Tights

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Judaism has rules for how you act — how you eat, speak, and even dress. A few weeks ago, my wife showed me a full page advertisement in a Brooklyn-based magazine purportedly signed by rabbinic leaders of the Lakewood community declaring that women must wear tights or stockings that cover their calves. I don’t know whether this was approved by the rabbis whose names appeared on the ad and do not consider it particularly relevant. More important is the halakhic issue. While this ad is entirely correct, it is also entirely wrong.

A few years ago, my daughter came home from school and reported puzzedly that her teacher said the Mishnah Berurah requires women to wear tights. My daughter knows very well our house rule on the subject — required in Boro Park, optional in Flatbush. Why, she asked, don’t we follow the Mishnah Berurah? I gave her two answers. First, the Mishnah Berurah is not always the final word on the subject and we follow our rabbi’s rulings. Second, the Mishnah Berurah actually says the exact opposite of what your teacher claimed and we do follow it on this issue (I also told her not to contradict her teacher because that might get her in trouble).

The Gemara (Berakhos 24a) says that a woman’s shok is considered nakedness, and therefore must be covered. Halakhic authorities disagree over the definition of shok. According to the Bach (Orach Chaim 75 sv. ve-khein), shok is the lower leg, between the knee and the ankle. According to others, such as the Peri Megadim (Orach Chaim, Mishbetzos Zahav 75:1), shok is the upper leg, from the knee to the waist. The practical difference between the two is whether a woman must cover her lower leg. According to the Bach she must and according to the Peri Megadim she need not. However, all agree that in a place where women generally cover a specific part of the body, all women must conform to that standard of modest dressing. If all women wear gloves, the garment becomes mandatory. And if all women wear stockings covering their lower legs, the garment or its equivalent are also required.

The Mishnah Berurah (75:2 – link) rules like the Peri Megadim. According to the Mishnah Berurah, women need not cover their lower legs except in a place where that is the common practice. That is why my “house rule” is that in Boro Park the women must wear tights. In my opinion, that is the standard practice in Boro Park but not in Flatbush. And in Marine Park, I suspect that during the summer even socks are optional.

Other authorities disagree with the Mishnah Berurah. Most importantly, the Chazon Ish (Orach Chaim 16:8) leaves the debate unresolved. R. Elyakim Ellinson (Hatznei’a Lekhes, vol. 2 ch. 3 p. 141 nn. 44, 48), based on the writings of R. Ovadiah Yosef (Yabi’a Omer vol. 6 YD no. 14), states that most authorities agree with the Mishnah Berurah. Especially since the Chazon Ish does not rule on the subject, the Mishnah Berurah‘s ruling is conclusive. However, I think R. Ellinson is a little too quick to reach a conclusion of what the majority of contemporary decisors hold. R. Shmuel Katz (Kedoshim Tihyu, ch. 8 n. 25) lists a number of important authorities who rule strictly on the matter. (R. Katz also elicited a lenient responsum from R. Shlomo Min Hahar.)

Regardless, I was taught to follow the Mishnah Berurah‘s position and, in my experience, it is normative in all non-Charedi communities and most non-Chasidic neighborhoods in the US. While the Lakewood rabbis have every right to follow the strict authorities and declare that this is the absolute halakhah for their community, their ruling has no effect on other communities. As always, follow your rabbi, not what you read on a blog, in the newspaper or in a magazine.

About Gil Student

Rabbi Gil Student is the Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of TorahMusings.com, a leading website on Orthodox Jewish scholarly subjects, and the Book Editor of the Orthodox Union’s Jewish Action magazine. He writes a popular column on issues of Jewish law and thought featured in newspapers and magazines, including The Jewish Link of New Jersey, The Jewish Echo and The Vues. In the past, he has served as the President of the small Jewish publisher Yashar Books and as the Managing Editor of OU Press. Rabbi Student serves on the Executive Committee of the Rabbinical Council of America and as Director of the Halacha Commission of the Rabbinical Alliance of America. He also serves on the Editorial Board of Jewish Action magazine and the Board of OU Press. He has published five English books, the most recent titled Search Engine volume 2: Finding Meaning in Jewish Texts -- Jewish Leadership, and served as the American editor for Morasha Kehillat Yaakov: Essays in Honour of Chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks.

126 comments

  1. “That is why my “house rule” is that in Boro Park the women must wear tights.”

    Are you using “tights” colloquially for “tights or socks that go above the bottom of the skirt”?
    [If not, how does a requirement to cover parts of the leg that others are covering morph into a requirement to wear two coverings on the upper leg (tights under skirt)?]

  2. As I recall from the last time I looked at the MB and the earlier Bach, the only context for these restrictions is in regard to what a man can see when he prays Kriyat Sh’ma.

    What is the primary source for the widening of this dress code to be incumbent upon women at all times (in public)?

  3. Emma: yes

    IH: what is the source that a man or woman is not allowed to walk around in public stark naked?

  4. Gil — thanks. I take it that means there is no such source.

  5. Thanks.
    As you probably know, there are those who require actual “tights,” so your colloquialism may end up putting you in a camp you don’t intend.

  6. For info: “tights” in the UK means what we call “pantyhose”.

  7. IH: Really? Then why is a man allowed to divorce his wife for dressing inappropriately?

  8. Gil — I’m a simple guy, just show me the primary source expands the OC/Bach/MB from a halacha about what a man can see when he prays Kriyat Sh’ma to the halachic dress code to be incumbent upon women at all times (in public). What’s the problem?

  9. IH, that’s what tights means here too. (Well, really, tights are thicker than pantyhose. but both go from waist to toe.)

