Friday, March 26, 2010

Khaki pants and kashrut

That's what I get for going off on a tangent in the comments to my Women in Judaism: Taxation without representation post--now, I'll have to explain myself.

Shira Salamone said...

. . . All the nonsense about the slightest deviation from current minhag/custom, including the all-mighty "levush" ("uniform," dress code) are a real turn-off for some of us from the non-Orthodox community who might have considered making the switch. . . .I'm fed up to here with all the complaints about Rabba Hurwitz not covering enough of her hair. Yes, I know that many in the Orthodox community believe that a married woman must cover her hair in public, but there is, and should be, various opinions on what constitutes a proper hair-covering. Why do so many people expect the obviously-Modern-Orthodox Rabba Hurwitz to dress like a Satmar Chassid?

Wed Mar 24, 01:38:00 PM 2010

Miami Al said...

I think that Rabbah Hurwitz should fully cover her hair. Hands down. There are liberal opinions and conservative opinions on this.

However, she is a trailblazer, and should show an EXTRA degree of sensitivity to the community that she is trailblazing.

. . . while I am certain that Rabbah Hurwitz knows the laws governing her hair, and is no doubt following them, this is an area where our leader must be held to a higher standard, less our people who don't know the details attempt to emulate her and screw up.

Think about it, she's the defacto Chief Rabbah of the World... :) There is NO OTHER Rabbah to turn to as an example.

Given that her professional capacity is on the Rabbinic Staff, there isn't a professional reason that she needs to hide that she is covering her hair, so I think that she should do so completely, fully, and WITHOUT a sheitel, completely consistent with both Ashkenazi and Sephardic restrictions, since she's the trailblazer.

You want to blaze trails, you have to accept some personal limitations.

Thu Mar 25, 03:20:00 PM 2010

This conversation reminds me of an old series of mine, Orthodoxy's right-ward turn affects all.

[ ¶ ]

Think about how the observance of kashrut has changed. I'm old enough to remember the "kashrut war" on the Upper West Side of Manhattan in the 1970's, when a Modern (!) Orthodox rabbi organized a boycott of a "regular" kosher butcher shop and almost forced it out of business until the owners agreed to "go glatt." Seriously, who, other than right-wing-Orthodox Ashkenazim and those in the S'fardi and B'nei Eidot HaMizrach (roughly, Middle Eastern) communities who follow the Bet Yosef ruling on slaughtering red-meat animals, observed the stricture of eating only glatt kosher meat as recently as, well, the 1970's, when this 61-year-old was in her twenties? But now, as the linked article states, "Today, the OU (and most other kashrut organizations in the U.S.) will only certify meat that is glatt, albeit not necessarily glatt Beit Yosef."

A similar story can be told about definitions of women's modesty in the Orthodox community. Even now, it's common for older Modern Orthodox women to go bareheaded and/or wear pants when not in synagogue. But heaven help the woman under 40 who does the same (at least in the New York area), who risks having her Orthodox status (and/or her conversion) questioned.

Thanks to a fellow minyannaire from my "kaddish minyan," I'm now the happy owner of the Fall 2009 issue of JOFA Journal. In the article "Olive Skirts, Khaki Pants, & Rifles--The Dress of Religious Women in the Israeli Army," author Shayna Weiss discusses the protest of many of the women who study in Hesder seminaries and serve in the Israel Defense Force, who are upset that their seminaries want them to wear skirts, never pants, as part of their dress uniforms: Many of these committed Orthodox women wear pants except on Shabbat/Sabbath, and they object to the idea that they must wear skirts in order to be identified as religious.

Miami Al's comment falls in the same category, to my mind. Why must Rabba Hurwitz cover her hair completely in order to avoid having some in the Orthodox community question her commitment to Orthodoxy? Why does she have to dress as if she belongs to a segment of the Orthodox community that, frankly, won't accept her anyway, no matter what title she uses, in order to be accepted as a trailblazer?

Why must we always look over our right shoulders?

Update, Sat., March 27, 2010, after Shabbat:

I see that the JOFA Journal is available online. You can read the Fall 2009 issue here.


Blogger Larry Lennhoff said...

