Hyper-Tsnius?

Hyper-Tsnius?

Hallel stopped in her tracks and gasped, “What’s that!”

I saw the woman and my heart jumped too. I also find them scary. The women who walk around Jerusalem and Beit Shemesh covered from head to toe with black sheets. These women remind me of how my brother and I used to run around the house covered with sheets and howling “boooo!” in an unsuccessful attempt to scare our parents. But these ultra-Tsnius women don’t look like they’re pretending to be ghosts. They look like the real thing. And even though I am pretty sure that underneath their sheets these women are good-hearted and well-intentioned JewishMOMs, I still find them quite creepy.

I’ve been seeing these women more and more over the past year, and while I’m quite curious about them I’ve never really felt the need to write about them. They’re an extreme, fringe group. Far from normative halachic observance, and condemned by all mainstream rabbis.

And then this morning on the treadmill I was flipping through my Binah Magazine, and I came across an ad that finally drove me to sit down and write about these black-sheeted women. The ad was a plea for us Jewish women to take on more stringencies in modesty so that we will merit the release of Yaakov Yosef ben Raizel, the last wrongly imprisoned yeshiva student left in Japan.

The story of this yeshiva student breaks my heart, and I would truly love to do something to help him out and to raise awareness about his tragic case.

But when I read the list of suggested stringencies my eyebrows leaped hairline-ward. Here’s a few of the suggested chumrot:
–Limit brisk walking in public areas
–Limit eating/drinking in public, especially where men are present
–Limit talking on even “kosher” cell phones in public areas
–When in public [street, stores, buses, waiting rooms] cell phones should preferably only vibrate silently
–Turban/tichel should cover hair at all times (a tichel/turban is more mechubad [respectable] than a sheitl)
–Shoes/heels should be fitted with a rubber sole

I’m really not sure what to make of all this. This isn’t a fringe group. This is a prominent ad in Binah Magazine.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t mind that there are women out there who keep these stringencies. In fact, in this era when the world is SO out of control in terms of immodesty and sexuality, I’m sort of proud of these gung-ho ultra-tsnius JewishMOMs on the other side of the Brooklyn Bridge fitting their clickety-clackety high heels with rubber souls.

But there’s also something that bothers me about this ad. I don’t like this implicit criticism and judgment of women who are halachically modest but who are not ultra-tsnius.

I am afraid, JewishMOMs, that things seem to have gone overboard somehow.

JewishMOM, what do you think? Is there such a thing as TOO MUCH modesty?

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86 comments

  1. I don’t believe there is such a thing as ” ultra” mitzvoth. Halacha IS the approach that leads a Jew to actualizing their potential and connecting to God. ANY deviation to the right or left is ultimately unhealthy. Those succumbing to this emotional thinking need to study what the Rambam truly writes about Jewish law and philosophy, and probably need a psychiatrist, too. This whole track of “ultra” is a deviation from normative Judaism.

  2. As a graphic designer, I am used to being given feedback in details instead of concepts: ” make that page red” instead of “this page needs a bolder background”.

    That’s the problem with this list: In reality, it’s really only a list of detailed suggestions how to make ourselves less conspicuous in public: a key element of a womans modesty which I think we all aspire to in our own ways.
    Had it been put like that, with perhaps a few small examples and a contact number for further guidance, it may have been much more effective.

  3. I see little girls (under age 10) in Ramat Bet Shemesh covered from head to toe in black capes. There is no issue of sexuality in little girls, and any man who looks improperly at a little girl is a sexual deviant.
    Women and girls who wear cloaks, face covers,and even rubber soles are accepting the message that it is ok to reduce their legitimate presence in public places. That really, they should be invisible, because there is something about them that is not proper. This is an extremely dangerous message.
    An individual who accepts a personal, time-limited stringency (e.g. taanit dibur for a day) for a zechut (eg to bring Mashiach closer) is different than a community-wide call for extra stringency. There is an issue of taxing the community with something too difficult. Furthermore, it sends the message that if you don’t do this, you are holding back Mashiach. Very guilt – imposing.
    This has nothing to do with tzniut. That is why the Rabbanim are against the cloaks. Judaism does not demand that women be invisible.

    • bikores.blogspot.com

      According to halacha, there sure is sexuality in little girls. There are laws of yichud that apply to children under bar/bas mitzva. According to some major poskim like the Tzemach Tzedek, girls from the age of three must cover their knees, elbows, collarbones, just like women.

      The idea of a man being a sexual deviant for how he regards little girls is a modern, secular idea.

      Bracha Kapach was married in Yemen at the age of 11. (She has earned the Israel Prize, the state’s highest honor for feeding 1400 families and providing food for 20,000 people at holiday time.) Marrying children at the age of 11 to older men was not seen as a perversion but a way of life. 12-16 years old married in Eastern Europe.

      • “Marrying children at the age of 11 to older men… 12-16 years old married in Eastern Europe”

        Sorry to be so outspoken: b”H! these times are over.

        There must be a reason that todays Gdolim are not supporting to marry children (as you have written acurately) off to “older men”. As we all know these were different times than today … and it was also not always good to be married off so early. Also we had polygamy in earlier times and the Gdolim decided at some time not to support this anymore – because the sensitivities of the women changed.

        Let us be honest: nowadays no mother would be happy to marry of her 11 year old girl. maybe the 16 year old, but only if this girl is mature enough to be able to care for a husband with 16 and for her first child with 17.

        I am strongly appealing for a childhood which is appropriate for todays children. which implies: no covering from head to toe in black before marriage (afterwards it’s up to wife and husband) and no shortening of the childhood through an overly early marriying-off.

        May we be zoche to marry off all our children successfully at an appropriate age into successfull marriages!