  10. Emma — they don’t mean the thick kind. Just normal everyday pantyhose are called tights — my wife found out when she went shopping for pantyhose for the first time 🙂

  11. I’ve spoken to Rav Schachter briefly on the topic and he seemed to suggest that it depends on the minhag of the country at formal occassions. If important people (or proper ladies) wear tights on formal occassions, then Jews must wear tights too.

    Again, I only spoke to him briefly, and I may have misunderstood him, but I think this was his position.

  12. Mordechai Tzion

    Q&A with Ha-Rav Aviner:
    Q: Does a woman who does not wear socks have an opinion on which to rely?
    A: The Mishnah Berurah in chap. 75. And Ha-Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach wrote that one should not force women to wear socks, and it is permissible to rely on the Mishnah Berurah. The book “Oro Shel Olam”, p. 94. And also see there where Ha-Rav Shlomo Zalman says the same about Chabad women wearing Sheitels.

  13. If shok really did refer to the lower legs, then how would it be permissible to cover them just with tights?! Would it be permissible to cover the thighs or upper arms just with such a material?!

  14. Interestingly enough the rashba applies the issur to the man not the woman. It would seem this issue refers to Shema and Davar shebikedusha – or is it appropriate dress to shul where this is recited? Let’s not forget the issue of seeing a tefach – which also ervah according to the same genera.

  15. Rav Willig has some interesting things to say about this subject and subjective vs objective ervah. Heard him say it a few times in different shiurim available on yutorah, one called “Kol Isha and the Requirement of Women to Cover their Hair” (somewhere about minute 20)

  16. What makes a place, a place?
    Maybe boro park should conform to the rest of NYC?
    Where is the border between boro park and flatbush? Ocean Parkway? Macdonald?
    In Williamsburg must a woman wear a seam?

  17. I think that sometimes what is considered tzniusdik has to do with fashion as much as halacha. Here in Israel in our community (usually defined as “torani”or Chardali”)the girls wear long skirts down to the tops of their shoes. For some reason Bais Ya’akov, supposedly to our right religiously, does not allow this and requires their girls to wear skirts down to the knee plus socks up to the knee. Of course this has nothing to do with tzniyut or halacha. It is just their meshuggas not to wear what the “Tzionim” wear RL, even if it is more tzniyusdik. This is similar to the kippa seruga vs kippa seruga which also has nothing to do with halacha.

  18. I meant kippa seruga vs. kippa shchora

  19. Flatbush vs. Boro Park? Seriously? Maybe you should define it on a block by block basis. 13th ave no tights, 14-15, yes tights, 16, no tights, 17-18 yes.

  20. If I remember correctly, the Chazon Ish does disagree with the MB here and pasken that shok is the lower part of the leg. I don’t have the piskei Chazon Ish on the MB on me, but I remember seeing it there.

  21. David, BY schools require 3/4 length skirts and forbid longer skirts to promote a certain BY “style,” which they think is more appropriate than what people wear on “the streets.” I agree that it is less about halacha and tzniyut and more about sociology and self-definition.

    BTW, here in Israel certain tznius fringe groups have been attacking the BY style of wearing nylon socks/stockings and suggesting opaque hosiery instead.

  22. In Hebrew, tights (waist-to-toe) are “garbionim”. But Hebrew-speakers use the word “tights” to refer to leggings (waist-to-ankle or waist-to-midcalf). I learned this after a confusing parents’ meeting at my daughter’s school when it was announced that “garbionim” are of course allowed but “tights” are not, and I was confused. Just thought I’d clarify this in case anyone discusses the matter in Hebrew. The halacha and hashkafa of the matter I do not understand at all.
    This school opened seven years ago, has a Merkaz-Harav chardal hashkafa, and is sort of trying to find itself dress-code-wise. Socks are encouraged but not required, Crocs are not allowed, and different years seem to have different policies regarding whether a girl must cover her toes. So a girl may be sockless (and tights-less), but it is unclear whether she may wear open-toe sandals.

  23. David Tzohar, R’ Rakeffet recently quoted some charedi bigwig in Israel who pointed out that he’s never seen tzniut the way it is in the settlements. (No wigs or makeup figured in there- tzniut isn’t just how much is covered- but so did long skirts.)

    I think the Satmar Rebbe’s obsession with stocking thickness has figured into recent analyses of him.

    Nu, my wife says the reason she made aliyah was so that she’d never have to wear stockings again. (She means professionally/stylistically. Tzniut doesn’t enter into it.)

  24. I remember in the early 90s, R. Naftali Meir Falk, the son of the author of the sefer Oz VeHadar, told me he was off to visit R. Shlomo Zalman Auerbach with a briefcase full of tights of different deniers to obtain a psak as to what was acceptable. I understood that he was going to wear them on his arm, not his legs! R. Falk told me that this topic was very controversial and “political”. I don’t know what RSZA paskened.

  25. The distinction between Flatbush and Boro Park is problematic. Is a makom still defined solely by location? Is Rav Moshe’s ruling there is no minhag America applicable here?
    Here in Israel, our street is home to people from different religious communities (Litvish charedi, chassidic, DL, Sephardi) which have different standards of acceptable dress. Which group defines the minhag hamakom?

