web analytics
August 4, 2015 / 19 Av, 5775
At a Glance
Blogs
Sponsored Post


One Judaism, Two Perspectives on Dressing Modesty

Orthodox Jewish women enjoy shopping at a clothing fair for women only, held at the International Conference Center in jerusalem. March 27, 2012.

Orthodox Jewish women enjoy shopping at a clothing fair for women only, held at the International Conference Center in jerusalem. March 27, 2012.
Photo Credit: Miriam Alster/FLASH90

When it comes to modesty in dress there is a wide variety in the way various segments of Orthodox Jewry put it into practice. But the basics are the same for all. Without getting into the details of the basic Halacha, I will just say that modesty for women requires that she cover those parts of the body that are considered “her nakedness” (Erva). Those are the biblical parameters which apply in all places – at all times in public. The rabbinic parameters (Tznius) go beyond the biblical requirement and are relative to the culture where one resides.

So that in places like Iran, a Jewish woman may be required to follow the modesty customs of that culture which go far beyond what is biblically required. In places like America, the biblical and rabbinic parameters are the same. Modesty in western cultural terms do not meet even the biblical Erva standard.

Some of the more right wing segments of Orthodoxy insist on taking matters of Tznius to much greater lengths than Halacha requires – even those that live in westernized cultures like America and Israel. For example, even though an exposed lower leg below the knee is not considered Erva, Chasidic – and many other Charedi communities require that it be covered anyway. And consider it highly immodest if a woman’s leg below the knee is fully exposed.

Which brings me to two articles in the Forward. One by Judy Brown, a woman who is Charedi. The other by Simi Lampert who is Modern Orthodox. It is interesting to see the similarity of attitude expressed by both.

One might think that a Modern Orthodox woman would be put off by the attitude expressed by the Charedi woman. But in both cases they seem to be saying the same thing. Which is that they understand the purpose behind those modesty rules. And both expressed the desire to follow them.

Both women have the desire to look attractive by western cultural standards and have tried on immodest clothing in private just to see how they would look. Both thought they looked great, and both would never consider wearing such clothing in public. They both feel a level of comfort in following the modesty rules.

The difference between them is cultural and not Halachic. In the Charedi culture, the idea of not wearing stockings is considered a Tznius violation. So much so that when an error in perception was made about the Mrs. Brown not wearing stockings even though her legs were covered below the knee, all hell broke loose. Here is how she tells the story:

[T]he young man passing by the yard declared that he had seen me with bare legs. Like a careless whore…

It was Tuesday, mid-August, a (very hot) day… I filled up the baby pool for my children in the yard settled on a plastic chair with cherry ices and dunked my legs in the pool, right where the water spurted from the hose.

It was then that the Hasid passed. It was then that he saw me — beige pantyhose transparent, legs seemingly bare — and, looking quickly away, hurried to tell the rav. I had not seen him at all. I did not know of the bewildered chaos going on in his mind until later that night, when my husband came home and stared at me quizzically.

The rav had called, he said. Could it be true? That I had sat outside with no pantyhose at all?

Of course she was wearing stockings and it was just a misperception on the part of a passerby. The point here is how seriously this Chumra is taken in the world of Chasidim. As ‘modern’ as Mrs. Brown became in other areas, this area is sancrosanct to her.

This would never happen in Modern Orthodoxy. Of course modern Orthodox Jews do not have the infra structure or the desire to dictate how its members dress. As Mrs. Lambert points out:

If my rabbi approached my husband about what I was wearing in my own yard, I’d almost definitely move. The very next day.

While both communities follow the same Halachos of modesty there is no mechanism, or really any pressure in Modern Orthodoxy that would force a violator to adhere to Halacha. One will find that modesty laws are occasionally breached by those I would call MO-Lite. The kind of guilt described by Mrs. Brown does not exist in MO circles, at least not on the level she seemed to have about it.

All an MO Rav can do is teach the laws. He has no method of enforcement. In the Charedi world the peer pressure alone is enough to enforce those rules. In the Chasidic world there are actual social consequences to those violations as suggested by Mrs. Brown’s description of events.

What should be noted however is not the differences but the similarities. Nor will I comment on which system is better off. The point is that serious Jews, whether Charedi or Modern Orthodox take Halacha very seriously. Even when there is social pressure to do otherwise.

Mrs. Lampert concludes:

[N]o halacha should be trivialized simply because it sounds absurd. If it is, I think we should start with the one where we blow a ram’s horn on specific occasions.

Though I see the beauty behind the laws of tzenua, the desire to look like ‘them’ and dress like ‘them’ has always had a strong pull over me. Is the difference between Ms. Brown and myself the result of our different forms of Orthodoxy?

