Monday, October 23, 2006

Tsniut and Tsreaking

On the eve of October 4 2006, the UCSC campus witnessed an annual tradition... First Rain. When the first rain of the school year falls for more than 15 minutes in the evening of a weekday (unstated, generally understood social rules... are there more??) many students streak across campus. I've heard that it's a fun bonding activity for the campus, but I wouldn't know.

Streaking just isn't my activity. For some, it seems like a wonderful liesurely activity, but for me, not so much. I personally don't like advertising my circumcision to the world. Perhaps, my hesitation is because of Tsniut.... Oh Tsniut....

Tsniut is the Jewish concept of modesty. We may be all too familiar with stories of women with covered elbows and long skirts. But Tsniut applies to men as well. Granted, I haven't brushed up with the code in a while, but I'm pretty sure running naked across campus isn't on the "ok with modesty" list.

But I will offer my classmates the benefit of the doubt, or as the Sages call it, Chaf Zechut.....

Gan Eden Mikedem

Perhaps they were attempting to physically manifest the atmosphere of Gan Eden, the Garden of Eden. Perhaps they were channeling Shechinat Hashem, the feminine resonant aspect of God, and delving back into the nakedness of our ancestors Adam and Chava (Eve). By bearing it all, they asserted that they strive for the close relationship between human beings and their creator, the continuous former of the universe, the Holy One Blessed Be He. As Rabbi Nachman Of Bratslav suggests, God is always calling out to us "Ayecha!?", "Where are you!?" In response, the students of UCSC reenacted the first people to answer that message, and brought an equivalence of Paradise to the forests of Santa Cruz, K'Gan Eden Mikedem, like the Garden of Eden in the beginning.

Har Tzion
Many students who participate in the First Rain debaucherous dash agree that there is a miraculous sense of unity. The run is not sexualized, but rather envigorated with a fervor of bonding and brotherhood/sisterhood. There is a common goal of embracing the moment, feeling the rush of adrenaline, and embracing a campuswide sense of community. Just as our ancestors stood at the foot of Mt. Sinai, surrounded by fog and mist (Semitic Special Affects), and experienced the miracle of revelation, so too do participants, knee deep in fog, experience revelation as well. It is a single moment in the academic year when they come together as Kahal Santa Cruz, and witness the unity of the campus. Just like when we feel a sense of familiarity among the tribe, and we claim it was because we saw each other at Mt. Sinai, so too is there a familiarity amongst those who bare testament to the miracle of First Rain.

Choni HaMa'agal
There is a story in the Mishnah (oral law) which tells of a guy named Choni, who is given the title, HaMa'agal, The Circle (Drawer). I won't go into the story, but the basics are that in a time of drought, he drew a circle in the ground, stood inside, and challenged God that he wouldn't leave till God brought rain. God does, people are happy, end of story. Perhaps UCSC students are attempting to draw one big, massive, naked, circle on the UCSC campus to usher in a time of rain to sustain the harvest. They make with their feet (and sneakers) an Eruv, a boundary for which they refuse to leave until God grants them a rain-filled (organic) crop yield. Ok, that's a bit of a stretch, but I wanted one more example.

Or maybe I give them too much credit!

What is more Halachicly (legally) wrong, and absolutely more shameful, than breaking tsniut is Busha, embarrassment. I do not believe that the runners felt much embarrassment. But one of the worst sins one can commit in the Jewish faith is embarrassing someone in public. It is said that all people go into the next world, Olam Haba, except people who embarrass others in public. This may seem a bit extreme, but the Sages explain more in the Talmud. It is just despicable that people would take pictures of the running, choosing not to run, and then post them online. If the internet is not public, I don't know what is. This is definitely the worst case of Busha I have ever seen. *tear*

Choni HaMa'agal.


Anonymous LauraC said...

A good point. I ran, and it was so fun. I could tell it was a big step for some girls who were insecure. I did worry about tsniut for a minute, as I have become more modest in the past year on account of having a boyfriend (who is ironically not Jewish.) But he just wants me to be happy, so he didn't object to the frolic. Hey, you could see it as being consistent: date a goy, might as well run nude across campus.
Due to the awkwardness of the situation on First Rain, I found all awkwardness to vanish. It's normally kind of awkward to walk up to a stranger and talk to them, but when surrounded by *hundreds* of other naked, wet, screaming, innebriated/sober people, normal conventions are abolished. It's a time when I feel safe and confident (surprise x2), it's the only time of the year when I'll run more than a block for anything besides a bus, and people are just really friendly and happy! On my entire run, I recognized but two people I knew (aside from the friend I started running with), so who can even say they've seen me nude? (One of the friends ran with me two years ago, and we did senior streak together, so we'd been through this before.)
Now, all of this pro-streaking rambling does not make it tsniut. Of course it's not modest, but it's not sexual. I get more catcalls walking to the Metro, even when I'm dressed tsnius. (I got no catcalls on First Rain, but a lot of positive encouragement, as if at a clothed marathon.) No matter how much I type I can't describe how fun it is! I write this as one of the least modest people I know. I am trying to work on it, deleting explitives here and there, putting on a sweater on a warm day, and being all around less disgusting. Baby steps. I'm not ready to give up First Rain yet.
Also, it's so cold that no one could see your circumcision.

