Volume 23 Number 83
                       Produced: Wed May  1 18:49:53 1996

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

An Insight for Slit Skirts
         [Jeremy Nussbaum]
Paskening From a Ma'aseh Rav
         [Isaac Balbin]
Slit in Skirts
         [Perry Zamek]
Slits in Skirts
         [Harry Maryles]
Tznius and Slit Skirts
         [Caela Kaplowitz]


From: <jeremy@...> (Jeremy Nussbaum)
Date: Thu, 25 Apr 96 12:57:45 EDT
Subject: An Insight for Slit Skirts

> From: Russell Hendel <RHendel@...>
> First, I would like to note that Jeremy uses the word "condone".
> Actually there are many halachic sources that Encourage women to look
> attractive.  Some examples might be (1)Rabbi Akiba's statement that
> women should wear Jewelry while Niddah since otherwise their husbands
> might find them ugly and divorce them.  (2)Similarly the Rambam
> explicitly states that a person should look at a prospective wife to
> make sure she is attractive.  I believe the Rambam in part derived this
> from (3)the explicit statement by Moshe Rabaynu that Bnos Slafchad had
> the right to marry "men that were good in their eyes" (=good looking).
> These 3 examples show that halacha doesn't only Condone attractiveness
> but may Encourage it.

I did not elaborate sufficiently, as Dr. Hendel has pointed out, and
would like to do so.  It is clear that between husband and wife, there
is at least a need, and possibly a mitzva, to look attractive, even when
sexual relations are forbidden.  It is clear that if the physical
attractiveness is necessary to the relationship, it is a mitzva.  For
that matter, other things that contribute to the relationship, even
those not necessarily physical, are a mitzvah.  It is not clear to me
that this is the situation held up as the ideal, and may be seen at
least by some as a concession to human tendencies, but the ideal
situation is that the relationship be totally centered on things other
than physical attractiveness.  All of the above citations, while
supporting the idea that people have a "right" to physical attraction in
a marriage partner, do not necessarily support the idea that this is the
ideal.  I can cite other sources, such as the well known midrash about
how this was the first time Avraham looked at Sara and noticed she was
attractive (when they were going to Egypt and then Avraham requested
that Sara pose as his sister), or the mishna in Pirkei Avot about
avoiding social intercourse with women, to support the view that even
inside of marriage the ideal is to avoid sexual tension.  I would
appreciate a pointer to a good study of this issue.

Just to avoid any misunderstanding, I am not advocating the position
that the ideal is for marriage relationships to be based totally on
things other than physical attraction.  I am just stating that one finds
such a position expressed in some statements in the midrashic and
halachic literature.

At any rate, outside of a marriage relationship, it is harder to find
support for a woman looking attractive to the general public, especially
men, with the exception of a woman looking for a husband.

One further issue, which I've been wondering about and have asked about
in this forum, is about reciprocity.  There seem to be very few
instances in which men are regulated or disapproved of for their
contribution to sexual tension in their physical appearance.  Yichud
(having a man and a woman alone together) is of course symmetric.  Dress
does not seem to be, nor hair nor voice.  Perhaps that reflects laws for
men in a predominantly male society, where women did not venture out in
general, as in traditional arab/moslem society even today.  If so, in
much of today's society, where women are found in virtually all facets
of society, there should be more strictures on men's dress.

> In summary I hope introducing the idea of Dual Purpose will complement
> the Modesty-Attractive tension in halachah and lead to a more precise
> understanding: Single purpose acts that have sexual tension are
> confrontational and should be discouraged: Dual Purpose acts that have
> some other purpose, even if they also cause sexual tension, should be
> condoned, allowed, or encouraged.

This sounds to me like a reasonable idea.  Perhaps there is some
additional source material that supports it?

> From: Avi Feldblum <feldblum@...>
> In summary, it would appear to me that we should focus more on the
> internal sense of the person to influence a desire to "walk modestly
> with your G-d", than some of the recent discussions that so much remind
> me of people who only live for what their external show, with no concept
> of what should be inside one.

People often take a while to go from an emphasis on the physical and now
to the metaphysical and eternal.  Many of the laws, especially according
to the Rambam, are designed to foster an atmosphere and a society in
which it is possible for people to grow spiritually.  Part of this
involves regulation of sexual tension, even within marriage and
certainly outside of marriage.  Some of this involves regulation for a
less than ideal world, in order to make it easier to progress toward the
ideal (whatever that is).  There is a concern that since some physical
desires are so intense, they can dominate one's life.  The halachic
mandate of sexual relations once a week for talmidei chachamim is to
avoid the potential domination of their lives by physical pleasures,
even though in principle the action is permitted.

