Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Boy-Girl Relationships III

Your Nefesh is not what decides right from wrong, especially since you have a Nefesh Habehamis, which feels great about things that are assur.

In fact, the more assur something is, the better it's going to feel - as the posuk says - mayim genuvim yimtaku, stolen waters taste sweet.

With all Taavos, but so much more so with this one, the good feeling you have does not mean what the feeling is drawing you towards is good. Your hormones are literally like drugs, and they soak your brain in these chemicals that make you feel all sorts of things. But it doesn’t work the way you’re working it - it's not that if you have the feeling that means it’s a good thing; rather, when we know of a good thing (in this case the proper marriage partner), we develop the feelings. These feelings can hit anybody at any time and direct you almost anywhere. It’s playing with fire.

I really know that these feelings make you FEEL like this is right, but feelings aren't a gauge of right and wrong.

If someone does something wrong, we don’t know how bad that makes the person who did it, because we don’t know their nisyonos - al tadim es chavercha ad shetigia l'mkomo. But we surely do know what Hashem says is right and wrong - that’s what we have a Torah for!

I have no idea whether a boy is potentially a good zivug. But I do know 2 things for a fact:

1) Whether he is or isn't should not be determined solely by these "feelings" - you could have gotten these feelings of attraction for a guy and then found out he’s married, or not Jewish - your hormones have no way of knowing whether the person they are drawing you to is your zivug. You have a yetzer horah whose job it is to give you nisyonos, and the fact that you have these strong feelings may mean this is one of them.

2) Violating the prohibition of negiyah is surely wrong, even if this boy is your zivug min hashamayim. Even though we can't know how hard it is for a person to resist what is wrong, because we don’t know their nisyonos, we DO know that what they are doing is wrong.

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Guys aren’t "evil". Evil is only when you choose something, not if Hashem made you a certain way. That having been said, it is clear in all our Mussar seforim as well as in Chazal and Poskim, including the Shulchan Aruch, that men should "stay far, far away from women" unless necessary, because of the likelihood that trouble will happen. And that applies to all men.

Nobody's putting down men. Saying that someone has a certain yetzer horah does not mean you are putting them down. Wealthy people have a yetzer horah that poor people don’t, and vice versa; tzadikim have yeter horahs that we cannot even imagine - kol hagodol mechaveiro yitzro godol hemenu. Men have yetzer horahs too, that women do not (and perhaps vice versa as well). That does not mean anything negative about them

---

What you feel are the last remnants of the "bad habit" fighting you. That feeling of "something missing", too, will go away with time. You’ve come so far, this is the last, final challenge before you reach the finish line. Don’t give in! As happy as you are now that you’ve come this far, you will be even happier when you pass this!

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Being friends with the opposite sex hardly constitutes "everything".

Second, it is not up to us to make prohibitions - Hashem does it. Don't shoot the messenger.

Third, there is no more incidents of children going "off the derech" in those communities or families that do not allow mingling of the sexes than there are among those that do allow it. In fact, in Modern Orthodox communities the promiscuity levels are much, much, much greater. And so are the incidents of drug use, particularly weed.

The reason kids are running away has nothing to do with Judaism or its "restrictions" - it has much more to do with Jews, meaning, the way people in the kid's life deal with him. That includes (in order of importance) parents, authority figures, role models, and the community at large.

Next. The Torah does not "restrict" anything. You are free to violate the Torah if you wish. The free will is yours. The Torah, in its benevolence, informs us of the consequences of our actions. If I tell you not to go swimming because there are sharks in the water, I did not "restrict" you; I enlightened you. Now the decision is yours.

So too the Torah enlightens us as to the consequences to our souls as a result of certain behaviors. Now the choice is yours. You want to swim with the sharks? That’s your choice, but don’t blame G-d for warning you.

---

This particular Yetzer Horah of looking at pornography is often agonizingly difficult to overcome. The reason is not merely because it is so strong, but also because whereas by other Taavos - such as Kovod, money, and power - you can enlighten yourself into a state of victory over the Yetzer - you can learn to laugh at Kovod; to be a Someach b'chelko; and to not care about power - there is no philosophy, no enlightenment, and no proper attitude that will cause you to not care about this Taavah. The only way to fight it is with simple self-restraint. That’s why "Kedusha" means staying away from this specific Taavah. You have to simply "say no" to this Taavah; for the others, you can simply learn that there is nothing there that you even need to say "no" to.
Your first course of action is to make Gedorim and Siyagim. Keep the computer in a public place if possible; allow others to use your computer when you’re not there (you may be afraid that others will see your "trail." And by the way, it's not only the Temporary Internet Files that show where you've been. Even if you erase those, there are still ways to see your history).

