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Philosophizing about orthodox women who wear pants

I was at a crazy bonfire in Philly for Lag Baomer and out of nowhere an old friend of a friend noticed me and we got to chatting- I made note of her descent off the derech since the last time I saw her. I based my whole opinion of her based on the fact she was wearing pants and that the last time I saw her she was wearing skirts. I then gave her a speech of mussar no less frightening then the particulars of cleanliness chapter from the mesilas yeshurim- of note because I received the same speech upon being caught on my way back from an NCSY convention in high school. I reprimanded her for her foolishness because now her shidduch chances were shot and she would have to date within the caste system designed for girls who dare to wear pants- while still being just as frum or even more frum then their fellow skirt wearers, who may only be wearing skirts to stick with their perpetual state of social orthodoxy

Is it just me or has the skirt become a symbol of social orthodoxy? What I mean by this, is that I think that women wearing pants has been blown way out of proportion and find that its largely one of those antiquated gray areas of halacha that never actually caught up with modern society. Being a gray area that everyone likes to talk about- since the whole begged- Ish argument strikes me as a farse- and I think the people who make the argument realize this.

I understand the feelings toward pants, most pants are untznius, they reveal the butt in all its glory- but skirts are the same way in many instances, yet wearing a tight skirt is way better then wearing loose pants, at least for your social status within orthodoxy. In many circles a women can be perfectly frum, yet her pants wearing state causes people to call her modern- which no matter which way you swing it- means lax in torah lifestyle.

My friend from Philly is having a terrible time in the shidduch field, for not only does she wear pants, but she is one of the most frum girls I know. She davens every day, keeps 100% shomer negia and has for many years, learns every day and says tehilim and the whole nine yards, including things like after brachos and benching in pizza stores which is usually copped out by busting out the whole snack heter. Apparently shomer negia and pants dont mix and this is an issue.

I have friends who will only date girls who wear skirts, yet these same kids may eat non-kosher and sleep with random girls. I know plenty of dudes like this- its a social thing. If your wife wears pants- people talk- they say what happened your son was so religious after his year of brainwashing in Israel?

All is not lost however, ideally a tznius skirt is the way to go- I just think that judging women purely based on the fact they wear pants is a little much. If they are wearing tight jeans, a tank top and fail to cover their hair its one thing- but for those women who wear pants and keep halacha- including the numerous who cover their hair (cant get around this one ladies- its a biblical commandment) its all about social orthodoxy in my mind.

Now I know the comments could get violent- lets try to keep it civil.

{ 185 comments… add one }
  • Headbanger May 27, 2008, 11:28 PM

    Hate me all ya want, but Dude! makes excellent points. It’s just another example of how American societies have warped all spirituality from the world and has filtered Judaism into some open minded debatable textbook. These changes and opinions of the truth are so recent. 60 years ago there was nothing to discuss. The people who oppose every halacha that’s too stringent for them are plagued by inner conscience. It’s the only way to explain why the responses to any well-meaning rebuke are so harsh and critical. Calm down. We don’t hate you.

  • s(b.) May 27, 2008, 11:54 PM

    agreed, dan l’kaf z. (the last part) I could’ve done better today. (and thanks, utubefan) The name-calling could’ve been done without. I didn’t touch what Dude! wrote ’cause sometimes it’s better for me not to say anything and let folks’ words speak for them better than any response of mine can; and I don’t disagree with everything he said, just most of it and how it was delivered, but a lot of that depends on the individual and there is no hell in Judaism, just olam haba; Christian Satire is down the hall that way (kidding). Hadassah, I vote for the chick with the bandana (sp?). KissMeI’mShomer, your last paragraph presumes that Dude! gives a __’s __ how anyone not in his world feels. Heimish, wake up, Heimish. (Please, somebody find a guy in spandex to wake him up! [Have you ever read about maleches makeh b’patish? Talk about making my head spin. Bang on tables, don’t bang on tables. I love Judaism.] Sweet dreams, all. This was fun. Stacy, hi. M, I have no idea how to lead, and I’ve got no audience, so studying and discussing whatever topics come up and just dealing with people being themselves seems to be the best excuse for an idea re: going forward I’ve got on that. (sorry for the lack of returns)

  • s(b.) May 27, 2008, 11:58 PM

    Headbanger, if I thought you were legal, I’d offer you an adult beverage. It’s much easier to let the black and white roll off my back without a label. I don’t hate you, either. I just feel free to not hold everything you do without judging you for holding more. Better you than me, holmes. You look so good in a skirt (I’m kidding).

  • 1234 May 28, 2008, 12:19 AM

    “Please stay on your knowing what people do for the sake of heaven horse and leave the real work to me and my pants and people like Reb Shlomo (zl) and Chabad and the handful of rabbonim Ive been fortunate enough to know who had the wisdom to leave an open door, who said, Just come; dont worry about what youre wearing.”
    -s(b) – You write beautifully. I’m totally with you. I believe that it’s more important what you feel in your heart and your own personal spiritual relationship with G-d than what you know

  • Nemo May 28, 2008, 12:52 AM

    Xvi- I was in Seattle a couple months ago and I walked by this shop and noticed some guys in death metal t-shirts, worker boots and kilts. It was hilarious seeing these guys that look like they could kick my ass walking around in skirts.

    So I went into the shop and I got the full tour. The kid that showed me around pointed out this one guy and told me that he hasn’t put on a pair of pants in two years. He also promised me that I’ll never want to go back once I put a kilt on and that no one will think I’ll look weird walking around in it back in NYC. They have grunge kilts, khaki kilts, tuxedo kilts and even basketball-short kilts. My personal favorite was the construction kilts because they have a snap to hide your junk when you’re high up on a ladder.