  26. just curious how one knows how to define makom(as mentioned by others) and when do we look at non-frum world and when not for deciding such issues (e.g. how did black hat/suit come into our world, what if fashion declared a women’s right pinky as sexy?)
    KT

  27. Shalom Rosenfeld

    RJ”R,

    Or when R’ Moshe says the 2-piece suit is American Jewish clothing “as everyone wears it now”, so you can switch from Polish Jewish clothing to it. Okay but how did everyone start to wear it? (Okay it could be they followed the Ran …)

    On the whole subjective thing, Rabbi Broyde said it’s defined by “what the modest non-Jewish women in the society wear.” I think R’ Gil and BP isn’t saying it’s erva per se, but a communal standard not to mess with.

  28. I am often puzzled by some of our notions of absolute modesty. I think if one polled 100 Americans who were not frum and asked them which was more modest dress for a woman, a pair of slacks or a skirt a couple of inches below the knee, over 75 would pick the slacks as the more modest apparel. Similarly if asked about long sleeves vs short sleeves, the vast majority would look at you as though you were nuts, and say of course there is no difference.

    By the way, if you meet someone who knows what “denier,” means it is either an Orthodox Jew or someone in the stockings business. I don’t even think crossword puzzle fanatics know the word.

  29. Wearing tights to be machmir like the Chazon Ish, Bach etc. is very difficult. Everyone agrees that a woman cannot wear a miniskirt even if she has tights on covering her thighs because the tights are not a sufficient covering. According to the Bach, Chazon Ish, etc. the area from the knee to the ankle is considered erva and therefore why should tights be a good enough covering? This area should have the same status as the thigh does according to the Mishna Berura.

  30. “By the way, if you meet someone who knows what “denier,” means it is either an Orthodox Jew or someone in the stockings business. I don’t even think crossword puzzle fanatics know the word.”

    Wrong. 🙂

  31. Marty – The reason tights would not be sufficient there is because of the issue of ‘pisuk raglayim’. This is less relevant under the knee.

  32. I don’t understand R’Broyde who says that the standard of tzniyut is accordingto the way modest women in the general society dress. Does that mean that Jews in Iran should wear a burkha or a veil. AIUI tzniyut is absolute and not relative and is decided by poskim and not the fashion of the day

  33. As several people have mentioned, if the calf does indeed have to be covered, tights (and certainly sheer pantyhose) are not an adequate covering – making this an issue of style/social placement rather than tznius. If you are in Borough Park, are you halachically required to follow their style choices?

    Of note, when I was in high school, several girls with darker skin used to regularly wear closed-toe shoes without socks or tights, and they got away with it because unless someone checked closely, it looked like they were wearing pantyhose. Were they in violation of this “halacha”?

  34. Shalom Rosenfeld

    @David Tzohar,

    “Does that mean that Jews in Iran should wear a burkha or a veil. AIUI tzniyut is absolute”.

    Afraid it’s not so simple. As R’ Yehuda H Henkin observes, Rambam writes that if a woman fails to wear a *redid* (chador), she’s violating “good Jewish practice” and that’s grounds for divorce. But elsewhere he writes that a husband is obligated to give his wife a *redid* only in places where a *redid* is worn. Apparently if that’s the norm, that’s what’s expected; if not, not.

  35. “If important people (or proper ladies) wear tights on formal occassions…”

    From http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/D%C3%A9colletage:

    Gowns which exposed a woman’s neck and top of her chest were very common and non-controversial in Europe from at least the 11th century. This fashion continued through the Victorian period in the 19th century. Ball or evening gowns especially featured décolletage designed to display and emphasize cleavage.[4][5] The wearing of low-cut dresses which exposed breasts were considered more acceptable than they are today; with a woman’s bared legs, ankles, or shoulders being considered to be more risqué than exposed breasts.[6]

    However, in 15th century Agnès Sorel, mistress to Charles VII of France, is credited with starting a fashion when she wore décolleté gowns which fully bared her breasts in the French court. In the 16th century, women’s fashions featuring fully exposed breasts were common throughout society,for women of all social statuses.[7]

    Décolleté styles were popular in England in the 17th century and even Queen Mary II and Henrietta Maria, wife of Charles I of England, were depicted with fully bared breasts; and architect Inigo Jones designed a masque costume for Henrietta Maria that fully revealed both of her breasts.[7][8]

    In aristocratic and upper-class circles the display of breasts was at times regarded as a status symbol, as a sign of beauty, wealth or social position.[9] From the Renaissance onwards, the bared breast even invoked associations with nude sculptures of classical Greece that were exerting an influence on art, sculpture, and architecture of the period.[8]

    After the French Revolution the décolletage become larger in the front and smaller in the back.[10] During the fashions of the period 1795-1820, many women wore dresses which bared the bosom and shoulders. Towards the end of the Victorian period (end 19th century) the full collar was the fashion, though some décolleté dresses were worn on formal occasions. (See 1880s in fashion.)

    From the Victorian period onward, however, social attitudes shifted to demand a woman’s breasts to be covered in public. For ordinary wear, high collars were the norm for many years.

    When it became fashionable, around 1913, for dresses to be worn with a modest round or V-shaped neckline, clergymen all over the world became deeply shocked. In the German Empire, all of the Roman Catholic bishops joined in issuing a pastoral letter attacking modern fashions.[11] Fashions became more restrained in terms of décolletage, while exposure of the leg became more permitted in Western societies, during World War I and remained so for nearly half a century.[12]

  36. BTW the defining place issue is a much broader one – for example how do you determine if an infestation is a miyut hamatzui.
    KT

  37. Lawrence Kaplan

    Joseph: Enlighten me. What does “denier” mean?

  38. Shalom Rosenfeld

    From wikipedia:

    Denier is a unit of measure for the linear mass density of fibers. It is defined as the mass in grams per 9,000 meters. … The denier is based on a natural standard: a single strand of silk is one denier.