  4. I’m sorry but i think you are the one making TOO MUCH of something…. let poeple do what they want. And if someone wants to be extra frum…then let this be only a zechus to all of Klal Yisroel. No one’s belittling anyone… and if you feel that way then probably you have what to feel guilty about. I’m sorry if this message comes on too strong, but i strongly feel that it’s pure loshon hora to openly make fun of a certain poeple!
    I have nothing against you just your opinion on this matter.
    Wishing you a happy healty great year.
    H.G.

    • I was completely serious and not making fun of anyone. I am frum and tznuah according to halacha and care very much what happens to people.

    • She was absolutely not making ‘fun’ of anyone. She was simply bringing up an issue that is actually A ISSUE in our time right now. I think it is important!

    • I don’t think one should always just let people do what they want. We need tolerance for sure but there are things that can be destructive for our communities and one needs to be aware of that. I guess the question is more about whether or not this issue has the potential to be destructive. It is a good thing to take on chumras but I guess the question is whether these are legitimate chumras or actually distracting people from the essentials of Jewish life.

    • This is not making fun. Accepting these “stringencies” is not in ANY way being more “frum”. Erasing your identity and being less conspicuous in public? I hadn’t realized that Jewish women were such an affront to Jewish men that we needed to disappear entirely (and that’s precisely what this nonsense advocates). We should all absolutely stand up and protest against this. It’s wrong and the people involved need to really examine what warped view of humanity and sexuality has led them to this place.

  5. The Talibanization of Judaism freaks me out. How about just being nice kosher Jews? Was Miriam wearing rubber-soled shoes? Let’s stick to Torah.

  6. It seems to me that the ad in Binah magazine made some very important points, and there is a need for some counter-balance in regards to women who seem to have “forgotten” the very basic elements of tznius, but not eating in public when there’s men present? Does that mean we shouldn’t go out to eat with our husbands/families? Additionally, the Lubavitcher Rebbe requested that his married chassidisters go out with a sheitel and not a tichel or snood. I shudder to think that this plea has even the slightest whiff of a breach in tznius. Also, we should remember that this was a paid advertisement, and although I’m sure that Binah editors are quite careful about screening their ads, we should keep in mind that it was an ad, and that there was nothing against halacha mentioned whatsoever. Ya’asher koach to all you women who think about the way you present yourself to the world, and make sure that you always look like a bas melech, in and out of your homes.

  7. B”H

    Here is my question: Can a woman who is covered in a black sheet do the following?
    -See and make a blessing over a rainbow.
    -See, smell, and make blessings over fragrant fruit or flowers.
    -Greet people “b’sever panim yafot” (Pirkei Avot)–with a cheerful countenance.
    -Work in any capacity that involves interpersonal communication (such as teaching, health professions, business, etc.)

    The Woman of Valor described in Proverbs 31 is a woman who is very much in the world, actively nurturing her family and doing mitzvot in and outside of her home.

    “Oz v’hadar levushah” – “She is clothed with strength and with splendor.”

    One can certainly debate what this verse means, but I cannot believe that wearing black sheets is equivalent to being “clothed with strength and with splendor”. Gila Manolson talks about modest attire as being attractive but not attracting. I think this is a very helpful guideline.

    May we merit to observe the mitzvot HaShem gave us with strength and with splendor.

  8. I live in a religious city, haredi majority, and there is this woman who dresses in black, with excessively large capes from top to toe, and the result is that everybody looks at her, once it happened at the supermarcket, instead of not being noticed which I assume is her goal, all eyes were on her (although furtively) because no matter what you say, lashon hara and so on, this looks strange and even frightens little kids; and I think such women miss the point.

  9. I think it’s foolish to attempt to combat the decadence of the prevalent culture by adding layer upon layer of stringency to halachic observance, and downright misogynistic to attribute horrible events to the lack of tzniut of religious women. The majority of the religious women I know are extremely modest in dress and behavior; while no doubt we can all grow in modesty, just as we can all improve in kavana during tefilla and in loving our fellow Jew, the growth needed is primarily inner growth. Chas v’chalila that we should start to resemble oppressive places like Saudi Arabia and Iran in our efforts to become closer to Hash-m.

  10. i agree w/ debi. tznius is not about becoming invisible. it is focusing yourself on the fact that you are primarily a neshama, and secondarily a body. it’s about allowing your inside to be reflected in your outside, as opposed to your outside distracting from your inside. this fact is so rarely mentioned in discussions of tznius. rather, all that is discussed is the physical externalities! how ironic. lastly, it is not being “extra frum” to wear a burqua like the muslims. this is not our mesorah and should be condemned.

  11. I wasn’t raised frum but have chosen to lean towards traditional laws and customs. I wear a hat, sleeves to the elbow, most of the time skirts to the knee, usually below….I think I understand about modesty. But I have been to Orthodox Shuls that shun women from wearing red or pink colors and others that have no problems with it. I’ve been to Shuls that shun open toed shoes and some that have no problem with it. I think that covering one from head to toe brings attention because it is so different and concealing, that it does not detract from attention seeking, and that it puts women back to being second class citizens, or not even that. But to each their own. I don’t agree with it, don’t want to do it, believe it ‘hides’ women which does not correspond to Ashes Chayil honoring the woman,or the concept of the Shabbos Queen, but I am just me. I try to be the best that I can be….but I am in no position to judge the actions of others.

  12. Israeli Eema

    I am also horrified by the sight of these women and the implicit statement their presence makes that precious holy Jewish women should become like the nations of the world — in this case, the Arab nations. It would be no different than if Jewish women started insisting that we must dress like Madonna, chas v’sholom. Too much of a good thing, whether tznius or medicine, is NOT a better thing; it can be fatal.