  • Lion of Zion May 28, 2008, 1:26 AM

    no mention the Flatbush Fakers (TM), who don’t think twice about donning pants when skiing, and even less when in florida. but when back in brooklyn ir ha-kodesh . . .

  • Lion of Zion May 28, 2008, 1:26 AM

    why no mention of the Flatbush Fakers (TM), who don’t think twice about donning pants when skiing, and even less when in florida. but when back in brooklyn ir ha-kodesh . . .

  • ZK May 28, 2008, 8:14 AM

    Okay ….So all these angry responses about MO and charedi being on opposite sides etc.
    Is exactly where the problem of pants/ no pants stems from.
    There are no sides folks.
    We’re all Jewish. We all try to do the best we can, to follow what we believe in.
    I understand Heimish in bp, and dude! and there attitudes. I come from that environment. – The environment of judge everyone unless they do exactly as you do, and look exactly as you look. But never mind if we close our doors, and talk Lashon Hora non stop, and judge ppl. non stop. We do that behind our closed doors where only GOD can see us, not our neighbors. So when we die at 120 hopefully our neighbors will judge us favorably. Oh WAIT! our neighbors are not going to be the ones to judge us….
    Rember that Dude and heimish.
    You guys are all arguing the pointless arguement of which side is the “real” side. There is no real side. We all have to start being good jews in order to honor and respect GOD, not in worry of what our neighbor will think about us.

    I’m not going to even argue any of any of this.
    PS. For all of you who say that we should stop looking for outs, and stop trying to change things, the chachamim know best -you are right. The chachamim DO know best. However, change only happens when people stand up and say hang on I have a problem with this. (check out history)
    If we were never to stand up and change our minhagim, and change how we view halacha – then we would all still be using ice boxes, and my mother would still be wearing mini skirts (as was ACCEPTABLE in BAIS YAAKOV in the 1970’s).

    For all of you Women who want me to wear leggings under a skirt when I bike ride – HAHAHAH! you go bike 12 miles a day with a skirt entangling your legs. Doesn’t make for much fun.

    The bottom line is that Tznius comes from within. There are so many ppl. out there who dress tzniutly on the outside yet do not have an ounce of true Tznius on the inside. And THAT is once again doing things for your neighbors benefit, NOT for GODS….which is really the point of this whole exercise is it not?
    Y’all are right. There is something to be said for going along with what the Klal does. However, what the klal does can and should be changed on occassion. This may or may not be one of those occassions.
    I’m glad people are speaking up and finding out if it is.
    I still have yet to see a real halacha that stands today against wearing pants.
    They are no longer beged Ish.
    The only potential arguement i’ve heard otherwise is that it accentuates various parts of the female form and that is not tzniut. Fine. I hear that – however the type of pants you choose to wear stems from the kind of Tzniut you have on the inside – and as such if you are going to choose untzniut pants, you are also choosing untzniut skirts – which i’ve seen plenty of.

  • heimish in bp May 28, 2008, 9:11 AM

    Ok, wow, alot to take in and alot ot say, but will try to make it as short as possible, without boring you too much.

    UTUBEFAN, I promised ZK, i will do some homework, and i did. And as i said befefre, its not social orthodoxy, ITS HALACHA!!!

    Shulchan Urach, Yoreh Daeh, Siman 182, Sief 5, The R’Mah says that if a women wears a man’s beged (shut up for a second ZK, and listen) even though the rest of her clothing are women clothing, therby her appearance is still recognized as a women, it is still ussur. THe R’mah is reffering to a machlokes between the Bais Yosef and the Bach, if it needs to be all her clothing or just one.

    As to modern day Poskim, Tshuevas Avnie Nezer, who is HaRav Shmuel Wosner, whoever knows who that is, Yoreh Daeh Section 2, Siman 62, adn in Section 6, Siman 118, s”k 2, clearly states that even if the pants is made for a women and you can tell it by design, it is still assur M’DDeoraisa, both because of cli gever and because of tznius.

    He brings down a Tsuevas Avnei Tzedek and a Tsuevas Divrei Chaim, who would allow it in cold weather without a skirt/dress on top, with whom the Avnie Nezer, disagrees.

    I did see some tzuevas from Rav Moshe, nothing straigh on point, however, in Y”D 3, he is asked at what point a girl s suposed to stop wearing pants and he concludes, as soon as parents start dresseing them differently. I would conclude that an adult abviously has to maintain tha status, but i dont wan to put words in his mouth. However , if you read his Tznuis Tshuevas you would be quite determined that if the rabonim of the dor consider it untnius, you are m’chuiv to listen.

    So to all who claim its closed minded, and just sticking our head in the ground, the mishna in Avos says “knei lcha Rav”, get yourself a rabbi, who will quide in your quest of becomming a better jew (if thats what you want), and no we cannot stand and make changes for disagreeing with the rabbis. Judiasm is not a democracy.

    Also, alot of you are talkign about spirituality, as if its something differnt then the torah. The Torah has given us a very clear path of you should reach a spiritual level and become closer to him. You coming up with different ways and saying “oh, well this is how i feel closer to hashem” then go ahead and join the consevative/reform movement. Dont cloak yoruself with the orthodox lable, which is, and always was, straight up based on the Rabbi’s of the dor, and justify your actions by claiming that they dont know what they are talking about.

    That’s exactly how the reform movement start, if you can expain to me what “work” is done by driving to the grocery on shabbos, then you get a prize. But its still a melacha.

    Point in case, when the whole ban on shaitlech came out, that is is made form a avoida zara, i went to my local rabbi and asked him, he said its fine and that was the end of it. However when i want to watch a movie, i dont ask him, because i know there is no heter, but i want to do it anyway. THAT DOESNT MAKE IT RIGHT!!!!