    Thus the density of a nylon stocking is measured in deniers. (You’ll also find some fancy suitcases advertising the high denier of their material.)

  39. Leah Cypess: As several people have mentioned, if the calf does indeed have to be covered, tights (and certainly sheer pantyhose) are not an adequate covering

    Why isn’t it sufficient?

    HaDardai: The distinction between Flatbush and Boro Park is problematic. Is a makom still defined solely by location?

    How can it be otherwise? This isn’t hilkhos nedarim/minhagim but a matter of standard behavior.

  40. Shalom Rosenfeld

    As Rabbi Broyde has said, the goal is to cover both what today’s society considers decent, and what halacha requires. In a time when exposed hair was indecent, a nice sheitels would violate the former. Now that hair is decent, getting by with a technical covering for the latter is okay.

    I suspect the same goes for calves. If we lived in a world where calves-in-tights were considered indecent by the general population, that wouldn’t count.

  41. In the famous story, R Salanter washes with the minimal amount of water so as not to trouble the servant who has to shlep the water from the well. And we applaud this behavior.
    Wearing tights, especially in the summer is not exactly comfortable, yet we have men(no women are paskening) having no problem insisting on a machmir position with no seeming regard for the comfort or feelings of the women (if there is a teshuvah where the comfort of women is taken into account please let me know). While everyone has an obligation to be modest, it actually is incumbent on the men to avoid seeing parts of women they consider ervah. It seems unjust that women have to suffer because a man wants to machmir on himself. He has other ways to fulfill that position(not go outside, close his eyes, etc. )

  42. Noam: So what are your suggestions for those who are strict? The men never leave home or the women never leave home?

  43. Why is no one concerned with what Rabbi Gil’s wife reads or the school that his daughter goes to?

    Rabbi Gil no need to reply- Like many people on this blog I happily forfeited my Orthodox status according to you

  44. Stringencies – in Hebrew, חומרות – are very much in vogue in the religious world. While in the right circumstances, the implementation of carefully-selected stringencies can stimulate genuine spiritual growth, it is regrettably common for them to [be] little more than a type of destructive halachic one-upmanship. The passage of the nazir provides a stark lesson – one must always question one’s motivation when adopting voluntary religious responsibilities. The Torah requires us to develop the self-awareness needed to distinguish between a genuine desire for spirituality and ‘keeping up with the Cohens’.”

    http://www.rabbibelovski.co.uk/sermon-notes-030611-naso

  45. re: Noam – indeed Gil, it would sem that it is appropriate for someone who is machmir in this way not to leave the home, or at least not to go to a place where he is likely to encounter exposed shok.

  46. R’ Gil asked:
    Leah Cypess: As several people have mentioned, if the calf does indeed have to be covered, tights (and certainly sheer pantyhose) are not an adequate covering

    Why isn’t it sufficient?

    Because if you really believe that shok means from the knee to the ankle then you should have to fully cover it. Everyone agrees that a woman can’t wear a short skirt (even a little above her knees) with tights because her knees/lower thighs are not properly covered. If shok b’isha erva refers to the calf then why should it be any different then the knees/lower thigh?

  47. Because if you really believe that shok means from the knee to the ankle then you should have to fully cover it.

    Maybe we are miscommunicating about what tights are, but I mean tights that fully cover the foot and leg.

  48. >>Noam: So what are your suggestions for those who are strict? The men never leave home or the women never leave home?

    IF the issur is on the men, then they are the ones who should be burdened, not the women. You can be sure that if women were postkot, that would be taken into account.

  49. >>Because if you really believe that shok means from the knee to the ankle then you should have to fully cover it.

    >>Maybe we are miscommunicating about what tights are, but I mean tights that fully cover the foot and leg.

    So, Gil, you think that tights and a microminiskirt are OK?

  50. Oh, I see. Your real question is why tights are insufficient covering of the upper leg. That’s a fair question but I believe someone above answered it – J at 6:58am

  51. MDJ: Do you have any problem with frum women walking around completely naked all the time? Men will just have to stay indoors.

  52. Gil — you keep coming back to this trope. As it happens, walking around naked in public is illegal in most jurisdictions. But, what does that have to do with halacha in any case.

  53. It’s an argument ad absurdum to make a point.

  54. Reb Gil- the intellectually honest and moral approach would be to inform the people of what they can wear and be yotze. They can also ask that people assist them in their chumra by going beyond the letter of the law. Helping out would be voluntary. According to you it is perfectly fine to say ‘i want to be machmir so you have to wear uncomfortable clothes. And not only that, I won’t even tell you that there is a halachically acceptable alternative. Oh and by the way, I claim to be the only Halachic authority and those who disagree are heretics.’ since when does your self imposed chumra allow you to dictate my activity within Halacha?
    by the way, why do you think that teshuvot on this topic are silent regarding the issue of comfort of dress?

  55. It is worth observing that the OC (earlier in the siman) explicitly addresses the issue of nakedness within the household. And again, the issur is in respect of what the man can see when he prays Kriyat Sh’ma.

  56. Dr. Stadlan: Your assumption is that this is a chumra. I don’t think your approach works if a community’s posek holds that it is the din.

    IH: If you keep looking in hilkhos kerias shema then you will continue seeing references to reciting shema.

  57. Gil — it is your prooftext link. Let us know when you find a primary source expanding the OC/Bach/MB from a halacha about what a man can see when he prays Kriyat Sh’ma to the halachic dress code to be incumbent upon women at all times (in public).