After that, you need to realize that the only way you can get out of this is simply by fighting the urge to do it. Tehillim helps of course, but just like Tehillim helps for a sick person. Meaning, you still have to go to the doctor. Here, you are your own doctor, and your self-restraint is your medicine.

There is one "trick" that I have suggested to people that sometimes helps. The way this particular Tavah works is, you constantly need to refresh it with new images. There is so much available that the Yeter Horah is always making you look for more, and it makes you bored of the same old thing after a very short while. So if you limit your Yetzer Horah to a small amount of images, using only them and never going for new ones, it will eventually become boring, and at that point it will be easier for you to break away from the whole thing.

At this point I must clarify that I am not allowed to, nor do I have any intention of, telling you to look at this stuff. Rather, I am merely advising you to reduce and limit what you are looking at already, in order that it will be easier to break away totally.

Please understand also, that even though the situation looks and feels bleak, with much effort and much prayer, Hashem can give you Siyata D'Shmaya. You never know where - and when - Hashem's salvation will come.

You are fighting a very tough battle. The main thing is to keep fighting and not give up. Hashem is the one who decides what our Nisyonos are, and how hard they will be. He is watching you fight this battle, and Shepping Nachas from your efforts. It is those efforts that make Hashem proud. And the energy that you put into those efforts is what brings Shefa and Brachah to then entire world.

In a time where Klall Yisroel needs Shefa and Brachah so desperately, the efforts you are putting in to fighting this Taavah are so important to us and to Hashem. Please, for all of our sakes, keep on fighting.

---

It’s possible you can end up with a girldriend "in der richtiger tzeit". But there is not much you can do now about it. The pain you feel is what happens when you play with fire and get burnt. The attraction between men and women is mad strong (to say the least) and it lasts far after the relationship itself terminates. I don’t want to sound cruel, but you must understand that the pain was self-inflicted because you knew you should have stayed away from this girl to begin with. There are many problems that can result from hanging out with girls, and getting hurt is one of them. I am sorry, but there is not much to do except let time heal.

---

Please understand that the attraction between men and women is designed to keep marriages intact - which takes much effort of course - and is very, very strong. It messes with your head, your feelings, and your body. Everything about you is involved. Breaking such a bond is not really supposed to happen, except in cases of divorce, which is a total catastrophe according to the Torah (the Mizbeach itself cries, Chazal say). There is no medicine that can counter the pain of such a breakup. Time will do it. You will get over it -- everyone does -- even though right now it feels so not that way. Please keep the faith and hang in there.

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Having a "crush" isn't what's wrong; what's wrong is being around the girl and/or thinking about her in a way that causes the "crush". You didn’t choose your feelings, but you caused them. (If you didn’t do anything to cause them then you are not responsible for them at all).

You cannot just undo those feelings at will. The best way to deal with it is to stay away form the girl or any connection to her, and focus on your learning and doing Mitzvos. Crushes are like bratty kids. The more you give them attention by telling them "stop it!" the more annoying they become.

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One of the many, many major problems with just being "friends" with the opposite gender is that so often, without intent or warning, it becomes much more. And I say "becomes" because nobody proactively has to make it that way; it just happens. That is the way Hashem made the world. And that is one of the benefits of staying away from the opposite gender, because when this happens - and there is no way to predict when or to whom this will happen - it can be mean a seriously painful, traumatic experience. People think that they'll have these friends, fall in love, and then get married. The problem is, just because you fall in love with someone does not mean that they are a good marriage-partner for you.

This happens especially often in coed schools, where the girls and boys in the same grades become friends, but the girls, being girls, are ahead of the boys, maturity-wise. So usually, the boy, who is like 17 maybe, falls for a 17 year old classmate or grademate girl, when at the same time, the girl is looking for someone older than that. More often than not, it's therefore the boy who gets hurt.