    So Youtubefan, you qouted some halacha that permits it. Fine, i didnt find any, if you have a rabbi who permits it, kol hacavod, my hats off to you. however if you are just qouting from what you heard from someone who heard , who thought he heard from someone else, thats not what a god-fearing jew should base his decisions on.

  • CSJ May 28, 2008, 9:41 AM

    Hesh, what do you think about LA girls? I am pondering going to UCLA.

  • chanief May 28, 2008, 10:04 AM

    Heimish, you are 100% right about one thing – that Orthodoxy is and always has been straight up based on the Rabbanim of the Dor.

    However, I don’t think dismissing people by saying “go join the conservative / reform movement” is really the right thing to do. Maybe these people want to follow the Orthodox way of life but are having a hard time reconciling their questions with the answers currently available to them. Wouldn’t educating people in a kind and logical manner would go a lot farther than rebuking or dismissing them.

    The problem of this generation, as I see it (great sage that I am LOL) is that there is a huge segment of the population that don’t fit anywhere. We don’t fall under the typical Orthodox label, but neither do we fit in the reform or conservative movement.

    We do seek spirituality and recognize that spirituality can be separate from Torah (spirituality being the relationship between the self and God.) Finding the balance between Torah, God and Self is not easy in this day and age. We face spiritual and emotional challenges that far surpass what previous generations have faced, and the trend toward scrupulosity in the Orthodox world only makes it more difficult for out of the box thinkers.

    For you, Torah may be the only way to be spiritual and be close to God, but at some point you have to recognize that that may not be the way for everyone, and perhaps those of us that challenge are doing it out of hunger to learn and not because we are ignorant, stupid, childish or rebellious.

    I sometimes wish that it were easy for me to just believe. When you just believe and don’t feel the burn to challenge and learn and KNOW your life is easier – it’s all laid out for you, neatly, in a series of books that guide you from your birth to your death, and that seems appealing at times.

    The bottom line is, it all comes down to respect. If you have respect for God you must respect his creatures, even and especially if they live and think differently than you do. Ahavas Yisrael is not conditional and isn’t the reward greater for respecting and loving those that are, to you, the most difficult to love and respect?

  • Jack May 28, 2008, 10:17 AM

    Enough of the women in skirts/pants. The real issue are the bochurim who are wearing kilts.

  • ahuvah May 28, 2008, 11:03 AM

    i am going to go out on a limb here and say I wear pants and know that most rabbonim feel that pants on a woman is assur. I also wear tank top shirts yet I still believe that a married woman needs to wear a head covering.
    I am aware that not all of my actions are halachicly correct. Do I try to justify them? Maybe. Do I know the ultimate truth according to mainstream Orthodox Judaism and woman wearing pants? Yes.
    But what I have discovered along the way is that being frum is a personal decision regarding growth and beliefs. Do I hope to one day get to a point where how I look towards men no longer matters to me? Absolutely.

    But what I have realized as time goes on – that each person works on halachic issues at their own pace and over the course of their lifetimes. My struggles might be with how I dress but not necessarily with my tefilot, middot and other aspects to obeying Hashem.

    None of us have the right to judge others on what they do or dont do just to make yourself feel better about where you appear to be in the long line of religious people. Judge yourself and only yourself. Monitor your actions and only your own actions and do not justify your bad behavior by saying that at least I do such and such and others do way less.

  • heimish in bp May 28, 2008, 11:04 AM

    ChanieF, “Wouldnt educating people in a kind and logical manner would go a lot farther than rebuking or dismissing them.” That is exactly the point of my comments.

    For one who is on the way back to Judiasm, it might be hard to reconcile such prohibitions, especially if the person is doing this lifestyle transition throught “its” logic and understanding. But once one realizes that the only way, to fully reconcile his questions, is by askig one who he/she respects, and excepting that persons answers, the person will have a easier time doing the 613, because no one, and i mean NO ONE, understands it all.

    Hey, i feel very spiritual when i listen to a Floyd song, or a Nirvana song, or standing at the rim of the Grand Canyon (which was awsome). That has nothing to do with Torah. And that spirituality is not what the torah wants us to guide us in our lives. Rather by doing the mitzvos of the Torah, is what is supposed to make us more spiritual, and agian dont try fitting in your spirituality, into the torah. One has nothing to do with the other.

    And one more thing, i never claimed to be on any madrega (level) to feel that way, and i dont live in a box at all, and struggle with theses questions day in and day out. I left BP and joined the goyishe world, big time. Its murder for me, and I am amazed by anyone who stays frum in the outside world, or grows up non-frum. But that doesnt justify trying to squeeze my wants and needs into the strict guidlelines of Torah.

  • heshman May 28, 2008, 11:13 AM

    Jack I was going to ask that- I am staying out of the discussion because its too long- very educating and thanks to Hemishe- there is some hardcore halacha going on here- but Kilts on men- now thats interesting.

    Especially because many long distance hikers wear hiking dresses because its airier and makes climbing easier.

  • s(b.) May 28, 2008, 11:36 AM

    disclaimer: this is a long post.

    chanief, it seems that chanief’s restaurant pantsacree movement is required, per below (source link is on the pants post currently at the top of my blog, linked above):

    “For Kli Gever most Poskim hold that if the mode is for women to wear pants it looses the definition of men’s clothing and there’s no torah prohibition of Kli Gever in such case;
    On the other hand there are Poskim who hold pants to be a man’s garment regardless to the custom of New York ladies; the women to change the mode for Halachic purposes are only those that care for what Halacha says.”

    -Rabbi Elchanan Lewis (I have no idea who he is, but that site cites sources, and I appreciate that)

    Thanks, 1234. When I don’t know if I should laugh or cry when a guy tells me I’m too into religion for him, kind words like that make my day (the guy thing, I think, is BS; if he were interested, me caring about Judaism wouldn’t stop him, so gam zu l’tovah.).

