Update: The Edah Discourages Veils, Etc.


According to the latest pashkevil (wall poster), posted by Rafi of Life in Israel, the Edah Charedit warns women against adopting new customs, going against their husbands, wearing strange clothing including veils, and dressing up their daughters according to various stringencies.

The Edah Haredit is a stringent, anti-Zionist rabbinical court in Jerusalem with a large following.

The first paragraph of the pashkevil warns against clothing that is too straight or tight. Here is my translation of the second paragraph:

At the same time, one must be careful not to wear strange and weird coverings and clothing (and likewise, veils etc.) especially if it is against the opinion of the husband, even if they appear to be stringencies in matters of modesty, because this is against the halachic tradition, and the determination of these modesty issues must be under the supervision of the rabbis shlit”a, especially regarding things that have already led, unfortunately, to changes in the running of the home and the education of children, as known to the religious court signed below, that are against the religion of the Holy Torah. And  should not implement changes and stringencies like this with young women and small girls.

The proclamation is dated 24 Av, 5770 (last week) and signed by Rabbis Weiss, Ullman, Rosenberger, and others.

My comments:

  1. The language could have been much stronger.
  2. Originally, a pashkevil signed by “second-tier” rabbis went up. It did not mention veils.
  3. There is no mention of “shalim” (cloaks). Remember, six years ago the Edah recommended it for all women. Rabbi Josh Waxman suggests that they are toning things down because of the abuse case of Bruria Keren. Does the “strange clothing,” i.e. “etc.” refer to shalim? Will young girls continue to dress like those below?
  4. Girls in shalim (capes, shawls) at the Jerusalem zoo, 2009

    Hyper-Tzniut at the Jerusalem Zoo, 2009


  1. As recent as last year, the hareidi phone directory of Jerusalem had tzniut directives for the women, where they encouraged those who are able to wear “shawls” and to encourage their daughters to do the same.

    For the record though, the picture above is not Meah shearim/eida children, rather they look breslov or yemenite.
    The Eida children of meah shearim do not wear shawls, only the mothers and older girls/teenagers do.

    • Thanks, Kama, for the clarification. So the Edah women didn’t follow the directive in the phone book, to dress their daughters in shalim? Is there any chance you could find and scan/photograph a copy?

  2. Leah Peretz says

    Personally I have nothing against the shawlim that cover their behind, but the longer ones I find exaggerated since they’re already wearing loose fitted skirts.
    The veil is an absolute no no. It’s just begging for attention and not the way Jewish women dress.
    Modesty isn’t just the way we dress. It includes also the way we walk, talk, laugh and more. If someone wants to put stringencies on herself, she can start with those areas. They are much harder to keep, I think, and we won’t bring lashon hara on ourselves by behaving more modest.

  3. The directive was for older children – teenagers IIRC (I’ll try to find it bl”n).
    The picture above has a 6 year old, and the other girl looks about 12-13.

  4. Perhaps it is impractical to ban these cloaks, as they are similar to common items that a woman might wear for weather protection, style, etc.? As opposed to veils, which are a clearer statement? Just speculating, I haven’t seen this practice in person, so it’s hard to guess from photographs.

  5. Chaya, I agree with Hannah. I see the shawls more and more, and trust me, it is not for weather protection when it is 40+ degrees in Tiberia during a heat wave. What I find the scariest is not that some woman went crazy and became OCD regarding tzniut. It is that if we let this continue the definition of what “normal” meams will move to the right. Right now in the dati leumi world, normal tzniut is usualy skirts with or without pants, shirts that almost reach the elbows or past the elbows and some sort of head covering. But as more and more charedi chumrot leak into the DL wolrd the extreme will move to the right and so will what is normal. In 15 years all girls may be required to wear socks even in the summer.

  6. Don’t get me wrong, I share the same sentiment, but this Rashi on Chumash (it’s from the Talmud) always bothered me.

    When Judah saw her, he thought she was a harlot, because she covered her face. (Genesis 38:15)

    Because she covered her face: and he could not see her and recognize her. Our Sages midrashic interpretation is: because she had covered her face when she had stayed in her father-in-law’s house and she was modest. Therefore, he did not suspect her. [From Sotah 10b]

  7. @Steph

    Oh, I like your Rashi reference. That passage reads very ambiguously, at least in the English translation. Is Rashi correct, or is it that harlots in the time of Judah covered their faces?

    Either way, it speaks a warning to she who would veil to the extreme of disguising her face.

  8. “Is Rashi correct…”

    Since he is quoting a Chazal, I would assume so. I assumed this was an orthodox blog, so this should be a given.

    “Either way, it speaks a warning to she who would veil to the extreme of disguising her face.”

    “…and she was modest.”

    Also, there is no ‘warning’ – she accomplished what she wanted to accomplish and is praised by Chazal.

    Again, Rashi does give a different p’shat, but this is a Chazal. I am not sure what to do with it.

  9. Nurse Yachne says

    “The veil is an absolute no no. It’s just begging for attention and not the way Jewish women dress”

    Amen to that, Leah Peretz. I have my doubts that veiling, (niq’ab) is an effective measure for actual modesty among Moslem women either, at least in Israel. I work as a nurse at Hadassah and have dealt with more than a few mothers who are veiled. It is distracting as all get out (where do you look?) and paradoxically attracts a lot of attention. (“That mother with the veil is out in the playroom, and she’s scaring the heck out of all the kids!”