    We all know how to be tzanua and how not to draw attention to ourselves without becoming invisible and valueless. A young girl under the age of bat mitzva should not have to fear men looking at her and does not need to be dressed in a cape. Grown women do not need to walk around in burkas and veils in order to be non-provocative. A quiet voice, normative modest clothing, a modest wig or scarf or turban, and a dignified walk, are all part of the “style” of a Jewish woman and always have been.

    On the other hand, according to our Torah sources, when Tamar wanted her father in law to think that she was a prostitute she dressed up in a burka and veil. Something to think about.

  13. Elana Greenspan

    If they want to be ultra-strict about something in the merit of something else, they should choose Hilshot HaLashon – the laws of proper speech! They should do chessed for other people! Raise money to help people! Organize activities to foster ahavat Yisrael between Jews of all different kinds, not put up extra boundaries between themselves and other Jews! What a sad waste of energy. This is called craziness. Hashem should send them a shaliach to re-direct their zeal and energy toward something productive, useful and beneficial!

    • Great words, indeed! So many people focus on external things and at the same time completely forget about agavas Israel and the laws of proper speech.

    • nak
      Right on.

  14. Sixty four dollar question: who paid for the ad? I would never take such an ad seriously without some reputable names behind it.
    I would have to agree with the comments above that the concepts are worthy, and suggestions thought-provoking, but as presented, it’s disconcerting.

  15. Sharon Saunders

    If they want to help bring this young man home why not do world wide tehillim? There is one group of burka- wearers who are marrying off their 14 year old girls to grown men (not a rumor, but reported in the news). Is this what we get when being ultra-tsnut takes away both our presence and our voice?

  16. I think your “Taliban” example doesn’t fit in with the Binah ad example (by the way, I received the tsniut letter, written by the most recently freed Israeli bochur’s mother from Japan, by email). As long as the “Taliban” women aren’t giving other women a hard time about their tsniut, then I’m neutral. It would be interesting to find out who is directing them to dress as such and interview him/her/them.

    As far as the Binah ad goes, I don’t have any problem with the list of suggestions. I may not follow them all myself to such an extent, but it’s always good to get a reminder about how to ratch up tsniut a bit. Whether it’s the tightness of a skirt or shirt, or the way we laugh loudly in public, heightened awareness is a positive thing in my book.

    • I was about to write exactly the same points after reading all these comments! But you said it much better than I would have!

  17. israeli Eema – i think tamar was actually praised for always having her face covered in her father-in-law’s house. and that she uncovered her face during the seduction incident. thats why Yehuda didnt recognise her, because she always had her face covered in his presence until then.
    on the other hand, i dont agree with the burka wearing either. the men blame the women for their tznius, but it seems to me that the MEN’s lack of tznius is a bigger issue (porn addiction, child s. abuse…even for regular guys – how about they increase in shmiras haenayim for a change)

    • Maybe their men should wear blind-folds. They might hear lashon hara about that, though– perhaps they should stuff their ears, too…There’s no end to the insanity.
      Read an interesting piece in a scientifc mag about how the people in Qumran who wrote the Dead Sea Scrolls died out…They’d added to their frumkeit by going to the mikva every time they went to the bathroom…So bacteria spread in the mikva waters…and killed them.
      No such thing as super-frum. Being a decent Jew living in a natural world that works within a system as opposed to a living in a fantasy world based on the supernatural–leads people to very different world views.

      • A science team went back in time to take samples from the mikveh water at Qumran and at several other less superfrum mikva’ot from the same time period, analysed and compared the bacteria present and what the LD-50 levels were, and then wrote about it in a peer reviewed journal, INSTEAD of writing about TIME MACHINE?!!! Was it a big blue box with a Doctor in it?

        Sorry, what were you saying about fantasy and the supernatural again?

  18. Knowing one such woman, I can tell you that they DO work on their other mitzvot with the same zeal, and I don’t think they judge or expect other women to keep their level. They simply think that their level of tzniut is the right one, and I for one applaud them for it, even tho’ I don’t dress like them and don’t personally believe in it, because I think I would feel stared at, and, as Devorah pointed out, it’s ironic that clothing meant to detract attention from our physicality would have the exact opposite effect.
    However, I think the ad in Binah brought attention to something that many people nowadays overlook: the fact that tzniut is not just a dress code, it’s a way of life. Too many women think if the sleeve covers the elbow, then it’s OK if the shirt is ultra-tight and sexual in nature. That’s completely missing the point. My savta only wore brown, navy and grey, but her sleeves were sometimes above the elbow–and she was always tznua. It was ingrained in her personality–not being loud in public, not acting wild in public. These things attract attention, too.

  19. I think it’s important not to confuse the two–the Binah ad and this fringe group. The comments are starting to sound like they are all the same people.

    From my perspective, the biggest shame is that this ultimately undermines the beauty and importance of tznius. I feel like we get so desensitized to any mussar on the topic that we just shut down as soon as we hear the t-word… I know I often do. Which is a shame, because from what I’ve learned it really is our fundamental mitzvah. I’m not ready for the rubber soles, but I could definitely take some mussar about cell phone conversations. Also, I disagree with the poster that we all know what tznius is, as a BT I find that I definitely have had to become sensitized and still find things that simply didn’t occur to me. I guess I would say, we all know in which areas we can push ourselves.

    My question is, do the guys get the same thing in yeshiva? Does anybody who has a husband in learning know? Do they hear “skip the third coffee break, learn harder, we have a boy stuck in Japan?” I kindof hope so. I know when my husband was learning during Cast Lead they all had a soldier’s name to focus on learning to protect them all day… apparently was very sobering.