    Who loves Pirkei Avos? I do! Let’s learn a minute, okay? (there’s a link on my blog to the page from which the following comes; it is part of the commentary on PA 1:6, at the end, which reads “judge every person in the scale of merit.” Commentary reads:

    “Judging one favorably involves an honest appreciation of the challenges which the person faces and this awareness should also lead to the understanding that G-d has surely given that person the ability to overcome these challenges. This, in turn, should heighten the sensitivity with which we regard this individual, for he is a person to whom G-d has entrusted this formidable power necessary to overcome such challenges. When the manner in which we relate to that person reflects such respect, this will inspire the individual to bring these potentials to the surface.” (The Lubavitcher Rebbe, ztl)

    That is a good reminder that respect swings both ways, as does agreeing to disagree. If telling people to shut up is part of wearing the “cloak of orthodoxy,” I’ll thank my lucky pants I don’t call myself anydox, nor do I claim to wear that cloak. (I don’t have lucky pants, and I realize not everyone calls people names [as occurred earlier here].)

    To be quite honest, re: black and white = better, part of me feels like telling anyone who listens to any music during sefirah or uses a blech to blow it out their favorite heter. Yes, Judaism is full of black and white. But combined, black and white make gray. Learning to respectfully have differences of opinion with people is a skill worth acquiring, even if it’s not always easy (look at the first sentence of this paragraph; it’s not eloquent; but, you know what? In the grand scheme of things, if you’re rockin’ the black and white, my opinion probably doesn’t matter to you, anyway, and that’s cool. My point is that we can all do better than to call each other names, be patronizing [I don’t feel like singling people out] or to tell another that our way is the right or best way for someone else [see quote from rebbe above], even if we really believe it is).

    I’m not yelling, but if you only read one thing I write in this post, please read this: TZNIUT BEING FROM WITHIN IS REALLY IMPORTANT (imo, and all the related stuff, like without). I know this isn’t a serious blog, but it’s got a ton of readers from all ends and beyond the spectrum of Jews today.

    If anyone would be interested in discussing how to cultivate tzniut in today’s youth (as well as adults, ’cause it’s a daily life thing, really), please second this motion for a separate post with tznius in the title for this topic’s discussion to be created (so people don’t have to wade through 100+ comments on pants to get to it). You don’t even have to write anything, Hesh; just post links to your previous tzniut post content (I can assemble that, if people are actually up for a discussion). Thanks for your consideration.

    And, Jack and Ahuva in ’08 (as good as any other party’s candidates, I reckon). Heimish, next time, I’ll wake you myself. 🙂 I’m intrigued by the idea of a hiking dress (with shorts underneath, for me, thanks).

  • urban gypsy May 28, 2008, 11:45 AM

    fantastic comments s(b.)!

    three cheers for posting the Lubav. Rebbe’s pirush on pirkei avot, that was something we all should remember and indeed words to live by.

    also, black + white = grey is certainly the Jewish way and has been for centuries. i love the way you explained that!

    i for one would love to see a tzniut post and some discussion on what “tzniut from the inside” really entails.

    also, i would love to come play with you and the girls in monsey, but i’m in toronto 🙁

    i will email you though and maybe we can work something out?

  • chanief May 28, 2008, 12:12 PM

    Heimish, forgive me for misconstruing the intention behind your comments. The written word sometimes comes across in a different way than is intended. I don’t necessarily agree that saying “This is the halacha and therefore the only way to do things” is not going to be effective in educating someone, but we can agree to disagree (and yes, I paraphrased, that’s not an exact quote.)

    s(b) – I’m sorry, call me slow, but I didn’t get your “chaniefs restaurant pantsacree movement” Can you explain? I did get the “being tznius from within” part of your comment and wholeheartedly agree. I don’t think people are going to start judging others based on their inner beauty any time soon though.

    I LOVE the Rebbe quote. The Rebbe was a very wonderful and wise man and he cared for every single jew regardless of what they were wearing or where they were holding religiously. The world is a much darker place since his death.

  • chanief May 28, 2008, 12:14 PM

    Ack! Bad editing on my part. Heimish that should say “I dont necessarily agree that saying This is the halacha and therefore the only way to do things IS going to be effective in educating someone… bla bla bla”

  • Anonymous May 28, 2008, 12:40 PM

    Also lovin’ the rebbe quote.

    Along those lines, I find myself thinking that each person has areas of observance where they struggle or question, whether it is keeping kashrut, or making time for learning, or whatever. We all have areas of observance that come more naturally than others.

    For women who are working out whatever challenges we have with the pants/skirts debate, it is just a more visible struggle than others and the level of judgement seems harsher. There is an intensity to the debate for reasons I haven’t yet deduced. It really touches a nerve with some people.

    I think that it would be quite worthwhile for those who are speaking out most vehemently against women wearing pants to consider that and to understand that a lot of us are trying to sort through this issue, and our observances in general, and come to a place where we are taking on observances out of a genuine understanding and committment to halacha.

    urban gypsy….I’m also stuck outside the NY area…too bad. The playtime in Monsey would be fun!

  • urban gypsy May 28, 2008, 12:49 PM

    Yes, yes, yes! Anon, you are brilliant. I think that’s the crux of the issue. Struggles which are PUBLIC are much more painful, intense, and touchy because everyone is scrutinizing your private level of observance.

  • heimish in bp May 28, 2008, 1:05 PM

    I am actually heading to the Sforim store to get Journal of Halacha and Contemporary Society, by Rabbi JJ School, which is supposed to have the goods, ranging from Avadia Yosef to the Tzitz Eliezer.

    But one thing bothers me, i keep on reiteraing that it is not personal, and it has nothing to with respect or judging or looking down, for me.

