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December 2, 2015 / 20 Kislev, 5776
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Posts Tagged ‘burka’

Extremism in Defense of Tznius

Friday, June 6th, 2014

People often ask me what I consider extreme Charedism. The answer is not really that simple. I’m tempted to use Supreme Court  Justice Potter Stewart’s response to a similar question about pornography:  I know it when I see it.

The reason I find it difficult to define is because extremism is sometimes defined by context. In one environment a certain activity might be considered normal while in another it would be considered extreme.  So when I use the term extremist or extremism, it has to be taken in the context of the post.

But as the retort by Potter Stewart indicates, there are times when extreme behavior is such in any context.

One of the things I constantly advocate here is normalcy. I am a firm believer in leading one’s life in ways that are considered normal by two measures. One is Halacha. And the other is by societal standards. Obviously Halacha comes first. But often Halacha has broad interpretation. And it is sometimes interpreted by societal standards. One Halacha that is a prime example of this is Tznius. Or more precisely modesty in dress.

I believe that modern psychology accepts the notion that there are generally (there are always exceptions) differences in how men and women are sexually aroused. Without getting into long detail, men are aroused by the visual.  Women… not so much. Halacha recognizes this. So men are commanded not to gaze at women for purposes of enjoyment. Women are asked to dress in ways that will not initiate thoughts of arousal in men. That is what the laws of Tznius are based upon. One can see expressions of this not only in Judaism, but in the 3 major faiths. The most extreme example of this is Islam. The more religious sects ask their women to wear face covering Burkas that are basically tents that cover the entire body.

Where does Judaism come in on this? Well that’s where local custom comes in. There are basic laws that require certain parts of the body to be covered up called Erva (nakedness). The rest depends on the culture in which one lives. For practical purposes, then,  Iran or Saudia Arabia might require a Jewish woman that lives there to wear a Burka in accordance with the modesty customs of those countries. In the United States, I think it is safe to say that the modesty standards do not go beyond the minimum standards of Erva.

I should add that there is a requirement for a married woman to cover her hair because  ‘Erva’. But the Erva in the case of hair is a horse of an entirely different color. The reasons for which are beyond the scope of this post. But the accepted Halacha is that the uncovered hair of a married woman is considered Erva. And most if not all of it must be covered.

So how should Jewish women in this country dress in order to fulfill the laws of Tznius? One would think that no matter what faction of Judaism one is from, the customs should be the same. But that is far from the case. If one travels to Williamsburg, one will see one style of dress for Orthodox women. And if one travels to Teaneck, one will see another.  But I think it is safe to say that in the vast majority of cases there is a lot of overlap. Most Orthodox women in America dress by covering just below the neck line, covering their arms at least 3/4s of their length and wear skirts that cover the knees .  And most cover their hair.  Those are the basics. There are of course variations of this theme

Saudi Women Fined for Gross Traffic Crimes, Such as Driving (Video)

Monday, October 28th, 2013

Saudi traffic police had a field day in Riyadh on Saturday, fining at least 16 women who broke the tradition that prohibits women from taking the wheel.

The threat of $80 fines doused plans for a massive feminist turnout following a campaign of “women’s driving is a choice” that had gained support with more than 16,000 signatures.

The women who defied the ban posted videos on social media of their brazen act, and after being caught, they had to sign a pledge “to respect the Kingdom’s laws.” Police kept the women by their vehicles until a male guardian appeared to take the wheel, but some women were taken to the police station.

Given the traditional Muslim veil that women in Saudi Arabia usually wear in public, women drivers indeed could be a public danger. Who wants to ride with someone whose face is completely covered except for two slits for the eyes?

For the time being, it is the Saudi kingdom that has limited vision because it may only be a matter of time before it caves in and accepts the ugly Western influence of a female carrying out the masculine task of driving a car.

“Despite the strong opposition, the women believe that time is on their side,” The New York Times reported. “They point to the huge numbers of Saudis who study and travel abroad and return with new perspectives on their culture. They also suggest that the kingdom’s youthful population and the tremendous rise of social media will over time make the country more open to change.”

Saudi Arabia has the privilege of being the only country in the world where women are barred from driving, but the prohibition is a custom of the kingdom and not written in law.

The issue is not to be treated frivolously or with sarcasm. Saudi cleric Sheikh Saleh bin Saad al-Lohaidan  in late September gave a very good reason why women should not drive.

“If a woman drives a car, not out of pure necessity, that could have negative physiological impacts as functional and physiological medical studies show that it automatically affects the ovaries and pushes the pelvis upwards,” he told the Senior Council of Scholars, one of the top religious bodies in the country.

“That is why we find those who regularly drive have children with clinical problems of varying degrees,” he said.

Why a Burka is Not Modest Enough

Thursday, February 7th, 2013

Just when you think tznius concerns cannot get any more ridiculous than they already are, they do.

Original photo (left) by Asaf Abres of the Jerusalem Fire Department. Right side imaged published in Hamodia. Side by side image from YNET.

The photo on the left is a before and after shot of a drawer with some shoes in it. (The baby in the picture is irrelevant to this post.) The before picture is now taboo in the Haredi press for modesty reasons. I kid you not. Hamodia photo-shopped out the women’s shoes in the ‘before’ picture before they published it in its ‘after’ form.

Is there any sane person that can understand this? Is there any more ridiculous tznius precaution than photo-shopping out a picture of a woman’s shoe? Is there a normal – or even abnormal man on the face of the planet that would become sexually aroused by such a picture?

There is no better proof in my mind as to how ridiculous the world of the right has become in these matters.

I’m surprised that women haven’t been barred entirely from the world… to be used sparingly for reproductive purposes. I am also surprised that burkas aren’t standard apparel for the woman in the street.

The fact that even the most Haredi rabbis protested such dress when a group of women decided on that kind of tznius is puzzling – in light of the kind censorship undertaken by a mainstream Haredi newspaper. If a woman’s shoe is considered too titillating for the average man, how can any real woman in the street be any less titillating? The only way a woman should be able to walk in the street is if no one can tell she’s a woman.

In fact burkas wouldn’t even qualify for that. Everyone knows that there is a woman under that burka. And you know what kind of thoughts that conjures up. No… we must devise a way for a woman to become truly and literally invisible. And the same things holds true for any clothing item that has even the remotest possibility of being identified as feminine. Such items must disappear from the public eye, both in the ‘real’ and in the ‘virtual’ (of a photo).

I would even go a step further. I would eliminate the word ‘woman’ from the lexicon. Same thing any words that refer to anything feminine like women’s clothing. For example, the word ‘dress’… GONE! You never know what images will be conjured up in the mind of the normal healthy male when he hears the word ‘dress’.

Only when all these things are implemented, will our community be spared the indignities of immodest behavior and thoughts. How else can we ever hope to achieve our mandate as a Goy Kadosh- a holy nation?

Visit Emes Ve-Emunah.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/blogs/haemtza/why-a-burka-is-not-modest-enough/2013/02/07/

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