Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Tznius and Perception

Whether it's due to reading 6 Diaries recently, or just having too many conversations with friends on the same topic, I've come to the conclusion that certain areas of tznius are about perception.

Sometimes, someone is on a different level of tznius than others. Sometimes the chumras or ideas that one person takes on are not necessarily fit for another one, at least at a certain time. I know this sounds rather vague, but it has large applications.

For example, when I first arrived in Israel, unmarried, I was accustomed to wearing knee-high black stockings. Then, arriving in some of the charedi and other religious sector areas, I saw the girls wearing nude tights. Not opaque, just skin color. When I saw that I stood out like a red (or in this case, black) thumb, I decided to take upon myself to wear nude tights. When I arrived back in the US, I continued to wear them, and I haven't worn my black stocking since.
Now. Would I say that wearing nude tights is the best thing to do halachically, and everyone should take on this idea? No. For me, was it a good idea? Yes.

This has nothing to do with the Israel versus America debate on whether black or nude should be the appropriate color for women's stockings. (For an in depth analysis on that, see R' Falk's book, Oz V'Hadar Levusha.)

It's all a matter of a person's perception. A matter of what they want out of the mitzva of tznius, and what they are willing to do for themselves, on their level.

Here's another example. When I moved to Israel as a married lady, I was accustomed to wearing my shaitel, as that is what most people do in America. However, when I moved here, I switched to wearing mostly bandannas, tichels, and scarves, because I saw my compatriots do the same. But as I wrote in the comments on that post, there are tznius issues, like covering the hair right around one's temples, that I wasn't sure about. So, I called my rebbitzen, and she basically told me to do what the community does (and to consult R' Falk, who says that hair on the temples doesn't have to be covered).

So, when people look and see one wearing shoes that have closed toe- don't look at the girl as a frummy, and for the girl who covers those toes, don't look at those around you and say they are kofrim (rejectors of the mitzvos). It's all a matter of perspective, and a private perspective at that. That's the meaning of tznius.


mekubal said...

Ha, I remember when you could get Oz Vehadar Levusha free online. Aside from that here are a few observations:

First tzniut and the halachot covering it are about far more than what one does and does not cover and how. Unfortunately it seems that tzniut has been so devalued in modern times, to the point where there is an over-emphasis on what is worn, which in Israel especially far exceeds halachic requirements, while abandoning the other aspects concerning how one comports oneself.

Choice of headcovering is every bit a matter of tzniut and not simply community. It is important to note that nearly all of the Gedolim in Israel have stated that women should not wear wigs as they are not tzniut. Which is a discussion unto itself.

Finally, depending on where you are walking, personal choice in the area of tzniut can bring about actual physical danger. The woman who was attacked in Jerusalem a few days ago shows that. To discuss tzniut is to open a proverbial can of worms. It has morphed into something far more than simple adherance to halacha, personal choice of many layers of chumrot. That in many communities infants are expected to wear bullet proof stockings is in itself evidence of that.

Anonymous said...

Too true. If only more people realized that what we call tznius today is 80% minhag hamakom...

There was a woman attacked in Jerusalem over what?

itsagift said...


Lefty said...

"It is important to note that nearly all of the Gedolim in Israel have stated that women should not wear wigs as they are not tzniut."

Not accurate - certainly you've seen blog entries regarding Rav Elyashiv's claim that the interview was taken out of context....

But you can say they've all indicated that there are plently of sheitls out there which are not tzanua. (But of course some are ok - why else would they sign a takanon dictating the details of what is/isn't tzanua in a sheitl.)

sick of it said...

I am not sure what or whom is your source for your statements and pronouncements, or what makes you, a young person, an authority on an age old issue. I will say (IMO) that tznius has become the most important yardstick for measuring any other jewish woman. I am not sure when other important halachos lost their status. I find it sad that you or anyone can even think a discussion of nude vs. black tights is a worthy discussion of tznius. The leg is covered. hence it is tzniyusdik. The chassidish rules (and manic obsession )about tznius have sadly become the norm for every other right-wing and orthodox group. And the irony of it is the extent of their problems, with all their new and restrictive rules, are worse than any other of the frum communities.

