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Permissive Hilchos Tznius


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#1 Jeanette

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Posted 06 December 2007 - 12:31 PM

I would like halachic sources for the more permissive views on tznius, such as women not being obligated to cover their face and hands when they go out.

Ha, ha. Caught you there. Seriously, what are the sources to permit

pants
short sleeves
low neckline
short skirts
no socks
uncovered hair.

Also, for those that follow the more permissive opinions, is there a difference between before bas mitzvah and after? Or any particular age? I mean, are there things that a girl takes on post-bat mitzvah or from age 6 or 3 or whatever age?

#2 pleats

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Posted 06 December 2007 - 12:33 PM

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#3 Psychodad

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Posted 06 December 2007 - 12:34 PM

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#4 Jeanette

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Posted 06 December 2007 - 12:35 PM

Some of the items listed have halachic backing, others are just things that people do. Nobody's perfect.

ok, let's start. which of the things on the list (in your view) have halachic backing, and which are things that "people just do"?

#5 Savannah

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Posted 06 December 2007 - 12:43 PM

Some of the items listed have halachic backing, others are just things that people do. Nobody's perfect.

I don't have the sources but I know for a fact that there are teshuvas allowing pants and no socks.

Short sleeves -- that depends on how short you mean. Do you mean up to a tefach above the elbow or do you mean cap sleeves or less? Same thing with hair and skirts. How much hair uncovered? How short a skirt?

The only thing I have never heard any leniency on was a low neckline.

#6 brianna

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Posted 06 December 2007 - 12:57 PM

I would like halachic sources for the more permissive views on tznius, such as women not being obligated to cover their face and hands when they go out.

There's simply no rule against that. Probably more cultural than anything else.

pants

Women did not go back to wearing pants until last century. So the question didn't even come into play until recently. It ended up being decided by rabbis (no I can't quote sources) that wearing pants was beged ish and therefore not allowed. However now there are pants designed specifically for women. So there are those who argue that pants are allowed as long as they are not form fitting and immodest.

short sleeves
low neckline

I'm not familiar with the halachos on that.

short skirts

I don't know of any halachic justification for wearing skirts that don't cover the knee. But I don't see a problem with wearing a skirt that covers the knee as long as it also covers while you sit.

no socks

As far as I know it's about the definition of the "shok". I'm not entirely sure about the details. What it boils down to is that there are those who believe any area below the knee can be uncovered. More stringent people cover everything below the knee just to cover all bases.

There is also some concern that a woman's feet/toes are a turn on. There are people whose retort to that is that men with foot fetishes are unusual. Women should not have to cater to the needs of perverts.

uncovered hair.

I could attempt to answer that but it really is a topic unto itself.

In general [this is not about hair covering necessarily], there are three groups.

1. Frummies: Want to have the tznius look as well as actually be modest. Will follow most stringent opinions.
2. Centrists: Follow the rules to the letter of the law. No more than that. Will want halachic justification for wearing sandals without socks for example.
3. Traditional: Love cultural Judaism and follow lots of the rules, just not the ones they don't like. So if they want to wear a low neckline, whatever what's the big deal. No halachic justification needed for relaxing the rules.

Also, for those that follow the more permissive opinions, is there a difference between before bas mitzvah and after? Or any particular age? I mean, are there things that a girl takes on post-bat mitzvah or from age 6 or 3 or whatever age?

Well there are three parameters. Everyone agrees tznius does not apply before age three. At three, some people apply all rules of tznius. Some apply it at age six which is the age of chinuch and when children enter real school. More lax opinions choose bat mitzvah but that can be problematic since the child suddenly has to change their dress code at an age where that is more difficult. They are already used to the way they dress.
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#7 Jeanette

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Posted 06 December 2007 - 01:11 PM

Brianna, thanks for the attempt. I do appreciate it. However, you have not enlightened me with any new information. I asked for halachic sources, so halachic sources please.

