Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Request! - Modesty

1. Sources

We find the Hebrew root “צ.נ.ע” twice in the Bible; once in Micha (6:8) and once in Proverbs (11:2):

1. הִגִּיד לְךָ אָדָם מַה טּוֹב; וּמָה ה' דּוֹרֵשׁ מִמְּךָ, כִּי אִם-עֲשׂוֹת מִשְׁפָּט וְאַהֲבַת חֶסֶד וְהַצְנֵעַ לֶכֶת עִם אֱלֹהֶיךָ

2. בָּא-זָדוֹן וַיָּבֹא קָלוֹן; וְאֶת צְנוּעִים חָכְמָה

In both places it means to be secretive about ones good deeds, and not to be overly flamboyant. That meaning has lasted through to the Talmudic usage - much as the meaning of "modest" in English connotes the opposite of “proud”.

There has been somewhat of a change in the usage of the word in Midrashic, and later in Talmudic literature to mean modesty in an erotic sense. For example אלעזר בר צדוק is quoted as saying (in Sukkah 49b) that this verse (1.) explains three of the most important facets of Judaism, and in regards to “הצנע לכת עם אל-היך” says this part of the verse is really discussing the need to accompany the dead, and accompany a bride. He adds though “if the Torah tells us to act modestly for things which people usually do publicly, how much more so should we be ‘modest’ in regards to things that are done in private”.

It’s also important to remember though, that 1. Halakhah as we know it is somewhat of a "created" thing, being that the Halakhic codifiers had to sift through the entirety of the Tanach and Talmud and piece together little statements, and many times just inferences, and many times what we called in my yeshiva “unnecessary inferences” (inferences that aren’t the only possible thing that can be inferred). And 2. There’s no ‘מצווה’ of 'צניעות'. It’s something that’s (like I said about hair-covering for a woman) expected of women, and especially of a Jewish woman.

In Iraq, in the era in which the Talmud was written, there was honestly not much of a problem in regards to tzniut; the norms there were obviously much more "conservative" then they are now. So all you’re going to find in the Talmud are statements like “one should not pass by when women are washing clothes in the lake” or “one should not watch a woman weaving” etc. Most of what we 'know’ about the halakhot of tzniut come from statements like that.

2. Modesty in Dress

First of all, some parts of the body are usually covered anyway, so the main concerns among the Orthodox Jews are the covering of the upper arms, legs, and neckline (an issue less necessary of concern among Orthodox Jews are the back, cleavage and belly).

In regards to wearing a skirt instead of pants: 1. Some see it as a transgression of "No male article shall be on a woman, and a man shall not wear a woman's garment", 2. The Talmud says it's better for a woman not to ride a horse (seemingly because it will cause the shape of her legs to become more evident when separated), so that could also translate to not wearing tight pants. Though in that case a tight skirt/dress is just as bad, and either way; it's unusual for a woman not to wear pants in most parts today. Either way; women who wear pants should obviously not be treated as if they're not part of the Jewish (or Orthodox) Community.

[I think the clearest example of learned and pious Jews who are somewhat lax in these areas (where the husband doesn't wear a head covering and the wife doesn't have a hair covering and wears pants) is Sefaradim in South American countries; I've met a lot of them, and many of them are just as 'pious' as any New York Kolel couple.. ]

About the covering of the upper legs and arms: Like I said, one of the major logical sources is that the Talmud says that washing clothing and weaving (by a woman) are seen as things which should be done in as private a setting as possible, being that parts of the upper arms and legs might become exposed in the process.

About head covering: There has always been somewhat of a difference of opinion about "פריעת הראש"; does it mean ‘untying’ or ‘uncovering’. For example it says "even an unmarried girl shouldn’t have her head ‘פרוע’ "; some strict opinions say this means even an unmarried girl should cover her hair, and some say it means her hair should usually be tied. (See Rambam source).