  58. I am quite surprised at the content of the discussion here, given that the primary issue is: what is a shok. By any decent academic methodology, the evidence that the shok means the lower leg/calf is overwhelming. The phrase שוק על ירך in Tanach, the Mishnah in Ohalos listing the 248 limbs, et al. You really have to kvetch a pshat to say that shok means the thigh.

    It seems that in LW circles, if following standard academic methodology yields that the Mishnah Berurah is wrong on a kulla, well, then, dump academic methodology and follow the Mishnah Berurah . But if the same methodology yields that he is wrong on a Chumra, dump the MB and follow academics.

    Highly inconsistent.

  59. Huh, Boruch? Follow the MB and not look at Shok (however you define it) when you pray Kriyat Sh’ma.

  60. Boruch,
    Now try this on for size:
    It seems that in RW circles, if following standard factual or halachic methodology yields that the Mishnah Berurah is wrong on a chumra, well, then, dump the methodology and follow the Mishnah Berurah . But if the same methodology yields that he is wrong on a kula , dump the MB and follow the chumra.

    Highly inconsistent.

    KT

  61. Boruch,

    The issues are linked.

    Joel,

    The difference is, that in standard RW methodolgy, the Mishnah Berurah is never wrong, he remains a צריך עיון and a formidable opinion to reckon with.

    In standard LW methodolgy, if contradicted by academics, he is wrong.

  62. My first comment is directed at IH, of course.

  63. Gil,
    I dont know what your problem is. If there is a chiyuv to cover your calves, stocking should be prohibited like all skin tight clothing.

    I think that if you looked into it, this whole shok thing will turn out to be a post facto justification of practice that was originaly adopted because in certain times and place a proper lady wore stockings.

  64. Boruch — sorry, what’s linked?

  65. Boruch – Your assumptions about the approach amongst the RW to the MB are overly ‘Litvish’ centric. Many Hungarian poskim pay no particular attention the the MB at all.

    Legufo shel inyan, R. Yehudah Henkin distinguishes between different usages of the work ‘shok’, and argues that the reference to shok in the sugya of shok b’isha erva refers only to the upper leg, even though other usages are different.

    Furthermore, Rav Mordechai Willig, in audio shiurim that are available on Yutorah.org, maintains that even if one accepts that ‘shok’ here refers to the lower leg, there are other methods by which one can justify the current practice of even most charedi women not to treat the lower leg as an erva.

  66. R. Gil. I agree with your point in principle. However, how a position gets labelled din or chumra is another discussion that is not totally straightforward. The second issue is the question of whether the comfort of the stocking wearers was taken into account when the position of ‘din’ was established. So far the written record seems to say ‘no’. Is this because it didn’t occur to them, or that it had no halachic weight in their eyes?

  67. R’ Gil said: Second, the Mishnah Berurah actually says the exact opposite of what your teacher claimed and we do follow it on this issue (I also told her not to contradict her teacher because that might get her in trouble).

    That’s a little disturbing — the teacher is providing a false portrayal of the Mishnah Berurah.

  68. STBO “That’s a little disturbing — the teacher is providing a false portrayal of the Mishnah Berurah.”

    That’s not so disturbing. People make mistakes. What is disturbing is that if she “contradict[s] her teacher . . . that might get her in trouble.” There is no respectful, private way to clarify this to her teacher without getting into trouble? It’s disturbing if this is true, and it’s also disturbing if it isn’t but perception leads Gil to think it is.

  69. Theres a good chance the teacher has never seen the inside of a MB.

  70. Boruch is of course correct – the evidence that Chazal considered “shok” to mean calf is overwhelming. Similar to with eruv, we rely (i.e. all the frum women I know) on a dubious minority opinion when formalized by communal tradition. Intellectual honesty demands that we grant the same status to tradition when it is less convenient for us. I would be willing to respect someone who ordained female rabbis but refused to rely on eruv. But have you ever met such a person?

  71. IH – Based on your psak, I plan to visit a strip club tonight, I’ll just make sure to recite shema before I come and not while I’m there.

  72. Dr. Stadlan,
    To your point re: comfort, I would say it is not only not considered, but that there can be a culture in which “chumras” in tznius (like wearing thick tights, as opposed to even knee socks) are indicators of piety precisley because they are unpleasant.

  73. Shlomo

    re “someone who ordained female rabbis but refused to rely on eruv. But have you ever met such a person?”

    Yes, he is a community rav. What do I get?

  74. IH,,,,,The site is linkedin.com

  75. YC – as far as I know, only one Orthodox rabbi has ever ordained a woman rabbi, and that rabbi is in charge of his community’s eruv.

    Who are you thinking of, if not him?

  76. Shlomo – You are laboring under a mistaken understanding of the basis for our eruvin. The overwhelming majority of rishonim subscribed to the tenai of shishim ribo, and there are usually other reasons to allow our eruvin even according to those who didn’t.

  77. emma – It’s all very nice pontificating about how standards of tznius are designed to make women feel uncomfortable, bu I would wager that the typical chassidish, stocking wearing woman does not feel particularly aggrieved about this. Perhaps we should strive to understand cultures on their own terms instead of projecting our own biases onto others.

  78. IH-we have been through this before, and IIRC, I posted a long post on this subject in late June or early July in response to your inquiry, which included many of the Mareh Mkomos that R Gil posted. I think that R Gil is simply stating that what you view and demand as a primary source is used as a means for extrapolation from not saying KS to a wide variety of circumstances, including standards of dress. In contrast, your demand is tantamount to asking where do Chazal or Rishonim explicitly outlaw miniskirts, etc., and IMO and in all seriousness, mistakenly assumes that because such attire was not known to Chazal and Rishonim, the same is permissible.

