hadaas...
(7/4/2014 2:31:46 PM)
TO 30
Are you being sarcastic or for real?! Perhaps that is what you should do because it does not appear that you you have the brains to do anything else. I am not saying being a homemaker doesn't require brain because it sure does.
(7/4/2014 3:25:57 PM)
Is the choice either woman stay at home, wear 'burkas' etc or they can/should do anything/everything goyim do???

Chassidus? Eidelkeit? 'Kol kevuda bas melech pnima'? Regal?

A woman can be eidel, dignified, classy, chassidish and work. It's no contradiction, so long its done in accordance with the directives of the Torah.

Talk with (get yourself) a rav/mashpia.
(7/4/2014 3:31:11 PM)
You people are DISGUSTING
To say that women belong in the house? No. We can work and do everything that a man can, and still be tznius. Modesty is not just about the clothing, it is how we carry ourselves day to day in action. Quit blaming women.
(7/4/2014 3:54:35 PM)
PLEASE if you are commenting on this page PLEASE identify your gender so I can skip the comments made by women!
thanx in advance.
(7/4/2014 4:21:55 PM)
Since many man are writings comments here...COL shouldn't let women write comments on this site either... Come on people don't let the summer heat get into head...people abuse the whole tzniues idea to very fanatic levels. Don't have FB or any social media account if you don't like it, but pleas let others live, we don't live in Iran..
(7/4/2014 4:35:19 PM)
to 41
hilarious :) great point, as for my gender I am Microsoft Windows
(7/4/2014 5:11:43 PM)
Women at home
Why are women here upset at the thought of staying home all day looking after kids, cooking ,baking and sewing.... It's a great life- I've been doing this for 18 years and loving every moment of it!! I say, let the men go out to work and women stay home and spend their money!!! Wouldnt change this for the world!! I LOVE my life !!!
(7/4/2014 6:49:03 PM)
To 44
Ok great. For you. But there ARE women who want to work and be productive in society. And they are doing so wonderfully and justifiably.
(7/4/2014 7:25:14 PM)
Letter from the Rebbe
On 3 Tamuz they gave out a Teshura with some hand written answers form the Rebbe. One of them pertains to women in the workforce:

"" :

- '
(7/4/2014 7:54:42 PM)
Great. You sound like you are comfortable using men as atm machines. You don't find this wrong?
(7/4/2014 8:33:43 PM)
A Balancing Act
Thank you for a timely and meaningful article!
No one can claim to be safe from aveira. The Chaza"l state 'keep yourselves far from immorality'. No one would jump into a boiling hot pot, but if you start out in a pot of luke-warm water and iit slowly starts to get hotter, you may not realize how hot it's become until it is too late. Yes, you can get used to anything, but that doesn't make it right, or good for you.
Tznius is certainly one of those things about which people will think: anyone less frum than me is a sinner, anyone more frum must be a fanatic................ Stop and think objectively -What does Hashem Yisborach want us to do? What message do I want my kids to get?
(7/5/2014 5:46:33 PM)
Live and let live
Why can't everyone just stop trying to rule and control others and just live your own life.
If you want to be on Facebook: then go on it. If not: don't.
How's that for a simple solution.
Wake up to reality. You can not control others. Most parents have enough trouble even controlling their own kids.
And on a separate subject: when will we have an eirev in CH? That will make it easier for the women to come to shul and daven. So then all the frum husbands will be happy that their wive's are attending shul.
(7/6/2014 12:21:08 AM)
to comment #49
who is forcing anyone to do anything. this is a discussion about sensitivity, eitdelkeit etc. one can be comfortable enough to at least discuss these issues.

