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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

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.

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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.

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Binyamin and Chaya Maryles, uncle and aunt of Emes Ve-Emunah author Harry Maryles.
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