Time to get back on my soap box and start blogging again (after a long summer spent relaxing back in the old country).
So in Monsey, about an hour north of New York City, a town with a large population of frum Jews (many of whom are Hasidic, or devoutly Orthodox), it is a fairly common occurrence to see posters adorning lampposts, notice boards, and random walls across town proclaiming that in order for G-d to be/remain in our midst, or to avoid divine retribution, women have to, for example: –
– Wear looser clothing, so as not to attract the wrong kind of attention;
– Refrain from wearing beautiful, human-hair sheitels (wigs) that could send out the ‘wrong message’ (Orthodox Jewish women have to cover their hair, and many do so with wigs, but some branches of Hasidic Jews proscribe the use of wigs and authorise only cloth hair coverings, such as shpitzels, or snoods);
– Wear skirts of a certain length only (Orthodox Jewish women are prohibited from wearing trousers, and must wear skirts instead, which should extend below the knee).
This last item forms the topic of interest today. Recently, in Monsey, a new ruling was promulgated on posters across town stating that women must wear skirts “that extend exactly four inches below the knee“. Not three inches, not five inches, but four inches. Women who wear skirts either longer or shorter than this length, the proclamation went on to proclaim, are causing the shechinah (G-d’s divine presence) to depart from our midst.
(How the proclaimers know of this direct causal relationship between the length of local women’s skirts and the presence or absence of the shechinah therein remains a source of great mystery to those not in the know.)
In the event, a young, Orthodox Jewish spiritual activist who lives in Monsey – my niece by marriage, Rochel Kind – decided to take on the proclaimers at their own game. She went round town and everywhere she found a poster of said proclamation, stuck up next to it her own carefully formulated response, showing how the directive is quite out of line with the halachot (Jewish laws) governing modesty. Using the appropriate terminology and jargon as well as using reasoning based on the Jewish legal traditions, she responded in kind to the modesty police. Here is her inspired response (glossary of Hebrew terms below):
Related blog posts:
hidur: extra ‘beautification’ of a Jewish law, but not a requirement
halacha / halachos: laws / religious instructions
makor: a textual source from the Talmud or other Jewish legal texts
Gemara: the Talmud
Beis Hamikdash: the Temple in Jerusalem
sinas chinam: baseless hatred / intolerance
ahavas chinam: baseless love / tolerance
Klal Yisroel: the Jewish people
ahavas yisroel: love of fellow Jews
mechalel Shabbos v’yom tov: breaking the laws of Sabbath and holy festival days.