Why a Modesty Letter Makes This Mama So Mad

WOMEN ONLY PLEASE!!

Reason number one.  Men controlling how women dress.  Men controlling women in general.  Why do I think men wrote the letter and are behind the letter?  I just think women would have more heart about the request.  This letter strikes me as so absolutely heartless.

Here’s what I’m talking about – a private school with every right to make its own rules, sent a letter home requesting that the mothers of the students dress a certain way – no tight clothes, no leggings, no bright nail polish, no long sheitals, no denim, skirts only mid-calf (no knee length or maxi length) and the basic Jewish dress halacha of covered knees and elbows.

I am sighing hard.  I am sighing really hard.  I am riled up like Rachel Welfeld the intimacy coach when the rabbis tell women they can’t be on top during sex.  That’s probably not the most appropriate thing to write in a blog about being tsnius, but I’m just feeling mad enough and rebellious enough to not care.

And guess what!  That’s my whole point!  This kind of dictatorship beyond the bounds of actual halacha (Jewish law) breeds rebellion and anger and resentment.  Look, I’m doing it accidentally and proving my point.  I just wrote about sex positions.  Again!  Should I delete, should I delete, should I delete.  Tug of war.  Rebellion wins for now.

I’m not the most tsnius (modest) person.  Clearly.  See previous paragraphs.  My sheital is long and luscious (and BLONDE! gasp!).  My nails are often hot pink or purple.  I hate stockings.  I wear maxi dresses on Shabbos.  Rabbit trail – I will never, ever understand how maxi dresses are less modest than mid-calf pencil skirts.  That just doesn’t make sense.  Don’t even try to help me with it.  It’s weird.  I love being Jewish.  Just had to add that in there.  Back to the main point.

All this stuff is SHECHER (stupid lies!).  Or just so so far above my level that I can’t possibly grasp it yet.  I’m open to that possibility. I am not the most modest person.  But I’m a reasonably modest person.  I’m within the bounds of halacha with my dress code, I think, for the most part.  But I know I love Hashem and Torah and Truth.  And I so very much resent being judged and the pressure of religious acceptance when no one can judge anyone’s hearts and we all have our struggles.

Our girls are struggling with real stuff.  Like anorexia.  Like girl-on-girl exploration because their moms haven’t taught them about their bodies.  Like total terror toward a G-d they think hates them.  Like atheism.  Like cutting. Like guilt and shame and guilt and shame and guilt and shame.  Mothers wearing shorter sheitals (against their wills), I’m a hundred percent positive will not help any of that.  ANY OF THAT!  We’ve got real problems like that and you’re worried about wig length?!

I believe strongly in the power of modesty.  I believe when a woman takes on the stringency to keep her hair covered in her own home (or any other careful observation) where it’s not required that powerful things move in the heavens and brachas/blessings come down.  I truly truly believe that.  When the woman wants to.  When the woman chooses it.  When the woman feels it.  But I believe the opposite is true.  I have no sources for this other than my racing fingertips to get it out of my heart.  I believe that a woman forced is a deadly thing.  A woman forced will bring down evil and death and a raging backfire of doom.  That’s drastic, but I believe it on a spiritual level.

Choose your school.  No one’s forcing her to send her daughter there.  Yeah except even the school knows they have power here.  The moms aren’t going to pull their daughters away from their friends and comfort zone.  Most moms won’t anyway.  They’ll just sell their soul to the chumra/stringency police and everyone who says “what’s the big deal just buy some new midi skirts”.

Here’s where this gets even more infuriating.  Last night I was discussing with a friend the RAMPANT ADULTERY happening in our Jewish community.  (If it’s 3 people, that’s rampant to me.  I actually don’t have any statistics; it just seems like too much.)  A rabbi allowed a man who admitted to adultery come to shul.  My friend and I don’t like that.  The rabbi says it’s not his job to be the principal and kick people out of synagogue for their private behaviors.  The rabbi’s wisdom calms us down.  He’s right.  What does it become if the rabbi dictates the behavior of the congregants or doles out punishment and excommunication?  It becomes a cult.

Maxi dresses and denim and even tight sweater dresses aren’t anything compared to adultery, in my opinion.  Enter the school’s principal.  He’s actually the principal, so I guess it’s his job to principal. He says no.  Nope.  We’re better than that.  We can do better.  I hope his intention is great.  He’s overstepping his role in life by putting extra rules on the mamas.  Again, my opinion.  Now I’m feeling guilty about loshon hara and I want to say that I’m not talking about the actual principal of any school or the man who sent the rules home.  I didn’t even read his name and I don’t know him.  I’m talking about a mindset that I seriously don’t get and that I wish someone would either explain in kindergarten terms I could understand or fight like warriors to rid.

You can’t regulate character.  You can’t make people have better middos by giving them stricter rules.  It doesn’t work that way and it may backfire and it just pushes people like me away.

And gives us one more thing to divide us.

And keeps the Temple from being rebuilt b/c I’m mad at him and he’s judging me and we’re hating each other.

Before I converted to Judaism, I went to strict private Christian schools, where they made up non-biblical dress code rules.  There were no sources, no ancient authorities, just men making stuff up.  Your shirts have to reach two fingers below your collarbone and the boys’ sideburns have to stay higher than the middle of their ears … and Culottes!  Do you know what Culottes are!?  It made our environment look super wholesome.  It did achieve that.  Maybe it made the boys’ eyes not wander so much (I doubt it). But hearts!

Our hearts and our love for Torah and G-d.  That’s not a sentence.  It’s a hope.  I hope our hearts can change and we can choose wholesomeness and holiness on our own.  We all have a road to travel to get there, and I’m pretty much planning to travel mine in flip flops until my heart changes my mind for some reason.  I wish we could find a better way than stricter dress codes. Our kids deserve better than this, truer, deeper than this.  I wish we could find a better way than controlling other people’s behavior and preying on their need for a good Jewish school.

And now, introducing, drum roll, the Devil’s Advocate.  Why do you, Rina, value authenticity so much more than stringency?  Why do you respect the Jewish women proud in pants so much more than the ones hiding bitterly in skirts?  Aren’t the Skirts at least doing the mitzvah and isn’t that what matters?  The Doing.  This is a whole different topic.  Another day, another day.

Someone with loshon hara knowledge, please edit this and message me.  I’m not trying to do more damage.

Love,

Rina

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