Should one dress up for a shiur on Zoom if no one
can see anything more than your face and top of your shirt?
When a person learns Torah, it should be accompanied by a feeling of holiness, as if he were standing at Mount Sinai.
Torah must be learned with feelings of reverence and love for Hashem – which is why, for example, we may not eat while learning, nor speak about trivial matters, nor touch parts of the body that are normally covered, nor may we study in unclean and foul-smelling places or in the presence of someone who is immodestly attired.
A person should endeavor to feel as if the Shechinah is present with him in the room. Therefore, it is proper that while learning Torah a person be dressed in a respectful fashion.
However, it must be pointed out that even though it is forbidden to learn Torah in foul and immodest places, it is permitted to learn even without being fully dressed. Thus, Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai and his son were allowed to learn Torah in their cave without being normally attired since they were completely covered by sand. Only when they prayed would they dress up in clothes of honor.
— Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu, chief rabbi of Tzefas
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Full disclosure: I teach a Daf Yomi shiur every morning, wearing a tie, jacket, and casual slacks. My reasoning starts with Shabbat 33b, where we are told that R. Shimon bar Yochai spent 13 years in a cave with his son R. Elazar. They would dress to pray and spend the rest of the day in holes in the ground, the sand covering their naked bodies.
The story led the current Sephardic Chief Rabbi of Israel, R. Yitzhak Yosef, to rule (Yalkut Yosef 38:4:4) that private Torah study does not require extensive clothing (we can leave the details for another time).
Dressing more formally than that for a group shi’ur – in person or online – is about showing proper respect/honor for Torah study with other people since a greater level of Divine Presence rests on group study (versus individual study) as Pirkei Avot (3:6) tells us. For a Zoom shiur, certainly whatever is caught by the camera should resemble what one would wear were he attending a shiur in person – out of respect for the group and G-d.
What to wear on parts not visible on Zoom – beyond what we would wear when studying alone –seems to me mostly a matter of whether we worry the camera will catch us unexpectedly. Other than that, what Zoom can’t see isn’t part of our public appearance, and therefore seems to me not governed by public etiquette.
— Rabbi Dr. Gidon Rothstein, author,
regular contributor to www.Torahmusings.com
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Do we dress to impress others or for ourselves? Probably both – although my sense is more of the former and less of the latter. Nonetheless, Rav Yochanan (Shabbat 113a) would refer to his clothing as “mechabduti” – that which brings me honor. Clothing reflects our inner dignity, and can serve, for better or for worse, as a source of identification with a particular group or lifestyle.
One can certainly argue that what we wear at home during our waking hours should engender as much self-respect and respect for Torah as what we would wear if we were appearing in public. There are rabbis who would never remove their frocks even at home and even in front of their family. Indeed, one could cogently argue that a person should dress up even for a Zoom shiur – but I wouldn’t make that argument… or dress up in fancy clothing.
Clothes define a person, but they can also distort and deceive. The costumes we wear – and we all wear costumes of some kind – often say little about our inner life or spiritual gravitas. They create impressions that are often misleading and sometimes are meant to mislead. We might even be placing too much emphasis on clothing in Jewish life by expecting or insisting – overtly or covertly – that everyone should wear the same color, style, and material.
As long as one is not dressed immodestly, I see no problem with Zoom participants relaxing at home in informal garb. We should save our special clothing for shul, tefillah, and Shabbat. At home, zoom in on the Torah being learned, not on the fashion choices of the participants.
— Rabbi Steven Pruzansky, mara d’asra of
Congregation Bnai Yeshurun of Teaneck, NJ
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The laws of tznius specifically state that one must be modest at all times and in all situations, even when one is alone in his private chambers. In the words of the Beis Yosef: “One should not say, ‘Behold I am in the most concealed of rooms – who will see me?’ – for the Holy One Blessed be He fills the whole world with his glory” (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 2:2).
How much more so when one is giving a shiur online, even if no one can see you or part of you.
Tznius is misunderstood by some as meaning that one has to cover one’s intimate parts in order not to not provoke others. The word “tznius” is derived from the verse (Michah 6:8) “…v’hatzneiah leches im Elokecho – …and to walk modestly/discreetly with your G-d.”
It’s about being dignified and behaving in a dignified and refined manner – whether you are with other people or alone.
— Rabbi Simon Jacobson, renowned
Lubavitch author and lecturer