I noticed myself ranting and raving over in Mother In Israel's blog comments. Over the course of several posts, she translates (and comments on) the Maariv article, Neshot HaRealah (women of the veil). The article discusses a disturbing new cult in which a "rebbetzin" (I put it in quotes because I've heard no evidence that her husband is a rabbi) wears ten layers and covers her face with a veil for the purpose of modesty.
People all over the Jewish blogging world (Mother In Israel has a list here) are taking a stand on the subject. Instead of leaving my comments on every single blog out there, here are my feelings...
The "rebbetzin" has said that women should cover their whole body, including the face, and she (for 'religious' reasons) does not speak except for four hours a week. She rarely goes out, and encourages her followers not to speak to men, get into a taxi driven by a man, or even go into a shop when there is a man inside.
Here's my main argument:
Judaism is about living in harmony with the world, not about living outside it.
Throughout the Torah, we are told how to experience but harness our animalistic side. We are supposed to taste the food, but make a bracha (blessing) to remember where it came from. We are supposed to enjoy making love, but only with our spouse. Even if we fall in love with a captive of war, we may marry her, but only when we are convinced that it is true love and not the heat of the moment.
We're supposed to search for the balance and the way to make even the most mundane things spiritually holy.
Putting my baby to bed at night is made holy by saying shema for her. Waking my husband in the morning is made holy by washing hands and helping him get organized to put on tfillin. My husband's work in a mundane job is made holy by the tzedaka he gives from his salary, and the home that he supports. Even my husband's hobby of juggling is made holy by the fact that he uses it to entertain sick children, to bring joy to Purim at our shul, and for sukkot to remind people of the simchat beit hashoeva.
Even grocery shopping is holy when you think about your Shabbat table, the guests you want to please, and the joy you bring to your spouse by preparing something they like.
Heck, even going to the bathroom is part of a holy ritual in which we give thanks to G-d for making our bodies function as they should!
So please, "rebbetzin" stop hiding from the world, and learn to live in it.