People who hang around together or work together or are friends with each other can fall for each other almost at random - and you have no way to know when or how its going to hit. The other person could be married, not Jewish, not frum, or, even more painful, not interested. They can have totally different ideas of what they want out of life, or want totally different type of person.

Part of the reason why the divorce rate is so ridiculously high in the secular and so-called modern world is because people first meet, then become friends, then fall in love, then decide to get married. Objectively, the person least able to make a rational decision regarding whether to get married is someone who is in love. It's like making career decisions literally when your brain is soaked with mind-altering substances.

When this happens, and you or they or both of you decide it’s not a match, well, there are very few things more painful. (An exception to this is getting married because you’re in love and then deciding that it’s not a match).

Is this a punishment? Well, any pain is a punishment. But if a person crosses a busy intersection on a red light, it would be unusual for him to ask if his broken bones are a punishment from G-d for doing a dangerous thing. Of course it was a punishment, but it is more: it was a choice - you risked it on your own. You threw the dice and it landed on the wrong number. And if someone is friends with the opposite gender, it's like crossing on the red light.

Of course, sometimes we are "born" in the middle of the intersection, or cross without knowing the light is red. But regardless, it’s still as painful.

And part of the pain is that it feels as if it will never subside. People who are so intensely attracted have their brains soaked in mind altering liquid secretions that cause them to feel, and therefore think, that the feelings will never subside.

So now the question is what to do. First, despite what it feels like now, it will subside. You will get over it. It takes a long time but it will happen. Better if you don't try to wrench it out of your mind. For the way the mind works is, the more you try to not think of something, the more you end up thinking of it. (Just watch this: Try hard not to think of a pink elephant. See what I mean?)

So just let it take it's time, and when these thoughts come up, don't try to push them out of your head, just let them tide. They will die soon.

---

People think that boy/girl associations are wrong only if they are not 100% innocent, and it is the lack of innocence that is the problem. Therefore, they will often allow 4-year-old boy and girl neighbors to grow up and become teenagers together because they became associated in a totally innocent way.

This is a problem. Because the Torah does not want boys and girls to be friends, even if they grew up together since they were 4. That is why, after a certain age, we separate them. That’s what should have been done in your case.

Imagine, for instance, if you and your 4 year old little boy neighbor used to go swimming together, which is not an altogether impossible assumption. Would you say that it would be OK for both of you to continue this practice throughout adolescence with the justification that you have been doing it since you were four?

It’s the same thing with being friends. Friendships between boys and girls are prohibited by the Torah.

The reason why people have a difficult time seeing this comparison is because with a friendship, the bond that was created while you were still innocently young is what connects you today as well, in other words the friendship was already created in an innocent way. It’s not as if you are deciding to be friends today. That innocent friendship lasts even into adolescence. So it seems innocent even now. As opposed to the swimming, where each time you jump into the pool you are making a new decision to do so.

That is true, but it doesn’t matter. The friendship is prohibited now, even if the decision to create it, and its creation, happened innocently. Your relationship was OK then, but not now.

---

There are many people in MO schools and it is therefore hard for them to stop being friends with boys/girls.

Sigh. It's true. That's one of the reasons MO schools are not accepted – it’s not sinas chinam at all, it’s simply, that if someone wants to do good, they can’t because aveiros such as this are shoved down their throat! And you’re taught - either explicitly or implicitly - that there’s nothing wrong with these things when there really is.

They do this in order to satisfy the desires of the MO parents, who do or approve of these things. The schools have to be not so religious because their "customers" want it.

But that doesn't help you. If you're in a Modern Orthodox school, there's almost no way for you not to talk to boys. What you need to do now is, take it step by step. First step is, just set your goals. Know that the situation that you are in is not desirable, and, without judging anyone, understand that it is not your fault that you are there - you did not choose your upbringing. Continue growing and learning about Judaism and what it is, so that when you are more in control of your lifestyle choices, you will be able to make them in the way that represents your own wishes as opposed to others making your lifestyle choices for you. Maybe you can leave that school, if not now, then later on, or at least, when you graduate you can decide to go to a seminary more in tune with Halachah and Daas Torah. In the meantime, you should try to make friends who are being brought up not to talk to boys, meaning, girls outside of your school. The more connection you have with more religious people - friends and adults - the easier it will be for you to make the transition.