    Whoever took it personal, read my comments agains and see it was all to to prove: that the ban was/is halachah and not social. SO if you did get offended, by anything i said, i am sorry, and that wasn’t my intention.

    So quote as much as you want, from who you want, about ahavas yisrael and any other mitzva, its irrelivant to the point on hand.

  • heshman May 28, 2008, 1:39 PM

    Tzitz Eliezer- hahahahahahah- sorry I couldn’t help it.

  • Anonymous May 28, 2008, 1:48 PM

    Nice one, Hesh. Very Beavis.

  • s(b.) May 28, 2008, 2:58 PM

    chanief, I linked all of the lyrics to Alice’s restaurant in my pants-related post on my blog. Specifically, I was referring to, above, “if the mode is for women to wear pants it looses the definition of mens clothing and theres no torah prohibition of Kli Gever in such case,” which I related in my head to Arlo Guthrie’s lyrics from Alice’s Restaurant (that is a song title), as follows:

    “And three people do it, three, can you imagine, three people walking in singin a bar of Alice’s Restaurant and walking out. They may think it’s an organization.

    “And can you, can you imagine fifty people a day, I said fifty people a day walking in singin a bar of Alice’s Restaurant and walking out. And friends they may think it’s a movement.

    “And that’s what it is, the Alice’s Restaurant Anti-Massacre Movement, and all you got to do to join is sing it the next time it comes around on the guitar.

    “With feeling. So we’ll wait for it to come around on the guitar, here and sing it when it does. Here it comes.

    “You can get anything you want, at Alice’s Restaurant
    You can get anything you want, at Alice’s Restaurant
    Walk right in it’s around the back
    Just a half a mile from the railroad track
    You can get anything you want, at Alice’s Restaurant.”
    I Beavised, too.
    I’m on Long Island. I say we all meet up at Anonymous’s. lol I don’t know. I hear Toronto has a nice Jewish community. I’m overdue for a trip to Rochester. I’ll be near Ithaca in mid-July (just before the three weeks) for a music festival. I’ll probably be freelancing in midtown on Sunday. That’s all I know.

  • dan lkaf zchus May 28, 2008, 3:06 PM

    There’s a famous story of the chossid R’ Shmuel Munkes. This is taken from shturem.net It’s a bit long but well worth it.

    During the month of Elul, a renowned Maggid a traveling preacher came to the town of Reb Shmuel Munkes, well known Chassid (disciple) of the Alter Rebbe, Rabbi Schnuer Zalman of Liadi. The townspeople saw his letter of introduction, referring to him as a great Tzaddik who gives up his own comforts to travel from town to town only to arouse and inspire Jews. Being G-d-fearing people, they immediately invited him to speak and inspire them to serve the Almighty better

    .In the course of his sermon, the Maggid, over and over berated his audience and accused them of committing terrible sins. His entire speech was filled with accusations and descriptions of the terrible punishments awaiting them because their evil behavior had aroused Hashem’s anger. Only if they would wholeheartedly repent would they possibly have a chance to be spared. The townspeople were utterly broken by the Maggid’s harsh words, they cried bitterly, fearing the awesome punishment

    .Upon conclusion, the Maggid, satisfied with himself, retired to the room that the community had arranged for him

    .A short while later, Reb Shmuel entered the Maggid’s room. He carried with him a long knife and a stone with which to sharpen it. Reb Shmuel closed the door behind him and then bolted it shut. Without saying a word, Reb Shmuel began to sharpen his knife

    A few tense and long moments passed. Finally the Maggid broke the silence and asked in astonishment, “Sir, could you please tell me what this is all about?”

    ‘?Without glancing up from the knife he was sharpening, Reb Shmuel, in mock sincerity, answered, “As the honorable, great Maggid knows, we are very simple people in this town. Perhaps, it is because of our careless sins that we have never merited to have a great, righteous, G-d fearing scholar in our midst.” Not knowing what to make of this answer, the Maggid replied, “Yes, that is true. Still, what does that have to do with you sharpening the knife

    ?Reb Shmuel retorted, “We were taught by our parents that before Rosh Hashanah one is to pray at the grave sites of the righteous.” Still unsure of what Reb Shmuel’s point was, the Maggid continued, “That is correct. But why are you sharpening that knife

    “Oh, that is very simple,” explained Reb Shmuel. “The nearest grave site of a righteous person is very far from our town. For some of us it is extremely cumbersome to make such a long journey.”

    By now the Maggid was beginning to feel uneasy. He ventured, “But you still have not explained why you are sharpening your knife in this room,” as the beads of sweat starting dripping down his temples. Reb Shmuel answered, “Quite simply, I am sharpening my knife here because the townspeople want a very righteous person buried in this town.”

    Now, the Maggid had not even a shadow of a doubt as to what Reb Shmuel’s intentions were. The Maggid stammered, “But I am not completely righteous. I have also done some small sins, such as”

    Reb Shmuel dismissed the Maggid’s confession, saying, “Honored Maggid, you are still a very righteous and learned person. As for the sins that you mentioned, I did not even know that they are transgressions.”

    The Maggid continued in a stutter, “Come to think of it, I did some transgressions that were much more serious, such as” Concerning this too, Reb Shmuel shrugged, arguing, “But to us you are still a Tzaddik; you are more than adequate, besides, you are probably just being very humble.”

    This strange dialogue continued for some time with the Maggid admitting to more and more severe transgressions and Reb Shmuel telling him, “But you are still acceptable to us, as you are far better than us.”

    Finally, the Maggid confessed to some rather extremely serious transgressions and that he was not at all the great Tzaddik that his letter of introduction and credentials portrayed him to be. In essence, he was saying, “I am an impostor.”