It’s important to note that according to these standards there’s nothing better about wearing a blouse and long skirt to a jeans skirt and tee-shirt (for example). There’s no source, therefore, for Orthodox girls to just dress really "fancy" or however one would term current ultra-orthodox dress. If anything there have been contemporary national-religious rabbis in Israel who say that sometimes “too much tzniut can lead to a lack of tzniut", something I see as very true. Not to mention concentrating on such things too much (instead of Torah and mitzvot) can lead to too great a concern for sexually oriented matters.

It should be mentioned that men must also practice modesty in clothing, and women must also not ‘gaze upon immodest men’, etc..

3. Other Interpretations

It should also be mentioned though that some (Reform and some Conservative Rabbinical authorities) see these Talmudic standards as having only been applicable to Jewish women when that is what the standards of the times were, but now that the standards have changed the Talmud would agree there’s nothing wrong with a Jewess in a short sleeveless dress when the weather makes it necessary, and such a thing is not seen by anyone as breaking any barriers (though the growth of the Muslim community as well as a new stress on modesty in dress among the Evangelical community could still change those standards again). (See Ritva source).

4. True Modesty
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According to all opinions though a real problem has developed in 'our' communities, which, in a way exists among females in the Ultra-Orthodox community just as much as it does with the males, and that is; "depending on your clothing to be religious for you". It’s not just about "women dressing modestly", it’s about "everyone being modest", not just in dress, but in action; in all areas of life. Women should obviously be a little more modest than men, but it is applicable to both sexes obviously).

Much of what "צניעות" should (still) be about is doing all actions in a refined, restrained, chaste and modest manner- even things like speaking and putting on ones shoes, and definitely things like how one walks, laughs or bends over (when necessary) in a public place (among a myriad of other examples).
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Some practical examples of this type of behavior:
It says in Genesis; "And they said unto him, Where is Sarah thy wife? And he said, Behold, in the tent", which shows Sarah didn’t go out for no reason. Similarly the pasuk in Psalms 45:14 "כל כבודה בת מלך פנימה, ממשבצות זהב לבושה" ("The king's daughter is all glorious within: her clothing is of wrought gold") is used to suggest that a woman shouldn’t go out much. Though there's also the issue with the "אשת חיל" in משלי who seems to be very outdoorsy, so..it's complicated...still needs looking into...
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Also, it says that רות (and רבקה) bent in a restrained manner to pick things up.

Another example is is ישעיהו's rebuking Judean women for walking in 'too arousing' a manner (Isaiah 3): "Moreover the LOR"D saith, because the daughters of Zion are haughty, and walk with stretched forth necks and wanton eyes, walking and mincing as they go, and making a tinkling with their feet; therefore the LOR"D will smite with a scab the crown of the head of the daughters of Zion, and the LOR"D will discover their secret parts. In that day the Lord will take away the bravery of their tinkling ornaments about their feet, and their cauls, and their round tires like the moon, the chains, and the bracelets, and the mufflers, the bonnets, and the ornaments of the legs, and the headbands, and the tablets, and the earrings, the rings, and nose jewels, the changeable suits of apparel, and the mantles, and the wimples, and the crisping pins,the glasses, and the fine linen, and the hoods, and the vails. and it shall come to pass, that instead of sweet smell there shall be stink; and instead of a girdle a rent; and instead of well set hair baldness; and instead of a stomacher a girding of sackcloth; and burning instead of beauty." (Some even use the examples given in this verse to represent what shouldn't be worn by a woman).

It also says in the Talmud, for example, that a Roman soldier once took interest in a Judean girl because of her elegant manner of walking (so we see that one should refrain from such a mannerism).