Sorry, but I;m going to agree with Miami Al on this one. Let some other women be the trailblazer for not covering hair. There are tons of people seeking to deligitmize the concept of Rabbah. Choosing as your candidate someone who doesn't fully cover just reinforces the idea that the supporters of the rabbah "aren't really Orthodox".

She's a step up from Haviva Ner David, who said in her book she didn't keep taharat hamishpacha, among other things. But fair or not, our Jackie Robinson needs to be above reproach. If Rabbi Weiss didn't wear a kippah outside of eating, davening, and torah study do you think it would impact his credibility as a rabbi, fairly or not? I do.

Fri Mar 26, 04:50:00 PM 2010  
Anonymous Miami Al said...

Community leaders are held to a higher "rightward" standard. If we want Rabbah to stick, then the first one needs to stand out as learned, non-corrupt, and "fully frum."

It's not enough to be mainstream Modern Orthodox, she has to be Modern Orthodox super-Machmir.

She should adopt stringency outside of Modern Orthodoxy, but she needs to be stringiest within Modern Orthodoxy.

Her position is being undermined for a few inches of hair... silly and petty, absolutely, but not something that should be allowed to fester.

Fri Mar 26, 06:39:00 PM 2010  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

I'm not ignoring you, I'm just prepping the kitchen for Pesach. In case I don't have time for a real reply until Chol HaMoed, I'm taking this opportunity to wish you meaningful and enjoyable Sedarim. Meanwhile, back to work!

Sun Mar 28, 02:09:00 PM 2010  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

The standing-on-one-foot reply, as I boil water for kashering the sink: So both of you think that Rabba Hurwitz should comport herself as the Jackie Robinson of Rabbot?

Larry, I took another look at Haviva Ner David's "Life on the Fringes" over Shabbat, and she seems to have made a gradual change from observing only the biblically-ordained 5 days of niddah to a much stricter observance, taking upon herself not only the Talmudic 7 extra days but also the harchokim, the tradition against a husband and wife touching one another until the wife goes to the mikvah. It appears to me that her current level of observance may be closer to what many in the Orthodox community would accept as normative.

Sun Mar 28, 03:11:00 PM 2010  
Anonymous jdub the chametz free said...

Two quick thoughts:

One, I agree with Larry and Miami Al. However, to be fair to the critics of her, I don't think they (we?) would be satisfied if she did cover all of her hair. There is a larger issue at play, and I think the hair thing is kind of a silly tangent. But I do agree that the trailblazer should be beyond reproach in some of these silly external issues. I have other Jewish women friends who take a much stricter appearance role due to their leadership/educational roles in the community.

Haviva Ner David (or Davidson, as I knew her) is quite simply not Orthodox. I don't care who or what ordained her. She is not now, nor ever really was, an orthodox person.

Finally, Shira, you say "Take on the talmudic seven clean days." Among Orthodox Jews, one doesn't distinguish among them. They are obligatory, both the five and the seven, unless there is a really, really darn good reason not to (i.e., fertility), and then it is limited only upon consultation with a very, very learned authority. One doesn't take on the seven days as if they are a chumra, they are part and parcel of the halacha. Only non-Orthodox Jews parse it out that way (as well as use the phrase "take on" with regard to a mitzvah.)

In any event, chag kasher v'sameach to all.

Mon Mar 29, 01:59:00 PM 2010  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

"One doesn't take on the seven days as if they are a chumra, they are part and parcel of the halacha." Correction duly noted.

"Only non-Orthodox Jews . . . use the phrase "take on" with regard to a mitzvah."

Well, I *am* non-Orthodox. How else should I describe a gradual increase in mitzvah observance?

Thu Apr 01, 01:21:00 PM 2010  
Anonymous Miami Al said...


Jdub is painting things with a really broad stroke. There is absolutely a distinction between the biblical 5 days and the Talmudic fence... for starters, one does a clean count which is a process. Further, there is some rumbling in Israel of trying to do away with the 7 clean days, because the distinction between different states of impurity that don't matter in the Galut, do in a post-Galut Temple era... as in we'd actually have to deal with the consequences.

But he is correct that in polite Yeshiva society, "take on" is used for Chumrot, not mitzvot... not because people don't "take on" Mitzvot (Biblical or Rabbinic), but because you keep quiet about it because everyone pretends that everyone observes all mitzvot, and isn't on a path to better observance.

