Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Tznius Public Service Announcement

Super exciting news for frum girls everywhere:

The Gap has excellent high-necked tank tops at two for $20 (and if you try on a pair of jeans, you get a free iTunes song), and Old Navy has excellent long sleeved crew necks which are also high enough to cover all requirements at two for $18 or $20, depending on the shirt. What more could a girl want?

(I know I have a bunch of comments to answer on this blog and I will get to them, but it's been a busy day - of shopping.)


At 8/25/05, 8:11 AM, Blogger fsgsf said...

Ok, I will go buy some now to make sure my neckline is covered! ;-)


NJ from NJ

At 8/25/05, 8:27 AM, Blogger Samuel J. Scott said...

Reform Jew who knows little about Orthodox culture has a question. :) I don't mean this in an antagonistic way; it's just honest curiosity.

What is the point of dressing frum? I think I can assume the following reasons, but I want to go one level deeper.

So not showing the upper-arm, the neck and legs is dressing "modestly." That I can understand. But why is dressing "modestly" important?

So the point of dressing modestly is to not show off too much of the body. But why is this a good thing to do?

So the point of not showing off too much of the body is a way to not be to "sexual" in public and among (non-relative) members of the opposite sex. But why is it important to not appear too "sexual"?

This is where I'm at an impasse.

Is appearing "sexual" considered bad? Why? Is it a fear that if passions get -- sorry -- aroused, then you'll be more likely to do immodest things before you're married? Or is it that the body is considered evil and impure in general?

Also, showing the upper-arm or the knees might have caused in uproar in Victorian society, but no one today considers that overtly sexual. So doesn't this modern reality negate the above premises?

Please keep in mind: I'm not criticizing those who keep frum or trying to convince them to change their ways. I'm honestly just trying to understand where they're coming from. Can you help me out?

Another possible reason is the "fence" mentality. One builds as big a fence around the mitzvot to guard against breaking them as much as possible. Like how the Sages ruled that eating chicken and cheese is bad because it's one step closer to mixing a kid in it's mother's milk.

Likewise, if a girl shows were upper arm, next she'll show her neck. If she shows her neck, then she'll show her thighs. If she shows her thighs, then she'll wear a bare-midriff shirt and a miniskirt. If she does this, then she's more likely to.... what? I know plenty of girls who dress provocatively but rarely, if ever, do many immodest things.

Again, I'm just trying to understand the rationale. Can anyone help? Thanks! :)

At 8/25/05, 11:23 AM, Anonymous Essie said...

Thanks for the PSA :)

At 8/25/05, 5:00 PM, Blogger Eli7 said...

Normal Jew, you have no clue how hard it is - especially in the summer - to find clothing that covers anything.

NewJew, I'm going to try to answer your question to the best of my ability, but please realize that I am only one person and there are many answers...

Tznius, modesty, is not about the body being impure or unholy, quite the contrary. In general, Judaism has a concept called kedushat ha'chomer - sanctifying the material. We believe that physicality has a purpose and that we can use the physical for spiritual purposes - we can elevate the physical.

Now, the body is the prime example of physicality, right? But therefore we believe that we are able to elevate our bodies to the utmost levels of spirituality. When we do mitzvot, we often use our body to advance a higher spiritual purpose.

So, we believe the body is in fact very pure and spiritually relevant. However it is something special, something holy, and something that should not be cheapened or lowered in value. We cover our bodies because they are special, because they are holy, because we do not want to chepaen them into base sex symbols.

I cover my body so that when I get married and uncover my body, it means something, so that my sexuality is tied into "holy matrimony" (pilfering that quote for this may be sacreligious...), so that I use my body only for holy purposes, and so that it is clear that I value my body.

And it is just as important that men - or anyone else - also see the value in my body, the beauty in my body, th epotential in my body for spirituality. Wearing revealing clothing makes me as a person into an object. It is saying that I don't value myself as an intelligent being and that you shouldn't either. It is saying that really I am just physical - there is no spirituality.

Even if I could manage to wear a minskirt and a tube top without doing anything "immoral" or "illicit," I would still be classfying myself as a sex object, not as a person by doing so.

And there is of course the fact that we should not dress provocatively because we also should not provoke immoral or illicit acts. And there is in tznius the issue of "not putting a stumbling block in front of a blind person" - of not tempting people to a point where they would do something wrong.

There are many other aspects of tznius as well, but that is a basic run-down. Any questions?


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