Does the sheltered world of right-wing Orthodoxy truly protect its members from the pull of the secular world, while the fragile balance of Modern Orthodoxy exposes its observers to temptations that halacha denies? Still, there are right-wing Jews who leave the fold, and Modern Orthodox Jews who are true leaders of this generation.

Maybe there’s no lesson here about the cultural disparities between ways of Jewish life. Perhaps it’s just a personality difference between two women who try to live the dual life of a halachic American.

I disagree with her. I think there is a lesson to be learned here. The lesson is that there is no real difference in the desire of members of either community to serve God. Serious Jews ought to be respected no matter what their Hashkafos are as long as they are all L’Shem Shomayim.

Visit the Emes v’Emunah blog.

About the Author: Harry Maryles runs the blog "Emes Ve-Emunah" which focuses on current events and issues that effect the Jewish world in general and Orthodoxy in particular. It discuses Hashkafa and news events of the day - from a Centrist perspctive and a philosphy of Torah U'Mada. He can be reached at hmaryles@yahoo.com.

The author's opinion does not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Jewish Press.

If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

One Response to “One Judaism, Two Perspectives on Dressing Modesty”

  1. Muriel Coudurier-Curveur says:

    Modesty is a personal attitude. While it can be taught, it cannot be imposed. One can be immodest in a burka, or modest wearing shorts. When a woman dresses, against her own wishes, in a manner dictated by her community, because she is afraid of the consequences, she is being fearful and even possibly bullied. She isn't being modest. A modest woman is one who choose to act -as well as dress- modestly, even though transgression has no consequences on her place in the community. In short, to be modest, one must also have the freedom not to be.

Comments are closed.

Binyamin and Chaya Maryles, uncle and aunt of Emes Ve-Emunah author Harry Maryles.
Current Top Story
Spielberg, Clinton and Saban.
Clinton’s Big Jewish Donors are Hollywood Leftists
Latest Blogs Stories
Baim-061915-Mazal-Tov

“You’ve been out on enough dates, are you going to marry him?” Many times I’ve choked at this point.

Shira Banki, 16, z'l

What is left to say when a 16 year-old is dead? How will her mother and family endure without her?

Bloodstained car after Palestinian Authority terrorists shot at settlers

Compare the numbers. Disproportionately too many Arab attacks on Jews have been happening.

Doug Goldstein

What is the impact of renouncing US citizenship if you live abroad? Can you visit the US again?

Gentile friends of Israel came from all over Norway & Europe and they sang “Hatikva” in Norwegian!

As the incitement begins again against the settlers, the religious and the Right, let’s review the list of children killed by terrorists.

Reports of a dead baby, a devastated family, and indications of a gloating attacker.

In all the years (and this week it’s exactly 14 years) since our daughter was murdered, we have not found a single Arabic-language post, article, tweet or speech condemning that attack in the center of Jerusalem or the killings.

Everyone is angry at the ongoing Arab terrorism, but what does murdering a baby have to do with protecting Jewish lives or furthering Jewish settlement in the Land of Israel?

Tonight, live Meerkat interactive video tour and talk in Jerusalem.

The US doesn’t want Pollard & he doesn’t want America- release him with 1 condition: No return to US

Meet Republican US presidential candidate Kerry Bowers & listen to his message to the Israeli public

Amongst the Palestinians (sic) what is promoted and praised for its young people? Terror & martyrdom

“If you can’t negotiate with your enemy, why negotiate at all?” Great sound bite. The press loved it

The phenomenon pushing limits of Orthodoxy to the extreme left has no chance of becoming mainstream

Discussing, what should you do if you are feeling overstressed in your job and are tempted to quit?

More Articles from Harry Maryles
Woman_rabbi

The phenomenon pushing limits of Orthodoxy to the extreme left has no chance of becoming mainstream

open orthodoxy

There needs to be clarity about what is & isn’t acceptable in Orthodoxy; That should be the debate.

Imperative to get world’s Jewish billionaires to support Jewish education like their other projects

No legitimate Orthodox body in the States or Israel accepts “Open Orthodoxy.” They went too far.

Obama is not anti Israel. He’s just misguided, perhaps blinded by his desire to force a peace treaty

{Originally posted to the author’s website, Emes Ve-Emunah} The inevitable finally happened. Rabbi Avi Weiss has dispensed with his prior refusal to call his female ordainees ‘rabbis’.  I challenged him to stop dancing around that title with made up titles  (like Raba and Maharat) and he finally rose to the challenge. His motivation in not […]

Existence requires meaning. Believing all random and without meaning is a horrible fate for mankind

People see a healthy parochial school system vs an anemic public school system and draw conclusions

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/blogs/haemtza/one-judaism-two-perspectives-on-dressing-modesty/2012/08/30/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: