In this Hebrew article from Maariv, Neshot Hare’alah (Women of the Veil), Sherry Makover-Balikov interviews Rabbanit Bruria Keren and some of her followers.
To see all posts on the subject click on the label hyper-tzniut.
Makover-Balikov writes that Keren’s followers might have expected sympathy from the haredi community [well, maybe, if they wouldn’t refer to wigs as licentious]. Rav Shmuel Eliyahu, the chief rabbi of Safed, says. “I have seen a few in Safed, and I think they are crazy. Their extremism causes different type of distortion. Extremism is not healthy. There is no commandment to cover the face with a veil and to wear dozens of layers of clothes. This I say as a rabbi.”
She quotes a haredi woman, N., who says that she and others from her haredi community reject the hyper-tzniut trend because they are afraid. Ten years ago no one put tights on girls under twelve. Then a few began to dress that way, even at the height of the summer. Now all haredi girls over two must do so or face rejection from the community.
The next interview is with Maya. Maya became observant eight years ago after finishing a degree in criminology and Jewish philosophy. She is married to a Breslov Hasid and has four children. Her home is covered with pictures and writings of R. Nachman. From the article:
She met R. Keren five years ago. She was also influenced by the book “Olamot Shel Tohar,” Worlds of Purity, by R. Uri Sofer, where she learned about women who covered their faces and bodies because of tzniut.
“At first I wore only three skirts and a cape. Then I read that Rabbanit Kanievsky, a well-known figure in the haredi community, covered the upper part of her hand (shoresh kaf hayad) with cloth. I looked at the place my fingers began, and saw that it was indeed very feminine. So I cut off the ends of some socks and wore them on my hand, to cover the part up to my fingers. At first I wore them only outside, because they bothered me at home. Gradually I also began to wear them at home, and now I sleep in them as well as in a high neckline. When one receives light, one receives holiness.”
“The more a woman covers her exterior, the more room there is for her interior. I come from the secular world, and I know how much women are involved in attracting men with their beauty and exterior. If a woman would know what goes on in a man’s head when he sees her in the street, hears her voice, or accidentally brushes against her, she would go underground in shame. When I go out completely covered, I feel like a princess. Even though I don’t cover my face–I feel that that is too great a light. But I wear several layers of shawls and sell them too. I sew them from delicate fabrics. Light colors, pretty and non-threatening, because it’s important to my husband that I go modestly, but still look nice.
“About two years ago I began to wear scarves tied in front. This was hard, I felt like a ‘Yemenite grandmother.’ The Rabbanit taught us that the only knot that covers all of the hair is in front. If you tie it in back, there will always be hairs that stick out; even if the head is shaved, the roots of the hair will show. The scarf tied in front also covers the back of the neck, because that is a very feminine part of a woman.”
“I see many haredi women who walk around at home in a robe and even wear them outside, may God have mercy. With [these women] everything is reversed. The husband sees them in a robe, but when they go to the dentist, they look their best. Also at home, a robe is tight and revealing, even transparent sometimes. A woman needs to wake up in the morning to the service of God, to run a house of joy, to wrap herself in wide clothes, not transparent ones, and not to sin in a robe. In the book “Worlds of Purity,” there are pictures of righteous women wearing a shawl and tents [use of plural is not my typo]. And not one [of the pictured women] causes the community to sin with a wig.
Maya wears so many layers so that the contour of her body won’t be visible on a windy day. She wears them at home should a man come to the door, and to accustom the family to modesty. The shawl blurs the contour of her shoulders, and it feels like a tallit (prayer shawl). She has a less opaque, airier one for the house.
Her husband is happy with the “great heavenly merit.”
“By us a woman gets her husband used to the idea gradually; first a short shawl and then a long cape. The Rabbanit Bruria says that if a woman dresses modestly and her husband gets angry, it’s her own fault. She must pray to Hashem to remove the objection. Husbands aren’t always right. Sometimes they are worried about society, about what the people in the synagogue will say. Hashem help them if they care more about what people will say, and prefer a woman who is attractive but immodest.”
“The children were born into it and my son brings me a shawl when we are on our way out. When a man passes I lower my head. If there are men in the makolet, I won’t go in. If a man comes to buy from me I “guard my eyes” and don’t look at him. I look at the floor. Yesterday I went by a haredi man who saw me and lowered his head. I said to my son, ‘The daughters of Israel are the daughters of the king, it’s not seemly for people to look at them. They aren’t like a rotten tomato that every passerby can see what’s inside and what isn’t.’ “
In general she gets a positive reaction, but some people make fun of her or criticize her, or tell her she looks like a goy (non-Jew).
The most important part of her day is when she secludes herself and “speaks to Hashem.” She goes to R. Keren weekly to get a “dose of fear of Heaven.”
Rabbanit Keren is from the Lithuanian, Ashkenazi stream of Judaism. The Rabbanit loves children. She is oblivious to her physical surroundings and the cares of this world. She hardly goes out, but people help her because she “looks like a tent.” She sees by looking down. “We all admire her and are all good friends. Some of use are connected to R. Nahman of Breslov and are searching for the truth. When she speaks at a convention for return [to Jewish practice] she calls us to come. Because when one sees many women in capes and veils, it’s empowering.”
Maya’s house is bare and the reporter asks her if that’s intentional. Maya responds “My possessions are above, in the world to come.”
The last installment is an interview with a follower who is also a convert. To be continued.