Monday, April 23, 2007

Tzniut Meme

MominIsrael has tagged me with a tzniut meme. I believe I'm venturing into new territory on this blog since the only subject I believe we have discussed here re: tzniut is tzniut in demonstrating wealth (or the facade of wealth, as is often the case). The subject is a timely one since it is getting hotter and hotter outside and dressing within the confines of halacha can be a challenge, no matter what you believe the confines of halacha are. And while I have good reason to believe that the halacha is more forgiving than many would like to believe it is, tzniut is nevertheless a challenge.

For married women, do you dress by the same standards as you did when you got married?
For married women, do you dress by the same standards as you did when you got married? Also for married women, do you and your husband conflict about this issue?
Do you often feel uncomfortable when you are in the company of a group keeping higher or lower standards than you?

But "tzniut," as it pertains to dress, seems to be as largely defined by social constructs as by halacha, if not more so. I believe that if you ran into me at the grocery store, you would see a person who is well within the boundaries of the halacha. While my identifiably Orthodox way of dress lets the non-Orthodox and non-Jewish world know I am observant, it also lets those well within the Orthodox world draw their own conclusions too.

I'm blessed to have friends from across the spectrum of Orthodoxy. I think dressing in a "moderate" way (hair covered, skirts, long sleeves) opens up the doors of general acceptance. On the other hand, I have felt quite excluded from certain cliques also and I believe that the exclusion hinges, in many ways, on the manner in which I dress. While I don't desire to be part of this type of clique (I hated middle school for a reason), rejection never feels good either.

So what do I lack? Both major ingredients of "respectability:" fashionable/high class clothing and a sheitel to top off the package. Let's just say I'm not dressed to the Nine's and I'm no "Hot Chanie." I think a non-sheitel wearer cannot be a Hot Chanie by definition.

My lack of both stems from my disinterest in fashion, innate practicality, and budget consciousness. When I buy clothing, I expect to wear it for at least 3-5 years. So anything I wouldn't be caught dead in next season won't make it into my closet. Of course, this makes me into a bit of a plain Jane. I also spend my days running errands, running after my kids, getting spit up on, playing ball, or doing chores. I need comfortable clothing and a pair of tennis shoes, not suits and high heels.

The decision to cover my hair only with hats/tichels, as opposed to a sheitel, was made towards the beginning of our marriage. There was a strong halachic aspect to it, as many Sephardi Rabbis (but not all) do not like sheitals. When we first married, my husband would have been fine with an inexpensive sheitel, but I wasn't comfortable in a sheitel that looked like a sheitel, and we weren't forking over thousands of dollars for a hairpiece that seemed to defeat the purpose, especially when I was not going to be working for the foreseeable future. Sometimes I become a bit sad or self-conscious because I am the only one without a sheitel at many events. At this point, getting a sheitel is a non-discussion item. We don't believe it is the ideal way to cover ones hair and unless I end up working outside my home again, I don't think we will be re-visiting the subject.

What is really sad, strange, etc, is that I don't feel self-conscious or different when I am spending time around shomer Shabbat people holding on a "lower" level. I only seem to experience this discomfort around those on a "higher" level. Of course, assuming "lower" and "higher" are covering all the right parts, I'm only talking about perception because many times there is more social construct to the dress than halacha. Of course, if we are eating in certain homes and they really hold a stricter opinion on stockings for example, I will put on a pair even if it is 100 degrees outside to respect their standards. But, I'm not doing to wear a beautiful suit on a Tuesday or buy a sheitel to meet their standards.

How accepting is your community of women who "deviate" from the generally accepted mode of dress?

I'm fortunate to live in a community with a broad ranges of what is acceptable. I'm probably middle of the road with much of what I do. But in any large community, there are sub-groups who set their own standards of how one should dress, which prompted some of my comments above. I'd say outside of a select few, really most people are fairly accepting.

If you have a daughter, has tzniut become an issue yet?
Have your standards changed from when you were growing up, and why?

