Wednesday, February 21, 2007

The Honor of a Princess: Modesty

Sorry, this is b"n the last of the princess posts, but I couldn't resist, it was the perfect title. (Kol kvudah BasMelech pnimah)
IFT posted about tsniyus, a while back so I don't have the patience to find it and link you directly. Anyhow, this is my response, I don't think it's typical, and it's something I feel very strongly about, so please give it a few moments:

Instead of focusing on creating tsnius guidelines that are updated with each new trend that comes out, educators of Jewish girls need to take up the issue from two angles, both but no more:

1. Clearly defining the halachot of tsnius. The girls need to know where the line is drawn between rebelling from the school rules and breaking Jewish law. As it is in all BY schools that I know of, this line is very fuzzy as a zillion rules are thrown at the girls from all directions. Give them the laws clearly. You can make your own suggestions or school dress code as well, but there should be a clear differentiation, we must empower our nishei Yisrael to make informed choices.

2. Infuse them with the pride of a Jewish woman. There are levels of meaning behind the laws of tsnius that would make anyone proud to wear them. Give them a sense of purpose, mission, (I do mean besides supporting a kollel boy! This is way overemphasized, nice though it may be, a Jewish woman needs to have her own identity independent of her husband. Especially since at the time when these concepts are being drummed into the girls most of them will not be getting married for quite a while. But I digress.) We need to give our girls the strength to stand tall in the face of their challenges, and this won't happen by telling them a long litany of what they shouldn't and aren't.

Through a combination of those two curricular goals, along with plenty of siyata diShmaya, perhaps we will be able to prepare our girls to make appropriate tsnius choices without suppressing their feminity.

Personally, I find it difficult to fathom that after about a decade of this vicious cycle (in which lower levels of modesty and more rules chase after each other so frenetically that it's impossible to tell anymore which is the cause and which the effect) many major, respected mechanchim continue to stuff more and more rules down their students' throats, even as these rules are repeatedly defied. Don't they understand that their system isn't doing it?

I'd love to hear your reaction to this view, and whether you've heard anything along these lines before. I wouldn't think it's such a chiddush except that it's not happening.


The Dreamer said...

You want to get a school to spell out halachos? Many can't even agree on that.

I remember, when I was in school, they had our Halacha rebbe/teacher give a speech on hilchos tznius. Just the exact halacha, as you said. The problem was, he mentioned things they didn't want him to say were permissible, so they never did it again.

My neice is in a school that is absolutely wonderful, though. I know it's not high school, so it's easier, but the girls really love keeping hilchos tznius. They have contests and the like. All to make them feel like bnos melachim. (they're into the princess thing, too!)

Bas~Melech said...

If properly combined with the second approach, that shouldn't be a problem as most girls will WANT to strive for the highest level.

Anyway, true that's not what they want, which is my point, but: Many gedolim were known to have been lenient when other people asked them questions, in areas where they had much stricter standards for themselves. They chose not to impose their chumras on others, because if the person would fail to do it, they would be sinning by not following the halacha as laid forth by their rabbi.

I think that the tsnius situation today falls into the category of "Eis laasos." The temptations will be there; let us be honest with our girls about where they stand. If they think that by violating some chumras laid forth by the school, they are throwing away their frumkeit, and are not good bais yaakov girls anymore, they are not likely to take pride in their Jewish womanhood and will not be motivated to grow in frumkeit.

Independent Frum Thinker said...

Great post.
Your two points are important ones and should be emphasized.

Independent Frum Thinker said...

Maybe I should post more issues that get you passionate. It seems to bring out the best in you. :)

socialworker/frustrated mom said...

I have heard both approaches which are important but it still doesn't help enough. Ppl have to be motivated.

yingerman said...

I think its a self worth issue. I ran into a buchur I know this week, who was wearing a jacket and a colorful striped scarf and big sunglasses. When I asked he says it 'to stick out'. why do they need to be different. To 'stick out'.
They have no self appreciation and thereby relegate themselves to being colorful scarves.
I feel bad for those girls who feel the need to dress in manner that portrays them as nothing more than a body part.

Mel said...

The issue here has roots which are underlying problems in the Frum education system as a whole. We have reached a point of such growth, which has forced us to become more and more structured to function efficiently. So structured and streamlined that we reached the point where anything short of complete perfection is deemed complete failure. Even if this isn't true from the educators perspective, it is certainly a legitimate internal pressure.
Obviously, the more demanding and structured the system is, the bigger the need will be for certain individuals to express and explore their autonomy.
This manifests itself typically in noticeable "rebellion", which can take several forms in and of itself. Personally, I think better we suffocate them with chumras, than with bare minimum halacha, risking their individualized expression pushing completely forbidden limits. (This is obviously far from ideal,but may serve as a strong enough reason to reject change.)
As far as Jewish Pride, and Bas Melechology goes, the youth of our generation are facing a system which has recognized the need for change, but is slowly transitioning. This creates significant confusion and misdirection.
We need to find ways to teach our children and siblings to take the responsibility of being a Bas or Ben Melech seriously. Certain things may conform to the letter of the law, and certain even to the spirit of the law, but ultimately there are certain mannerism which are not befitting royalty. That doesn't mean you have to view the world from your high horse, just have some self-respect. You deserve it! Ultimately, modesty is more than a set of guidelines, it is a mentality and lifestyle, where you are proud of who you are, and the history which led you to today. We need to teach the children what being a Jew really means! It means that everything which happened since the beginning of time until this very moment happened to lead you to this moment, and you should be proud of the very rich history which paved the road to your own little world in the present! If you really stop and think about it, your mind should be blown away with the importance of who you are, and what your purpose is. How can someone with this in mind not dress like a princess, and behave like a bas melech.
Cia'o Mel.

Anonymous said...

just a practicl question (i wasnt sure where to post this)
would a girl need to wear a skirt when snowboarding?

Bas~Melech said...

I would just because I always wear skirts. You'd need pants underneath, though, because the skirt wouldn't stay down. Ask your rabbi or mentor what to do.