  79. IH wrote:

    “Based on your psak, I plan to visit a strip club tonight, I’ll just make sure to recite shema before I come and not while I’m there”

    That would IMO be tantamount to acting as a Naval Brushus HaTorah, to use the famous expression of the Ramban at the beginning of Parshas Kedoshim.

  80. FWIW, on the definition of “shok” and “ervah”, one should see the critique of the CI on the view of the MB that is under discussion.

  81. R’ Gil asked:
    Leah Cypess: As several people have mentioned, if the calf does indeed have to be covered, tights (and certainly sheer pantyhose) are not an adequate covering

    Why isn’t it sufficient?

    Would it be sufficient for a woman to cover her upper arms with pantyhose?

  82. Sholomo

    re if not him?

    If not who?

  83. To clarify, since there seems to be some miscommunication on this point: women’s pantyhose and tights come in various thicknesses. There are opaque tights which, while skintight, certainly hide the skin of the leg. Then there are sheer stockings, of various degrees of sheerness, through which you can clearly see the woman’s skin.

    It seems pretty obvious to me that sheer pantyhose serve no halachic “covering” purpose whatsoever. Yet in Borough Park, among those who would never have their calves bare, they are perfectly acceptable covering for calves. Some Chassidish women insist upon seamed stockings so that it is obvious that they are wearing stockings. But that’s exactly my point – if these stockings didn’t have seams, it wouldn’t be obvious that the woman’s leg was “covered.”

  84. Steve — none of your sources panned out — and none IIRC were primary texts.

    In the recent thread on Is History Mutar? Gil stated “I prefer textual grounding to practices.” I don’t see what the problem is, if this is such an obvious point of halacha.

    Shlomo — enjoy the strip club, but the relevance of your snarky comment eludes me. [There seems to be a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde of “Shlomo” posts, which is a bit confusing by the by.]

    Neshama — linkedin?

  85. The conflation of this OC on Kriyat Sh’ma with a specific dress code for women — as opposed to the more general halacha of tzniyut which applies to both men and women — seems to have occurred after the MB otherwise the CC would have addressed it directly.

  86. Gil’s link is 2 pages into the Siman, so for ease of reading, here is the start: http://www.hebrewbooks.org/pdfpager.aspx?req=14170&st=&pgnum=212

    Perhaps I missed something when I reviewed it, in which case please point it out.

  87. J.”but I would wager that the typical chassidish, stocking wearing woman does not feel particularly aggrieved about this.”

    Why would you wager this (or wager that Emma doesn’t know from personal experience)?

    Countless women in regular American society lament that fashion standards leave them with very uncomfortable choices (since they want to dress fashionably). Women’s shoes are notoriously uncomfortable. I guess we can argue about what “aggrieved means,” but would you agree that a general annoyance is possible, even among Chassidishe froyen?

    Also, so what? I would wager that the typical peasant working 15 hour days in a Chinese rice paddy doesn’t feel particularly aggrieved by his or her very difficult life, but that doesn’t make their hardships so great, even for them.

  88. J., whether or not she feels aggrieved, the average woman wearing tights in the summer feels hot and itchy. My point was that, based on conversations among my peers when i was a teenager, I think taking on chumros in tzniyus (which are basically always less comfortable than the alternatives) is sometimes cast as so holy precisely because of the mesirus nefesh involved. For some, the mesirus nefesh is in not getting to show off their elbows. But more often the mesirus nefesh is in wearing something uncomfortable.
    On the other hand, if we are talking chassidim, it’s not like the men dress so comfortably for the summer either…

  89. It’s not like wearing black clothing, a velvet yarmulkeh and a fedorah hat are less hot and itchy. At least there’s a bit of consistency, although of course the men’s uniform is a bit more negotiable.

  90. I’m not saying it doesn’t bother people, and your general point stands, but sometimes people can get carried away fighting battles on behalf of others who were not particularly interested in having those battles fought in the first place.

  91. btw, i should clarify that my experiences and comments were not with/about chassidim, but yeshivish girls.

  92. Excepting, the misinformation about what the halacha is (as opposed to the chumrot) and as MDJ pointed out, there are no poskot to ensure that if the issur is on the men, then they are the ones who should be burdened, not the women.

    As a practical matter, many Modern Orthodox families do not practice the chumrot (the the RWMO pretend are halacha); and amongst teenage girls the sociological factors probably dominate how they feel about the issue in any case.

  93. J., I get it. But let’s not start with that whole “They think the Amish are so charming, but when it comes to the Chassidim they have hearts of stone” thing. That’s usually nonsense. Furthermore, while it’s true that ironically by using the rhetoric of multiculturalism one can presumably shut up a liberal who is judging another culture, but that does not mean that everything another culture does is good, even for them, even by their own standards. We both know that if RW Jewish women actually are miserable, they have almost no way of changing it or even really voicing it. So while they may all mostly be happy, they also may not. Lo ta’amod (using a little dramatic license). If they are aggrieved, should no one stand up and say “This is wrong?”

    Also, we are all (mostly) Orthodox Jews. We all have a horse in this race to a certain degree, since our fates are all tied together in complex ways.