But since Orthodox = Shomrei Mitzvot, then you can take on a Chumrah, not a Mitzvah.

Regarding the 5/7 and nobody making a distinction, I have no idea what anyone in my community does re: Mikveh except my wife, so I won't make a strong statement as to what people do.

I don't recall my wife ever telling me that she faced an inquisition regarding counting, and I think she would have told me if the Mikveh lady harassed her. :)

Apparently, Jdub is more in tune with the monthly cycles of Orthodox women than I am. :)

Thu Apr 01, 03:51:00 PM 2010  
Anonymous jdub said...

ok, that's what I get for writing so close to chag.

What I meant was that in chatan/callah classes, nobody makes a distinction in terms of the mandatory nature of it. Not that I am privy to anyone's habits.

And I don't disagree with Al that there is clearly a distinction with regard to process between the 5 and 7, but what I meant was that both are considered equally binding today.

And what I was saying about "take on" stands. I'm not saying that Orthodox Jews don't have varied levels of observance or that people don't gradually (or suddenly) increase their observance level, I'm taking issue with the use of the phrase. One simply does, one doesn't "take on."

Thu Apr 01, 05:01:00 PM 2010  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

"But he [JDub] is correct that in polite Yeshiva society, "take on" is used for Chumrot [extra, voluntary stringencies], not mitzvot [bottom-line required commandments]... not because people don't "take on" Mitzvot (Biblical or Rabbinic), but because you keep quiet about it because everyone pretends that everyone observes all mitzvot, and isn't on a path to better observance."

So the only reason why I (more or less) get away with using the phrase "take on mitzvot" is that I'm *not* Orthodox and *am* on a path to better observance. :)

Thu Apr 01, 05:20:00 PM 2010  
Anonymous Miami Al said...

Jdub, I hope you weren't offended, I felt that you deserved a tongue in cheek harassment. :)

Mainstream normative Halacha is that the Biblical and Rabbinic requirements are both binding. In terms of practice, one observing Taharat Hamishpacha must observe both, not pick and choose.

I would not rule out that their are Kiruv Rabbanim giving women that are struggling, especially with unsupportive spouses, leniencies on the matter, but I have no first hand knowledge of such a practice.

I know of nobody that doesn't keep 5/7, but I have no idea what anybody does in the privacy of their own home.

The Conservative movement has a Teshuva that claims that the 5 is obligatory, the 7 was historically what the "pious" did, and that requiring that of everyone is an impediment to observance. Presumably one could be Shomer Taharat Hamishpacha, within conservative guidelines, keeping 5 days.

However, "take on" requires observance of a Chumrah, not a basic Halacha.

However, I have heard "take on" in reference to women covering their hair, or abandoning pants for skirts, so take that how you will.

Thu Apr 01, 08:56:00 PM 2010  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

*Some* might argue that covering the hair is a chumrah. And as for abandoning pants for skirts, I would argue, flat out, that the prohibition against a woman wearing pants that are designed for a woman is a chumrah. Is it just my imagination, or is it more common for younger Israeli Orthodox women to wear pants, as the female IDF soldiers in the link article do, than it is for younger American Orthodox women to wear pants? (Yes, I'm speaking of younger women specifically--as I said in my post, it's still common for older Modern Orthodox American women to wear pants, but that doesn't seem to apply to MO American women under 40.)

Fri Apr 02, 11:20:00 AM 2010  
Anonymous jdub said...

you need to leave NY. In my non-NY MO community, many women (wife included) wear pants, and some women cover their hair and wear pants, since one is a mitzvah and one isn't.

In Israel, among the religious zionists, some women wear pants, sometimes with a very, very short skirt like covering that goes to mid-thigh.

My daughters wear pants, although they often wear skirts (usually with gym shorts or leggings underneath).

I wear pants, but I also cover my head with a kippah. I'd say I cover my hair, but since there ain't much there, i'll go with head.

Fri Apr 02, 11:25:00 AM 2010  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

Er, that should be "Would central New Jersey *do* . . ." Tsk, tsk, Shira, some secretary you are. :(

Fri Apr 02, 04:54:00 PM 2010  

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