Explicit guidance and methodical policing form a part of sermons, morality lessons, lectures by yeshiva heads and “supervisors”, as well in one-on-one meetings with authoritative experts on matters of the body.
Written By Prof. Gideon Aran
Usually they are turned to when needed in relation to particular events, especially rites of passage like marriage. In such cases sensitive aspects of sex, which are absent from public discourse, are touched upon. There are also specialists and consultants in the sub-field of the ethics of Haredi life known as “preserving the body”, where a pseudo-medical discourse is adopted.
The proper body submits itself to a system of truths that promise physical and mental health. For instance, following the Babylonian Talmud, a recommendation is made to the Torah student: “Do not sit too much, for sitting aggravates the hemorrhoids; do not stand too much, for standing hurts the heart; do not walk too much, for walking hurts the eyes. So, spend one third of your time sitting, one third of your time standing, and one third walking”.
It is natural that there should also be Haredi dealings with the body for the purposes of correcting or censuring it that are more subtly put across. There are all kinds of childish aberrations from the proper body that adults in positions of authority respond to with a passing comment, a slight change in the tone of voice, a short and fleeting but intense glance, an absentminded touch. Any innocent gesture on the part of a child that might allude to sexuality elicits an automatic parental response, a kind of conditioned reflex.