That being said, I want to second Avi that any actions we take,
including the discussions that we have, ought to be focussed on bring
out the innate desire "to walk modestly with your G-d."  It is easy to
discuss these matters in a way which alienates people, and thus does the
opposite of what we intend.  Instead, imho, we have the most effective
conversation when we talk to the tzelem elokim, the image of G-d, in
each person, which is what is inside of them, and not necessarily
reflected on their outside.

Jeremy Nussbaum (<jeremy@...>)


From: Isaac Balbin <isaac@...>
Date: Tue, 30 Apr 1996 20:46:11 +1000
Subject: Paskening From a Ma'aseh Rav

  | From: <twerskyd@...> (Moshe Twersky)

  | Isaac Balbin, in his response to Michael Lipkin, (regarding shaving on
  | Chol-Hamoed) stated that "If you are a Talmid, and he [the Rav] let you
  | see him act in a particular way, then this is a psak."
  | The gemara in Bava Basra (130b) however says, that one may not derive
  | halochos from a "Maseh-Rav."  The Rashbam there (s.v. ve'lo) explains
  | that it often misunderstood why a particular act was done in a
  | particular set of circumstances.

Moshe, the Gemora that you mentioned is not exactly conclusive.
For one, the Rashbam, and indeed, Rabbeinu Chananel, and others, make
it quite clear that the one opinion (it is a Machlokes) that holds this
way, is contextually talking about a Maseh that is mentioned in the Gemorah,
that is mentioned in a Mishna or Brayse. However, once we get down to the
level of Amoroim, it is clear (and of course Rishonim and Achronim for
our generation) that the so called doubt need not be prevalent.
Specifically, the utterances and actions of Amoroim are not deemed
to be in the sphere of "theory" but rather practice.
Secondly, the issue is a Machlokes. Whilst the Rosh and Rif bring the 
machlokes, I have not come across a Psak Halocho based on this Gemora.
I couldn't find it in Yoreh Deah. Why isn't this brought down Le-Halocho?
Thirdly, there are places where quite specifically the Gemora mentions
that someone saw his Rav do something (there is a good example about
a particular type of Haddasim that were questionable, but the actual
Daf eludes me at the minute) and based on that the person was justified in
acting the way of his Rebbe.
Fourthly, I heard a shiur from Rav Tendler about 10 years ago, and he
quite specifically said that a Talmid, whose Rav Hamuvhak allows him
to see certain Hanhogos, may act in this way. If anyone is close
to Rav Tendler they might ask him for Mekoros---alas, these I don't
recall from the Shiur. He gave specific examples of Hanhogos from
his father in law that only family, and Talmidim Muvhokim saw.

  | Rav Shechter himself, in his introduction to Nefesh Harav (pg. 3-4),
  | makes the point clear that much of what the Rav did was not intended to
  | be viewed as halacha; rather, they were his personal practices.

I looked at that, and as far as the Rov is concerned, there is little doubt
that there were many things that he did because he felt that was "right"
however, because those things often conflicted with *established minhogim*
especially the minhogim of ones family, he discouraged people from following
his Hanhogo. Having said that, and the same applies to people who follow
hanhogos of the Gro, or indeed Hanhogos of their Rebbe etc those people
are doing no wrong in my view, when they do as their Rov or Rebbe do/did.
There are exceptions, and especially when it was Derech Limoodoi and
the Talmidim are studying "theory" and not "practice".
To make myself clearer---if the Rov shaved on Chol Hamoed, and you knew
his reasons---I believe that you can do likewise. Even according to the
opinion you quoted from Bobe Basra, the reasons don't apply in our case.
In this instance, it isn't a matter of "minhag of our fathers". 
Much has to do with the level of the Talmid too! Talmidim Muvhakim are 
far and few.
Of course, with Chassidim, it is different, and somehow, I can't see
you prohibiting Chassidim from following the Hanhogos of their Rebbe based
on that piece in Bobe Basra. Would you?