Mon Oct 23, 09:38:00 PM 2006  
Blogger G-D SQUAD said...

lol... first rain and tsnius are entirely different worlds.

hey laura, i got your tag on my wall. it's good to hear that you're keeping it real. we all miss you over here.

Tue Oct 24, 02:23:00 PM 2006  
Blogger G-D SQUAD said...

So, obviously if anyone wants to see the pictures and video they can look up "first rain" on youtube or google or whatever.

But the last part of your post really begs the question, "If someone is brazen enough to run naked through completely public areas, isn't the point that they want people to see them?" And if that is the case, why would they be embarassed in the least by more people seeing them over the internet?

Obviously, some of the people on campus are disgusted that people would force the sight of their naked bodies onto their peers. Obviously some of the runners and some of the observers are perverts. And obviously some, or probably most, of the people who participate and watch are just having a (naive) good old time.

But, in my humble opinion, the *tear* factor comes from the implication that so many young people have been so repressed and unfulfilled in their lives in this American society that running in naked herds in public is fulfilling in any way.

Wed Oct 25, 05:44:00 AM 2006  
Blogger netmessiah said...

I think the runners feel no shame. They are not embarrassed. Granted, its not the best way to show they have adventure and excitement. But by taking pictures, and video footage, and then posting it online, its almost like lashon harah. its a spreading of somenones message without their permission. As i understand it from first rain testimony, the running is far from a sexually charged thing. but the photographers twist it into somethng sexual by capturing it. they post it online because they find it visually arousing to see hordes of naked bodies. this is a breach of trust, an act of sheer selfishness, and a perversion of the moment. if you dont want to run, dont run. if you do, power to you. but to stand idly by, gawking through the viewfinder of your video camera, lustfully waitig for a peep show, is shameful. its socially apprehensible to infiltrate the privacy of a nude beach, and so to is it to film first rain.

Thu Oct 26, 12:35:00 PM 2006  
Blogger G-D SQUAD said...

Is that really your opinion? So let's think about this: If I choose to take off my clothes and run into the 9/10 dining hall naked, that's the same as me going to a nude beach? I beg to differ.

And I highly doubt that these videographers were "lustfully waiting for a peep show." At my first First Rain (Fall 2002), I didn't get naked but I did see plenty of naked people, running through my dining hall, running through my classroom. Was I lustfully waiting for anything? Not necessarily. I thought it was funny and interesting at the time, and if I had had a video camera, maybe I would have captured it and put it on the internet as a testament to the unique cultural atmosphere at UC Santa Cruz.

And if indeed my intention was more corrupt than that, I doubt I would have only listed my video keywords as "first rain ucsc," but rather as "naked nude etc" which is what people who are strictly looking for videos of naked people would search for (i.e. Joe Shmoe Pervert would not search "first rain" if he was just looking for porn).

Now, I do understand that taking pictures and video of people in general without their permission can be invasive, but I doubt it was done with a malicious intent.

And, once again, my point is mainly that if people don't want their naked bodies being publicised, maybe they should think twice before running through public thoroughfares, naked.

Sun Oct 29, 05:28:00 AM 2006  
Anonymous LauraC said...

oh you guys are funny
Although hundreds of people saw me and perhaps even took pictures of me, I still felt fairly annonymous while running. The people that take pictures are so annoying. While I do enjoy offending and shocking people, sometimes it's just too easy. They take pictures like it's some kind of freak show. When really, EVERYTHING at UCSC is a freak show. Very few people end up posing for pictures on first rain. And if they do, it's not usually something pretty. I insist that first rain is non-sexual for the majority of people who participate, document, or look at first rain media later on. But maybe that's what's weird about it- that hundreds of naked people is SUPPOSED be sexual. I suppose that's the point of tsnius- keeping sexual what is sexual.

Tue Nov 14, 06:37:00 PM 2006  

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