  20. Yes! Thank you for for writing this post. I also feel it is psychologically dangerous to go to this extreme in tznius. How many high school girls in Bais Yaakov schools in Brooklyn have become anorexic due to fears of being “seen” or having their bodies be “visible.” I think the intense focus on women covering themselves, lowering their voices and trying to become invisible is causing many women to be uncomfortable with who we are as people.

    I also agree with another commenter – have men work on shmiras eynayim for once! Muslim women have to walk around completely covered because Men are obsessed with one thing and one thing only. I think and hope that our Jewish husbands have more self-control.

  21. Sharon Saunders

    It seems to be a bad commentary of this generation that we think we have to build several fences around the Torah.

    • bikores.blogspot.com

      Fences around the Torah is what most of our religious observance is about! Whether kashrus, hilchos Shabbos, family purity laws, you name it – most of it is a rabbinic fence around the Torah and not the actual Biblical requirement. And yes, with mi’ut ha’doros (the spiritual descent of the generations), the more fences we need.

      • There gets to be a point that you’ve built so many fences that you are observing the fences and NOT THE TORAH!

  22. yehudis chana

    This is an issue that I have been troubled by for many years. Every tragedy, every crisis, every problem traced to improper carrying out of hilchos tsnius?! I don’t get it and I don’t buy it. It comes from such a place of gevurah, of finger pointing and self-righteousness, of fear and insecurity. Who has the audacity to say they know why Hashem does what He does? It’s one thing to look inside oneself and see how she can improve; it;s another to think she can tell everyone else what they need to do.

    I’ve learned, from raising four daughters, that the only way to teach others about such a sensitive and crucial topic as tznius is from a place of love, love, love.

  23. Dear Jenny,

    I have always enjoyed your blog… until today. The Binah ad, as you described it, did not tell us all to dress in black sheets — it told us to wear a tichel, limit brisk walking/eating in public places, etc. By equating these black-robed women with these simple tznius measures, you delegitimize modesty. If you haven’t yet, I would suggest you read “Nefesh Chaya” by Rav Shimshon Dovid Pincus. If you had any understanding of what is at stake, then perhaps your attitude (on display for your hundreds of blog-followers) would be quite different. Next time you feel like bashing tznius, keep it to yourself. Do you think you are building up klal Yisrael with this blog post, or tearing it down?

    • Hadassah Aber

      I don’t think the article was tznius bashing at all. These are two unrelated incidents but both show how tznius can be taken to extremes. Covering oneself with a burka or face covering in an area where no one else is doing that ( or few) is drawing attention to oneself much like those who wore the granny skirts in public in the early 70’s when so one else wore long clothes. our generation has lost a sensitivity to modest behavior and have many that outright violate halachic parameters without realizing (I think) how this affects themselves and those around them. WE can’t blame the tragedies that affect all of us on the behavior of individuals. No one expects women to be invisible and the power of Jewish women to affect positive change in the world is growing which is a good thing. This site in particular is an example of the power of women to encourage and strengthen each other to do our job which is not easy and can be overwhelming. The outside culture has permeated our homes through books, billboards, and other media. We have to work extra hard to develop a sensitivity to tznius in ourselves and our daughters. Men have to work extra hard to keep their eyes from inappropriate pictures all the time. But we all have to encourage each other (husbands & wives)to keep our homes holy sanctuaries for the future of the next generation.

  24. A proper kapparah for the boy jailed in Japan would be to educate the community including children about not taking money for questionable activities, living within our means, paying taxes, and obeying the law. But there is always the assumption that the way women dress is behind every problem.

    • Shoshana Z.

      Exactly! Thank you for saying that.

    • Hannah – you tell it like it is – thanks!

    • Correct!

    • Baruch Shekivant!

    • also right on.

    • faith/emuna

      yes. it is very scary that these boys are being looked at as martyrs, the logical conclusion would see to be to educate for responsibility for ones own actions, and as hannah said for obeying the laws etc. what about a worldwide concentration on the halachot of business ethics? it is scary how easily the finger gets pointed at woman. yes i agree that there is what to improve in the religious world with regard to tzniut, the video about sexy tzniut is disturbing, and i have also seen clothes that cover everything, but are so tight it kind of defies the purpose. but it seems that men now have an excuse, my punishment isnt bc i robbed , embezzled, smuggled, its the womens fault for not dressing tzanua. lets all try to improve where we can.

  25. This seems to be such a sensitive topic for everyone. what can be said that already hasn’t been said? I was reading in the Book of Our Heritage that if there is a middah that a certain generation lacks, then a few sensitive ones in that area can redeem the whole generation. no one can disagree that ours is a generation that is absolutely lacking in modesty. We each have to work on ourselves in every middah- chessed, lashon harah, anger…take your pick, but a woman’s tznius is supposed to be her red carpet in Heaven, so it is a very appropriate place to start. Why are we all so concerned with others and what they are doing? Let the women go all covered up, who are they hurting by putting on an extra layer? for those who say that these women need psychological help or they marry off 14 year old girls- Pure lashon harah! We should all have a good sweet year, filled with amazing strides in our personal growth, nachas from our children, and shalom bayis. Mashiach is way too close to be picking people apart like this.

  26. Of course, we all agree that being tznuah is an important mitzvah. However, I agree with Hannah that it seems to be a knee-jerk reaction that whenever there’s a problem, the requirements for being tznuah are addressed. I think working on teaching our children proper values, and acting with seichel and ehrlichkeit would be a more appropriate request.

    The reason we are concerned with what other women are doing is because we are worried that the extreme examples are going to become mandatory in our lives. And many of us do not want that. And, indeed, it would not be healthy. Everyone needs to grow in their mitzvah observance on their level, at their speed, and in their specific areas. To continually pound away at this one area is to create a callous and an aversion, which is counterproductive, to say the least.