#8 Red Hare

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Posted 06 December 2007 - 02:02 PM

Well……

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#9 grend123

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Posted 06 December 2007 - 02:22 PM

This is very much al regel achat

pants

Rav Bleich has a chapter on pants in Contemporary Halakhic Problems (I recall it being volume IV but I may have made that up). He is of the opinion that they are required but he quotes several reasons to be meikel and in the end of the essay he more than a little bit implies that he's machmir at least partially for social/cultural reasons.

short sleeves

The Gemara actually says "shok," which Rav Willig points out means the lower arm, not the forearm, based on what it means by karbanot. (Although this seems to contradict a Tosafot which says that it has a different meaning for humans). Regardless, the Gemara also refers to this as "dat yehudit" which seems to loosely translate as "a minhag of women." Rav Willig is not the only posek to say, based on this and similar analysis, that the entire leg and arm are not objectively erva, but that the standard is communal - so in a place and time where people cover their arm all the way to the wrist, covering only to the elbow would be a violation of tzniut, and in a place and time where people wear cap sleeves doing so would be perfectly acceptable. The problem with these minhag hamakom approaches is that in the 21st century its pretty hard to define what the "communal standards" are. Standards of other frum Jews in your shul? Unlikely - our shuls aren't kehillot in that sense. Standards of halachically observant Jews in your city? The standards vary widely because all kinds of Jews live in the same cities. There's even a reasonable line of thinking that it means standards in your country, including non Jews, in which case 99% of hilchot zniut is not applicable today. (That last line of thinking is actually possibly the most reasonable, but people are afraid of the consequences. See the story about Rav Aharon Soloveitchik below.)

low neckline

This is perhaps the hardest one to justify. Rav Willig is of the opinion that the torso is the only objective erva that is not subject to dat yehudit, aka minhag, so he would have a problem with this even in the meikel formulation. Rav Wieder disagrees and says that the only objective erva is, well, the makom erva, and so he would say the same thing for this as Rav Willig does for short sleeves and skirts.

short skirts

See short sleeves - legs are also "shok." There's a story told about Rav Aharon Soloveitchik that in the 60's a letter was circulated among Rabbis in Chicago calling for a joint statement that the miniskirt, which was gaining popularity, was assur to wear. Rav Aharon refused to sign it, because he said that while it's not recommended and it certainly violates strong minhagim, it's also not strictly assur, and he felt it was a lie to say that it was.

no socks

The bigger question is, who ever said socks were required? I could be wrong, but I recall Rav Moshe having no problem with going sockless, and in general erva stops at the knee according to one opinion and at the ankle according to another, but if you wear skirts above the ankle (which yeshivish norms bizarrely require!) you are going by the shitta that it ends at the knee, in which case the sock is at most a minhag.

uncovered hair.

Rabbi Michael Broyde has a famous article on the subject in JHCS (search around for it) wherein he doesn't condone not covering but gives several halachic reasons why people have historically been lenient. There's an apocryphal story that Rav Soloveitchik held that m'ikkar hadin a woman needs to only tie some sort of ribbon in her hair, not cover, but there are other apocryphal stories which contradict it. (The stories are all trying to explain why his wife didn't cover her hair). Half covering also has some pretty reasonable halachic sources - Rav Moshe discusses the "tefach" and some other poskim are exceedingly lenient about how much you actually must cover.
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#10 Jeanette

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Posted 06 December 2007 - 02:28 PM

Thank you very much, grend, I appreciate your thorough response. Any comment on the last part--is there a difference between pre- and post- bat mitzvah, or any age at which certain stringencies go into effect?

There's even a reasonable line of thinking that it means standards in your country, including non Jews, in which case 99% of hilchot zniut is not applicable today. (That last line of thinking is actually possibly the most reasonable, but people are afraid of the consequences. See the story about Rav Aharon Soloveitchik below.

I have a problem with this as it would essentially render the whole concept of tzniut meaningless. Surely there must be some guidelines that cannot be violated regardless of what your neighbors all around you are doing.

#11 grend123

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Posted 06 December 2007 - 02:35 PM

Thank you very much, grend, I appreciate your thorough response. Any comment on the last part--is there a difference between pre- and post- bat mitzvah, or any age at which certain stringencies go into effect?

I have no idea, which is why I skipped that part of the post. Everything I said is meant for post-bat mitzvah; I don't know what would change pre.

I have a problem with this as it would essentially render the whole concept of tzniut meaningless. Surely there must be some guidelines that cannot be violated regardless of what your neighbors all around you are doing.

