Jan 1, 2013

Heaping Scorn on a Rejected Psak

Recently Rav Shlomo Aviner has publicized a few piskei halacha that put him at odds with many in the Dati Leumi community, of which he is one of the venerable leaders.

The latest is a psak he publicized this past week regarding the issue of tzniyut and what the appropriate style of tzniyut dress is for a girl.

Rav Aviner has always been fairly extreme, relative to the general Dati Leumi community, on issues of tzniyut and inter-gender interaction (for example, Rav Aviner insisted on separate-gender youth groups when most were ok with mixed groups). He is pretty similar to haredi poskim on these issues.

In his latest psak, he talks about the importance of tzniyut and then gives guidelines for clothing. He says, in part::
  • clothing must: 
  1. cover the entire body
  2. cannot be transparent, with transparency being determined outside, in the light or sun, and not inside the house
  3. not be tight 
  4. be quiet and reserved
  • "not tight" means it does not highlight any body part or limb, while hiding the shape of the body. 
  • certain materials are problematic such as a thin or thick weave, lycra, etc
  • stay away from clothes with the colors red, flesh colored, orange yellow or green in bright shades. 
  • neck can be revealed but not the body. So, the neck must be covered on the sides until the point where it begins to angle to the body, in the back of the neck to the first vertebrae, in the front until the protrusion of the bones. top button must be kept closed. and a high collar is even better.
  • arms must be covered until the elbow at all times, and sleeves should not be wide to avoid exposure when arm are lifted. even better to cover all the way until the wrist.
  • dress must get to 10 cm below the knee, even if she is wearing solid stockings. stockings need to be at least 40 denir thick, but practically they should be more than that. skirts should not be narrow or tight, at least 10cm wider than the circumference of the body at its widest point. slits are not allowed as it draws the eye.  skirts should not be made to close with buttons, as they can have problems such as a button falling off or they might be spaced too far apart. Rather, they should have zipper. With shirts too should one should ensure the buttons are not spaced too far apart from each other.
  • Shoes: not a strong, unusual color, not a high heel that affects the form of walking, not noisy
  • hair shouldnt be long to the shoulder, but should be gathered in back (ponytail I guess). for those who are lenient about not gathering it in the back, it still should not be left wild and disheveled. braiding the hair is even better.
  • hair coverings: some prohibit wigs, some allow, but they should not be drawing to the eye, btu should be modest. be careful that all hair should be put under the covering. some allow up to a tefach, 4 cm, being two fingers worth of hair (width)
  • for chinuch of children, some say to start at age 3 and some say this only applies from the official age of chinuch which is anywhere from 5 -7.
Since publicizing this psak, I have noticed that many people, specifically from the Dati Leumi community, have been heaping scorn and rejection on Rav Aviner in various articles and Facebook and Twitter discussion. It is not just people saying he is disconnected from the community, or that he has gotten too extreme, or "I follow a different psak so this does not apply to me". Rather, it has been met with real scorn. People are scoffing at his psak.

I am no fan of Rav Aviner, and I do not follow his piskei halacha. Usually I just ignore them and don't even read them, unless I am directed to something specific. But I find it interesting that instead of just ignoring a psak that one sees as being irrelevant, people are rejecting it in what I think is a very rude and disrespectful way.

In my opinion, it is the job of the rav, especially of a leading rav, to issue his piskei halacha. Perhaps even to try to model the community to the behavior, in this case the details of tzniyut, as he sees to be appropriate.

The people, on the other hand, and this is true in any community be it haredi or Dati Leumi or other, will listen or not as they see fit. practically, people listen to what they want to listen to and do other things when they don't agree. And that is fine by me.

I am not saying people need to follow his psak, but it bothers me that they reject it with scorn. Since when is a rabbi not allowed to state his halachic decision on rules of any matter (including tzniyut) to his community? why is there such scorn for his psak? Even if one were to disagree with it and rely on other piskei halacha or halachic conclusions of their own, why the scorn? Does he not have a right to have, and state, his halachic opinion?

If the issue was raised by askanim, if askanim are trying to force people to do something specific, throw all the scorn you want at them, but this is part of the rav's job and responsibility.

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  1. This is symptomatic of something I've pointed out in the past.
    The term "Dati Leumi" refers to one's political philosophy. The level of one's religious behaviour is irrelevant to it.
    Rav Aviner, who is almost Chareidi but with a knitted kippah is Dati Leumi. So are the congregants at Shirah Chadashah.
    So it's no surprise that Rav Aviner would pasken like this. He's not Modern Orthodox when it comes to these issues.