    Maybe someone is on the level to not talk on a cell phone in public. Maybe that would be good for them. So do it! However, for many other women, this is off-putting and even offensive, or outrageous, and it is not something which is going to encourage them to consider ways to become more tznuah. It will likely have the opposite effect.

    To have an ad taken out with “suggestions” on how to behave is problematic because everyone is on a different level. To suggest that we all work on improving our mitzvah observance in the way suited to us would be a better approach, for everyone knows the area in which they need to improve.

    • Rivki– I came here to say what you said!

      The sheeted ladies are removing themselves from the world completely by doing as they are and reducing their presence. I think that this gets scary because the men ultimately gain total control over them. How do they not walk briskly in public? What do they do if they have toddlers? Will they be taken seriously in public places? What if something happens and they have to support their families and they aren’t used to being in public and cannot speak up for themselves?

      G-d did not create us to be invisible. Modestly and dignity are one thing, but living passively and raising children like this is wrong on all levels.

  27. Barbara Roberts

    Chasid shoteh means fool/fake pious person. Fake piety is not supported by halacha, only by foolish obsessions. Once these back caped fools begin self-mutilate themselves (cutting off breasts, eye lashes, skin) and removing a female baby’s genital parts, you’ll understand the nature of the self-hatred problem. These chicks are sick sick sick.

  28. I don’t consider what they wrote MODESTY issues.-
    Having a cell phone and talking on it are a necessity today
    Good Manners requires a person not to discuss their business out loud or in a brash, disturbing voice. That your cell phone ringer not have suggestive music or extremely loud or wild music well that just makes sense.
    Your heels clicking aren’t a modesty issue either. Just annoying if the heel part has come off.
    However drawing attention to ones self either by wearing tight suggestive clothing or being overdressed in ridiculously long or multy outfits or having a child lead you about so that it becomes a sakana- danger -THIS IS NOT ABOUT TZINUS- MODESTY. This is ridiculing the laws of Modesty.
    A woman can talk in a modest voice and take care with her words or not accept change directly into her hands, etc….
    The Torah advises us to seek a middle of the road derech.
    Going to the extreme in either direction is not only not right, but not normal. It indicates a low self esteem and a desperate need for attention.
    And as extremes go chances are it will lead you in the wrong direction.
    Modesty starts in the head and heart and home.
    It is something we continuously must work on.
    When Adom made extra ” fences” around the one law G-d gave him – he unknowingly caused Chava to make a serious error- that led to they being expelled from Gan Eden.
    These woman are not setting a good example for others, if fact I find their behavior sad and ridiculous and I am sorry for them that they and their ” leader” have lost sight of what is right and sensible. Their poor families are confused and suffering as well.
    Yes, we do need to keep Modest and Modesty in and out of our homes but, gong to this extreme -extreme is not what the Torah is asking of us .
    Besides this is more a step backwards and towards following the Arab culture -Something that should not be encourage amoungst Jewish woman.
    I hope that people will try to reach them but this sounds too much like a cult that has gotten out of hand and for those that have been programed and brainwashed by these absurd rules I hope they wake up and see the truth.

    • From the Lubavitcher Rebbe (Likutei Sichos, parshas Acharei – vol. 1)

      “And you shall guard the guarding of my word” (Vayikra 18:30) – the Gemara (Yevamos 21a) says, “provide a guard for the guarding of my word”. This is the source for the precautionary measures instituted by the Sages, those things which we are to refrain from that are legally permissible, as well as the “fences” which each individual is obligated to make even in permissible things. As it says in sifrei musar (books of moral instruction), that we must be careful in 100 “gates of the permissible” in order not to violate anything that is prohibited.

      Some erroneously argue: Why look for new chumros (stringencies)? If the rabbis, of any generation, forbade it, that’s one thing, we have to listen, but nonetheless, even here, we don’t have to be overly cautious because these are merely rabbinic decrees. To look for new stringencies however, is altogether unnecessary. “Enough for you what has been forbidden to you by the Torah!” (Yerushalmi, Nedarim 9:1 also Rambam hilchos deios, 3:1).

      Moreover, they say, it is already hard enough to observe all that we must keep. To add further stringencies or hidurim (extras), therefore, is not worthwhile, for these may lead to neglecting essential requirements. Too many restrictions may lead to a total diversion from the way of the Torah, ch’v.

      They support their argument by referring to the sin of the Eitz Ha’Daas, the source of all sins, that it came about because Adam added “and do not touch it,” to “do not eat from it.”

      Their claim is greatly in error, for the following reasons:

      All obligations of the Torah were given by the one and same Shepherd. Because we are told “not to turn aside from what [the rabbis] tell us,” even the enactments of the rabbis assume full force and strictness as laws of the Torah itself. On the practical level, we do make a distinction between d’oraisas (Biblical) and d’rabbanans (rabbinic), because the Torah says that when in doubt with a d’oraisa we are strict, and when in doubt about a d’rabbanan, we are lenient.

      That everybody must set restrictions for himself in permissible matters is a Torah mitzva, “and you shall guard the guarding of My [word].” And the Torah says, “Kedoshim tihiyu” (be holy) – ‘kadesh es atzmecha b’mutar lach” (sanctify yourself in that which is permissible to you) (Yevamos 20a). This is not only a mitzva by itself, but it is also part of the “you shall guard the guarding.”

      As far as the Yerushalmi and the Eitz Ha’daas – they have nothing to do with this, for when Adam was in Gan Eden, he was a merkava (chariot) to Elokus (G-dliness), and had no association with evil. A chariot does not act on its own, and in a state like that, there is no need for fences or precautions. Precautionary measures, under such circumstances, are not only unnecessary but they are wrong, bec. when one is a merkava to Elokus, all you are and do reflect kedusha, and when he does something, he elevates it. For him, therefore, refraining from anything, would be withholding its elevation.

