Thursday, February 14, 2008

The return of purdah?

Short explanation.

Medium-length explanation.

Long explanation, including the possible health consequences.

An Orthodox blogger expresses concern.

To my fellow and sister non-Orthodox Jews, do you really think that changes that radical in the Orthodox community’s approach to tzniyut (modesty) would have no effect whatsoever on the rest of us? What if my son became and married an Orthodox Jew? And what about my chiloni (secular) nieces in Israel--do they risk being beaten up on a bus for refusing to move to the back?


Blogger BrooklynWolf said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

Fri Feb 15, 12:46:00 PM 2008  
Blogger BrooklynWolf said...

You are correct, of course. This does have an effect on those outside the Orthodox community.

Thanks for the link.

The Wolf

Fri Feb 15, 12:46:00 PM 2008  
Blogger rivkayael said...

Don't get me started on the crazy niddah chumrot too. As I was telling another friend, if the poskot were learned female MDs (who actually know how the female body works), the state of halacha would be very different. So, women can't be trusted to know what's up with their bodies.

I think we can all start by learning what the halachot actually are (and the rabbis, Orthodox or not could *help* too). Part of being shomer/et Torah is actually knowing what is Torah and what is madness. We have the Rambam to rely on as saying that "tzinuit" is defined by society, not some male rabbi :). Lo bashamayim hi, there is just no way that Torah was meant to be in the hands of a few dictatorial people...

Shabbat shalom!

Fri Feb 15, 01:12:00 PM 2008  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

RivkaYael, I've always wondered whether any of the rabbis of the Talmudic era, when trying to determine how to deal with halachic issues involving women's physiology, ever actually asked any women.

BrooklynWolf, you're welcome. That was quite a thoughtful and thought-provoking post.

Fri Feb 15, 02:11:00 PM 2008  
Blogger rivkayael said...

There are actually instances when rabbis were recorded to base their interpretations of text on what their mothers/caretakers told them. To my understanding, the chumra of the additional 7 days was taken on by the women themselves. But halachic decisions today are something else.

Fri Feb 15, 03:04:00 PM 2008  
Blogger -suitepotato- said...

I'm pretty certain that people of the second temple period didn't have chumras anything like certain people take on today. They go from making the error of being more strict than the Torah says to, right on through being more strict than the Talmud sets, and blow through the warning that should you do it, it is your choice to. They then turn it into "you must do this".

As far as learning what halacha involves, I'd be concerned about the mitzvot concerning idolatry as despite the depressingly poor performance, I'm pretty sure it wouldn't do anyone any good to burn down Hollywood however cathartic it might be for average American television viewer.

Fri Feb 15, 03:45:00 PM 2008  
Blogger Tzipporah said...

Yeah, I saw these, too.

I wonder if there isn't a place for us non-orthos to take back the concept of tzniut by going back to the actual "walk humbly before Hashem" thing - focusing on reducing ostentatious consumption, lashon hara, pride, etc. and returning to a concept of humble character, not exaggeratedly "modest" dress.

Frankly, calling attention to their own "holiness" by covering up in multiple layers doesn't seem very humble - or very useful, either.

Fri Feb 15, 06:42:00 PM 2008  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

"I'm pretty certain that people of the second temple period didn't have chumras anything like certain people take on today." I wonder about that, too, SuitePotato.

Tzipporah, kudos to anyone who can persuade the Jewish community to lay off the "ostentatious consumption" and focus more on modesty of behavior and less on modesty of dress.

RivkaYael, you said, "There are actually instances when rabbis were recorded to base their interpretations of text on what their mothers/caretakers told them." In that case, I misspoke, and owe the ancients an apology. :(

You also said "To my understanding, the chumra [extra stringency] of the additional 7 days [of not sleeping with one's husband after one's period] was taken on by the women themselves." My understanding is that the women of Jewish communities of Talmudic times (? or later?) took it upon themselves to observe an extra 7 days of restrictions because there were 2 possible causes of bleeding, from a halachic/Jewish law point of view, and the women didn't want to confuse the two and make an error, so they chose a stricter approach. My theory is that what the Orthodox Jewish burka-wears are doing may actually be something similar. In some Chareidi communities, the strictures on what women wear have been getting progressively stricter and/or are being more strictly enforced. The burka solves the tzniut/modesty problem by making women nearly invisible. No more worrying about whether your wig is too long or made of the wrong kind of hair, whether your skirt is exactly the right length, whether a covered collarbone is sufficient or whether the minhag/custom of the community requires a turtleneck year-round. Just as Jewish women of old took the laws of niddah into their own hands and made them stricter in order to avoid violating the law accidentally, so the burka-wearers are trying to take the rules of tzniut into their own hands by covering themselves so completely that there's no way that they could possibly violate anyone's tzniut standards, no matter how strict. Except that there are those who say that such an extreme form of modesty is so attention-getting as to be immodest.

Sun Feb 17, 01:37:00 AM 2008  
Blogger rivkayael said...

Exactly. Easy to throw your hands in the air when you don't know the halachot and declare machmir. If a doctor did that and gave every patient the most aggressive drug possible, s/he would be irresponsible and rightfully barred from practice. In this case, both ordinary Jews and rabbis should be finding out what the actual halachot are.

Fri Feb 22, 04:34:00 PM 2008  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

Nice analogy, RivkaYael. It's just tough if searching for the correct halachot is more difficult. Rabbis go to rabbinical school to learn the law, not to learn how to rubber-stamp the strictest possible interpretation thereof. I would hope that most of them are doing their best to teach the law, not the chumrah.

Sat Feb 23, 10:28:00 PM 2008  

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