The True Meaning of Modesty

Taliban Jewish WomanAvital Chizhik has written a great essay for Tablet  about the disease of excessive modesty obsession in many ultra orthodox circles.  The kicker is her closing:

Back in high school, when we girls would ask our teachers for the source of the laws of modesty, the classic answer was to turn to Micah 6:8. Yet now it dawns on me that the same text has been misread, poorly taught. When Micah enjoins Israel to “do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk modestly with thy God,” his final verb is to walk with God. Modestly is simply the adverb.

He essentially is asking that our piety, our walks with God, be done modestly—he’s not asking us to hide our women. Nor to confine them to specific streets, nor to the back of the bus.

Perhaps, rather, he is asking us to keep our piety modest. No one needs to know how many pages of Talmud you’ve learned today, what kosher certification you don’t trust, how intensely you sway during prayer—or how thick your tights are.

Kippah Srugah Tip to Chicago Guy

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6 thoughts on “The True Meaning of Modesty

  1. The tznius epidemic has nothing to do with scripture and everything to do with power and dominance and control.

  2. It isn’t clear to me exactly what you refer to as excessive tznius. When a man meets his neighbor’s wife in the grocery store and stops for a moment to chat, “How are you bla bla bla etc” this is Ossur. ( ‘קידושין ע: אין שואלין בשלום אשה כלל וע ) And the Bais Shmuel ( סי’ כ”א ס”ק ד) explains that even though קול באשה ערוה refers to her singing not her speaking voice but friendliness conveyed by ‘שאלת שלו is worse and therefore Ossur. The Mechaber says צריך אדם להתרחק מהנשים מאד מאד. He also says פגע אשה בשוק אסור להלך אחריה אלא רץ ומסלקה לצדדין. This is all stated when the woman is dressed will full tznius. When a women isn’t I have plenty more sources but must I go on.

    Maybe you are referring to restrictions that are truly excessive but the general feeling of this entire type of discussion is one of permissiveness, as opposed to the feeling of the Shulchan Aruch form which I quoted just a small excerpt, which is one of restriction. By bashing those who are trying to adhere, even if your intentions are only to argue with the excessive chumras, you are probably being Machshil many readers who take your statements as scorning the idea of להתרחק מהנשים מאד מאד. There is alot of transgression out there by Shoimrei Torah Umitzvos in this area, in the way of dress and in the casual lack of separation between men and women, and the Gedarim need Chizuk, not scorn. I agree that by being too machmir it could backfire and have an opposite effect but most people are far from being too machmir.

    • H. Friedman, (re: your above comment on “excessive tzinius”):
      I hear that women in New Square and Kiryat Joel are being exhorted to wear burkhas. Are you in the shmata business??? And a secondary benefit is that you would not recognize your neighbor’s cattle (oops, I mean wife).

  3. Rabbi Yerachmiel, I have presented a legitimate point of view and it has been responded to with mockery. ליצנות אחת דוחה מאה תוכחות

    May I request that since your pen is far mightier than mine and more talented, could you put my message in your words and start a thread – not necessarily as being your Shita but as being representative of a legitimate Shita spoken with sincerity.

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