      Under other conditions though, where there is a need for fences, these are a virtue.

  29. Modesty is important.
    But, I think if some of these Tzinius women were really concerned with saving people- they would concentrate on the What comes out of their mouths and who and what it is being said to.
    SINAS CHINIM- LOSHON HARA is why we are in Golus today.
    You can dress as Tzinius as you want,
    You can give us much Tzidaka as you want, but when you talk about someone and you hurt them or someone in their family – You think the Abishter cares if your face or knees are covered ?
    Do you think that your Modesty will distract the Abishter from those that have had their reputations and businesses destroyed because of DESTRUCTIVE words that have left the mouths of Modest people?
    Modesty is important but if it isn’t accompanied by other important issues then it is just a costume you wear to identify you with religious people .

  30. It’s interesting to read this post as another point in the same continuum as as the infamous “tznius sexy” video. Extending tzniut to encompass any act of public visibility, or reducing it to a series of uniform requirements whose spirit can be undercut in the most, uh, brazen way: does it have to be one or the other? Surely there is a lot of room in the middle to cultivate inner dignity that is expressed outward.

  31. this is a very interesting and controversial topic.
    i didn’t read all the responses yet, but the general idea of “extreme” tznius is not sending women a positive message…
    when i am told i have to be as invisible as possible – my reaction is ‘am i something bad that shouldn’t be seen?’
    of course there has to be tznius but there is a middle path for it…

  32. If everyone could just focus more on themselves to understand what the core of tznius is – being a more internal,focused,holy person. From everything I have learned, tznius is not about an article of clothing, it is about a way of living. Living like a Bat Melech and presenting oneself in a way that would make Hashem proud. For each person this is different and everyone needs to find what is best for them and their situation. We should try not to judge each other on this very personal issue.

  33. Picture this:
    A woman and her daughter arrive at a hotel swimming pool. All eyes are on this strange couple in their neck-to-shin lycra swim dresses, the mother with her hair fully covered as well. As they determinedly make their way to their places, the mother, who at first felt extremely self-conscious to be so conspicuously different, suddenly feels a surge of pride and confidence in her way: slowly warming to the fact that she is wearing the banner of her beliefs, the true expression of her soul, and passing that knowledge on to her daughter who gaily wore her uniform with innocent abandon.

    Sound familiar?

    Sometimes we forget how extreme WE can look to others. I can’t tell you how many times i’m asked if my stockings are for orthopedic or orthodox reasons ….

    • YL, we are concerned not about how others see us, but rather, whether this behavior is damaging and abusive to those that are involved. If there beliefs are dangerous, they need to be corrected, not lauded. In your mother/daughter swimsuits, you exhibited your beliefs through your body, not by attempting to eliminate your body. Perhaps subtle difference, buy g-d always is in the details.

  34. Anyone know who was behind the ad?

  35. Jessica RW

    What should interest us first of all, meanstream rabbinic authorities condemn and some even consider this as grounds for divorce if a woman choses to dress in a cape.
    Sexond, cape wearing in Israel was initiated by a cultish group lead by a woman who’s psychological integrity is seriously questionable. Followers of this cult do not frighten us for naught. As with any cultish community, it truly frighyens me to think about what might go within it. If there is so much energy invested in opressing sexuality, not just that of adult women but also that of little girls. There are other strginencies that werent discussed here. Many of these women will only have marital relations on mikvah night, some of these women try not to speak at all including when interacting with their children. I honestly believe that it will not be long before we start hearing stories coming out of this cult of abuse. Honestly, these children are already being abused: they force their daughter to wair a black sack, some without even holes to breath through in 100 degree weather. These children can not play in play grounds, they can not ride a bike.
    We can not take this issue lightly. We can not and we must not!
    I think that a bunch of us should get together and appeal to Binah magazine that as their target market we absolutely absolutely do not accept the publication of such ads in their paper.

    • just to clarify, this ad was NOT posted by the black-sheet women. It’s a whole different thing. I think the ad was posted by Chassidim from Boro Park.

  36. Chana Jenny, I’d love to see an article – written by you – about these women. As you live in Yerushalayim, I’d assume it wouldn’t be hard to get access to a few – even a ring leader. Let’s find out what’s REALLY behind their motives to dress as such. As we need to foster Ahavat Yisrael and achdut as much as possible, instead of bashing these women, let’s hear what they have to say. We might learn something new or, if anything, re-humanize our sisters.

    • What a beautiful and thoughtful comment. I agree 100%.

    • Considering that they consider interviews an opportunity to prosletyze–because that is what they do–I would be very wary of giving them a platform. Especially since many of the most extreme practices of at least one of the groups are against halacha, and one of their leaders is in jail for severe child abuse.

      • that’s exactly why we would like to read an article about them. So that we can get the facts. Gila is right, we need to at least try to foster understanding. I don’t think anyone here is scared of what they have to say.

        • I spoke with my rav about this group. Their approach is HIGHLY problematic on a halachic and also personal level. While I’m also curious about these women, I definitely don’t want to provide a platform for an approach that is SO far from the halachic norm. G-d forbid, I don’t want any JewishMOMs emulating these women. This blog is intended to help JewishMOMs grow in their avodat Hashem in a healthy and halachic way!

  37. Please don’t judge people that are different than you

    • I don’t think that Chana Jenny is judging people– she is judging the actions suggested in an ad.