Well, the Gemara does imply that much of it is minhag. I mentioned the objective places where it's a problem according to Rav Willig and Rav Wieder. Presumably Rav Aharon Soloveitchik agreed with one or the other, although I don't know which. There are of course plenty of poskim who do think shok is an objective standard and translate dat yehudit in a different way than "minhag hamakom." But it is entirely possible and very feasible from the sources that the objective guidelines are very minimal. (There's a machloket as well whether hair is objective or not; Rav Willig is of the opinion that it is, but the Aruch Hashulchan implies strongly that it's not, even though he still says you have to do it).

But essentially you proved my point - you have a problem with that idea because the conclusion is inconceivable given how Bais Yaakov teaches tzniut as being Halacha L'Moshe M'sinai. That's why this is not a popular approach, even though it's eminently reasonable.
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#12 Jeanette

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Posted 06 December 2007 - 02:46 PM

But essentially you proved my point - you have a problem with that idea because the conclusion is inconceivable given how Bais Yaakov teaches tzniut as being Halacha L'Moshe M'sinai. That's why this is not a popular approach, even though it's eminently reasonable.

Humor me, then. What would be considered "not tzanua" according to secular American society? We know there was an uproar about the wardrobe malfunction, but does anything up to nipples and pubic hairs go? Airline stewardess is not a standard anymore. Business or professional dress could be a standard, but surely there is no chiyuv to dress professionally all the time. What would be considered tzanua casual dress?

#13 grend123

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Posted 06 December 2007 - 02:52 PM

Humor me, then. What would be considered "not tzanua" according to secular American society? We know there was an uproar about the wardrobe malfunction, but does anything up to nipples and pubic hairs go? Airline stewardess is not a standard anymore. Business or professional dress could be a standard, but surely there is no chiyuv to dress professionally all the time. What would be considered tzanua casual dress?


If you follow the approach that the dominant culture defines the dress norms, then since pretty much anything goes in the USA, anything up to the objectives is ok. What's objectively required depends on whom you ask - according to Rav Wieder it really is pretty much anything goes m'ikkar hadin, and everything above that is strong minhag. Rav Willig holds that the objectives include the torso and covering hair for a married woman, but again, m'ikkar hadin you could go around in a one piece bathing suit with a shower cap and have no problems. The example I gave with Rav Aharon S. was with miniskirts - the only way you get to miniskirts not being assur is by defining the standard culturally.

There are those who argue that, simlas gever issues aside, pants are also objectively a problem because one is not allowed to have formfitting clothing on the upper leg. It's hard to justify because we allow it for sleeves, and the halacha seems to be derived from the same place.
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#14 Jeanette

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Posted 06 December 2007 - 02:54 PM

Or, in other words, the concept of tzanua simply does not apply. It is meaningless.

#15 grend123

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Posted 06 December 2007 - 02:58 PM

Or, in other words, the concept of tzanua simply does not apply. It is meaningless.


No, there are objective meanings. According to Rav Willig for example, a girl who wore a bikini is not a tznua while one who wore a full bathing suit is. And this is all disregarding minhag, which is an integral part of tzniut. The Gemara does say dat yehudit - even if the halacha is defined by the culture, the minhag is certainly defined by what frum Jews do, with all the caveats mentioned above.

But yes, according to your conception of tzniut, the story with Rav Aharon is inconceivable. Nevertheless, that's a shitta.
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#16 artscroll

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Posted 06 December 2007 - 03:00 PM

Or, in other words, the concept of tzanua simply does not apply. It is meaningless.

That isn't true. Grend overstated the case. There is still the concept that, frankly, everyone recognizes of "dressing like a hootchie mama." But at the same time, there really is no concept in society whatsoever that there is anything intrinsically immodest about bare arms, or shoulders and possible even a little cleavage. When it comes to weddings, for example, which is a great test case, there is simply a cultural norm across the entire mainstream of society that a sleeveless dress or something like it is appropriate.

So this doesn't mean there's no such thing as tznius, only that there is no such thing as Beis Yaakov tznius me-ikkar ha-din.

#17 Jeanette

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Posted 06 December 2007 - 03:35 PM

That isn't true. Grend overstated the case. There is still the concept that, frankly, everyone recognizes of "dressing like a hootchie mama." But at the same time, there really is no concept in society whatsoever that there is anything intrinsically immodest about bare arms, or shoulders and possible even a little cleavage. When it comes to weddings, for example, which is a great test case, there is simply a cultural norm across the entire mainstream of society that a sleeveless dress or something like it is appropriate.

