Are Burka Ladies a Threat to Mainstream Orthodox Women?

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This is a response to a discussion on the Face-Covering Jewish Women from Beit Shemesh on a private Orthodox Jewish forum. The poster, —œCapital Chick— from Canada, gave permission to post. I have edited it slightly.

Capital Chick is responding to forum members who argue that this is none of our business, and the hyper-modest women won’t affect the lives of “mainstream” Jewish women in any way.

I disagree that these women are not a threat. I think that they are.

I think that it is the height of political correctness and moral relativism to claim, within this Jewish context, “to each his own” or “everyone is correct in their personal interpretation of halacha”. This is wrong, and we certainly don’t afford such an open mind to our non-Orthodox sisters and brothers.

I am all for a broad interpretation of halacha (Jewish law). I do believe that there’s room for women to argue that head covering is necessary, and for others to consider themselves orthodox without covering their hair. But wearing a burqa?!?! At some point I’m comfortable standing up and saying “NO! You are WRONG!”. And for those who ask “Who are you to determine that?”, I say to you “What’s wrong with you for NOT being able to determine that?”

The right-leaning trend of our community, and our tendency to move as far to the extreme as possible on all issues, means that eventually we will all be judged according to these whackos’ standards. I hope you don’t mind being called a slut for not wearing a burqa, because unless we stand up against this insanity as a community, I guarantee you that those comments are right around the corner.

Listen, we see this type of behavior today. A woman who just covers her elbows is acceptable. But a woman who always makes sure her wrists are covered—¦.Well, she’s more tznius! A woman who covers her knees? Torah-observant. A woman who makes sure her ankles are covered and wears opaque stockings? A true eyshet chayil (woman of valor)!! We seem to have lost the ability to truly understand and accept those who say “This is what the Torah requires of me, and there’s no additional merit to be gained from going further”.

Please don’t think you’re immune to being drawn into this crazy tznius race by these extremists. The opaque-stocking wearers, for instance, are setting the tznius bar today, because they’re the most covered. The burqa wearers will set tomorrow’s standards, because introspection, self-criticism and debate have, for some reason, disappeared from the frum community.

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Comments

  1. wow,really powerful.

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  2. Couldn’t agree more. Those women scare me, as much as other fanatics scare me. I see the level of what’s consider acceptable go up all the time in all areas. Just as an example, in the DL yishuv where we live most poeple have either 2 overs or the “mehadrin” ovens (normal size but split into 2. I have one and have no intention to buy a second one. People are shocked when I try to explain them that it is OK to have one, and if you know halacha you’ll know when you can use it for meat or milk. Two is simply a convenience, not a necessity. Most people still don’t believe me. I ask them if people 100 years ago people had two ovens, most likely there was no oven and several families shared one. Same thing for cooking parve stuff on fleishigs or milchig pots or kashering for Pesach. What was once a luxury and a convenience is now the most basic halacha.

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    • I heard someone describing why she wasn’t comfortable with her children going to someone’s house: “They have only one sink.”

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    • ABSOLUTELY! I have had that same discussion with people, “What to you think your great grandmother’s kitchen was like?”. For some reason people are not learning the basics but only Chumrot, Especially in the USA. Now that we are in the Galil my kids are no longer taught that various Chumrot are Halacha.I think things have definitely gotten out of hand!

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  3. Yep, that pretty much sums it up. It’s more than a little scary and I hope we see an end to it soon.

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  4. Beyond the issue of tzniut constantly moving to the right, I’m offended by the concept of a burka on a human rights level. Convincing/pressuring women to cover their faces in public is the ultimate way to dehumanize said women. They are no longer a unique, identifiable person. They are just a blob of fabric. It disgusts me that people would even suggest that a face–the one part of our bodies we use to tell one person from the next–is inherently immodest. It’s as if they are saying that being a unique human being is wrong.
    Fern recently posted..Just Peachy! How to Grow Peaches and Nectarines in a PotMy Profile

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    • I agree with you, but I think dehuminizing women starts much earlier than a burka. The wntire shidduch system is very dehuminizing towards women, sitting in the back of the bus. The educational system that assumen women are incapable of learning certain things, etc. This is simply a more obvious one. I told my husband many years ago that in the Haredi cultire women are second class citizens, he never saw it from a woman’s point of view until recently.

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      • You’re totally wrong: Judaism implies that women DON’T HAVE to learn, because they KNOW ALREADY – intuitively. But it’s good to learn if you feel the need, of course.

        And about shidduch – I would like my daughter to take shidduch and be respected from that boy, instead of being an instrument for fulfilling someone’s sexual desires.

        About your “transport problems” – I have to say that driving in bus in haredi quarters here in Jerusalem every time makes me think “how nice this is when you can be sure that your husband will not have to deal with seductive half-naked girls….”
        When I visit haredi quarters – I wear small cotton socks, made by sportswear company Nike.
        For I respect other people’s desire not to be attracted to anybody except their spouse.

        Anyway – you obviously want to use this burka issue to attack haredi society – but I have to disapoint you: they are VERY MUCH against burka freaks.
        So go fight haredis somewhere else.

        Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 2 Thumb down 6

        • “Judaism implies that women DON’T HAVE to learn, because they KNOW ALREADY – intuitively. But it’s good to learn if you feel the need, of course.”

          This is propaganda. Reliable source, please?

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      • I think when you say, “he never saw it from a woman’s point of view until recently,” you make a point. Men aren’t usually trying to dehumanize women, they’re just dense. They think, ” I don’t want to walk past women on a bus, so all the men should sit up front near the male driver.” They’re no saying, “women are second class, send them to the back.” And in many circles girls are learning more secular studies.
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  5. Nurse Yachne says:

    Excellent. And move towards the extermist fundamentalism and the aspect of maximal covering and hiding of women is obviously on the upswing among Moslems as well.

    It could be argued that the opaque tights crowd, and certainly the burkha ladies, are not “setting the bar higher” but creating and becoming obsessive around a focal point that has nothing todo with halacha.

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  6. three families in my neighborhood have young daughters who wear shawls. I know my teacher, rabbanit yemima mizrachi, is very against this extreme tsniut phenomenon.

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  7. I’ve said it before but I’ll reiterate. I remember living on the cusp of Mea Shearim during a particularly violent summer that included women being attacked with bleach and stores being torched for lack of Tzniut in dress. It wasn’t secular women who had mistakenly trespassed into the closed corridors of the neighborhood but religious women who had worn red, or skirts with a bit of stretch and stores that supplied these things to the religious public.

    I really do believe that if more religious women aren’t speaking speaking out against this we will only further alienate ourselves from other Jews. This extreme jump to a burka makes all of the tiny steps towards losing our ability to be feminine and human seem just fine.

    Thank you for publishing this response, it’s important that we take note and speak up now.

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  8. Are we really that insecure in our own positions that the behavior of this fringe community so terrifies us?
    (I do agree that abusive aspects of such kind of behavior must be repudiated, but to be scared of the Burka itself seems to me going a bit too far)

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    • CapitalChick says:

      In a word – YES! Look at what has happened to the frum community in the last 25 years alone!

      Twenty-five years ago even the most religious boys wore colored polo shirts and shorts to school. And girls actually wore colors, not just black and white!

      A frum Jew in school 30 years ago would’ve likely read the classic works of American fiction. Many of today’s young Orthodox students wouldn’t dream of reading non-Jewish texts.

      The Orthodox community in general is obviously so insecure in its own position that it continuously falls prey to whichever ‘charismatic’ Rabbi yells the most extreme positions, and hence the perpetual shift to the right of the ‘chumra’ spectrum that we’ve witnessed in recent decades.

      This is no longer a community that really believes in maintaining the ways of our ancestors. We don’t dress or act much like our ancestors at all. Inspite of what they may claim, this is a community that believes in progress…”progress” to the the extreme right wing of religiosity.

      This is, I’m sorry to say, a community that has lost its way in many ways. We spend more time contemplating whether broccoli should even be considered kosher, because of the possibility of a microscopic bug infestation, but don’t seem to care much about the fact that the names of “great” Rabbis are in the news on a weekly basis for fraud, abuse and other terrible crimes.

      I don’t mean to go on a rant here, but when you ask whether I’m so insecure about my religious position that I actually find these women threatening, I find it, with all due respect, very narrow-minded, because it tells me that you’re not very well versed about the way things SHOULD be in the community or the way things used to be in the community and how much they’ve changed. Orthodoxy isn’t the “rock” it is supposed to be. We should all worry about fringe groups on the right, because they’ve influenced Orthodox practice before and I believe they will again.

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      • Perhaps the solution then is not to look outside to what others are/aren’t doing, but to look inside and strengthen our own self-esteem and confidence in our religious positions.
        Maybe i’m naive/narrow minded, but that is my honest opinion.

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      • Excellent initial comment, and 2nd one, as well.
        I wonder how many Orthodox people today know that years ago, it was acceptable for Orthodox girls to sing in mixed choirs? The original proscription against a woman singing was not to distract a man while he was davening, specifically the Sh’ma. A mixed school choir was not verboten, as it is today. There are many chumrot which were not practiced years ago.

        There seems to be a moderate to rapid movement of halacha to the right (‘chumra of the week’ club) which, if left to its own devices will take Judaism into extreme mode and will undermine it.

        Thank you for having the courage to speak up, CapitalChick.
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    • With all due respect, Shimon, it won’t be *you* being pushed to wear a burka…

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      • With all due respect i’d much rather wear one, than see my wife/daughter forced to.

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  9. Shoshanna
    Twitter:
    says:

    Not insecure. Infuriated. that this should go on, silently accepted.

    It needs to be stomped out and rejected whole as heartedly as Shabtai Tzvi and Jesus were. RIGHT NOW

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    • Shoshanna: “It needs to be stomped out and rejected whole as heartedly as Shabtai Tzvi and Jesus were. ” Are you high? Are you saying that Jesus, a rabbi, a man who preached love and peace, was rightfully tortured and killed? You are an embarrassment to me as a Jew. After millennia of being accused of being responsible for Jesus’s crucifixtion and finally having the pope reject this, you come out with such a ridiculous and cruel statement is not only intolerant and ignorant, it’s insane.

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      • Shoshanna
        Twitter:
        says:

        Yes Nora- I am advocating that all Burka ladies be nailed to the cross. Excellent reading.

        OR

        Read: This belief (in Burkas) needs to be rejected by our leadership like Shbtai Tzvi & Christianity were…

        as you like

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  10. Just to play devil’s advocate, you are admitting that this judgmental attitude was a problem pre-burqa. How can you tell it will get worse? What if it moves in the other direction? We already eat hot food on Shabbat to prove we’re not karites. I totally agree that this is not in line with the torah, but I hope that communities don’t judge people for being too tznius. I already know enough circles who difine themselves by wearing short sleeves, skirts just barely to the knee, and no socks. I don’t have enough of a halchic background to determine the issues, but I would hope that I can be friends with those people even if I want to wear opaque socks and cover my colar bone.

    I think the answer to the post title is YES, but not in the ways you worry. Jews have always made a point of dressing differently. We must be careful not to buy overly trendy clothes, and dress in the way non-Jewish society dictates. But it’s acceptable to dress like our Arab neighbors?? To the best of my understanding, Pesach is the only time that it’s considered a mitzvah to be extra stringent. It’s a wonderful thing to set a good example by being careful in dress, speach, and actions. But to walk the streets in an Iranian costume sets these families apart from the rest of the Jewish world in a bad way. This is dangerous to the Jewish people and surely against halacha.

    It seems to me that certain rabbis feel a need to make a name for themselves by publicizing excessively stringent rulings. Has this happened since the time of the sanhedrin, or is it just a trend since we’ve had a country full of Jews and mass media? Maybe if the chareidim had to serve in the army they’d get their agression out and strive for peace and cohesion within the Jewish nation.
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  11. the best response was the writer Meir Shalev’s when the first burka lady news started appearing: if you look at humash, it’s clear that covering up was a sign of a harlot – think Yehuda and Tamar. Tamar covered up in order that Yehuda would think she was a harlot. It’s like these people never even paid attention when they read humash….