  38. I Think that it’s Loshon Horo to imply that everyone else who doesn’t follow those stringency is not Tznius enough. When a woman covers her hair, her neck bones, her elbows, her knees, her ankles,and strive to be modest in her ways of life I think it’s wrong not to applaud her and instead imply that she’s not doing enough, even though Halacha doesn’t recommend it.
    When it says you are not supposed to add or take away from the Torah, I think that’s a perfect example. What a turn off for somebody who knows nothing about Judaism! Is this what G-d wants from me, a woman ? To hide and be ashamed of myself and what I represent? Let a woman be a source of life and represent the beauty of Judaism and more importantly let a woman be herself and shine.
    When you look at one of these women do they come off as what a Jewish woman should look like ? What Sarah, Rivkah, Rachel and Leah looked like ? I am really sorry but to me, these women look like something is not ok, they don’t seem happy, joyful, and a great model of Jewishness to the world. I think this ad must have cost a lot of money to be published in Binah magazine and that they couldn’t refuse. What a shame to womanhood! What a shame to Judaism! Thank you for mentioning this important issue.

  39. to put this JewishMom post into an historical perspective, about 7 years ago i had a friend who lived in beit shemesh where a particular form of the spiritual virus, “stricter-is-holier”, broke out.

    it manifested at that time as a cadre of frum women wearing small mountains of layers and layers of dark clothing under their black “jewish” burkas in the name of “tznius” in emulation of their “spiritual teacher” also a beit shemesh woman.

    those with little understanding of tznius al pi halacha were easily infected. sincere & well intended baalei teshuva were particularly vulnerable.

    turns out the “spiritual teacher” had OCD (among a host of other problems)as did a number of her followers.

    numerous chosheve rabbonim tried to put a stop to her & her followers hyper-tznius shenanigans as k’negged halacha and Derech Yisroel Saba.

    but, its clear from this JewishMom post about jewish burka wearers in beit shemesh that the rabbonim were unsuccessful at eradicating the virus completely.

    what passes for hyper-scrupulousness in mitzvoh observance is often the manifestation of a spectrum disorder (OCD)

  40. Thank you, Yonah. You have inspired me to jump into the fray.

    I read once in Likutei Sichos (over 40 volumes of the talks given by the Lubavitcher Rebbe):

    Yiddish expression: aib gut iz gut, iz besser nisht besser? If ten is good, isn’t twenty better?

    If covering our elbows, knees, collarbones, is good, isn’t covering our faces even better?

    The Rebbe answers – no – in the case of tznius it is not better – because one of the big accomplishments of tznius is that a woman is then heard. When you talk to a woman who is properly dressed (according to shulchan aruch, not according to Taliban), you just naturally end up looking at her eyes, her mouth, her facial expression. And when you look there, you understand better what she is saying, with the nuances. So dressing tzniusdik enhances the woman’s ability to be heard, and understood, and taken seriously. To cover up her face is to seriously undermine her ability to be heard and understood.

    Whereas we have all experienced being spoken to by a woman with twelve inches of cleavage showing, or skin-tight sequins, or a micro-mini – it’s really hard to keep your eyes on her face or hear what she is saying at all, never mind take it seriously.

    Either extreme makes it hard to understand what a woman is saying. Face covered, or untznius. That’s why we B”H have the Torah, and it is explained in many seforim, and in English and many languages, what the guidelines of tznius are. Those and not more. Those and not less. The Torah makes sure that we as women get to be heard and to be understood and to be taken seriously.

    Huge rachmanus on those faceless, expressionless, voiceless Muslim women. Let’s not copy them, G-d forbid.

  41. one more thought, hope I am not hogging

    (once I get started…)

    Nobody understands human nature like Hashem Who created it.

    It is male nature to be strongly influenced by his eyes, by what he sees. (Much more than it is female nature – as can be proven)

    A man needs to see a lovely and feminine wife.

    Not a black tent.

    So the Torah gives the woman guidelines on how to dress that do not turn her into a black tent, unattractive to her husband, more like a thing than a woman.

    • agreed in principle, of course, husbands like their wives to be presentable inside and outside the house. but lets not forget we don’t know how they dress at home. that’s how they dress in public, when they are NOT with their husbands.

      And there are plenty of women who do the opposite: wear sloppy clothes, snoods and dr scholls at home for the hubby and put the sheitel and heels on for public….. now that’s a shame!

  42. got some emails and one phone call from people who are too shy to leave comments (I was always jealous of those shy, quiet types)

    they are saying “Tell Chana Jenny that it is a mistake to lump together the Binah ad asking women to wear rubber soles so as not to attract undue attention by clicking along the sidewalk TOGETHER WITH women dressed like Muslims, black tents, covering their faces. Judging things that are “going too far,” on a scale of one to ten, the rubber soles is a 2 and the Muslim dress is a 10 (as in going fatally overboard).”

  43. Just one more comment: people seem to be equating these women with societies in which women are subjugated and I just want to say, from my experience, most men seem to want their wives to dress more ATTRACTIVELY. It makes no sense considering the number of divorces and infidelity scandals in our times, but men want a “trophy” that other men praise them for. If their wife is looked upon by other men as attractive, it makes them feel like higher-status men. I’ve had several friends who wanted to wear tichls instead of sheitels, loose clothes instead of form-fitting, less makeup, etc.–and their husbands objected.
    I even once heard a chassidshe man in a bank in Geula on the phone saying, “I saw your wife the other day–what a pussycat!” ugh.
    I also heard that the reason rabbonim have come out against this Taliban phenomenon is because HUSBANDS came to them to complain.
    So before we decide that these women are somehow subjugated, let’s consider that perhaps they have actually made a choice, and one that we are likely never going to be affected by (as some women here seem to think we should be afraid that this fringe trend will somehow spread to everyone!)