  94. J:

    “Perhaps we should strive to understand cultures on their own terms instead of projecting our own biases onto others.”

    and sometimes a “cultural” practice is just nuts

    “but sometimes people can get carried away fighting battles on behalf of others who were not particularly interested in having those battles fought in the first place.”

    a) it’s sometimes difficult to guage when something is done volunatary or under duress (or not knowing any differently)
    b) in any case, i personally couldn’t care less about women’s tzniyt standards etc. in “boro park” except that often the standards of “boro park” (or substitute with your favorite RW community) have a habit of creeping in on others. sometimes this just happens as a matter of course, and sometimes because of people imposing their will (happened recently in one of my shuls when local rabbonim interfered with hiring of a new rabbi in a shul they have no connection with because of eruv issue)

  95. NOAM STADLAN:

    “Wearing tights, especially in the summer is not exactly comfortable, yet we have men(no women are paskening) having no problem insisting on a machmir position with no seeming regard for the comfort or feelings of the women”

    many of the men demanding these standards don’t exactly dress comfortably in the summer either

    GIL:

    “So what are your suggestions for those who are strict? The men never leave home or the women never leave home?”

    well society–at least much of it–does believe in keeping men with extremem sexual control issues off the street.

  96. IH-I am afraid that neither R Gil nor I could satisfy your demand for production of a primary source that directly addresses contemporary fashion as viewed in the eyes of Chazal or Rishonim simply because that is not how the term “primary source” is used except for what could be called something that is Mutar or Assur because it is stated in black and white-but then again, that is what TSBP is all about-being Mdameh Milsah LMilsah based on Mesorah, not on whether the Torah or Chazal explicitly had Ruach HaKodesh and foresaw whatever passed for contemporary fashion.

  97. “I also told her not to contradict her teacher because that might get her in trouble”

    I used to contradict teachers on a regular basis when I was in school. It made for a lot of recesses spent writing on the blackboard.

  98. IH – I am quite familiar with this siman. Don’t you see how the CC refers to women who are not covered al pi halaochoh – “perutzos”. The CC also discusses looking at a woman outside of the context of KS, and has a entire Biur Halohocho on covering hair and minhag hamakom. Are you seriously saying that this all applies to only to times of KS? What about the CC’s discussion of “daver shebikdushah”?

  99. “A place where covering the lower legs is common practice”–is that defined by how most (religious) Jewish women in that area dress or how all women, non-Jewish included, dress? Is a Jewish woman who lives in an Arab country where all the non-Jewish women wear full-body burkas also required to wear one al pi halakha? Also, is a man allowed to make a bracha facing a woman in BP whose lower legs are revealed?

  100. Rafael — Thanks. I agree there is textual support for an expansion of the original OC from Kriyat Sh’ma to also include D’varim sh’Bikdusha, but this is by no means the general expansion claimed.

    Since some readers may not be familiar with the text, I was looking for a translation online. See this Shiur in English from Yeshivat Har Etzion: http://vbm-torah.org/archive/tefila/67-16tefila.htm

  101. Related to EstherK’s questions, the link I just posted ends:

    The authorities question under which circumstances one may recite a berakha in the presence of erva. Rav Yosef Karo rules (75:6) that not only may one turn one’s head, but even closing one’s eyes may suffice. Furthermore, one may recite a berakha in the presence of erva if the room is dark, or if he is blind! He explains that since the verse relates to “seeing” (“…He should SEE no nakedness”), the prohibition is dependent upon whether one actually SEES erva. He rules accordingly in the Shulchan Arukh.

    Most Acharonim (Bach, Magen Avraham 75:9, Taz 75:2, Chayyei Adam 4:3, Mishna Berura 75:29 and the Arukh Ha-Shulchan 75:11) disagree, noting that the Torah does not say “He should not SEE” (yir’e) but rather, “Nakedness should not be seen” (yeira’eh).” The halakha seems to be in accordance with these views.

    Incidentally, the Mishna Berura (27) also writes that turning away one’s head doesn’t work when one is unclad.

    The Nishmat Adam (4:1) questions whether this stringency applies only to erva, literally, or to all parts of the body which are ordinarily covered.

    The Chazon Ish (16:7) rules that regarding “tefach ba-isha erva,” which is only prohibited because it distracts one from praying properly, closing one’s eyes, or even gazing aside, would suffice. Rav Ovadya Yosef (OC 3:7:10) also permits one to recite berakhot, and to learn Torah, in the presence of immodestly dressed women (including exposed arms and necks) if one closes his eyes, or looks aside.

  102. Abba- yes. But there is a difference between doing to yourself and imposing on others.

  103. To make the primary texts more accessible, the Siman just prior to Gil’s prooftext is translated and provides valuable context: http://www.torah.org/advanced/mishna-berura/S73.html

  104. Abba's Rantings

    Dr. Stadlan:

    of course

  105. Abba's Rantings

    concerning another aspect of jewish dress, i just read an interesting article on the subway ride home in the yitz greenberg festscrift on the the resurgence of the kippah in america. (along the way it mentions the 1963 YU college bowl team, which included one commenter here.)

  106. Moshe Shoshaan: I dont know what your problem is. If there is a chiyuv to cover your calves, stocking should be prohibited like all skin tight clothing.

    Why would you think that a tight covering is not a covering?

    Leah: I apologize for not understanding your question. R. Shlomo Min Hahar rules that if the custom is to wear see-through tights then you have to wear (at least) that. If the custom is opaque tights, then you have to wear that. And if the custom is not to cover the lower leg at all, then you don’t have to wear any tights. Everything according to the standard practice.

    IH still hasn’t addressed the rules of divorce from Kesubos 72 and the explicit verse forbidding nakedness.

  107. Does anyone know the earliest source where pisuk raglayim is mentioned as an issue in connection with shok b’ishah ervah? I’m sure Bar Ilan could take care of this, but just asking.

  108. Gil — you’re the one making an assertion for which you have no textual backup, despite your proclamation “I prefer textual grounding to practices”. I’ve looked up the references you provided as prooftexts in the post.