Our daughter is far too young to worry about tzniut yet. I think you need to be able to consistently use the bathroom for such to become a concern. But, I'm sure it will become a balancing act. Growing up, I was extremely athletic and participated in competitive sports. This is something our own daughters won't be able to do, at least at the same level. If they get my genes and inherit my drive, we have our work cut out for us. :) But I'm not worried now. I just wish there was a school that offer PE more than once a week. With so little physical activity that is offered, the bigger challenge will probably be making sure that all of our kids (boys and girls) get enough exercise.

I'm tagging: OutofTown and Debt and Life.


Anonymous said...

I will refrain from commenting on women's dress, but i would like to address the point you raise about exercize. Unfortunately, the Channukah story has left jews with a certain disdain for physical exercize. However, the effects of a sedentary lifesyle on health have become increasingly clear, and not exercizing is at least as risky, and therefor assur, as smoking. This doesn't mean one has to be a body builder at the gym, but one must exercise for several hours a week. This can be accomplished, at least in part, by eschewing mechanical transportation to the extent possible, i.e. walk, run or bike to work, school shul or errand, take stairs rather than elevators, etc. This needs to be suplemented by sports or calisthenics of some kind.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
AS said...

many Sephardi Rabbis (but not all) do not like sheitals.
That's so funny, I just heard this yesterday from my co-worker and I was unaware of this fact.

Selena said...

Beleive it or not, I actually posted! thanks for tagging me!

mother in israel said...

I currently don't own any sheitels. I found them uncomfortable and hard to care for.

mother in israel said...

My husband also says I look younger than the sheitel-wearers at smachot. Interesting about some social circles being more about economics than "frumkeit." I think that may well be true in many communities.

Anonymous said...

perhaps i am ignorant of the true reasons behind the halacha for women covering their hair, but when women wear sheitals that look better than either the texture, quality or style than their original natural hair could ever look, isnt that living up to the letter of the law and not the spirit.
if women are supposed to be tzinuut to prevent their being desirous to any man other than their husband, doesnt having a beautiful sheital, again better than their own hair, defeat the purpose of covering one's hair?

Anonymous said...

In lithuania and other parts of europe many of the wive's of gedolim did not wear sheitals

today's sheitals look better than natural hair - that is why actresses, tv anchorwomen and las vegas show girls wear them - althouhg my wife wears one - i think it is totally ridiculous - either cover hair like the 1) sefardiyot and the 2) chardali (chareid dati leumi) really frum religious zionist women, or 3) mea sharim types - or don't do it all

Orthonomics said...

Anon 1 and 2-I hear you. In fact I've seen some sheitlach that the women should be downright embarrassed to wear.

Of course, it usually isn't the sheital alone. It is usually the sheital combined combined with the outfit (often complimented by boots).

I agree with you that the sheitals all too often look better than the natural hair. But worse yet, some of the sheitals I've been seeing recently give off a "vibe" that is probably one that a self-respecting married woman does not want to give off.

That said, there are jobs where a sheital is nearly a necessity if one choose to cover their hair. But, that sheital need not be over the top, even if it looks natural.

Anonymous said...

listen, in this day and age, many of us are hypocrites in one way or another. that being said and at the risk of sounding obnoxious- however to try to make my point at the absurdity of sheitels,

which of the hairs on a married womans head are the ones that are suppose to excite me and there fore be covered. the ones in the front or side that stick out from the hat/tichel, or the ones that stick out the back from the fall in the front?

i mean if you have to cover your

Anonymous said...

i mean if you have to cover your hair then cover it all.
i remember in a gemora, i think sotah, it says that someone mother merited great tzadikim because the walls of her house never saw her hair and that even when she went to the mikva, her hair was covered as soon as she got out even infront of other woman.
ps i meant that i was hypocritical also

Orthonomics said...

Anonymous above-You might want to check out this piece by Rabbi Maroof.

While other poskim may disagree, I think you will find plenty of breathing room in halacha for not covering every strand.

