Prof. Gideon Aran: The priestly protect the boundaries of the body

The priestly tendency to protect the boundaries of the body against the danger of impurity characterized the children of Israel on the rivers of Babylon, the period of the return to Zion as told in the Torah, and their diasporic descendents who lived under the Talmud.

Written By Prof. Gideon Aran

With the Haredim it has become quite an obsession. As the classic question about tribal identity in the form of “who is a Jew?” is narrowed and sharpened, and replaced with the test of “who is a Haredi?” the defense mechanisms that envelope the body have become more and more severe and specific. Note, for instance, the attention paid to openings of the body, and to the flow of fluids into and out of it. Urinating, for example, is not an insignificant and neutral issue, but rather a whole ceremony carried out under precise surveillance.

A child in nursery school can only visit the toilet with the supervisor’s permission. However, he is warned against holding it in so as not to defile (shikutz – abomination) the body and the spirit. When slightly older, the Haredi youngster is expected to train himself to urinate in the morning without stimulating his penis.

There is also an explicit instruction on what one is permitted and forbidden to think about while urinating. Nor does Haredism exempt itself from dealing with the backside and defecation. Enemas have an important place in the Haredi bodily repertoire. Rules concerning less innocent bodily secretions, such as ejaculation, are several degrees more serious.

Taken from “Denial Does Not Make The Haredi Body Go Away Ethnography of a Disappearing (?) Jewish Phenomenon”, By Prof. Gideon Aran.

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