    Let us know when you find a primary source expanding the OC/Bach/MB from a halacha about what a man can see when he prays Kriyat Sh’ma (extended by late achronim to d’varim sh’bikdusha) to the halachic dress code to be incumbent upon women at all times (in public).

    Thus far, you’ve only produced hot air.

  109. “Why would you think that a tight covering is not a covering?”

    Why would you think tzniut is a set of narrowly-defined legal fictions?

  110. If a woman wore a body-fitting dancer’s leotard does that meet your requirements, Gil?

    [Google "Mock Neck Long Sleeve Unitard" for an example]

  111. To elliptical for me, I confess:

    “You can compare this to a person wearing an anatomically correct body suit. The person is covered from head to toe so there is no issue of revealing his body. However, if the suit looks so lifelike that it causes improper thoughts then it is forbidden. Nowadays, it is hard to say that wigs cause improper thoughts.”

    “If a person wears a body suit that looks just like a naked body but is entirely synthetic, it is obvious that it is not literally nakedness. However, because it is provocative and will evoke improper thoughts among onlookers, it may not be worn in public. Perhaps some may equate custom wigs with bodysuits. But as a matter of judgment, I find that universal equation difficult because the degree of provocativeness depends on place and time.”

    For myself, I have never been sexually “turned on” when watching modern dancers in bodysuits. But, the frum woman I passed on 72nd Street with stilettos is a different story.

  112. So, if a woman is wearing tights, is there anything wrong with wearing a skirt which comes down to, but does not cover, her knees?

  113. Joseph Kaplan: Orthodox Jewish crossword fanatics do not constitute an exception to what I said. I have done thousands of crossword and other word puzzles over the last few decades without encountering “denier” in any of them, as best I can recall.

  114. J.: Shlomo – You are laboring under a mistaken understanding of the basis for our eruvin. The overwhelming majority of rishonim subscribed to the tenai of shishim ribo,

    Of course. But are you sure that Chazal thought the same way? Are you sure Moshe Rabbeinu thought the same way? Some people are willing to reach back much further than the rishonim to justify their innovations, but when traditional practice is more lenient than a “scholarly” appraisal of Chazal would indicate – as in the case of eruvin – they become “traditional”. On one issue they say they believe one thing, while on another issue they say they believe the opposite.

    YC: If not who?

    R’ Weiss of course.

  115. Shlomo

    There are Orthodox rabbis who support the institution of women rabbis

    I know a Orthodox rabbi who does not hold of eruv and sees women rabbis as no big deal

    I know a Orthodox rabbi who does not hold of eruv and ordained a women “rabbi”

    Rabbi Weiss – I dont know him well enough to know if he uses an eruv

  116. Did you contact the teacher and the school and respectfully point out that there are different opinions on this subject and that this teacher should not have presented one opinion as though it was THE ONLY opinion?

    I think that this would have been important to do for the Chinuch of the teacher.

    YL

  117. “You are laboring under a mistaken understanding of the basis for our eruvin. The overwhelming majority of rishonim subscribed to the tenai of shishim ribo.”

    Someone should have told the Chafeitz Chaim. In Siman 345, in Biur Halacha, he cites 24 rishonim: 12 who say it takes shishim ribo to make a reshut harabim, and 12 who say it doesn’t. That’s not even a majority, let alone an overwhelming one.

  118. We’ve been through this before. The traditional practice in Ashkenaz, based on the Behag and others, was to pasken that shishim ribo is a tenai of reshus harabbim. This practice was challenged by the Mishkenos Yaakov who disputed this practice based on his claim that a majority of the Rishonim did not require shishim ribo. However, this ruling was not generally accepted (even Karlin, where the Mishkenos Yaakov was a rav, had an eruv), and indeed the Beis Efraim argued vociferously with the MY, and dispute his cheshbon. The Mishnah Berurah followed the MY in this. However, R. Menachem Mendel Kasher was later to demonstrate that the Beis Efraim was indeed right – there were a majority of Rishonim who held of shishim ribo. The crucial point here is that if one is only interested in the Rishonim that were traditionally used, the one would maintain the tenai of shishim ribo. The MY’s whole point is that one should count the other Rishonim too. Once we are doing that, there is no reason to arbitrarily stop at the Rishonim who the MY (and MB) had access to, and one should rather user the more complete list that has been compiled by R. Kasher, R Ovadia Yosef (in Yabia Omer) and others. I came across a post on eruvonline which has a pretty comprehensive tally:
    http://eruvonline.blogspot.com/2006/01/overwhelming-majority-of-rishonim.html

  119. מה המקור שאשה צריכה לכסות מתחת לצואר, דהיינו ששתי העצמות שבצידי הצואר יהיו מכוסות?
    התשובה של הרב מאוד חשובה כדי לחזק את הנשים פה בעירינו בחו”ל.
    תשובה
    פשוט ביותר, הלכה ברורה ללא חולק ״טפח באשה ערווה״. ואין לאשה לגלות אלא את פניה כפות ידיה וכפות רגליה,
    מעבר לכך עד 8 סנטימטר שהם טפח אם גילתה עדיין מותר בדיעבד.

    מכיון והצואר שתחת הסנטר יש בו טפח, החשבון פשוט שאת חזית הגוף עליה לכסות כפי שנוהגות כל הבנות שבמוסדות החינוך הכשרים.
    כל סנטימטר משם הוא איסור חמור.

    כלומר כבר נעשה פיחות בגדר ההלכה בעצם חשיפת הצוואר, עתה מבקשים להמשיך הלאה, היש להם גבולות?

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