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Teenagers can have "romantic love" -- as much as adults, and it is an illusion in both cases. It is the result of hormonal secretions from your and his glands. It feels awesome, but it’s only a feeling. It lasts, max, about 3 years, and that’s if you don’t break up before that, which is probable.

Real love is the result of two people living, working, and striving together, and it is comprised of respect and admiration and appreciation and mutual experience. It is not the romantic pie-in-the-sky-fireworks-smileyface-swoony thing you feel now.

Ignore it. It means nothing, no matter what it feels like. It’s like a drug - no, not "like"; it IS a drug - some liquid, mind altering substance that your body and brain created.

You're playing with fire. Get out while you can.

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The issue is the definition of love, and it is not a hormonal reaction to some female (and yes, warm, fuzzy, emotional reactions can also be hormonal), yet that is precisely the cause of your feelings.

On the other hand, years of sharing life experiences together, working together, sharing goals and life itself in a way that no two other people can --- that is way more than mere hormones.

---

Understanding the Male-Female Dynamic'

[...]
Hashem made guy/girl relationships in such that they become dependent on each
other, stronger as a unit then they ever were individually. Some of his and her
strength and souls are donated to the unit, and a new entity is created stronger
than both of them put together.

That's good in a marriage. But very bad in a casual teenage relationship. This
"donating of strength" begins, but the guy is only going to stay around until
you dump or get dumped.

[...]

You don't need a psycho-emotional crutch draining your sensitivities and feelings
and pooling it into a collective entity that will vanish shortly, taking part of
your soul with it.

[...]

The teenage years are the WORST time to get into such a relationship. Your
emotions, feelings, and self-esteem are complicated enough as it is that you
don't need a guy in your life to make all that even worse.

[...]
Now Rav Moshe [Feinstein] ZTL [in Igros Moshe, Even HaEzer, IV:60] does NOT mean
that every boy/girl friendship is for the purpose of lust. The dynamics of mixed
gender friendships are so different than same gender friendships, and the reason
is because of the subtle but oh-so-obvious sexual dynamic taking place between
the parties.

When a guy and girl are talking, just observe how often they smile at each
other, (with or without intent), how often she flicks back her hair, how often
they make eye contact --- come on! - it's so, so obvious that even though they
don't have any intention of ever "doing anything", Hashem's mechanism for
guaranteeing the reproduction of the species is triggered here. Even in
so-called "platonic" relationships.

And how many "platonic" relationships developed into something more? Do you
think that happened overnight? Suddenly? Or did it develop slowly, starting
before either party even realized it?

When advertisers want to sell cars, they put a girl next to the car in the
picture.
[...]

Store owners - especially fast food places - prefer that their cashiers be
attractive, and that they wear makeup, because they know that guys say "keep the
change" rather than wait for their 5 or 10 cents, much more when the cashier is
attractive. The guy has no clue what's happening to him. That's the way guys
are. That's how Hashem made them.
[...]


We often engage in sexual behavior that we can't even feel. Do you notice the
fact that you say, "keep the change" more often to attractive cashiers?

Much of sexual behavior is subconscious. As an example of how powerful and subtle this is, take the fact that sexual abuse on kids often leads to really big
psychological problems later in life, and that often the kid will not even
remember the abuse. Sex has deep, deep psychological, subconscious, and even
metaphysical ramifications that you cannot dismiss by saying you don't "feel"
something. You can't always feel it, but somewhere something is happening.

The only question is, if it is so subtle, how do you know when sexual activity
is taking place within you? The answer is, you don't, but G-d does, and so he
gave us the Halachah.

IMPORTANT NOTE: This does NOT mean that all these subtleties "lead" to something
else. They do not have to lead to anything. It is the subtlety itself that the
Torah prohibited, not the long-term problems that may be associated with it.
[...]

---

Here's the thing. There is a difference between the desire for girls and all other desires in the world.

All other desires are dependent on a person's values (philosophy). Money, honor, power, all of them only tempt you if you value them. And therefore, you can fight your temptation for them either by resisting, or by changing your values (i.e. your philosophy). A person can say, I don't care about money. Or, I don't care about honor - it doesn't mean much to me. You can study the futility of all worldly temptations and then conclude intellectually that you reject pursuing them.

