The Tznius Crisis

Dear Rabbi X,

I would like to personally thank you for bringing the issue of tznius to the public. Since I read your letter, it has opened my eyes to a problem that is surely bigger and more severe than anything else facing our community. I myself have grown up very naive about tznius. It wasn’t discussed much at all in my home, my father who wrote articles on every topic never seemed to address the crucial issue of tznius. I went to a yeshiva that not only didn’t talk about tznius, they never mentioned the existence of girls in general! Even in my Choson classes I dont remember being taught what and what not my wife can wear. I was told you’ll know it when you see it.

After getting married, I took for granted that my wife, who I admired and respected, grew up in a frum home where she was taught how a bas melech should dress. I seemed to have been proven right because I don’t remember ever discussing tznius with her except when she asked me if a dress that she bought looked tzniusdik. I myself wasn’t sure what to answer, and even more I wasn’t sure what the right answers was. Did she want to know if she looked attractive in it or was she looking for a psak halacha. Either way I wouldn’t win so I just told her it seems fine and she should use her best judgement.

It wasn’t until we decided to open a girls’ camp that I began asking rabbonim about the standards of tznius, this way we could set our camp rules according to proper halacha. Any questions about tznius issues though, was my wife’s department. I would never tell a girl if I thought something she was wearing was inappropriate, for that matter I never commented on anything a girl was wearing. I would just feel uncomfortable doing so and I thought she would too.

Throughout my 35 years living in Brooklyn, visiting many diverse Jewish neighborhoods, and my 7 years involved in an all girls’ camp, I never paid much attention to the issue of Tznius. It’s not like I never noticed an improperly dressed girl, I just never paid that much attention to the massive problem at hand. Maybe it was because of the non-jewish world that I was unfortunately exposed to and from all the pritzus I saw around me, be it the magazines, billboards, and TV. And so I have desensitised myself to what tznius is all about. But yet somehow I was always able to tell a modestly dressed girl without a second glance, no matter her dress code.

But now after reading what you wrote and how all the terrible things that happen today are because of our lack in tznius, I see everything in a new light. I started paying much closer attention to the same woman I have seen in the past. I now notice the length of her skirt before I even say hello. I can tell you how many inches below or above her knee is covered within seconds, and just like you I’m appalled. This isn’t just when they stand, but as you pointed out that when they sit down it gets even worse. I notice that some women who wear snoods don’t cover their hair completely, I have found a range of about 1 – 3 inches and even one woman that was nearly 4 inches! And while I was sure everyone in our community covered their hair with a shaitel, I have learned the skill to tell whether a woman is really wearing a shatel or not and I’m very disappointed that there are still many who don’t (unless I’m still not that good at this yet).

Rabbi X, you have opened my eyes to a subculture I never new existed amongst our frum community, a community that I was once very proud to be amongst. I guess until I read your insightful letter I never looked at the extreme details of every woman I met, and I guess I just saw them more as a person and not a dress code. I was judging them favorably, something I was taught to do. If I just knew the tumah they were projecting on to the community, I would have been much more judgmental. You have B”H changed the way I look at women and girls and it is very different than the way I was brought up. And so now I understand your concern why you felt this issue of tznius is what is holding back moshiach.

I would also like to add, that just like you, I also noticed this past purim these girls hanging out like zonas on the street corners talking to guys. And while in the past I felt it wasn’t so much their fault as there was no other program for the girls on purim night except to watch the guys getting drunk and having a blast, now I feel just like you, that girls should be kept in their rooms, saying tehillim or school work, as you explained so well “A Jewish woman belongs in the house.” Purim is just not a yom tov for them! We need to install more Vaad Hatznius, like in Eretz Yisroel to patrol our neighborhoods. Eggs, bleach, whatever it takes to get rid of these immodest girls. We could even hire professional spatters at every corner, it seemed to have had a very positive effect in Beit Shemesh.

The Rambam that you quote goes on to say that if a community is not living according to halacha and there is a lack of tznius one is required to leave immediately, even to a remote island to live all by himself. I believe this community is not adhering to the tznius guidelines you set forth and there is pritzus all around I think it would be best for you to leave.

Your number one fan,
Dovid Teitelbaum
Director, Camp Sdei Chemed Int’l

Please note: For those who don’t get the point of this letter. I believe, we as men, need to stop putting out these ridiculous tznius letters, they are making us all look like a bunch of perverts. We need to educate tznius on a more personal level and it shouldn’t be all about rules and inches.

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