Halichos Bas Yisrael

Tags: Orach Chayim, Rav Binyamin Zilber, parts of the body, study Torah, stockings, Torah Study, Mishnah Berurah, Shevet HaLevi, Dath Yehudith, Dath Moshe, modest dress, Jewish Observance, immodest clothing, immodest dress, HALICHOS BAS YISRAEL
Content: Rav Yitzchak Yaacov Fuchs HALICHOS BAS YISRAEL A Woman's Guide to Jewish Observance the English Edition of "N''!U~ 1'1:1 1'1'!)~"it prepared by RAV MOSHE DOMBEY in collaboration with the author I From the Hebrew edition, Chapters 1-13 ""if' ~ TARGUM PRESS Oak Park, Michigan FELDHEIM Jerusalem/New York
4:2 HALICHOS BAS YISRAEL Covering the Body 2. The Mishnah in Tractate Kethuboth,2 in discussing tzniuth, observes that it was a custom of Jewish women not to weave in the marketplace, thereby identifying this as a restriction derived from Dath Yehudith. The Gemara3 explains that this prohibition arose because the motions of weaving inevitably cause a woman to expose her upper arms in public, and this immodesty is a violation of Dath 1'vfoshe. Here, the secondary Dath Yehudith restriction is a "fence" around a more serious infraction against the Torah, Dath Moshe. This Talmudic discussion is the direct and indirect source of many of the laws of modest dress. 3. It is a serious transgression for a woman to dress immodestly.4 By ignoring the laws of modest dress, a woman not only violates the Torah herself. but causes 2. Kethuhoth 7:3. 3. Kethuboth 72b. 4.lggeroth Moshe, Yoreh De'ah, Vol. I, No. 81; Y'chaveh Da'ath, Vol. 3, No. 67. There are numerous prohibitions against wearing immodest clothing. Iggeroth Moshe states that one who wears immodest clothing is said to be "walking in the way of the gentile," which involves a violation of the Torah injunction, "You shall not walk in th,elr ways" (VaYikra 18:3). Y' chaveh Da'ath adds that a woman who dresses immodestly violates the biblical prohibition, "You shall not set up a stumbling block in front of a blind person" (VaYikra 19: 14), since by ignoring the laws of tzniuth, a woman causes men to violate the law forbidding them to view the parts of a woman's body that should be covered. The author continues that immodest dress violates the prohibition, "And you shall guard yourself from any evil thing" (Devarim 23: 10), and that immodesty causes the Shechinah (divine presence) to depart from Israel, as it is written, "He shall not see any eroticism in your midst, for then He will turn away from you" (Devarim 23:15). 70
MODESTY 4:4 others who see her to transgress. Jewish Law not only prohibits a woman from dressing immodestly, but also forbids men to look at someone who is so dressed.s parts of the body Which Must be Covered 4. Jewish Law requires that the following parts of a married or unmarried woman's body be covered in pUblic: a) The neck (below and including the collarbone6) b) The arms (the upper arms/ including the elbowS) 5. Shu/chan Arukh, Evven HaEzer 21: 1; Mishnah Berurah 75:7; Iggeroth Moshe, Orach Chayim, No. 40, and Evven HaEzer, No. 56. This prohibition applies even where no sexual desire is involved. 6. The Mishnah Berurah 75:2, clearly states that the area above the collarbone may be exposed. Also see Kuntres ii-fa/bushey Nashim, p. 12. 7. Mishnah Berurah 75:2 and 75:7; Chaye Adam 7:2; Ka! liaChuyim 75:2 and 75:3. The Gemara, Kethuboth 72b, explains that the Mishnah confirms the Dath Yehudith prohibition against a woman weaving in the marketplace because she will invariably expose her z'roah (arm) in public. The Mishnah, Ghaloth I defines z'roah as the bone extending from the shoulder to the elbow. The Chazon Ish, Drach Chayim 16:8, raises the possibility that the lower arm may also be considered z'roah. He concludes that it is possible that the entire arm should be covered to the wrist The Ben Ish Chat, Shanah Rishonah, Parshath Bo II, and the Ka! HaChayim 75:2 cite the Zohar, which states that only the hands should be exposed, but most later authorities accept the view of the Mislmah Berurah that only the upper arm and elbow need be covered. Also see Yabiah Omer, VoL 6, Grach Chayim 14:3. It should bE Noted that in a community where the accepted practice of observant Jewish women is to dress in a more stringent manner, a visitor should adopt the prevailing custom so as not to appear conspicuous. 8.The elbows are covered because, if they were not, the upper arms would often be exposed as the woman raised her arms. See Kuntres 71
4:4 HALICHOS BAS YISRAEL c) The legs (the thighs, including the knees9) A woman is required to wear a dress or skirt which is long enough to cover her knees whether she is standing or sitting,1O and this is necessary even if she wears nontransparent stockings.ll Some authorities maintain that the dress must be ankle-length, but this is not the generally. accepted practice. It is, however, the general practice of women in many Jewish communities to wear stockings. 12 Malbushey Nashim, p. 8-9, which explains that the prohibition against exposing the upper arms applies even if it is done occasionally or unintentionally. 