But not girls. The desire for girls is not a value or a philosophy, and no matter how big a philosopher or how wise a man you are, the desire for girls is still there. You can't undo or weaken it with your head, the way you can with the other Taavos.

You can be a "sameach b'chelko" and not want money' you can be a "sameach b'chlko" and not want Kovod; but the biggest "sameach b'chelko" will still want girls.

And as opposed to other "appetite" taavos, such as drugs or alcohol, you do not have to expose yourself to it in order to want it. If you never took drugs or drank, you may be curious, but the real Taavah comes after you take the drugs and get used to them. With girls, you don't have to give yourself the Taavah. It's there by itself and there's nothing you can do about it.

You didn't ask to want girls, you didn't do anything to make it happen, it's just there.

The Gemora (Shabbos 152a) quotes a posuk: "Ki hu amar vayehi" - Hashem decreed, and so it was!

"Rav Kahane said, this is a woman. She is just full of dirt and blood, yet everyone runs after her". Meaning, there's no logic behind it, Hashem said it should be that way, and it is. It's a Gezeiras Hakasuv.

This is probably why, when Chazal say the angels came down to this world demanding a chance to keep the Torah, the aveirah that defeated them was Arayos. Because even though the angels were physical then, they still retained their angelic intellects which told them philosophically that money honor and power are not worth pursuing in this world. And through their great understanding of the futility of these Tavvos they rejected them.

But women don't work that way. No matter how wise you are the Taavah is still there, so the Malachim were unable to undo their Taavah for Arayos.

The only way - the one and only way - to resist women is self discipline. Period. You can't use your THINKING to fight the Taavah here, you can only use your ACTIONS. You have to resist, discipline, and STAY AWAY.

This is why restraint from Arayos is called Kedusha (holiness) as opposed to refraining from any other sin. Refraining from other sins could be holiness, but it could also be simple wisdom. It could be you're a Sameach b'chlko. Even a non-religious guy would be happier if he was a Sameach B'chelko, so not running after money does not necessarily have to do with religion or holiness. As opposed to Arayos, where "EVERY PLACE you find restraint from Arayos, there you find holiness" (Rashi Kedoshim). Because there is only one possible reason for not doing Arayos -- self-discipline, and that's what we mean here by holiness.

This is also why we find more Gedorim and Siyagim (fences and safeguards) against Arayos than any other sin.

This is why, even though Sefardim always rule like the Bais Yosef even when the majority of poskim are against him, when it comes to issues of Arayos, writes the Chikrei Lev (II:180b), they are permitted to be strict, even against the Bais Yosef, with support of a majority of poskim.

So what you want here is normal. The fact that you want it is a Gezeiras Hakasuv. You're in the same boat with all guys in the world. The only way to avoid trouble here is to refrain. Don't answer this girl's calls. If you end up accidentally speaking to her, tell her you don't speak to girls and she should please not call. Hashem wants you to "want" girls, and He also wants to resist that desire. By resisting, you become holy.

If you do give in, it will be harder to pull out when you want to. So don't even start with girls. It's a slippery slope and it only leads down.

---

The poskim say that someone who does not believe his Teshuva helps makes a bracha l'vatala each morning when he says "chanun hamarbeh lisloach". The Rambam writes that even a rasha can do teshuva and be considered a tzadik overnight.

As far as the boy is concerned, whether that "love" of theirs was "real" is a matter of semantics - and doesn’t make a difference at all. Just because you love someone does not make them a good marriage partner, and certainly not your zivug.

This girl's brain is drenched in various hormonal chemicals that is messing with her objectivity, has caused her to do aveiros, and is instilling within her unreasonable amount of guilt (i.e. that if she does teshuva she still will not be forgiven). She needs some space between her and this guy, and a good friend to give her some guidance and chizuk. When she's put some distance between her and this guy, and her cerebrum dries up a bit, then she can decide if this guy is marriage material or not. As it is, she is in no position to make such a decision.

---

Tell the boy exactly what you think.

"I have to talk to you. I have a dilemma," say.

Tell him how much you care about him and like him, and tell him how amazing your conversations are, but "I have a dilemma. There’s a problem".

"What?" he will say.

"You're a guy", you will answer.