And let me tell you breathing room is an appropriate term. I cover my hair outside my home, but if I could not let my head breathe on the front or at the nape, especially in hot weather, I'm not sure I would be able to cover it. Maybe I'm particularly sensitive, but my apartment is so hot this morning that I'm afraid to go outside in public. It is sweltering. It is definitely a day for a light tichel.

Anyways, don't worry about sounding obnoxious. . . . so long as tzniut in dress is the subject, someone is bound to sound that way. :)

Anonymous said...

I don't understand why participating in competitive sports "is something our own daughters won't be able to do, at least at the same level." And why were you able to do it? Does it have something to do with your level of observance? I'm not Jewish, but I did know observant women in college who nonetheless played competitive sports. And these days, even very observant Muslim women are finding ways to participate in sports through outfits like the "burkini," which is a modest knee-length tunic over pants combo, and similar get-ups for landsports.

Orthonomics said...

Anonymous-I am from a traditional but not Orthodox family. While my parents were socially conservative and insisted on a certain level of modesty.

Some (Orthodox) groups prohibit woman/girls from running, jumping, roller skating, bike riding, or even speaking in public.

Other circles (such as mine) are more lenient and make room for girls sports, but a 14 year old would have a near impossible time finding a way to compete in gymnastics or figure skating.

I think it is thrilling that modest outfits are making their way into sports. I imagine one could play sports like tennis, soccer, or basketball at a decently high level in such outfits. (The sports I enjoyed, not so).

But I don't expect anyone to compete in track, swimming, or any of the artistic sports at a high level.

Welcome to my blog. I'm sure it is hard to navigate the "secret language" of the tzniut meme without knowing the nuances and social standards amongst Orthodox Jews.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for clarifying. I came across your blog "by accident" while doing some random surfing. I am familiar with the Orthodox concept of modesty, and the variations that exist within different groups, but must admit I had never stopped to think about the impact on sports. I can understand gymnastics, but track or swimming would be out, even if it were all-female with no male spectators? Do most Orthodox girls and women not know how to swim?
I appreciate your taking the time to answer these questions.

Orthonomics said...

Outside of the Chassidish world, ballet, track, swimming, gymnastics, etc wouldn't be a problem if an all female environment (coaches, judges, etc) could be arranged. But that is near impossible to orchestrate.

I believe the majority of Orthodox women know how to swim. Fotunately arranging all female swimming hours is not that hard.

As a former competitive athlete who is now raising children further to the right, I just don't see my girls being able to compete in gymnastics or dance in a regular studio.

Fortuantely the more modern Orthodox schools have sports teams for girls and I hope my kids will get involved. It is really healthy and if they take after me they will need a healthy outlet for their competitiveness.

Looking Forward said...

one thing I never understood was why on earth anyone thinks that women can't compete in a normal sports team, especialy given that those same people say that tznius is for the sake of keeping the men from sinning! It doesn't make one lick of sense!

Positing this, lets examine it:

Firstly, if its the man's problem, and not inherently the womans problem, Then where there are no orthodox jewish men (who are the people of concern) then it shouldn't matter what the girl does, because concerning non-jews its utterly impossible for them to sin as a result of this (because for them it isn't even a sin near as I understand) save for their actualy commiting a particular crime, g-d forbid. So from that vantage point, there should be absolutely no reason why she can't participate in things like gymnastics or swimming even on a secular team to begin with, it's not like jewish men are allowed to go to womens competitions in such events anyway. If the jewish men are prohibited from attending to begin with, why does it matter what the girls do? They can be free to do what they like and enjoy. Sadly life isn't so free for boys, but thats just how it is.

But thats providing you believe that tznius could logicaly have anything to do with mens impulses, something that I find rather unrealistic and utterly false.

Anonymous said...