    .Now Reb Shmuel, no longer played the simpleton. After putting away the knife, he began chastising the Maggid for causing the Jews of the town so much pain and sorrow. After making sure the Maggid fully understood how one is to talk to and treat another Jew, Reb Shmuel unbolted the door and let the Maggid go on his way, much wiser than he had ever been before.

  • Dude! May 28, 2008, 3:37 PM

    The argument isnt that we should not judge each other and we are all on different levelsyet it is whether wearing pants is halachicly correct or not. The answer is NO. End of that discussion! Yes everyone is on a different level and everyone views Judaism in a different way, and they can make their own choices regardless of what is the torah way of life because some people dont go according to the Torah but rather what is in their hearts. But all this is irrelevant when it comes to the topic at hand.

    And FYI (chanief) Judaism is based on the Torah so if you dont go according to the Torah but only what you feel in your heart then that is NOT the way of Hashem. I am NOT judging you and dont know or care what level you are on but what you call being jewish by being nice to your fellow jew (yes that is very important and I agree that there are some communities that lack on that aspect) is called being a jew at heart. And that is NOT the best way. The best way is going according to the Torah. Now again, I dont know what level you are on and that is not the argument. I just wanted to point out that the RIGHT way is the TORAH way which includes halacha. And the halacha says a woman can not wear pants!!

  • chanief May 28, 2008, 3:52 PM

    s(b) – Ok, LOL, I get it now. I had visited your blog to read your post but somehow missed the lyrics link.

    Dan – Great story, thanks for posting it here.

  • Anonymous May 28, 2008, 5:07 PM

    First off, I think it’s disrespectful for a guy to tell a girl that she shouldn’t be wearing pants to her face….Feel how you want, you don’t have to date her, but don’t tell her how to dress, it’s a female-only issue…
    Secondly, about the “being jew at heart is not the Best way…should live according to halacha…” Well I don’t think that a Jewish person raised in a frum community can be compared next to a Jewish person raised in Smalltown, USA,… who can’t afford to move to a town with an orthodox synagogue, who was given nowhere near the opportunities in living halachically as the frum person; who did not go to Jewish schools and knew only a couple other Jewish people. So if that person is spiritual at heart, I don’t think anybody, least someone born and raised in a frum community, should raise their voice to that…Just be grateful that you were given such wonderful opportunity to live the Jewish way of life, even though not everyone has that Equal chance.

  • ahuvah May 29, 2008, 2:18 AM

    Dude! – Obeying Hashem is two fold – from Man to G-d and from Man to his fellow Man. I’d just like to point out that both are just equally important and each person needs to balance growth and observance of both.

    So while some might “look” frummer it doesnt mean that they are. Do not judge a book by its cover and trust me – many ppl have personal reasons why they do or do not wear pants and it is not just black and white for every person. We all have personal issues of observance for something or another.

    As it was mentioned above, tznius is an outward battle and one that can be made harder by outside scrutiny. Keep in mind that just because it is easy for you to follow it doesnt mean its easy for others.

  • s(b.) May 29, 2008, 11:46 AM

    Based on this: For Kli Gever most Poskim hold that if the mode is for women to wear pants it looses the definition of mens clothing and theres no torah prohibition of Kli Gever in such case; On the other hand there are Poskim who hold pants to be a mans garment regardless to the custom of New York ladies; the women to change the mode for Halachic purposes are only those that care for what Halacha says.
    -Rabbi Elchanan Lewis

    If women (and this would be grassroots, Alice’s Restaurant-style revolution) who are pro-pants would all agree, going forward (simchas/funerals/yt/shul notwithstanding) to wear modest pants on Wednesdays, wouldn’t that change the mode?

    I would extend that to include the wearing of modest pants for athletic activities for which pants are better-suited, as well. I would like ZK or another female biker’s advice on modest bicycling gear that won’t get caught in gears and stuff.

    I’ll define modest pants as straight-leg or boot-cut, not tight around the waist. These include but aren’t limited by any means to surgical scrubs, martial arts pants and skater jeans.

  • Nech May 29, 2008, 7:52 PM

    Very interesting to read the comments. I wear pants (scrubs- not form fitting at all!) at work but make sure to change before coming home. I have no problem wearing pants however I know that many people in the community will be offended and make judgements about me (not to mention that I am an “old maid” and won’t find a shidduch with such behavior). Skirts are very limiting. I have tried biking and playing sports in long skirts and it is very impractical. In some situations it can actually be quite hilarious. In college I would play basketball and tennis with some male classmates while wearing a skirt. Naturally they thought I was crazy. I would love to understand the halacha behind the skirt rule. I don’t buy the beged ish thing as pants are made specifically for women nowadays.
    Hesh- your blog is great, keep up the great work and give us “outsiders” a place to convene.

  • Yitz June 11, 2008, 11:12 AM

    Funny, but my chosson teacher actually told me that pants for women, if they arent too tight, are actually more tznius then skirts are. However because our society looks down on it, so then we shouldnt do it. And he is a talmid chacham.

  • heshman June 11, 2008, 11:45 AM

    Nech good comment and its true, skirts are restricting and the risk of flashing someone alone is untznius by nature.

    Yitz- thats the issue, society needs to progress to be more welcoming of people who choose to be individuals- Judaism is not one size fits all and thats evidenced by the variety of opinions on how to practice it through out the ages.

  • heimish in bp June 11, 2008, 1:20 PM

    Hesh – the Philosopher

  • Sarah R September 30, 2008, 12:51 PM

    Just found this thread while searching for information concerning a potentially unpleasant situation I’m about to find myself in. I’m shortly going to be moving to London, where I hope to find work, and will be staying in the house of my uncle who is a rabbi. He has insisted that as long as I am living in his house I will be required to wear a skirt at all times. This is not exactly something I’m happy about; for one thing I’m not at all religious, for another I never wear skirts, don’t even currently own a skirt, and don’t even want to think about the prospect of wearing one every day. Can anyone think of some arguments I might use to persuade my uncle that I’m not being unreasonable in wanting to wear trousers?