  44. Morah Susie

    I am the mother of three daughters, bli ayin hora. I never once talked to them about dress or sleeve lengths, cleavage, or lycra. And lo and behold, each daughter has always dressed modestly, tastefully and totally appropriately. They’ve learned by example, by an attitude in the home and unfortunatly by observing some classmates who are technically covered up but not at all thoughtfully attired. Tznius is in your mind and in your speech and if that’s in place, proper dress choices follow suit (couldn’t resist the pun!).

    • I agree with Morah Susie. Is not Tz’ni’ut intended to preserve the sanctity of the inner human being from assault by the coarseness of daily life. Psalm 45:14 says kol k’vudah bat melekh p’nimah “the whole glory of the daughter of the king is within”. Dignity comes from discretion and the assurance that the human being will be considered a private, sensitive being, not merely a body.

  45. The burka etc is not Jewish in any way, shape or form, however focusing on this extreme should not be used to avoid the big problem of a lack of tsnius in the FRUM world. The vast majority of religious women do not dress modestly, and I’m not talking about keeping stringencies. Covering elbows, knees and the collarbone is only the start of tsnius, not the end. Clothes shouldn’t be tight (lycra,jersey, anyone?), or designed to emphasise the breasts or buttocks,nor should they have little chatchkas in these areas to draw attention, nor should skirts have trompe-l’oeil designs to do the same, those little tops with sleeves that tie-up around the breasts, tank tops as overwear, heels shouldn’t be high to create a provocative walk, makeup should be subdued, etc, etc. This is all basic halacha, yet many, many “frum” women dress and walk in a way that draws sexual attention to them.

    This is the real problem in the frum world, not a fringe group going to the other extreme. They may be over the top for the taste of most of us, but let’s put it like this, when they get to olam haba they will not be faulted for their lack of tsnius.

    Howeer, it is possible to dress nicely, stylishly even and be truly modest. Personally, I think that this is the biggest Kiddush Hashem, as when non-observant women see you dressed like this, they will probably admire how nicely you are dressed, and they see that one can be “frum and normal”. And when non-religious men see you, they know that really they want a wife who dresses like that. (A non-observant man told me that every man may want to look at every other woman, but wants his own man to dress modestly). Thus, when both non-observant men and women see you, you are a Kiddush Hashem in their eyes. On the other hand, I have heard from non-observant Jews (and in particular from a female soldier guarding at Maarat Hamachpela)that they find the way many frum women dress to be ridiculous. Pseudo-tsnius, I think I’ve heard it called.

    B”D may we all merit to dress truly modestly, and may every married woman be beautiful in the eyes of her husband ALONE.

  46. whoops,

    “wants his own wife to dress modestly”

  47. I came across this by accident but I’d like to comment a little. Firstly that readers are right that modesty in the general society has virtually disappeared. I believe that balance (eg systems theory)is something that God built into the world and is self sustaining. Since we humans wish to achieve balance, so many out of balance toward immodesty will create a counterbalance of people who seek greater modesty. If they are a smaller group then some or all of them will be more extreme in modesty as a result.

    The increase in tznius over the last 50 or so years is a known fact; where Orthodox Rabbis wives felt comfortable in skirts just past the knee, and sleeves just to the elbow, now there are communities were women wear skirts to ankles and long sleeves. And that too creates its own backlash as “Hot Chanis” seek to push the envelope with form fitting wear that follows the letter of the law, but not the spirit.

    As far as the extremes they too are part of the pattern. It is often the most sensitive and easily traumatized who are pushed to respond to “redress the balance”, by extreme means…unfortunately, many mentally or psychologically ill people are sensitive and traumatized as well as attracted to extremes for their own sakes. Having said that, there are sane people who chose a more extreme version of a practice (or a more strict group to belong to) for positive reasons, as well. I have spent years dressed more modestly than the rest of society and have had to endure very strange behaviour from others on account of it. Some of it is harmless; double-takes, pointing and whispering and stopping to ask me about it. Some of it is negative; accusations of neurosis, of sexual problems and of arrogance/vanity and attention-seeking. But some is positive (people seeking me out for help because my dress is obviously “religious”). I’ve learned that people’s impression of me has far more to do with their own issues about women’s/religious/dress than anything to do with me and my issues.

    What bothers me about this ad is that places responsibility on women to prevent and/or fix problems that were neither directly nor indirectly caused by the women or their dress. Tzniut is taken out of context to become the magic bullet that will solve all problems….and it’s a short step from that to “all problems are the fault of lack of tzniut” which is a dangerous idea. Tznuit is designed to assist individuals and society in maintaining a healthy, pure lifestyle and in exalting the dignity of women, men, marriage and sexuality. However, it is one part of an overall system; tzniut, in the absence of basic respect, truthfulness, humility and honour, will not be able to hold up the whole of society. It cannot prevent all rapes or make all marriages successful. It’s even less successful at preventing business fraud, shoplifting and muggings. It seems to have no effect on lashon hara but to give gossipers one more thing to critique. The problem here is not so much deciding how much tznius is too little and how much is too much, and then policing it accordingly but of making a stand about what tznius is, it’s purpose and effect, and what we can reasonable expect it to influence and control….and not letting anyone put unreasonable expectations on women, or on tznius itself, to control events that are outside it’s scope of influence.
    The tiny minority of women in black sheets for personal reasons is not the real danger. People who call for more moderate dress but engage in magical thinking about what that will accomplish are the real threat….for little by little they will add to the list of things tnius is responsible for, and when things don’t go well in one or more of those areas (as so often happens), or some special circumstance requires God’s attention, it will be the women who will be responsible to uphold and raise the morals of everyone by staying homebound under more coverings than the Princess with the pea had mattresses.

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