I give you A LOT of respect for not wearing a sheitel, even though in may be tempting at times.
I believe that's the right way to go, and b"H when I'm married- I hope to cover my hair fully w/o a wig.
I really believe the whole wig thing has gotten out of hand, as well as tzniut in general. I look up to you, and thanks for posting this.

Deborah Shaya said...

There is No codified Halacha that a married woman must cover her hair totally and constantly whenever she steps out of her house.

The Halachah has been MISinterpreted. When the Halachah refers to "Covering hair," it does not mean "Cover your hair with hair!" and "constantly for life." The Halachah is that:

A married woman is required to cover her hair when:

(1) she lights the candles to welcome in Shabbat and Yom Tov – lechavod Shabbat ve Yom Tov, and

(2) when she goes to the Synagogue, because that is the place of Kedusha.

The Halacha does not require anything more from married women. This is the true interpretation of the Halacha.

The misinterpretation of the Torah is completely Assur, and a twisting of the Torah.The Torah must remain straight.

Deborah Shaya said...

In ancient times, a woman would only cover her hair upon entering the Beit HaMikdash. Similarly for the Sotah-otherwise she would not be required to cover her hair ordinarily, day to day.

It is very important for people to know and realise that when a married woman covers her hair with 'Real Hair' the woman is covering herself with 100% Tumah. This is totally against the Torah.

Nothing could be more nonsensical than for a Jewish woman to cover her hair with someone else's hair -who was not Jewish as well! She can never fully be sure that this 'hair' has not come from meitim-despite any guarantee by the seller.This 'real hair' is doubly and in some circumstances, triply Tumah.

1.It will contain the leftover dead hair cells from another person - however much it has been treated, the tumah is still there.

2.This other person (likely to be a non-Jew who most likely was involved in some kind of Avodah Zarah) may have eaten bacon, ham, lobster etc, all of which are totally forbidden as unclean and non-kosher foods in Halacha.

3.If the woman happens to be the wife of a COHEN, then she is bringing her husband into close contact and proximity with meitim and Tumah Every day, and throughout their married life. This is clearly strictly against the Torah.

Deborah Shaya said...

There is nothing more degrading and demeaning to a woman than to make her cover her hair FOR LIFE upon marriage.It is an abhorrent practice.

Any man who makes such a ridiculous demand on his wife, or wife-to-be, should similarly also be required by his wife to wear: long white stockings, even in the summer; a fur streimel; grow a long beard; wear a black hat and coat constantly, and cover his face when he speaks to his wife.Wigs -"la perruque"- were merely a fashion item in the time of Louis XIV-they are not for the Jewish woman!

Rabbi Menachem Schneeersohn tz”l, gave the directive that a married woman must cover her head with a “sheitel.” This needs to be corrected. Rabbi Schneersohn a"h, was a Tzaddik, – but on this – he was, unfortunately not correct.

It is extremely unhealthy and unhygienic for a woman to cover her hair constantly.The hair needs oxygen to breathe.A woman's hair will lose its natural beauty and shine, she may have scalp problems, some of her hair may fall out, she may get headaches, and she may end up cutting it short like a man, when she always wore it long, in order not to have too much discomfort from her hair covering.

Do you think that HaKadosh Baruch Hu commanded this of women? I can assure you that He did not.The commmandments are not meant to cause so much repression and oppression in women.Was Chava created with a wig? Of course not! Did she start wearing a wig? Of course not!

Please Wake Up.

Use the spark of intelligence that Hakadosh Baruch Hu gave to you and blessed you with.

And give your wig back to your husband if you wear one.

Deborah Shaya said...

1. To all the women who are wondering about the sources:

We have all been created, "Betselem Elokim" - "in the image of Elokim."
This means that we have been given something called "intelligence." The source is the very first Parsha, Bereishit - 1:27. It is time that people use the spark of intelligence and Kedusha with which Hashem has blessed them.

If your rabbi will tell you to go and jump into the depths of a glacier, presumably you would do that too – and give me a source for it?