So this doesn't mean there's no such thing as tznius, only that there is no such thing as Beis Yaakov tznius me-ikkar ha-din.

yes, I realize we cannot possibly have a thread of this sort without the obligatory bashing of bais yakov style tznius. Let's dispense with it forewith and get on with the thread.

It surprises me simply that we can use a society like the U.S. as a standard for what it tzniut meikar hadin, when society itself is in flux and there is considerable variation within American society of what is considered modest dress. If there's no such thing as minhag hamakom among Jews, kal v'chomer when you include non-Jewish society. Do we go with the lowest or highest common denominator? Who is setting the standard?

#18 artscroll

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Posted 06 December 2007 - 03:44 PM

yes, I realize we cannot possibly have a thread of this sort without the obligatory bashing of bais yakov style tznius. Let's dispense with it forewith and get on with the thread.

It surprises me simply that we can use a society like the U.S. as a standard for what it tzniut meikar hadin, when society itself is in flux and there is considerable variation within American society of what is considered modest dress. If there's no such thing as minhag hamakom among Jews, kal v'chomer when you include non-Jewish society. Do we go with the lowest or highest common denominator? Who is setting the standard?

I didn't bash it. Saying that there is a view of tznius that "there is no such thing as Beis Yaakov tznius me-ikkar ha-din" is not bashing in any way.

All socities are in flux, so that's not really an issue. You ask important questions, but all societies are complex. While you say there is no such thing as minhag hamakom among Jews and especially among non-Jews, that is entirely untrue. There are numerous ways in which the people of different regions of the United States distinguish themselves from one another, and in certain ways Americans and the people of their closest sister nation, the Canadians, are also distinct from one another.

#19 Jeanette

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Posted 06 December 2007 - 03:57 PM

I didn't bash it. Saying that there is a view of tznius that "there is no such thing as Beis Yaakov tznius me-ikkar ha-din" is not bashing in any way.

All socities are in flux, so that's not really an issue. You ask important questions, but all societies are complex. While you say there is no such thing as minhag hamakom among Jews and especially among non-Jews, that is entirely untrue. There are numerous ways in which the people of different regions of the United States distinguish themselves from one another, and in certain ways Americans and the people of their closest sister nation, the Canadians, are also distinct from one another.

I don't agree with this entirely. Just like in New York city you have Williamsburgh tznius and Flatbush Tznius and Boro Park tznius and 5-Towns tznius, with the subtle variations thereof, you also have different standards in secular society, depending on which neighborhood you live in, socioeconomic group and also age group. So are certain things tznius for a 15-year-old, since that's what their demographic is wearing, but not for a 60-yo (forget for a minute about styles and whether it would look ridiculous on a bubby.) What about things that are still avant garde but gradually gaining respectability? Do we watch the trend and see where it goes, and then adopt it 10 or 15 years down the line? Do we davka avoid trends? What would you teach your teenage son/daughter about tzniut?

#20 artscroll

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Posted 06 December 2007 - 04:07 PM

I don't agree with this entirely. Just like in New York city you have Williamsburgh tznius and Flatbush Tznius and Boro Park tznius and 5-Towns tznius, with the subtle variations thereof, you also have different standards in secular society, depending on which neighborhood you live in, socioeconomic group and also age group. So are certain things tznius for a 15-year-old, since that's what their demographic is wearing, but not for a 60-yo (forget for a minute about styles and whether it would look ridiculous on a bubby.) What about things that are still avant garde but gradually gaining respectability? Do we watch the trend and see where it goes, and then adopt it 10 or 15 years down the line? Do we davka avoid trends? What would you teach your teenage son/daughter about tzniut?

While this is true, there are still some near universals. Like I said, sleeveless dresses. You will have a hard, hard case to make if you want to claim that in contemporary American society there is never a time and place off the beach where wearing a sleeveless top is generally considered pritzusdik, as opposed to perfectly appropriate. Even if its not appropriate for working in a bank, its still appropriate to wear at one's own wedding. That would be one example of something that really doesn't have any variation, as best I can tell.

You're basically saying an area of halakhah can't be based on social norms, because these are fluid. But consider this: 100 years ago a woman would have been considered positively brazen for wearing a skirt that didn't reach the floor. Today we are told that wearing a skirt that is too long is not modest. Oh, except for weddings. Then it's modest.




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