Monday, June 13, 2011

The Tzniut Project 16: It's a Very Personal Mitzvah

This is the sixteenth in a multi-part series called The Tzniut Project. Women from a variety of backgrounds with a variety of observances have volunteered to anonymously answer questions that I have written about their practices, people's assumptions, and more. For more information on the project, click here. Please continue to check back with The Tzniut Project to read more stories and comment abundantly!

Note: This post is contributed by a reader

1. How do you affiliate Jewishly? Feel free to elaborate on the words people use to describe you and the words you use to describe yourself.
I would label myself as left-wing yeshivish. I believe strongly in following halacha even when I don't always understand it or even like it. I agree with a lot of charedi concepts but ultimately there are some aspects of the charedi community that I can't agree with.

2. Growing up, did your mother or grandmother dress modestly in any way? Do you think modesty was something instilled in you by your family? Did you dress modestly growing up?
I am a BT so there was no real standard. My mom and grandmothers wore pants, short sleeves, etc. My maternal grandmother always wears pants. Personally I always was more conservative in my choices. If I wore shorts they were loose. I never owned a tube top or short shorts. My skirts were always on the longer side. We were also taught the concept that there were times and places for different types of clothing.

3. Are you married? How does your spouse feel about your choices for modest dress? Is it a dialogue or does your partner leave the mitzvah to you?
I am married. Tznius is an ongoing conversation. When we were dating we were on the same page for the most part. There are small differences in taste and style but nothing major. He has encouraged
me to take on new things that I thought were harder then they actually were.

4. What would you wear on a typical day? On Shabbos? If you dress differently on weekdays and Shabbos, why do you make this distinction and how?
Normal weekday clothes are either a black or denim skirt that covers my knees a shirt that covers my collarbone and elbows and some type of tights or socks depending on the weather. I love all hair coverings especially pretied tichels and snoods but there are days when my sheital is more appropriate. Pregnancy and nursing have also influenced my clothing choices in the past year.

On shabbos I have a bunch of comfy dresses that I love for Friday night and shabbos day is usually a dress or skirt and top. Shabbos is a holy day deserving of my best clothes. I think getting dressed in my
nicest clothes despite the fact that its often just my husband and me sets the tone for the day.

5. What do you think other people infer from your clothing and hair covering choices? Has anyone ever said anything to you outright that expresses a judgment based on your appearance? (Ex: “You don’t cover your hair or wear skirts, so why do you keep kosher?”)
I think I come off as being more modern then I actually am. I don't dress in a bais yaakov manner even though I have a lot of the same beliefs. I asked someone I'm friendly with about a specific book
about women in Judaisim that had come out recently and she strongly emphasized how intense it is. People are surprised that I don't use the eruv, don't have a TV, keep pas yisroel, and try to eat chalav

6. Have you ever surprised someone by dressing more or less modestly and making them rethink their stereotypes about what it means to be an observant Jew?

7. When you see someone who observes tzniut differently than you, what are your initial thoughts? How do you deal with them?
I'm human and sometimes I judge, but at the end of the day I know that it's a very personal mitzvah. If people are at the very least being sincere in trying to keep a normative standard of tznius in accordance with halacha then kol hakavod! If their tznius is not in keeping with normative halacha and they purport to be a Orthodox/frum person I get irritated sometimes because proper tznius (in dress and mind) is ultimately no less halachic than being shomer shabbos.

8. I say modesty or tzniut … what does that mean to you? 
When it comes to tznius its as much of an attitude as it is a way of dress. I am a loud outgoing person so the little voice in the back of my head is always there reminding me to tone it down a little.

9. Anything else you’d like to add about your choices, experiences, and more!
Ultimately tznius is about being a bas melech (daughter of the King of Kings). Every day I ask myself how should I dress and how should I behave when continuously standing before our Creator (infinitely greater than any human king)! He set certain standards for us as Jews and we should do our utmost to adhere to them.