Devorah said...

sick of it, I'm sorry to hear your comment. I do understand where you are coming from - when the emphasis of tznius may have been blown out of proportion and taken the wrong way.
Want some inspiration on this topic, check out my blog - you came at the right time! More on this topic will be coming shortly!
Hopefully, your view on this mitzvah will change soon!

mekubal said...

Sephardi Gedolim all condemn wigs out of hand. That's half the population right there.

R' Eliahiv. I heard the original shiur in its entirety, the question and the response. There was no avoiding the issue of what he said.

The Eida has a ban on wigs, as does R' Auerbach.

The main gedolim supporting them are Chssidim and there you get the varying and sundry laws of what is acceptable. For instance Gur, yes, with a hat, and no longer than shoulder length.

nmf #7 said...

Sorry so late on all these comments- I'm sick with the flu.

Okay. First of all- I was NOT coming to say that tznius is all about what one covers or not. That was THE point- it's about a person's own private perception. Sorry if that didn't come across. I also feel that if I, or anyone, for that matter, simply says the word tznius, and states an opinion, sparks start to fly no matter what the person has said.

Mekubal- True. It has become devalued- I read your post on loss of modesty and I agree. And headcovering has to do with both tznius and community- Sephardim hold that a shaitel is assur, R' Elyashiv holds that an attractive shaitel that looks like hair is assur, but for example, the chassidim wear shaitels, and no one has attacked their form of wearing one.
I didn't hear about the physical danger- what happened?

Bad4- Yeah, it's probably mostly all minhag hamakom nowadays.

Itsagift- Wow about what?

Lefty- I wrote as much to Mekubal.

Sick of it- Wow. Well, I don't consider myself an authority, and I am young. Thank you for the compliment.

For some, (myself included) tznius does not feel restrictive, as you said.

And, minhag hamakom aside, if you read books about tznius (the halachos as well as Daas Yehudis, Minhag HaMakom, and sensitivities) you will find a debate about what tights one wears constitutes a different perception of tznius in different communities.

For example: Hilary Clinton, when she visits Muslim sites, has worn a hijab. To respect their perception of 'modesty'. It's not for one person to say: Hey, I don't care about what they have to say, I'm going to disrespect them and their customs and ignore their ideas and perception.

And, to lump all groups (right-wing, Orthodox, and Chassidish together) is not the best way to find your own personal perception of tznius.

Mekubal- You said the same thing I did in my comment to you- looks like we all heard the same.

nmf #7 said...

Also- Mekubal- You go to R' Elyashiv's shiurim? Wow!

mekubal said...

What happened?

Ok so here is the kitzur. Some kanoyim(zealots) who claim to be associated with the Eida- see editors note- have decided that the sidewalk in Meah Shearim and Geula need be gender segregated. A week ago a lady had the misfortune of being on the wrong side while doing her Shabbos shopping. She was ordered by the head crazy to move, when she responded that he didn't speak for her Rav and would do as her own Rav says, she was assaulted and sprayed with tear gas/pepper spray.(a note about this, how this will affect a person is highly individual... some can go into a state of anaphylactic shock and die, while for others it is only mildly discomforting, with an added annoyance of making EVERYTHING taste like pepper for a week). So ultimately what was her non-tzniuadik offense that allowed someone to chance causing her severe harm... she was shopping on the wrong side of the street.

[Long editors note here. The Eida publically and consistantly denies this. I have personally asked R' Shternbuch and people close to the other Dayyanim of the Eida in a forum that for various reasons I can only describe as one that they would have had no reason to mislead, and there the answer is also that they have no connection with these crazie]

itsagift said...

I was saying wow to your post. I think that is really special! I do remember that in some communities in EY, black is considered most tznius and some, nude is most tznius.
My wow meant, I really respect you for taking that upon yourself and for explaining that tznius is a lot about perception, it's so true!

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