Day 10: Maintain a Balanced Approach: Treat Women with Respect
"Common courtesy precedes Torah."
(Vayikra Rabbah 9:3)
Couldn't not looking at a woman be construed as rudeness?
Naturally, every situation requires tact and common sense. The law does not expect us to treat modestly dressed women as if they do not exist. We are expected to develop a balance between controlling our eyes and treating women respectfully.
Rabbi Simcha Zissel Ziv, one of the foremost proponents of Mussar, entered a restaurant accompanied by a colleague. The owner of the restaurant was delighted that two great rabbis had come to eat in her restaurant. She prepared a lavish meal and served them herself with respect and joy.
During the course of the meal, in her excitement over hosting such important guests, she told them about her special recipes and the running of her business. Rabbi Simcha Zissel listened attentively, asking questions and responding to her answers.
The other rabbi buried his head in a book and paid no attention to the woman's conversation.
When the rabbis were ready to pay for the meal, she refused to accept their money. "Should I lose the merit of this mitzvah," she exclaimed, "for a few coins?"
Afterwards, Rabbi Simcha Zissel turned to his friend and said, "Aren't you concerned that you ate and drank without paying?"
"What do you mean?" his companion replied, "She refused any payment!"
"You're right," said Rabbi Simcha Zissel, "She didn't want any money. But she wanted very much to speak with us and you completely ignored her. You took her meal without giving her any compensation."
Undoubtedly, Rabbi Simcha Zissel kept his eyes and thoughts properly trained. Yet out of consideration for his hostess, he maintained the halachot of guarding his eyes without compromising the Torah axiom to show appreciation to others. We learn from his example that each situation requires good judgment. When women are dressed modestly, we can observe the Torah's laws, and at the same time give them attention and respect.
Today: Use a balanced approach - understand that the laws of Shmirat Einayim do not allow you to deny women respect and consideration.