From: <jerusalem@...> (Perry Zamek)
Date: Thu, 25 Apr 1996 20:50:19 +0300
Subject: Slit in Skirts

Chaya London in v33n77 wrote:

>A slit in a skirt is to make it possible to walk.  In the 1930's and
>40's these same skirts were called hobble skirts - because that was the
>only way to move!  

This reminded me that the Gemara in a couple of places dscribed a
certain mode of walking as "Akev betzad Gudal veGudal betzad Akev" --
heel by toe and toe by heel -- in other words, the hobbling gait (common
in old Japan among women). I chased up the references, and found it in
the Gemara's explanation of the destruction of the First Beit Hamikdash
due to Gilui Arayot. Among the ways women attracted men to sin at that
time was to walk with a slow (hobbled?) gait, so that the men would have
more opportunity to look at them.

Under these circumstances, one would have to say that a slit, to allow
for easier (and faster) walking, would be a contribution to Tzniut, and
not the opposite.

References: Yoma 9b, Shabbat 62b. The expression may appear in other

I also seem to recall that this gait was used by the Kohanim in
descending from the Mizbeach -- can anyone identify the reference?

Perry Zamek   | A Jew should hold his head high. 
Peretz ben    | "Even in poverty a Hebrew is a prince... 
Avraham       |       Crowned with David's Crown" -- Jabotinsky


From: <Harrymaryl@...> (Harry Maryles)
Date: Thu, 25 Apr 1996 13:19:53 -0400
Subject: Slits in Skirts

In a message dated 96-04-25 08:13:15 EDT, Alan Silver writes:
>As a man, I would like to add a comment. I 
>find it very difficult to retain any air of kedusha in my life when walking 
>around the streets due to the number (ie 99.999%) of women whose dress is 
>highly immodest. I confess that it *is* stimulating to see a slit in a 
>skirt, even when the skirt reaches the ankles and the slit is only a couple 
>of inches long. This is a big problem. For this reason (and speaking as a 
>male - ie in a position to judge) I do *not* think that the discussion is 
>getting silly - it is very easy to be beguiled by western society into 
>thinking that styles are alright when they are clearly not. 

It may be stimulating For Alan to see a full length skirt with a small
slit well below the knee but I think we can say "Batul Daito Aitzel Kol
Adam"! (he is an exception to the rule).  I had written a rather
thorough post on this subject awhile ago only it never made it onto
mailjewish, so, I'll try again.
 There  are two issues: 1) Erva, and 2) Tznius.
 Erva is absolute as determined by our Chazal.  These parameters of skin
exposure cannot be violated, w/o violating halacha!  Tznius goes beyond
erva and is RELATIVE to the community where one resides.  If community
standards are such that slits below the knee are considered well within
the limits of modesty, then there is absolutely no Issur in having
slits!  In western cultural society today, that is most certainly the
case!  By way of contrast Iran's standards of modesty would preclude
Jewish women who live there from exposing anything more than just the
face - that would violate halachic standards of modesty.  It was, also,
stated in a previous post that in a mens (!) mikvah somewhere there was
a sign up stating that it was absolutely forbidden to wear sllits in
skirts even if the slits are well below the knees, and this had Rabbi
Avrohom Pam had been one of the signitories (along with other roshei
yeshiva) to this sign.  I find it very difficult to believe that he
would have been a signatory to any kind of document like this.  I have
been informed of an intolerable situation whereby people have quoted Rav
Pam INCORRECTLY w/o his permission to further their own agenda.  I know
this to be a fact due to an impeccable source who shall remain
anonymous.  If Rav Pam's name is fraudulently "bottomlined" than it is
most likely that other names are fraudulently " bottomlined"!  It
behooves those people that attend that mens mikva to either authenticate
those signatures (which I doubt that they will be able to do) or to find
out who is at the bottom this type of deception and prevent it from ever
happening again!
 Harry Maryles


From: Caela Kaplowitz <caelak@...>
Date: Wed, 24 Apr 1996 07:06:03 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: Tznius and Slit Skirts

I have been lurking on this list for a month or so. I would like to 
comment on the ubiquitous slit in women's clothing with a comment that I 
haven't seen so far. The purpose of a slit may be an open door but 
usually the slit has a far more practical application -- put there so the 
wearer can walk without hobbling. In my opinion (and no disrespect to 
other posters) if a skirt needs a slit at all, it is too *tight* to begin 
with or it wouldn't need the slit. 

Caela Kaplowitz aka caelak


End of Volume 23 Issue 83