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  12. Major over-stringent observance is an out-of-balance form of Judaism. These burka women weren’t just going around in burkas, the men were going around with eye coverings to avoid seeing anything untznius (being led around). And the girls are not being let out of the house.

    Their Judaism is a focus on tahara, compete and utter spiritual purity. Not on Torah and mitzvot, not on connecting with Hashem or even on making a place in Olam HaBa. Just purity.

    There’s been nothing like it since the Essenes wrote the Dead Sea scrolls and built their bathrooms down the mountain from their home-caves (to avoid the impurity).

    Our rabbonim, our charedi rabbonim, have a duty to stand up against it. And if these people refuse to moderate back towards the norm, then they should be treated like any other group who’s behavior we should stay away from.

    Not that they’d have anything to do with any one of us, but these people need to be stayed away from. Not only are they a mental and religious risk, in Israel they’re also a SECURITY risk.

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  13. First, Thank you to all these woman who work hard to create spaces online for strengthening jewish women with discussions about us. I also feel that these burka women are zealots in a way that is not b’derech HaTorah. This hyper tzinus is a threat to jewish women and creates a world of just black and white with little individualism. There are plenty of ways to be tzinus without turning ourselves into ‘forbidden and isolated’ people. One of our jobs in this world is to be a light unto the nations; not to hide behind veils and 3 layers of clothes. These actions are not mentioned in the shulchan auruch.
    As stated by Akiva: They are definetly a mental and religious risk and a SECURITY risk ANYWHERE.

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  14. These woman are mentally ill. They are suffering from OCD or something. Don’t they also wear many layers of clothing even in the heat of summer? This is cultish behavior and this means there is a mental angle to it. It’s more than veering too sharply to the right.

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  15. Several years ago when a scandal arose concerning one of the female leaders of this “behavior” there was an outcry from some of the rabbanim within the charedi community proclaiming this as wrong and crazy behavior. Our religion believes in appreciating beauty and the tzelem elokim in each person. This is extreme behavior from people who are probably not well. Sometimes when we see people who are “machmir” we in our accepting way, say it’s not for me, but kol hakavod. But when something seems this weird and out there, it is usually not ok to be so accepting. Our youth should not see this as something to emulate, to aspire to. In 20 years of teaching adolescent and teen young women I learned that if someone was extreme in either their covering or if they were promiscuous (by the standars of our community) than usually someone had crossed their boundaries.
    I would be tthat many of these women were abused as children.

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  16. Ben Waxman says:

    A lot of posts about how bad the other guys are. Not about what can we do about, how do we help, just “they’re really bad, they’re really out of line”/

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  17. I think the attraction to the burka is an outgrowth of the approved teachings within the charedi community that the essential mitzvah for women is tznius (and not relevant to burkas but to complete the idea, the essential mitzvah for men is limud Torah).

    The problem is that the formulation “X kneged kulam” doesn’t mean you should only focus on X and forget the “kulam.”

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    • Actually, Melanie, that’s how it’s formulated: Men learn Torah and women have tzniut. That’s why the women’s reward for tzniut is having learned sons.

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  18. Interesting and articulate. I am wondering: do we need to be concerned, when mainstream rabbinic response has been so clearly condemning? Isn’t that they key, versus, for instance, the positive reception of the sefer Oz VeHadar Levusha?

    By the way, I would totally be wearing a hippie shawl in this Jerusalem winter weather, but I just can’t bring myself to do it in light of the tzniut-shawl trend.

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  19. A few comments:

    1. Isn’t it equally demeaning (or perhaps more) to suggest that any woman who dresses in this stringent manner must have been pressured to do so and couldn’t have made a conscious, well-informed decision to dress this way? If any person considers this her calling then why are we judging her?