regarding an eiruv, the Rebbe is the Moro D'asro of Kan Tziva. Did the Rebbe say anything about this subject?
(7/6/2014 12:55:52 AM)
Nothing wrong-
Women have every right to work,study,have careers and be very productive as they see fit.If you don't like fb, get off.If you see it as totally ok, go right ahead.Why is everyone obsessed with what others are doing?Why are YOU not the watchdog of YOURSELF?People like to point out what others do to deflect from what they are doing and to feel better about themselves.So they have fb?Many do not have photos.And many have private settings.Why are you snooping around in the first place?People like to keep up with friends-and it can be helpful for those in need.IF YOU ARE UNCOMFORTABLE,THEN GET OFF.However,stop trying to control anyone else.
(7/6/2014 9:35:35 AM)
thank you#46
Refreshing to read the Rebbe's words on a page full of (excuse me) narishe comments.
And this article did indeed help me to have a think of how the different media has desensitized me.
To those women who seem to have a chip on their shoulder and feel this article "oppresses" women ("let's go wear bourquas")... please, we all know the huge respect and value Torah chassidus and especially our Rebbe put on the women's critical role. Kol kvudah bas melech pnima supports that, is that. I'm surprised there are still women in lubavith who don't feel it know about the huge respect for their role. Also important for you to respect your own role. .... some of these comments are very sad. I imagine they come from young women probably not married. Once a women is married it maonlyke time but she'll probably soon come to an appreciation of being a women she never appreciated before. Especially in the light of the Rebbe' s teachings. But then again maybe that inky happens if there's an emphasis placed on "ma tovu oholecha..."
(7/6/2014 12:17:18 PM)
Starting to wonder if I'm thinking the sarcastic comments are serious and the serious comments are a joke.
Either way something is seriously wrong with some heads in this community.

If it makes you uncomfortable if pictures of your children are published on the internet--- THAT I get.

If it makes you uncomfortable that you are commenting on a forum along with members of the opposite gender---- totally valid for you to disable your account.

If its bothering you that OTHER people are doing ANYTHING--- get a life, talk to your mashpia about how you can work more on yourself or do some chessed. Learn some Torah. Play with your kids. Read a book. Do some grocery shopping. Whatever.

Also-- I hate when issues of tznius rationalize completely invasive judgement. To the person who doesn't think women should post pictures of themselves on their social media profiles- maybe if you could think critically for a SECOND you would come to realize how judgmental, ignorant, and all around out of line with true Torah values that is. If I knew who you were and know that you could see me walking on the street I would be extremely uncomfortable and feel completely invaded by your eyes.
(7/6/2014 4:55:24 PM)
Evolving Standards
I think the concept of evolving privacy (that 17 mentioned) is seen in the original story itself and how the author sees it. Bilam was commenting on the fact that people were carful about their privacy by keeping their tents i.e. bedrooms i.e. the most intimate parts of their lives private.

The author then goes to equate this level of privacy to individuals commenting on post that other men/women are commenting.

I find it very interesting how, in trying to go back to our roots, one would make a bridge between the most casual of conversation and bedroom privacy.
(7/6/2014 7:12:25 PM)
should be an internet mechitza cause one on the internet shouldn't be allowed to see women's post while he can go on other sites...
(7/6/2014 9:24:54 PM)
its time for a new era
As technology becomes more and more.advanced. People are getting unappropriate.signals that wouldnt be normally their its time its time to turn away from the internet.and spend our time in the comfort.of a good sefer
(7/6/2014 11:30:26 PM)
number 54
You're professing ignorance. The gemara in bava basra learns out of this very posuk the concept of hezek re'iah, which includes all areas of life, not just the bedroom. JLI had a course on this and it was very well received. They got the idea of privacy and tzenius. Halevai we all should as well.
(7/6/2014 11:33:51 PM)
hashem yishmar
Everyday i give an extra penny to tzedekah for this gashmius to end
(7/7/2014 12:03:37 AM)
to 55&&56
Oh the irony in both of these comments.
(7/7/2014 6:09:59 AM)
to # 12
reading women's comments is inappropriate, showing yourself off and dressing non tsniusdik on streets full of chilldren bochurim and men is ok?
(7/7/2014 10:01:40 PM)
You didn't get the response I see.
(7/8/2014 1:29:49 AM)
to 6
Check out skype. LOWER CASE S. Why do u blame good ppl for doing a good job?
u are obviously a child who is trying to sound smart. Go consult a professional marketer- whats "in" and what "works" in todays generation is ONLY words like STUFF and LOWER CASED LETTERS AND SLANG AND URBAN DICTIONARY. GET YOUR STUFF STRAIGHT B4 U CRITISIZE.
(7/8/2014 12:58:52 PM)
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