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Thursday, February 01, 2007

Saddened by the Waste

This story, complete with pictures, saddens me. I don't want to get into a discussion about tzniut, or the lack thereof, nor do I want to get into a discussion about boycotts and heksherim on clothing stores. There are plenty of other blogs out there that have discussed these subjects and I really don't have anything to add.

What I do want to discuss is how a community (or sub-section of a community, since obviously not everyone is putting their clothing up in flames) in which so many people suffer from poverty and so many others are sent to beg for funds to cover the massive debts they have incurred, can engage in such wasteful behavior: public burning of "immodest' clothing.

Like I said, I am not interested in discussing tzniut right now. Ideally one would hope that if someone had clothing that they did not want to wear anymore because they are making a choice to uphold a higher level of tzniut, that they would either try to make their clothing tzniut if it was cost effective or they would donate their clothing to those who are taking on a more basic level of tzniut and have to replace nearly an entire closet full of clothing. Are there no people out there in dire need of clothing? But in a world of black and white and little gray, I can understand that someone who really believes that certain items of clothing just are not tzniut, isn't going to want anyone else to wear them either.

But, there are just so many ways to re-use common household items like clothing, that collecting them for a public burning just makes me very sad. My mother grew up in a very poor family, and the habits she learned were never discarded. While I haven't maintained all of her habits (and don't intend to maintain some of them), the general concept of thrift is a valuable one (in fact it is on of Rav Salanter's 13 Middos).

Buttons can be taken off clothing and used to replace missing buttons on children's clothing (I've got a whole stack of kid's clothes looking for replacement buttons). Buttons can be used for educational activities like teaching children how to sew, or for math exercises, or for sorting activities (size and color), or for art projects. Clothing can be cut up and re-created into other items (potholders, table mats, trivets, rags, things for pretend play, pillow cases, etc). Or it can be used to teach highly useful skills like hemming, patching, or quilt making.

The modest uses for 'immodest' clothing are as big as one's imagination and I cannot even begin to phathom how those immersed in a community with real material poverty can be convinced to put their clothing up in flames. While I have never spent significant time in these communities (and therefore shy away from topics concerning them), I do know that these are communities of tremendous chessed with literally a gemach for everything. It seems to me that nearly every item which is not being used regularly by one family is listed so it might be used by another. This makes the zealotry to uphold one mitzvah, while flirting with the violation of another mitzvah, even sadder.

14 comments:

mother in israel said...

They could donate the tight clothes to someone smaller ;-).

David said...

My Rabbi has often said that a stringency in one halakhah always creates a leniency in another (I believe he was quoting the Rav zt"l). I think he is correct in this assessment - one who is excessively worried about tzniut will (in this case) be over on ba'al tashhit.

The Torah does say that we are not to deviate from God's law to the right or to the left...

Mike S. said...

There is a Talmudic discussion between two Tannaim (R. Akiva and R. Yochanon ben Nuri, IIRC) over an issue of kasrut, in which 1 Tanna( I think R. Yochanon) accuses the other of feeding people traif, and the other (I think R. Akiva) retorts that his colleague is wasting their money. So this is not a new issue.

In this case, where the clothing could have bben used for other purposes ranging from clothing for differently sized individuals to being resewn into other items, it seems particularly pointless.

Mike S said...

By the way, what is meant by "clunky shoes", and why are they immodest?

tova said...

Mike S., clunky are probably platform shoes. They're probably immodest because they attract attention.

People seem to be choosing the "important" mitzvah too much, while doing something wrong at the same time. Wasting clothing is just one example. Why can men Beat up a woman who is sitting on the "men's side" of a non-Mehadrin bus? What about being shomer negiah and being a mentch and being mevater? Why can schools try to force everyone to be the same, instead of teaching "al pi darco?"

Why are MEN be obsessed with the way women dress? Isn't that by definition not tzniusdik?

gross said...

Sephardi Lady,

While you are intelligent and well-intentioned, you are being naive. These people aren't rational, nor are they following God's Torah. If you would indeed interact with this discriminating (and I obviously don't mean that in a positive way) community of fools and reshaim, you would be pasul for the very things that make you unique.

1. Sephardi
2. Lady
3. SephardiLady
4. Obviously educated
5. respectfully critical

Don't waste your time trying to extract any logic from these menuvalim b'li reshus HaTorah...

tmeishar said...

No different than not being allowed to get hana'ah from treif or avodah zara, people with a very zealous and black and white view of the world would probably assume the same applies for anything else that is deemed assur.
Furthermore, I am unfrotunately not at all surprised by their method of disposing of these items. The Chareidi community at large has a tenency to make a big hullabaloo over every proclamation and/or idea that comes up. Do we dare say - Gay Pride Parade? - speaking of a lack of tzniut...

Ariella said...

the question of burning clothing for a purpose is discussed with respect to the practice of some at Meron on Lag baOmer -- they should have waited until then for a public burning to have more of a precedent for the bonfires.

Anonymous said...

come on, didn't they burn Indian hair wigs in bonfires a few years ago? There's already the insanity precedent.

Charlie Hall said...

'Why are MEN be obsessed with the way women dress? Isn't that by definition not tzniusdik? '

Rabbi Y. H. Henkin makes that point in his "Contemporary Tzniut" article that was published in *Tradition* a few years ago.

I don't see why they could not have given the clothing to communities where they would be considered acceptible. I've had rabbis who don't use public eruvim ask me to carry things for them on Shabat!

mother in israel said...

Some years back in Bet Shemesh a teacher took his students outside to burn a New Testament. The family of one of the students had been given one by missionaries and inadvertently brought it to school.

SephardiLady said...

MominIsrael-Exactly what did the Rebbe do with the "Old Testament" part?

Ora said...

According to the article, people were "convinced to put their clothing up in flames" when they were handed vouchers for different, more tznua clothing. New clothes in exchange for old stuff you don't wear, who wouldn't go for that?

Why burn the clothes and not turn them into spare buttons and dishrags? For one thing, spare buttons and dishrags aren't worth that much--by burning one barrel of clothing, they burned maybe 50NIS worth of dishrags.

For two thing, it's a protest. All protests cost money, if only because time spent protesting could have been spent working. In this case, they made an investment in clothing vouchers to make sure their protest would get maximum publicity. You are a good example here. If all they had done was get up and make a few speeches, would you, who live on another continent, ever have heard about it? Probably not. Now, thanks to some nice, newsworthy photos of OMG CRAZY FUNDAMENTALISTS BURNING THINGS, you have. I don't think these people care that most of the publicity has been negative. They got the word out, and they did it in a relatively efficient manner.

Charnie said...

Personally, I think this is a shanda (sic). So many people are poor and need clothing. It's not the same issue as the Indian sheitels, even though those could have been sent to a cancer organization for chemo patients. It's not too hard to turn a lot of possibly non-tznius clothing into "acceptable", maybe not for Charedim, but for "mainstream" frum people. I've sewn up plenty of slits and/or put in kick-pleats. What's a tight shirt on one person, fits fine on someone smaller, and layering also works wonders.
Question about the tights - are all colors out - or just red?