    2. Furthermore, comparing the guidelines of modesty to issur v’heter of oven usage is a mistake. Firstly, what one person does in his own home does not affect the public. How a person dresses in public does affect those around him. Those who are machmir shelo k’din with their ovens are guilty of halachic ignorance. Modesty, by reason, should not have limits. Here’s why:

    3. We seem to be confusing the word “tzniut” with modesty and/ or the obligations of concealing erva. In terms of halachic application, tzniut does not refer to modesty. In chazal, tzniut is a term for those who do the right thing at the right time no matter consequences. (People called tzanua in the gemara include: Esther- a married woman who slept with another man; Tamar- who dressed as a harlot to seduce her father-in-law; Yosef- who preened himself and almost came to sin with a married woman; Shaul- at whom the women used to swoon… and so on). Erva, in halacha, can be a part of the body that induces hirhurim, salacious thoughts, but that is not always the case. The gemara states that even in a time/ place that all women uncover their arms and it no longer causes hirhurim, the practice is still assur because erva is erva. In other words there are other reasons to cover one’s self (metaphysical, kabbalistic reasons perhaps?). And modesty is a word that seems simple but really should encompass the aforementioned two principles of real tzniut and halachic obligations of erva.

    4. As a man, I don’t mind saying that if all women were to wear burkas, my life would be a lot easier. It’s hard to explain, but that’s the way the man’s mind (body?) works. Consider the following parable: If you had a neighbor in the next apartment whose kid was taking tuba lessons, you’d probably be annoyed from time to time. If you had a newborn baby and the kid started blasting his tuba as soon as you put her down for a nap, you’d be frustrated beyond words. Here’s the upshot- all men have a screaming baby for a yetzer hara and every time a woman walks by revealing even a little more than the last one, it’s like a kid on the tuba and that baby can’t fall asleep. It’s a constant avoda and we’d (or I’d) really appreciate a little help from the lady-folk.

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    • I’m sorry but I have zero respect for the view that men aren’t able to (or shouldn’t have to)control themselves. If the discussion were about women walking around in bikinis, fine. Not appropriate in a frum neighborhood. But, seriously, an ankle? A wrist? A face? Men who feel incapable of self-control should stay inside.

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      • This type of society is dysfunctional at all levels.

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      • While you may not respect my honesty, it is honesty nonetheless and I can tell you from hearing other men discussing this topic, it is factual. Perhaps there’s room in your reality for a reevaluation of how you perceive men and their experiences?

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      • It’s not they can’t control themselves, but it’s hard for men to control their thoughts. They’re wired differently from us, a fact many women are oblivious to. The truth is that today most women, including religious women, dress provocatively. I grew up not religious and most of the time dressed more modestly than many religious girls I see today in their “halachic length” tight clothing. I’m not advocating the burqa, but there is a big problem of a lack of modesty in the religious world.

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        • well, heaven forbid men have a “bad” thought! don’t worry cupcake, they’ll survive.

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    • You know what? I am a BT and sometimes I really miss eating treif. I haven’t had a lobster in 21 years (yes, I keep track), but sometimes I really want one. Or chicken parm or crab cakes.

      It would really help me out if all the non-kosher restaurants would close. And the treif foods industry would shut down–I mean, Maine is a beautiful place…those lobster fisherpeople could surely find work in tourism. Or if the entire world would choose meat or dairy so I’d never be tempted to combine them.

      I’ve been at this a really long time, so I’d like a break and for someone else to step up and be responsible for my yetzer hara for a while.

      Thanks! Much appreciated. /sarcasm

      (Or, wait, is my entire argument invalid because I am a woman?)

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      • Awesome.

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      • To Elisheva and Kate, a man has a total obligation not to look at women, but women also have an obligation to dress modestly. I”m not in any way justifying unwanted attention and worse from men. I’m just pointing out that it is not all one-sided, and given the general deterioration of modesty standards it is much harder for men today.

