Moderates criticize rabbi’s women’s modesty views

National-religious moderates express concern over directives for modest dress issued by leading Rabbi Shlomo Aviner.

January 2, 2013 04:06
2 minute read.
Rabbi Shlomo Aviner

Rabbi Shlomo Aviner.. (photo credit: Courtesy)


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The publication by leading national-religious figure Rabbi Shlomo Aviner of a set of principles for modest dress for women last weekend evoked considerable consternation within the community.

Aviner, dean of the Ateret Yerushalayim Yeshiva in the Old City of Jerusalem and the rabbi of the Beit El settlement, issued a list of directives for modest dress in his regular column in the weekly Shabbat pamphlet “B’Ahavah U’ve’Emunah” (“With Love and Faith”), which many saw as inappropriate and overly strict.

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“Clothing should cover the entire body, it should not be transparent, it should not be tight, and it should be quiet and reserved,” the rabbi wrote.

The opposite of tight clothing is a garment that conceals the form of the body and does not emphasize any limb, continued Aviner, who is considered to be on the conservative wing of the national-religious community.

By way of introduction to the topic, the rabbi explained “how beautiful and pleasant the modesty of a daughter of Israel is,” and how, by covering the body, the soul is honored.

The rabbi also issued directives regarding the color of clothing to be worn, saying that women should refrain from wearing anything red, body-colored, orange, bold shades of yellow or green, gold, silver or anything shiny.

Arms should be covered to at least below the elbow, but the sleeves should not be baggy because any movement of the arm will expose the area above the elbow, but “how much better and pleasant is it” to cover the arm up to the hands, Aviner noted.

The rabbi’s directives continue to discuss skirt length, 10cm. below the knee, stocking thickness, shoe type and color and other issues of modest attire.

Rabbi Yehuda Gilad, co-dean of the national-religious Maalei Gilboa Yeshiva, said that the level of detail that Aviner went into was unnecessary and that “obsession with modesty is not modest.”

He also said that the publication would be unlikely to have any effect since those accustomed to being more stringent in the way they dress would continue to do so, and those who are not so exacting would simply ignore the rabbis instructions.

Rabbi Ronen Neubert, director of the recently established liberal-inclined national-religious group Beit Hillel, criticized Aviner’s modesty directive as “intrusive, humiliating and immodest.”

Neubert said in an op-ed published on Ynet that the issue itself must be dealt with discreetly and that it was for female halachic experts and educators to talk about modesty with their students – and not for rabbis.

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