Monday, April 19, 2010

No Slits! Bare Calves!

Since my recent move, I found myself making the acquaintance of several new families, B'H'. And while I certainly love ad infinitum my existing roster of friends, I have been feeling the need to be more sociable and expand my social network. You know- become known in my new neighbourhood.

So there I found myself the last days of Pesach at yet another new family and was being my usual chatterbox self. In attendance was a large family, all 3 generations of them. I was busy playing Jewish Geography with the grandmother ("Do you know so-and-so from X community?"), who was attired like a real Bubbe: calf-length skirt and matching grandmotherly blazer, tights, and orthopedic shoes. In the midst of our tossing names/places around, I mentioned that when I lived down south, the communities were very open/accepting. Case in point, one Young Israel had a yeshivish Rav, yet the women in his congregation could come with a sunhat and short-sleeves and nobody would blink or comment. I said that such openness wouldn’t fly in Brooklyn.

When the topic ventured into the territory of skirt slits, things got particularly interesting. I noted that I had never understood why, if I had sewn up the slit on a skirt so that the slit is far below the knee, i.e., a few inches from the ankle, the slit was still deemed unacceptable. The Bubbe then crinkled her face into that "I'll be nice and educate you, poor thing" expression. She proceeded to tell me that once, at a shiur, the Rebbetzin had explained that it was because of how the fabric moved (when the skirt features a slit). When she said "moved", the Bubbe gestured with her hands to drive home the point as she gave me a meaningful look.

Did I mention that the long skirt I was wearing had a slit in it? :p

I must admit that it took every ounce of effort in my being to keep from erupting in convulsions of laughter. And then, to add to the carnival, the hostess concurred by proclaiming for all to hear that nobody thinks slits are okay. I think I deserve an award for maintaining decorum under such circumstances. But as a Yekki, when you're a guest in someone's home, the only acceptable reaction to anything is respect and politeness. I am proud that I stayed true to my Yekkish upbringing.

On an ending note, a second tale from the last days. I went to my long-time friend's house, and she was livid. Turns out she had spent the morning running around trying to hear 1. Yizkor, 2. Bircat HaKohanim. During her shul hopping, she wound up at one place where there is a small hallway when you enter the women's entrance with two doors; each door leads to a different shul. The one shul is ultra yeshivish, while the second is modern. Guess which shul she wound up in? Meanwhile, she was steaming mad because when she made it to the yeshivish shul after going to the modern one, the Rav was busy talking about tznius. Her point? That he should lecture to the ladies in the shul across the hall; my friend found it, quote, disgusting that women could go to shul without their legs covered. I was pleased that her daughter reminded her that "that is the type of shul it is", i.e. modern. If you don't like it, don't go there!

And that basically sums up my view of both stories. There are numerous flavours of frumkeit, some more lenient than others. Hold where you want to hold, but do not slam others for holding differently. If you disgree, then think for a moment about how the Beit HaMigdash includes 13 doors? We're a rainbow, y'all, not a shoebox. Let's all act accordingly with achdus and acceptance, and maybe we'll merit to see Moshiach. Today.


  1. I once had a discussion at the table with someone who would never dream of wearing a slit. She openly admitted to me that she herself does not understand why slits 4 inches below the knee are problematic. We tried to elicit some response from other people at the table - we couldn't come up with the answer. Some standard answers were thrown around, but they weren't satisfactory. I would love to know why though.

  2. The reason slits are assur is because when men see slits, they'll think of sluts because the words are so similar. So slits are for sluts.
    This is also why it's only assur in English speaking countries.

  3. Moshe, seems as good an answer as any other