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        • My husband and I were sitting in a falafel shop the other day when he said, “oh look, a shawl lady.” Then we agreed the fact that he noticed made a point about tzniut. I guess it depends on your community where to find the line between tzniut and drawing attention to yourself. You might get a lot of attention wearing a knee length skirt and short sleeves on a beach in Brazil. But that doesn’t mean it would be tzniut to sunbathe naked.
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    • As the old lady on the bus said, when asked by a young haredi man if she could move to the back of the bus, “I’m 85 years old. If my sitting at the front of the bus turns you on, you have problems.”

      Likewise, I will and I do wear long skirts. I will and I do wear long sleeves. I will and I do cover my hair. However, if you have issues that you find it hard to control yourself by seeing a modestly dressed woman, you have issues yourself. Do not try to oppress half the human race. See a shrink and sort yourself out.

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      • Wish this was facebook so i could “like” this!

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      • i am middle-aged and if some pale-faced, skinny, yeshiva bucher asked me to go to the back of the bus he would be very sorry afterwards.

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    • If you have this much trouble with your Yetzer Hara, *you* should stay indoors. Women don’t need to cover ourselves in an extreme way, just so that you don’t have to worry about your Yetzer Hara. We do our part by dressing in normally modest ways and you need to do your part by controlling yourself.

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    • What help aren’t you getting already? The halacha is not to act on your yetzer hara. How you deal with it is your own business. If your yetzer hara is still acting like a crying newborn (meaning, it’s so overwhelmingly sensitive that modestly dressed women turn you on), then you’re the one with problems, not the women in the street.

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      • I don’t think the problem is that men are turned on. Lots of things can turn people on. And my husband said it’s understood that some halachot will be broken on a daily basis–hirhurim (impure thoughts) and lashon hara (improper speech) are two examples. Will ask for a source.

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        • The whole yetzer hara argument to me points out with why the burka issue is relevant to the general Orthodox community. The community has allowed the standards to shift and then it becomes that whatever minor thing is exposed is now a provocation. Many in the generation of our mothers did not cover their hair, wore sleeveless, etc. I don’t think that men were any more tempted. Now we are saying a collar bone or a knee will tempt a man and it’s the woman’s obligation to cover up. It’s all too easy to go from there to covering up ankles, face, etc. Those who are concerned about the burka phenomenon are not crazy for worrying about something that many rabbis have spoken out against–rather they have seen the slippery slope and realize that this hyper-focus on women’s bodies and sexuality is a dangerous and unhealthy thing and that it already exists in the Orthodox community–even when women don’t wear burkas.

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        • I’m responding to this line in E.G.’s comment: “As a man, I don’t mind saying that if all women were to wear burkas, my life would be a lot easier. It’s hard to explain, but that’s the way the man’s mind (body?) works.”

          What else is he saying aside from the fact that women who don’t wear burkas turn him on?

          Apparently, it really bothers E.G. that he breaks the halachot of hirhurim daily and burkas are a solution for him.

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          • You (and all those who commented abrasively on my comment) are completely missing the point. I am not advocating burkas to help avoid my yetzer hara. Nor do I think that the yetzer hara would give up so easily. But I wanted to express to women that they really have the upper hand when it comes to how the male population reacts to the way women dress. While this forum makes it easy to vent against men (we’re all pigs, I know), please do not dismiss the major issue at hand. Another issue to consider: I’ve heard many times that young women or their mothers call young men too picky when addressing the so-called shidduch crisis. How are our young men supposed to be attracted to young women whose looks don’t meet the standard of attractiveness that is dictated by the media and embraced by people who glorify the superficial elements of the culture? If we, as a society, agreed to try to help the greater cause by adhering more strictly to the halachic guidelines (and yes, I think the halachic parameters are just fine the way they are), don’t we have so much to gain?

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          • E.G.: It’s true that this forum contains mostly women, but as far as I can recall we don’t bash men, and we certainly haven’t called them pigs.