"Huh?" he will say.

Then explain to him that you so wish that he was a girl but since he's a guy you have a dilemma because of religious reasons, but on the other hand, he's him.

Tell him that in a way you like your relationship so much but it’s not good for you because he's a guy, and you don't know what to do. You want to give him the impression that you do want to break off but your connection to him is preventing you from fulfilling what you really want and know is best for you. And, that if you do remain in the relationship, you will always be confused and in doubt of it. Give him this impression, but don't say these things openly.

The idea is for HIM to say that you shouldn't speak anymore, because it's a very romantic, selfless thing for a guy to do when he's in the position that you just put him. He should be like, "I care about you, so I'm letting you go." Guys feel real good when they do that, and when they see that the girl is going to be confused about their relationship they usually figure that's the best way to go.

If he feels about you the way you do about him, he'll probably do it.

Of course, you should resist a bit, in order to show that you're not so eager to break up. "I don't know", you can say. Or, "that's amazing of you to say that." But at the end, you're out of there.

This way, it was HIS decision, and you made it clear that your dilemma has nothing to do with any imperfection in him or the relationship. I think it will work.

Or, you can say simply that you were busted by your Mom or your school and you can't continue the relationship or else (you're allowed to lie for this). You can also combine the two approaches and tell him that you were caught and it's part of why you're confused, or that your friends found out and you're scared that people are going to know and you're going to get thrown out of school etc. If you do this and he's any kind of mentsch he will cut you loose.

---

There is a great tape called Platonic Relationships by Rabbi Dovid Orlofsky. He's hysterical and what he said really hit home. Here is the link:

http://www.613.org/speakers/orlofsky.html

---

1) Psychologists agree that you should not smoke, rape, kill, or steal, no matte how much you want to. If sexual control is “repression”, where is the limit? Gratification on the spot, wherever, whenever, however? Every society has its rules of sexual morality, every society agrees that self-restraint is positive; the only question is how far it goes. There is no reason to say that the line between morality and repression lies squarely between the ethical expectations of Western Society and those of the Torah. At the other extreme of repression, is hedonism, which breaks down society and generates dissatisfaction as well. Where do we draw the line between hedonism and repression? Where American society says to? Where the Arab culture says to? Where 20th Century culture says to? Or perhaps where Aborigine culture says to? Perhaps in 200 years from now they will consider our society repressive? Who draws the line?
2) There is a difference between repression and self control. Repression is when you try to control something that cannot be controlled. The Torah does not demand anybody undo their sex drive. It demands only that certain behaviors not be done. Tznius can and is fulfilled by hundreds of thousands of Jews around the globe, and has been, for ages. Pathology has not resulted from any of this. To wit: Tznius behavior is something that can be controlled.
3) Repression is only relevant when something natural is being repressed. The Torah distinguishes between human Nature and appended human urges (the Yetzer Horah). People themselves cannot distinguish between them (that includes shrinks), but the Torah can, since it was given by G-d. Non-Tznius behavior is not an expression (“expression” is the opposite of “repression”) of Man the way he should be, but rather Man following his appended, synthetic urges, his Yetzer Horah. Kind of like a drug addict following his addiction. Controlling a s synthetic urge, no matter how real it is to the human being, is not within the realm of repression.
4) Most importantly, Hashem, the Giver of the Torah, is also the Manufacturer of man. He knows the insides of the human psyche, which is the seat of the human soul. If the Manufacturer recommends treating His product a certain way, common sense suggests his instructions be followed, for the sake of the product. Following the Manufacturer’s recommendations, namely, the Torah, only brings health, no matter what anybody may theoretically say.

When discussing the behavior of teenagers due to hormones, I’m talking in the 15 and under range. They are not few. And whether they are “pathetic” is irrelevant (I don’t think they are). I am generalizing, of course, because it is just an example of behavior, not a requirement for prohibition.

The point is that this Yetzer Horah works differently than others, and these are some examples. These girls are not nuts; they are not behaving this way because of some personality disorder. Pathetic or not, their behavior is normal. The fact that not every girl actually succumbs to this kind of behavior does not change that.

Dan lechaf zchut does not mean to ignore reality, see the Rambam in his commentary on the spot. It only means that when there are about equal odds of good and bad behavior, we tip the scales for the good.

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