To conclude, I should mention that רש"י on the first page of מסכת סוטה explains the גמרא as saying “The modest woman ends up with the ‘righteous’ husband, while the immodest woman ends up with the ‘wicked’ man as a husband”.
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5. Rabbinic Sources

Some surprising Rabbinic Sources I’m too lazy to translate in the meantime:


1. Rambam:

ואלו הן הדברים שאם עשת אחד מהן עברה על דת משה--יוצאה בשוק ושיער ראשה גלוי, או שנודרת או נשבעת ואינה מקיימת, או ששימשה מיטתה והיא נידה, או שאינה קוצה לה חלה; או שהאכילה את בעלה דברים אסורים...ואיזו היא דת יהודית הוא מנהג הצניעות שנהגו בנות ישראל ואלו הן הדברים שאם עשת אחד מהן עברה על דת יהודית: יוצאה לשוק או למבוי מפולש וראשה פרוע ואין עליה רדיד ככל הנשים אע"פ ששערה מכוסה במטפחת או שהייתה טווה בשוק וורד וכיוצא בו כנגד פניה על פדחתה או על לחיה, כדרך שעושות הגויות הפרוצות, או שטווה בשוק ומראה זרועותיה לבני אדם או שהייתה משחקת עם הבחורים או שהייתה תובעת התשמיש מבעלה בקול רם עד ששכנותיה שומעות אותה מדברת על עסקי תשמיש או שהייתה מקללת אבי בעלה בפני בעלה.


2. Ritva (kiddushin 81b):

דהכל כפי מה שאדם מכיר בעצמו אם ראוי לו לעשות הרחקה ליצרו עושה ואפילו להסתכל בבגדי צבעונין של אשה אסור. ואם מכיר בעצמו שיצרו נכנע וכפוף לו ואין מעלה טינא כלל, מותר לו להסתכל ולדבר עם הערוה ולשאול בשלום אשת איש…


3. Yichiel Mich’l Epstein (ערוך השולחן):

"מותר להתפלל ולברך נגד ראשיהן המגולות, [= של נשים נשואות] כיון שעתה רובן הולכות כך, והוה כמקומות המגולים בגופה"


4. Yichiel Yaakov Weinberg (שרידי אש):

"מ"מ הסכמנו כולנו, שבחירת הנשים היא נגד מנהג ישראל ונגד המוסר הישראלי בחיי הציבור, שהשתדלו תמיד לשמור על כבודה בת מלך פנימה, שהאשה הישראלית תשמור את ביתה ואת חינוך ילדי' ואל תהי' קולנית ויוצאנית, לפזר כוחה ולהרוס צניעותה, ולאבוד את חינה וטעמה על ידי ריב ומדנים פוליטיים וציבוריים"


5. Yoel Sirkish (ב"ח):

"אבל אם לובשין כדי להגן מפני החמה בימות החמה ובימות הגשמים מפני הגשמים אין שם איסור"

17 comments:

Rachel said...

Okay, I still didn't get a chance to read all of this, but I have two things to say before I do:

1. Rachel. Title. Remove. Please.
2. That pic of the chain of girls... I wanted to post about it last week, but I couldn't get the words out right. Coincidence that you used it (even if you used it in a waay diff context than I).

הצעיר שלמה בן רפאל לבית שריקי ס"ט said...

Haha.

1. OK, I'll put your English name in the title instead!

2. Yeah, that's funny, I was just looking for an example of perfectly modest, yet not 'yeshivish' Orthodox girls...

The Babysitter said...

As I was reading about the skirts and pants part I was going to comment about the sephardi people, and then you said it.

"I think the clearest example of learned and pious Jews who are somewhat lax in these areas (where the husband doesn't wear a head covering and the wife doesn't have a hair covering and wears pants) is Sefaradim in South American countries; I've met a lot of them, and many of them are just as 'pious' as any New York Kolel couple.."

I see that a lot at college. Sephardi guys without Yarmulkas, and girls in pants. The first time I saw it, I was surprised to see this girl in pants benching.

Thanx for all the information and sources!

I remember learning about all those examples, from Sara in the tent, Rus bending down, the ladies walking in a proactive way...

Rachel asked for you to post about this?

Rachel said...

First off, thanks for typing all that.

But....It feels like you just completely disqualified all the halakhot for how we dress today...?

