May 8, 2018

Interesting Psak: nose rings and chukas hagoyim

Rav Aviner was asked if one is allowed to wear a nose ring. Assuming it is problematic, why is it any different than an earring? Some religious women wear them, though not Haredi women and not Dati women with yirat shamayim, and Eliezer gave Rivka a nose ring... so what's the deal?

Rav Aviner responded nose rings are prohibited due to the rule of "chukas hagoyim" - imitation of non-jewish practices. He explains that not everything goyim do turns that thing into chukas hagoyim. There are rules. One rule of chukas hagoyim is supplied by the Maharik who says that something that is immodest that is attracting, such as red clothing, is chukas hagoyim. If it is immodest, it is prohibited anyway, but if it is something the goyim do, then it is also  the additional prohibition of chukas hagoyim. Rivka wearing a nose ring is no proof of anything because at the time it was commonly worn.

Rav Moshe Feinstein quotes the Maharik in regards to prohibiting the wearing of clothes in a haughty way - meaning, clothes that make an impression, that attract, that the wearer wants people to see and notice. As the Orchos Tzaddikim says that wearing attracting clothing is a form of "gaiva" - haughtiness.

Rav Chaim of Tzanz that someone wearing both modest and immodest clothing is transgressing a negative prohibition and deserves lashes, even if the intention is not to appear like the non-Jews, even if one can tell from the clothing that she is Jewish and only one item is similar to that of the non-Jews, it points to a lack of modesty.

The rule is, Rav Aviner says, a woman does not need to try to look beautiful in public. Beauty is for her husband, and her desires should be to serve God.
source: Srugim

The concluding rule does not seem to fit with the rest of his explanation. In his explanation he talks about what qualifies as chukas hagoyim, and in his concluding rule he makes a comment on women looking pretty in public. One has nothing to do with the other. A woman can look pretty or attractive in public without transgressing chukas hagoyim, and without transgressing rules of modesty. A woman can look ugly (is that the opposite of pretty?) and still transgress chukas hagoyim.

One might say that nose rings have become common enough, among Jewish women, that it is more similar to Rivka's days of it being common and therefore acceptable, than a problem of chukas hagoyim. Maybe the first women to wear them were dabbling in something problematic, but once it becomes common among Jewish women it would no longer be considered chukas hagoyim.

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  1. The Rabbi is right here. Even though it might have been a tradition about 4000 years ago and even later; but since for over 2000 years it is not. Today, we have a young non-Jewish generation which has sort of gone rogue and wear nose rings, earrings on all part of their ears and even tongue rings - crazy, it is, therefore, very inappropriate (I think ugly) to wear such items as it is chukat hagoyim.

  2. Wearing a Rolex is Chukat Hagoyim by this definition.

  3. It is an interesting post and topic,though this does seem overly simplistic

  4. If R' Aviner is condemning it, then you know it's more and more widespread in his circles- as indeed it is, for anyone who knows any settler-type chardali young women. Again, the logic being that our holy mothers did it, so why can't we? It's the same reason the men wear "beged ivri."

    Of course, the imahot also dressed in ways that would be unacceptable anywhere in civilization these days, but at least no one's doing that.

    1. How do we know what women of that place and era wore? Why would it be unacceptable in civilization today?

    2. Because they left us pictures.

      Among other things, it was socially acceptable for women to go topless in those days- not all the time, not all women, not all social classes, but it happened, and no one blinked an eye- or at least not much more than if we, today, saw a topless man. Certainly women working in the fields on a hot day wouldn't wear a top. And that's not any sort of knock on them; it was the tzniut standard of the day.

      Compared to that, nose rings are nothing.

      (Remember that men wore earrings back then too. See the egel hazahav story.)

    3. Again, how do we know it was socially acceptable? There is plenty of more recent nude art, and at no time during the painters' lives would it have been acceptable to walk around that way in public.

      And there are places today where it's socially-acceptable, if not outright expected, for women to be topless.


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