“According to the Zohar”, I should also be covering my hair with a wig when I have a bath. “According to the Zohar and the Gemara” and all the sources that have misinterpreted the Halachah, and MIStranslated the Zohar, I should also have been born with a WIG on my head.

These sources and translations are incorrect, as they have deviated very far from the true and correct interpretation, of the Halachah.

Deborah Shaya said...

2.Remember that the Jewish women are very, very holy. They are much more holy than the men. Look at the exemplary behaviour of the women at Har Sinai.

The women never sinned at the Eigel, and so are greatly elevated. Many of the men, unfortunately, ran after a calf made out of a lump of gold – after they had just been given the Torah, and seen the greatest of all Revelations. The women refused to give their gold for the avodah zarah of the men.

The women were greatly elevated after such a wonderful display of Emunah, and they are regarded very highly in Shamayim.

That is why women are not even required to pray. They can pray at home on their own. Nor do women have to make up a minyan. That is how holy the Jewish women are. Men have to pray 3 times a day to remind them of their Creator.

The men are telling the women to put the hair of a non-Jewish woman who may have eaten things like snakes and sharks and alligators, and has worshipped in churches, Buddist temples or Hindu temples : on their own Heads. They had better wake up.

If the men don’t want to wake up to the truth, and the true interpretation of the Halacha, the women will wake them up – whether they like it or not.

3. Many righteous women influenced their husbands for the good at the Chet Haeigel and at the time of Korach.

It was these righteous women who succeeded in bringing their husbands back to their senses.

And because of these great women, the lives of their husbands were saved. Those men therefore turned away from the madness of avodah zarah, and the rebellion of Korach against Hashem's choice of Aharon, as Cohen HaGadol.

Deborah Shaya said...

4. Look at the Jewish women in history, and remember how holy they are.

(a) Yaakov, who was the greatest of the Avot, came to marry the 2 daughters of Lavan, Rachel and Leah. Lavan was not exactly a tzaddik. Yaakov went to Lavan, of all people, to marry his 2 daughters – not 1 daughter, but his 2 daughters. Nothing could be greater than that.

(b) Rut, who came from Moav, became the ancestor of David Hamelech.

(c ) Batya, the daughter of Paroh, was given eternal life because she rescued Moshe from the river. No one could have been more evil than Paroh.

(d) Devorah, was a Neviah, and also a Judge.

Women who came from such adverse backgrounds, were able to become builders of Am Yisrael. That is how holy the women are, and how much more elevated they are than the men.

This was never the case with men. It never happened the other way round.

Don't tell me it is holy for me to wear a WIG! Hair over my own hair? This is ridiculous!

Similarly, don’t tell me it is holy for me to plonk a permanent head covering on my head for the rest of my life. This is equally vile.

Please Wake Up.

Use the spark of intelligence that Hakadosh Baruch Hu gave to you and blessed you with.

And give your wig back to your husband if you wear one.

Deborah Shaya said...

5. Remember: Not a single “dayan” or “rabbi” has the slightest bit of interest in correcting the situation for the women. Therefore, the women will have to correct the situation................for ..................themselves.

Whether you wish to accept the correction – which is true – is up to you. Are you going to live by the truth? Are you going to use the spark of intelligence that Hashem gave to you and all women? Or are you going to follow rabbis and dayanim who tell you to wear a wig in a Heat Wave – and you thank them for it as well?

Orthonomics said...

Deborah-Please save these comments for blogs where these comments will fit in better.

BTW-posting nearly 3 years after this post was written is a bit strange. You are definitely on a mission. But I will keep my hats, bandanas, tichels, and even the sheitel I needed to get for professional engagements.

Eliyahoo William Dwek said...

The next things the ‘rabbis’ will come up with is to tell the woman to wear a CARPET on her head.
Not a sheitel AND a hat, but a Carpet. Or you could go for 5 shaitels on your heads and a rug.

And do you know what the Jewish woman will say to her husband?

‘Yes, husband! I am now wearing a carpet on my head!’

You women must either be extremely thick, or petrified.