  • Shalom in the Home October 1, 2008, 4:27 PM

    Why not compromise,

    wear a short sexy skirt with no underwear when the rabbi is around.

    You can still wear your jeans, trousers, and man pants or whatever when he is gone.

  • Sarah R October 2, 2008, 2:53 PM

    Thanks for the ‘suggestion’ – and for confirming my suspicion that most religious men have an attitude towards women that can best be described as adolescent.

  • Anonymous October 2, 2008, 10:16 PM

    You probably have not received a response from a religious person since you asked that question on Rosh Hashana when the religious people did not see your comment.

  • Sarah Zeldman November 20, 2008, 5:53 AM

    I haven’t had time to read all the comments here. Just wanted to share my experience. When I was learning at Midrashet Rachel, I used to storm into the Rabbis office with lots of questions. Once I asked him “Why can’t woman wear pant.” He replied simply, “Loose pants, made for women? Halachically — No Problem. BUT, if you want to live in a community where they take Torah seriously, women don’t wear pants.”

    I really appreciated his honest, yet realistic answer.

    It doesn’t make perfect sense and even seems somewhat unfair, but this is the way it is. We have some very important things to fight for. Pants is not one of them, IMHO.

  • Shevi November 20, 2008, 7:43 AM

    I don’t like “labels” either. I am “just Jewish” as well. My children go to an “RZ” school where most (if not all) the parents are openly “modern”. I work in a “haredi” school where I’m certain there are “closeted modern” parents. In cold weather, I wear leggings under my skirts. Most of the time, my skirts (due to comfort but to also prove a point about true tzniut to the hypocritical hanhalah) are ankle-length. Yesterday, I wore a “short” skirt (for me, just past the knee) and the fact I wear leggings was obvious. The little girls stared in fascination at seeing me wearing pants under a skirt. I simply feel I’m taking a practical approach to all this. I live in a cold area and am not about to freeze my legs off in skirts and tights. Today, I’ll find out if there was any feedback from them.

  • ipitythefoo November 20, 2008, 10:44 AM

    i think that the way we deal with this issue is very ‘american’ and largely a social construct to make it easier to dismiss a community of Torah Jews.

    However, I do see the potential for a serious breach of tzniut in pants.

    But in Israel I found skirts that hand pants attached, Halachiclly permissible pants that fell in a kosher way and an awful lot of women wearing pants under skirts – just because.

    I hope this carries over the Atlantic.

  • Sarah Zeldman November 20, 2008, 11:31 AM


    Yes, in the winter I pull my black socks up and then put black leggings on over them. I really don’t see how this is any different than wearing tights, it’s just warmer. What is the big deal with that? I’m not trying to make a statement. Just stay warm. But I have to admit, that if I were wearning a shorter (but still tnuzit) skirt, I’d freeze in stockings because of how others may perceive my attempt to stay warm.

  • Sarah R December 13, 2008, 8:06 AM

    The problem is that skirts are generally considered formal wear for women, just as a business suit would be considered formal wear for men. Let’s face it, if you’re dressing for comfort, you’re not likely to put on a skirt and tights! Yet while women in orthodox communities are expected to wear skirts all the time, there is no equivalent rule for men: if women were required to wear skirts and men were required to wear a suit and tie, that would at least be fair. But men are permitted to wear whatever they want – they can wear jeans all day, and nobody complains that they are improperly dressed. I wonder if it ever occurs to them that women might like to relax in a comfy pair of jeans.

    All religions were primarily intended to control and regulate the behaviour of women. Can you think of any religion which has as many rules for men as it does for women?

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  • Bais Yaakov Girl June 16, 2009, 6:44 PM

    Firstly wearing a skirt is manditory for tznius reasons. Many people say some pants are more tznius than skirts but that is not true unless the skirt is a mini skirt. Halacha is that you are not allowed to show the crack of your two legs above the knee so no matter how tight the skirt is you do not see the crack (I’m not saying tight skirts are so tznius). Referring to what someone said in one of the posts, that skirts do no apply to Israeli orthodoxy, well aren’t they also Jewish.

  • mo jew June 22, 2009, 3:08 PM

    personally i would love to find a girl that wears pants and is shomer negiah–its just that there arent too many out there. if you find any-feel free to let them know about me.

  • Zan July 6, 2009, 8:08 PM

    What about pants under skirts…? I’ve definitely seen orthodox folk where I live and in Israel wearing them..

  • ohreally? August 18, 2009, 2:08 PM

    What do all of you expect women to do for a living? Stay at bais ya’akov forever?
    I know frum scientists, dentist, physicians, nurses, vet techs (animal nurses)- they have to wear slacks for safety reasons at work.
    Get real.

  • MadMaxInJerusalem September 10, 2009, 6:06 PM

    Covering hair is 100% not biblical. RamBam lists it in the Mishneh Torah as a rabbinical prohibition together with a few other items such as feeding your husband trief or having sex with a man when you’re niddah. None of these things are directly forbidden by the Torah, but apparently the Rabbi’s forbid them based on the principle of not placing a stumbling block before the blind. And it’s interestingly worded also, a married woman shouldn’t go to the shuk with her hair uncovered.

  • non-nagia BT November 19, 2009, 2:19 AM

    I have a close friend who is a BT. She dresses totally tznius, but she is not shomer nagiah. It confuses me, but it just goes to show that a girl can always wear skirts and not be shomer. My external jewishness is also like that. I wear a kippah and tzitzis all the time, and I’m not shomer, though women always get out of my way when I’m walking in Jewish areas.

  • Melissa January 10, 2010, 9:21 PM

    Which bonfire in Philly was it?