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  20. I agree with you,E.G. that men have a big Yetzer Hara to look at women, which most women do not understand. However, Women need to be respected and have self-respect. To ask a women to dress up like this is ridiculous. Women should feel good about themselves and dress properly without being enticing to other men than their husbands.
    I’m afraid the more stringent we get, the farther from regular orthodox people we get, and there becomes much more sinat chinam . It’s really sad when you see posters against the 418 bus, when it’s a mehadrin bus to begin with. These type of things, as well as the burqas, just push regular people farther away from Torah-true Judaism.It becomes hard for many people to follow gedolim when they will have a psak on real halachot and not just chumrot. Hale’vy, if we could put all our koach into loving every Jew and respecting every Jew, and not to be mevatel others and going off the fringe, maybe Moshiach would come.

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  21. Frankly, I am tired of hearing this excuse from men about how we should give them help guarding their thoughts. Isn’t the Halacha the G-d gave us enough?

    The more women cover up, the MORE sensitive men will be to noticing ANY part of a woman.

    The halacha determines how much we should cover up, covering up more then necessary, only enslaves us more, by making the men around us more incapable of controlling themselves.

    Ever heard of being too sensitive? Balance is a major goal of halacha . . . the entire halachic system takes in to account all of the Torah’s values. When people take on chumras,they through off the carefully thought through balance, and cause a breakdown of the halachic system.

    I.E. Being machmir in Kashrus, (could) lead to being lenient in Ben Adam La Chavero!

    (or even downright embarrasing a fellow Jew . .a Torah issur.)

    Being Overly Tzius, (could) lead to men dehumanizing woman by yelling at them to get to the back of the bus, because that’s there “Place”.

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  22. The Ramba”m (Hil. Ishuth 24:11) speaks of a woman in the public area to wear a “redidh.” There is a debate as to whether this indicates a veil or more of a shawl, on top of her head covering.

    Without getting into whether this applies today or not (ie. in his time, in a Muslim country, etc.), I mention this only in that the Burka seems to go even farther than this strict opinion of a Rishon.

    I believe this would support one saying that the burka (and gloves and several layers) is significantly different, and extremely so, from the prevalent minhag (of those dressing within a halachic framework).

    Although many might say that this is an unnecessary example, I state it for emphasis.
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  23. It is not a “Prevalent minhag to dress within a halachic framework,” it is the halacha!

    Therefore, it is unjust to push chumras in the public sphere. (chumras are personal, private matters that should be well thought through, while evaluating the totality of Halacha). One person’s pubic display of a chumra, effects the Jewish people as a whole!

    Those that have done more, have always been on the margins of Jewish Society. Note the “famous” Gemara of the woman who always covered her hair in her house, that not even the walls saw her hair, the mepharshim say she was an extreme case.

    With regards to “The Ramba”m (Hil. Ishuth 24:11) speaks of a woman in the public area to wear a “redidh.” There is a debate as to whether this indicates a veil or more of a shawl, on top of her head covering.”

    It was dangerous for women to deviate from the Muslim standard of dress. It was a matter of Pikuach Nefesh!!

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  24. 1) I said “within halachic framework,” and left that vague on purpose. I simply wanted to let you know that I was only talking of women who follow halacha. I agree with you regarding humroth, except that there are times when the Sanhedrin would a compelling reason to set a minhag for the tzibur. Some batei din try to do the same. Of course, we can debate whether they sufficient compelling reasons for doing so.

    2) I will not discuss/debate the Ramba”m’s intent here. As I said, I only stated it to support your opinion against the extreme dress of the women in question. IOW, if they go above and beyond the Ramba”m, then one could call these women extreme, without any difficulty.

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  25. Yochi Eisner says:

    Here, Here! I agree completely with the original response printed on the 17th. We cannot stand quietly on the sidelines as this is a trend that will affect us and is *already* affecting us. I believe that this hyper-tzniut can be seen in the trends of segregated buses, supermarkets and even super-segregated weddings, where men and women are not even in the same simcha halls.
    Apropos the buses, private Munsey buses have been segregated for many, many years, but when this trend hit the public Egged bus system in Israel, – all be it on ‘Haredi’ bus routes – we must stand up and be counted. Time was that I couldn’t care less about the Munsey bus lines, but I know from lady friends who use a Haredi line here in Israel – that these buses where women sit in the back create a problem no one seems to discuss: the disappearing women. What do I mean? As these women, each dragging her 6 kids and in her 15th month of pregnancy (I exaggerate for the sake of the mental image) – has to drag her convoy from the front of the bus (that whole get-on-in-the-back-of-the-bus was not always possible) TO THE BACK OF THE BUS – no man *sees* her – she is effectively invisible. No man will get up for her – as – you go it! – she is invisible and the common rules of menchlechkite (getting up for her or helping her or her kiddies find a safe seat) are no longer in force. We have a generation of boys and who will grow up into men who don’t see the women, don’t have to help them – cause they are not within their line of sight and how do you think they will treat these creatures (I mean women) on a close encounter of the first kind?
    But back to the original issue: While I understand that this need for chumrot is a direct result of a world without any moral boundaries, the fixation on tzniut is *not* a new one, Rabbanim (and many Rebeztins) have been using this subject as a rallying cry for years.
    I do not want to enable the creation or development of a ‘ Jewish world’ where I or my daughter or granddaughters will be made to feel uncomfortable about their level of tzniut. I just don’t see tzniut as the one-and-only mitzvah of women. Nor is the lack of female tzniut the *true* problem or cause of many of the *true* problems of the Jewish world.

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    • As a disclaimer: I live in a very chareidi neighborhood of Jerusalem. I do not, however, like mehadrin buses. As you said, they limit the seats available for women, if I have to get on in the front it’s uncomfortable to walk through rows lined with men, and I (gasp!) like sitting next to my husband on the rare occasions that we take a bus together.

      That said: I have taken many many mehadrin buses, and I have never been forced to remain standing while pregnant. Often, women have offered me their seats, but yes, on a great many occasions, a man has offered me his seat. (Generally someone seated towards the back.) If the only available seat was in the men’s section, I took it. I have done this and seen this take place countless times, and never once has have I seen any of the men complain or tell a woman to move.

      Actually, I can only recall one time that I was not given a seat on a bus while enormously pregnant, and it was on a bus moving through a chiloni neighborhood. I would not use that incident to extrapolate about all chilonim, however. Sometimes things happen, and not necessarily are they indicative of a problem with society as a whole. Have women been isolated on mehadrin buses? Probably, unfortunately. Were there harassers acting in accordance with their rabbonim? Typical charedi men? Emotionally and mentally healthy? Probably not.

      (And as an aside: I think that the burkas are terrible and horrible. But an offshoot of charedi society? No.)

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    • These guys should be more concerned with the image they present to the rest of the world. In Deal NJ there were Orthodox rabbis indicted for money laundering etc. Living in isolated communities you don’t see how the rest of the world views us. A frum man made a big fuss at my pediatrician’s office (over having to pay a $15 copay instead of $10.) and shouted disrespectfully to the woman behind the desk. did he think because she was a woman, or worse, a Gentile, he was entitled to do that? While it is possible to have all kinds of people be obnoxious, when it is someone with a long beard and a black hat, it makes us all look bad. I told him so ( I am happily non-observant) and he starts asking me in that sing-song accent “So where is your family from, what does your husband do?” Dude! I don’t know you. How about the University of None of Your business. Get it together people.

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  26. Shoshanna
    Twitter:
    says:

    Extreme focus on and repression of normal sexual appetites leads to devious behavior, child sexual abuse, and miserable marriages.

    Enjoy your own wives and get a FREAKING GRIP!

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  27. ToriStephens says:

    Actually this is a very valid point. One I”m personaly concerned about it b/c my family and I might be moving to RBS soon. I’m concerned b/c a friend keeps reminding me how strict the community observes a particular mitzvah is the ‘community standard’ for that place, acc’g to Halacha and therefore if the burqas became the public standard, that’d have to be followed otherwise they’d likely run you outta town on a rail. I have a friend who’s lived there about 8 years now, and she always dressed modestly but what most ppl would consider normal and acceptable, however in the last few years her husband tells us she now has to go out some kind of shawl, b/c of the element that’s now there. VERY CONCERNED PEOPLE!

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