    As a sociological exercise, and to Caspar the Unfriendly Ghost from giving ME the willies, I generally make an effort at eye contact and smiling, and find that, behind the curtains, they often act embarassed about it, as if it were all someone else’s idea (family, husband). The arab mothers generally get very haimish among themselves, and I have often been given the rather apologetic explanation from the non-veiled mothers that this is a sort of chumra for women who are considered extraordinarily beautiful. They aren’t usually particularly pretty women, though.

    Several times I have gotten a big laugh from the Moslem Mom gallery when, after I perform a procedure that requires a mask and gown, informing them, with a raise of the eybrow, that I do this in order to downplay my own extraordinary beauty.

  10. Hi everyone, well, B”H we (my husband and me) are now living out of suitcases in Rehavia/Shaare Chessed. Landed with Nefesh on 7/28 and getting acclimated IY”H.

    About the shawls and veils, when thinking rationally, these items of clothing seem unfair and unnecessary.

    It is true that many of the women I have seen lately in downtown Jerusalem are walking in underwear, bathing suits, and many look like french prostitutes, or just plain indecent and offensive to the female eye (and especially to the male eyes). I have heard men comment that even they are offended.

    It is truly so so sad, that some of these Jewish women have no self-respect. I am shocked daily at what i see. The other day, at the bustop, the women were discussing (in Ivrit) a particular woman and how she dresses. Now, these ladies were dressed in skirts/slacks/klingy tops, but were very vocal about this ‘other woman’. The bus came and we all got on. Two stops later, ‘that woman’ got on the bus. I was amazed. One of those women nodded to me about her. I am writing this because even the less tznius Israeli women object to brazen immodesty.

    This means, that whatever the norm is (even if not tznius), there is objection to exposing more than the ‘norm’. Therefore, how does one raise the level of consciousness about what the ‘norm’ should be?

    Maybe via extreme ‘shawls’ etc?

    With that said, one can understand why there is this current momentum to extreme covering with shawls and total body covers, even veils. Why do you think this came about?

    Even those women who believe they are dressing modestly, are just following their ‘group’s’ current fad.

    How a woman covers her body is an expression of who she is ‘inside’. One need not wear expensive clothing to express her modesty. If one thinks about Sarah Imeinu for a minute — she was a princess, so was Ruth a princess. I believe they carried their persona in a regal way, expressing their fine upbringing. This is what needs to be emphasized. The role of Jewish women/girls is that of a type of royalty. I believe reaching out to the neshomas of these women and impressing upon them how they belong to a Holy People, an ancient and rich heritage, and once they internalize this message, they will want to dress better.

    I’m sorry, but I was really shocked by the lack of clothing adorning many women.

    I believe the Rabbis are also at a loss as to what to do!

  11. Neshama, welcome! I think the rabbis are more concerned with lack of standards in the haredi community–tight clothes, open necklines, short skirts, fancy wigs. They spend so much time on these topics, that the women who were “okay” before became more extreme. The leadership may be more interested in isolating their communities from the women you describe, by implementing separate buses, etc. I doubt they have hope of reforming them.

  12. Nurse Yachne says

    Neshama, welcome to our large dysfunctional family. Certain Israeli women have a tradiotion of uncovering too much in the hot summer here. Given the natural indiscretion of those teenage girls who don’t know any better, and the comical lack of taste of certain older women who never WILL know any better, and, as mentioned above, the heat, I don’t see the situation changing. Neither modesty, nor fear of wrinkles or melanoma will have any effect, and one cannot appeal to good taste in those for whom it does not exist.

    I came here in July 1983, and while I can’t say the situation has gotten any better, at least it isn’t actually worse.

  13. I’m pretty sure the world would be a better place if those women at the bus stop paid more attention to their own characters than to the apparel of other women.

    Frankly, I’m not interested in being a princess. I’d much rather be a person, and when it’s hot out, I will slather on sunblock and wear a tanktop. If that makes you think less of me, so be it. In exchange for your encouraging me to work on my tzneiut, I’d like to encourage you to work on your ahavat Yisrael.

  14. Maayan, who said we’re missing Ahavat Yisrael. On the contrary, it is our ahavas yisroel that prompts us to wonder why some women/girls aren’t more sensitive to how they look while on the street, in full public display. Ahavas Yisrael does NOT mean permissiveness! You are confusing one with the other. At least I can speak for myself and say that I love all Israelis/Jews, because Hashem loves each and every one, and they are precious in His eyes (but we know He is all knowing without eyes). Having a modicum of tznius is the same as having respect for yourself.

  15. I’d just like to comment that while I disagree with the concept of veiling, as I’ve seen around my neighborhood of Ramat Beit Shemesh, the shawls are an older custom adopted by the Yerushalmi and Yemenite traditions- both of which go back for generations. Wearing a veil covers your face and our Sages clearly state that the window to the Neshama is through our eyes and face. I do not believe that women need to hide their Neshama with a veil, but should also take pride in their Tzniut- in the ways of their own ancestors. I think in the wake of the current situation in Israel (ie. Emmanuel) with the separation of Mizrachi and Ashkenazi Jewry, we can all be a little more understanding of our fellow Jews.

  16. I think the main issue here is constant policing of women’s bodies. Covered or uncovered, there always must be something said about it and there always must be stringent rules in place about every little detail.
    While I agree that veils are not part of a Judiasm I identify with, it doesn’t give us the right to say what these women should be doing. And what bothers me most about the wording on these posters is not that the rabbis feel they should make rules about everything, is that the most damning part of the question is whether or not a husband likes it. Is that what matters most?


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