  • Sarah August 11, 2010, 6:00 PM

    I just want to say this article is phenomenal. It is the same thing I have been arguing for the last two years!!
    A. Why are pants less tznious then a mini skirt?
    B. And why are pants the “red line” issue for men in regards to dating?! Its preposterous!

    Thank you so much for this article, finally someone tells it like it is!

    • jgmurphy April 25, 2011, 12:34 PM

      Frankly, if I were you, I would soundly reject the prospect of spending my life with the kind of man who would discount me as a marriage prospect merely because of my attire. If this is where his head is at, who wants him?
      Consider: Marriage is a lifetime commitment. Do you want to spend your life with someone who is rigidly conformist and judgmental?

  • Shira August 31, 2010, 9:25 PM

    I see there are already a lot of comments, but I thought to add a bit of detail to the ‘comfort’ issue, for the sake of anyone who’s never worn skirts.

    Have you ever tried walking over a baby gate, when you are only 5 feet tall, in a skirt?

    If a skirt is voluminous enough to let you walk with normal gait, then it flies up in the wind. If it is narrow enough not to fly in the wind, then its too narrow to chase your children effectively.

    Many, if not most, women’s legs rub together painfully, even if not overweight. The only solution? Wear pants or shorts or leggings under your skirt. Try that in the summer – its HOT.

    Other’s have mentioned the issues about sitting cross-legged modestly and such already.

    Ever try playing with your children, enjoying a playground with them? Try going down a slide in a skirt, sitting in the sandbox, hanging upside down on a monkey bar, etc.

    Horse-back riding, skiing, ice skating, playing in the snow, rock climbing, etc. I can’t tell you how damaging it was to me as a teenager to feel I was a bad person for wanting to do these things while having to wear pants to do them safely. And all the frummer girls wearing skirts scrunched into the rockclimbing harness – how was that any more modest?

    That said, the pants that may be halachically permissible don’t solve all of these problems. Harem pants and loose pants are so low at the crotch, they won’t stop legs from rubbing together. Only modern style pants are truly comfortable, to me. I know that none of this has much to do with the halacha… but when I read ‘pants are just more comfortable’ I am not sure that the breadth of what that means is evident to everyone. I’m not sure that the sacrifice that is made by skirt-wearers is evident. It is a sacrifice. Wearing a skirt is much more complicated than wearing pants… which is probably why men switched over to pants so long ago.

  • jgmurphy April 24, 2011, 10:36 AM

    I have no problem with a philosophical commitment to skirts only (even though technically, pants designed for women only should pass muster). What I have a problem with is the social intimidation factor, i/e/ the idea that women are bullied into wearing skirts because they are afraid of the social repercussions if they don’t. I work in an office where I do a lot of lifting of files and bending down, etc. and I also travel to and from work on the El train. As such, long skirts are not practical because 1) they are easy to trip over while working; and 2) they are murder on the EL stairs. I have actually come close to breaking my neck thanks to tripping on my skirt hems on the stairs. I find pants –semi-dressy, business pants, that is, not jeans—infinitely more practical and sensible. And quite simply—and I notice no one has mentioned this—I derive a lot of enjoyment from wearing pants! And if skirts-only policy is going to alienate women from observant Judaism, I think it is time seriously to re-evaluate it.

    • MadMaxInJerusalem April 25, 2011, 10:59 AM

      I don’t understand why the Israeli pants + knee length skirt combo isn’t more popular in the states…

  • Schatzi June 30, 2011, 6:44 PM

    I think an older woman of menopausal age should wrest anything she wants that is in good taste. I don’t think those women are worried that they appear as sex objects because they’re past childbearing years, and I don’t think orthodox men would even want to look at an older woman anyway.

  • redruth February 27, 2012, 4:39 AM

    Hi, I’m completely new to this debate and would really like help and advice – I hope someone sees this message as no-one posted for nearly a year.
    My daughter is 4 and half and goes to a mixed (girls and boys) Jewish school where the girls’ uniform is tunics/skirts for those aged 5 and over. Currently she strongly prefers to wear trousers and has done so every day since January this year. I have talked to her about her wearing the school uniform from next September but she doesn’t want to as she prefers trousers to run around in. She’s the only girl in her class who wears trousers (although the uniform rules allow for trousers for the nursery aged girls).
    The trousers she wears are loose legged, elasticated waist ‘jogging pants’ (same as the boys do – they are in no way tight fitting).
    Is there any halachic reason that girls under 12 can’t wear trousers? thanks…

    • MadMaxInJerusalem February 29, 2012, 10:42 PM

      First, I’m not a Rav, but from what I’ve read it’s all relative to what’s normal in the general society that you live in. Today, pants can’t today be reasonably considered beged ish in any western country including Israel. The Dati Leumi school my daughter goes to here in Jerusalem allow loose pants up through first or second grade. If I were you I’d find a good Syrian Rabbi to talk to, as I’ve found they tend to be the most intellectually honest. Here’s a test, before you talk to any Rabbi, ask them what the size of ca-zayit ( an olive portion ) is to be yotzeh mitzvat matzah on Pesach. If they tell you anything other than the size of an actual olive – don’t trust them.

  • Rachel February 7, 2013, 11:16 AM

    Orthodox individuals need to step out of the “rabbi said we can’t” and find out the truth about what halacha has to say.
    In accordance to halacha, girls are allowed to wear pants. Period. That’s the truth but not many would be willing to break from society and the pressure of family and friends…that’s sad

  • Rachel February 7, 2013, 11:19 AM

    One more thing…what’s even more ridiculous is that a woman who chooses to wear pants UNDER her skirt is considered to be modern as opposed to wearing NOTHING under the skirt and totally showing everyone your bare legs is considered more MODEST in the community. That is just ridiculous.

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