Really, what I was looking for in all this was that I wanted to see what the mode of dress of Jews living under Muslim room was, because I came across a source that said that Talmud states that if a man, for example, sees after his wedding that his wife has a blemish on the face he can divorce her... thus indicating that covering even the face was tznius.

הצעיר שלמה בן רפאל לבית שריקי ס"ט said...

Babysitter: "Rachel asked for you to post about this?"- Yeah (a while ago), though I think she just asked off hand- not intending for me to post about it. but I think she wan'ts to keep the fact that she asked about it quiet or something..

"Sephardi guys without Yarmulkas, and girls in pants. The first time I saw it, I was surprised to see this girl in pants benching."- I actually felt bad lumping all that together, being that by "our" standards not wearing a kipa for a guy is not an infringment at all, wearing pants for a girl is somewhat of an infringement, and a married woman not covering her hair is not right at all...

"Thanx for all the information and sources!"- You're welcome!

Rachel said...

Nah, I don't care to "keep it quiet." I just don't like seeing my name hanging up there in the title. That's all.

הצעיר שלמה בן רפאל לבית שריקי ס"ט said...

Rachel: Listen, I tryed man! No way for me to know exactly what you were getting at. Though that's an interesting inference you're quoting. Do you remember where it's from? (I mean, like, truth is though there are like another million sources indicating women's faces aren't generally covered.

"I wanted to see what the mode of dress of Jews living under Muslim room was"- What do you mean "Muslim room"? Was that a typo or something? Either way; Jews in Muslim society usually (obviously) had higher standerds of modesty in dress, though the Jews were never quite as modest as the Muslims (the Jews were generally seen as a "liberal and modernizing force" in Muslim countries.

הצעיר שלמה בן רפאל לבית שריקי ס"ט said...

Ugh, I'm always delinquent in finishing my parentheses!

Rachel said...

Don't know where exactly.

Typo. Rule. Not room.

"Listen, I tryed man! No way for me to know exactly what you were getting at." What do you mean? I wasn't asking for you to make an argument for one side or the other in order to give me the answer I please. I just asked a general question.

הצעיר שלמה בן רפאל לבית שריקי ס"ט said...

Well I was trying be somewhat objective..

"I wanted to see what the mode of dress of Jews living under Muslim room was"- I don't think that was your initial question.

....come on: Does nobody like that comic strip where the guy gets interested in the birl in the burka?! ..I for one, thought it was pretty funny (as well as the name "secret Asian man"- those who know the song would understand)...

הצעיר שלמה בן רפאל לבית שריקי ס"ט said...

Was there anything you were curious about that was unaccounted for though?

Rachel said...

""I wanted to see what the mode of dress of Jews living under Muslim room was"- I don't think that was your initial question.".....No, it wasn't. My initial question was just what do various sources in Talmud say about the halakhot of being tznius. But I figured you might mention something that'll point me in answering what I really wanted to know.
Thanks.

הצעיר שלמה בן רפאל לבית שריקי ס"ט said...

Any time! : )

The Babysitter said...

o, I didn't know there were differences by you guys.

Rachel that was a very interesting question. But maybe she got the blemish after she married him?

הצעיר שלמה בן רפאל לבית שריקי ס"ט said...

"o, I didn't know there were differences by you guys"- What, you mean like between different Sefaradim? If so: yeah, I mean culturally there are much bigger differences between Sefaradim than between Asgkenazim..Halakhically though there have been movements that we should all follow one standard (which to a large extent has become successful - Ovadia Yosef), but the spectrum of Sefaradim obviously goes from Mekubal to Gay clothing designer unfortunately...

The Babysitter said...

I meant differences between wearing a yarmulka or woman covering their hair, or pants and stuff like that, differences of severity.

הצעיר שלמה בן רפאל לבית שריקי ס"ט said...

Yeah, like I said, we all share the same halakhic standards, so anyone who doesn't keep up with those standards is just being lax..