  2. A) we can depend on Ynet/Yediot for blowing this out of proportion in order to bring spite to rabbis
    B) What is the big deal? Rav Aviner posted some guidelines which are more Hardali and people like that will appreciate that.
    C) What happened to the pluralism in the national-religious community? If someone is not Hardali, and she (and even he) chooses to wear bright red, short skirts, not stockings or socks, or bother to read Rav Aviner's books, why should they care what he says?
    D) Rav Aviner's star has fallen somewhat after the expulsion in which he struggled against fighting the army. If someone disagrees with him, best to ignore since this merely gives Rav Aviner more exposure. It's a simple lesson in mass communication that one should do some due diligence before responding to an 'adversary' as opposed to just letting a dumb 'item' in the secular tabloid get forgotten on Sunday afternoon.

  3. yes, there is a wide-range of communities under the DL envelope. just like there is a wide-range under the haredi envelope. His psak is not relevant to the more liberal ones in the community, but they still should not treat his psak with scorn. disagreement is fine, but not scorn.

  4. Whose insecurity?

    1. People who don't dress according to Rav Aviner's standards, and feel insecure about their own position. If they felt secure about their own lifestyles, they wouldn't feel the need to diss Rav Aviner, but rather just get on with their own lives.

    2. could be, could also be people who realize that such statements, unchecked, become "facts on the ground" which become community norms. Unfortunately many choose to fight with scorn.
      Joel Rich

  5. See Here: http://www.ravaviner.com/2012/12/we-are-not-modern-orthodox_6.html

  6. I think it is a bit more than this.

    The flag banner of tznius at the moment, and the way it appears to be used restrict and limit women is, in a lot of people's eyes - one of the primary forces pushing girls and women "off the derech" (in circumstances where we are not talking abuse or situations like that).

    Rav Aviner, as we have all seen from the video you posted elsewhere - appears comfortable with his daughter off the derech, and the kind of clothes she wears, and maybe he prefers to have girls make that kind of stark choice - wear his kind of clothes or abandon being shmirat mitzvot.

    However others feel quite strongly (to put it mildly) that this kind of psak is dangerous, in the highest order, in terms of making women and girls decide that they no longer belong in the frum community, and hence should throw it all off, shabbas, kashrus, the works.

    In that sense there is a strong feeling that this psak can even be characterised as a chillul Hashem. ie waht Rav Aviner appears to be saying to many girls and woman is that HaShem can't cope with you wearing bright orange and other similar, mood raising or artistic colours. And the most straightforward response from somebody of that bent is "If Hashem can't cope with me wearing bright orange (or other similar, mood raising, artistic, colours), then that is not the sort of G-d I want anything to do with."

    And the halacha is, kol makom she'yesh chilul Hashem ain cholkin kavod l'rav" [in any place in which there is a chillul HaShem we are not concerned about kavod harav [See Brochas 19b, Eruvin 63a, Sanhedrin 82a, Shavuos 30b)].

    And that, I think, is what is going on here with the denigration of Rav Aviner. Because if you believe that the wide publicity of this psak, without counter, is going to push numerous girls and women off the derech, many people wil not have the equinaminity that Rav Aviner shows to his own daughter. If you indeed want to try and prevent this, then it is imperative that such women and girls hear the message, loud and clear, that they continue to be welcome in the frum/dati leumi community. But it is very hard to do that without denigrating Rav Aviner, because he has effectively made it as an either/or. Either he is seen by such girls and woman as mainstream, meaning they need to run away, or it is made clear to them that he is not mainstream. Even just saying - Oh well Rav Aviner says this but other Rabbaim say that is highly likely not to be enough here. Because the natural, normal, response of somebody on the border like this is to say "a plague on both your houses - I am not going to stick around to see who triumphs in the end. I don't want to have anything to do with a situation where my orange coloured clothing is a matter of respectful public debate, as if I as a creative individual woman does not exist - it is enough, I am off".

    That is what is at stake here.

    Chana Luntz

  7. instead of people rejecting Rav Aviner's psak with great disrespect, I would have liked to see other rabbonim from the DL communities issue their psak, explaining why and how they argue and differ. Lay-people could have argued as well, but with respect.


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