9.lvfishnah Berurah 75:2, quoting Tractate Berakhoth 24a: "The exposed shoke (thigh) of a woman constitutes ervah (an erotic stimulus). " 10. Kuntres Malbushey NaJ}Iim, p. 10, suggests that, in order to ensure that the thigh will always be covered, a dress should reach approximately ten centimeters (four inches) below the knee. II. HaGaon Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach and HaGaon Rav Yosef Shalom Eliashiv write in THE JOURNAL Bam'silah (5730, p. 97): "The shoke must be covered when the woman is sitting or standing. Under no circumstances should one rely on stockings as a covering." In Kuntres Malbushey Nasitim, p. II, HaRav Binyamin Zitber writes that covering the knee with non-transparent stockings might satisfy the Dath Moshe requirement of covering the shake, but the traditionally-accepted practice of Jewish women, Dath Yehudith, mandates that the dress itself cover the knees. 12. Shu/chan Arukh llaRav 75: 1; Orukh HaShulchan 75:3; Chaye Adam 14:2; Ben Ish Chat, Shanah Rishonah, Parshath Bo 11-12; Ka! HaChayim 75:2. The two opinions cited in the text on the required length of a woman's dress are based on different definitions of shake. The :Mishnah Bert/rail 75:2 states that the area below the knee is not shake, consequently, the obligation to cover this area is not Dath Moshe, but depends on the accepted practice of observant Jewish women in a particular c,)mmunity. The Chaye Adam, however, maintains that only the feet are excluded from Dath Moshe and {hat the calf is part of the shake. This view reHects the definition of 72
MODESTY 4:5 5. Some women mistakenly believe that they may expose up to a tefach (four inches) of parts of the body which require covering. This is not correct; they must be completely covered. 13
shoke in the Mishnah, Ohaloth 1:8. Shevet HaLevi. Orach Chayim,
Vol. 1, !\o. I, brings additional support from a Responsa of Rabbi
HaRav Yehoshua Neuwirth, writing in the journal
Sh'matin, No. II, says that this opinion is the same as the Bach,
Shulchan Arukh HaRav and the Orukh HaShulchan. The Chazon
Ish, Orach Chayim 16:8, also finds it difficult to agree with the
Mishnah Berurah. HaGaon Rav Binyamin Zilber, in Kuntres
Malbushey Nashim, p. 10, writes that after corresponding with the
Chazon Ish, too, is unable to agree with the Mishnah Berurah on
this question. Clearly, many opinions require a woman's dress to be
In spite of the weight of so many contrary views, most Jewish
communities today have adopted the more lenient definition of the
Mishnah Berurah. It is, however, a widely accepted practice to wear
non-transparent stockings, and a woman is obligated to do so in a
community which follows this practice.
Minchath Yitzchak, Vol. 6, No. 10, rules that a woman should
wear stockings at home because strangers or visitors may come at
any time. Nevertheless, HaGaon Rav Shlomo Zalman Aurbach
writes, "According to the letter of the Law, a woman is not
required to wear stockings in her husband's presence, yet she is still
required to wear a dress that accords with the minimum standards
of modesty." According to Shevet HaLevi, Vol. 5, No. 77, a woman
who wears an ankle-length dress need not wear stockings.
HaGaon Rav Yosef Sholom Eliashiv rules that in communities
where it is the accepted practice for women to wear stockings, a
man is forbidden to recite Shema, blessings or study Torah in the
presence of his wife if she is not wearing them. This is based on the
principle that a man may not recite prayers or study Torah in the
presence of any woman, including his wife, if any normally-covered
part of her body is exposed. This principle is discussed at length in
paragraphs 6-11.
13. Iggeroth Moshe, Evven HaEzer, No. 58, based on the Remah, Orach
Chayim 75: 1. This ruling concerns areas offlesh, not the hair. For a
discussion of the amount of hair that a married woman may leave
4:6 HAL/CHOS BAS YlSRAEL Prayer and Torah Study 6. A man may recite devarim shebikdushah (words pertaining to holiness) - prayers, Shema, words of Torah and blessings - in the presence of a woman only if she is modestly dressed. He is forbidden to do so in the presence of a woman, even his wife, if any normally-covered part of her body is exposed.14 This prohibition applies even if the man is not looking at herY Areas of the body covered by transparent clothing are considered exposed.1 6 7. In communities where observant Jewish women do not cover their calves and forearms, a man may recite exposed, see Chapter 5, paragraph 9. The mistake is based on a misunderstanding of the Beich Yosfcfs view in Orach Chayim 75: I, permitting a man to recite prayers and blessings in the presence of a woman if less than a I efaeh is exposed. But the Beith Yosef does not mean to imply that such exposure is permissible for the woman. Also see Chazon Ish, Oraeh Chayim I Lev Halvri, p. 65; Mishnah Berurah 75:7. 14. Shulchan Arukh, Orach Chayim 75: I and Mi5hnah Berurah; l1inchath Yitzchak, Vol. 2, No. 84; Sh' arim Metzuyanim BeHalakha 5:9; Yabiah Orner, Vol. 6, Orach Chaim, No. 12. Following this rule, a man should not recite devarim shebikdushah while facing his wife when she is nursing a baby unless she covers herself. See Chaye Adam 4:7. Salmath Chayim, Vol. 4, No.4, states that these rules also apply when a man wishes to write words of Torah in the woman's presence. 15. The Mishnah Berurah, 75: 1, 75:7 and 75:29-30, points out that if the man turns his entire body away and faces the opposite direction, he may recite devarim shebikdushah even though the woman is in the same room. When there is no alternative, the Mishnah Berurah even permits him to close his eyes and recite devarim shebikdushah without turning away. The Chazon Ish, Orach Chayim 16:7-8, concurs with This decision. Also sec l"chavehDa'ath, Vol. 4, No.6. l6.lvfagen Avraham 75:1. bascd on Tractate Berakhoth 25a. 74

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