In these terribly troubled times, when sudden tragedies occur in our
midst, a group of women in Jerusalem, headed by a prominent rebbetzin,
decided to set up a series of shiurim for women on the subject
of modesty. They are given by well known speakers and teachers.
"Because of the many disconcerting tragedies which, unfortunately,
happened in Jerusalem and throughout the entire country in these recent
times, leaving numerous widows, widowers and orphans, we looked for
ways in which to improve ourselves personally," relates the rebbetzin.
"Most shocking was the calamity which took place in Kiryat Mattersdorf
on Tzom Gedalya, when Mrs. Malka Devora Ellis o'h was knocked
down and killed by a truck while her small son was waiting for his
ride to cheder. It was impossible to return to normal mundane
matters after such an accident, and in general, after witnessing all
these other terrible events, several of which took place in our own
immediate community. We had the feeling that we had to do something.
"We chose to reinforce the subject of tzniyus, and set
up the organization `Bas Melech', reminiscent of her name,
Malka. R' Steinman was consulted and he heartily endorsed the venture.
We found further encouragement in the book Shimusha Shel Torah,
recently published by the grandson of Maran Harav Shach shlita.
On page 78 he quotes stories from the gemora of terrible accidents
which happened in the world and which R' Shach attributes to an environment
which lacks modesty."
The rebbetzin continues: "Formerly, when we arranged shiurim
or rallies on this subject, we used a different title for them [to
somewhat camouflage them]. This time we decided not to beat around
the bush any more. It was time to get down to basics. We announced
that we were organizing shiurim mornings and evenings on tzniyus,
in Hebrew and English. We asked the speakers to base their talks on
the book by Rabbi Falk of Gateshead entitled, `Modesty, an Adornment
for Life.' Incidentally, this book is being translated into Hebrew
and will be on the shelves around Pesach time. Its theme revolves
around modesty of dress and conduct.
"The shiurim are not just about the length of sleeves or
the height of the neckline. The emphasis is on the behavior of a bas
melech, a princess, and on giving an insight and sensitivity to
the meaning of tzniyus. They will help us understand what we
have to do in order to be worthy of the title `princess.' The first
set of shiurim will continue until Rosh Chodesh Adar Sheini
and at this stage, they will not be dealing with aspects of halocha.
"Among other things, we propose to teach women how to fix clothes
which do not conform to the rules of modesty. There already exists
an alterations gemach in memory of Mrs. Yehudis Katzburg o'h;
the person in charge alters clothes to fit the definition and guidelines
of modesty in attire. Women from all over the country come to this
gemach after making an appointment by an anonymous phone call
to have their clothes fixed. Once they have learned the laws of tzniyus,
women are afraid that they will have to buy a whole new wardrobe."
This, of course, is not necessary, as there are many tricks of the
trade to alter clothing very simply. The rebbetzin has, indeed,
availed herself of a nearby clothing gemach for samples of
immodest clothing, and has held a workshop to demonstrate to lecturers
what can be done to salvage clothing and make it suitable.
The great response has amazed the organizers. Shiurim were
begun in Kiryat Mattersdorf, Neve Yaakov and Har Nof. But the idea
snowballed and requests for classes came from many other areas. Many
women have joined these meetings, mostly women who are actually conscious
of the requirements of modesty, and who dress properly. Nevertheless,
they all say that they have gained new insights into details of which
they were not aware before. However, the organizers primarily wish
to attract women who need strengthening in observance and wish to
generate public interest in the subject in general.
The Chofetz Chaim declared that if Shabbos was kept properly in Warsaw,
it would have a ripple effect on a Jew in Paris. Publicity of the
shiurim makes people aware, and when the subject is discussed
in detail, women begin to understand the harm they do when not properly
clad. If the whole environment is concerned with modesty in every
sense, it must have an effect on everyone, thinks the rebbetzin.
"We have also asked the Rabbonim to brief the men, as husbands
are often not aware of the required mode of dress."
The Bas Melech organization is also working on moderating the
clothes of various colors and designs brought in by Seminary girls
from outside the country. Besides this, a committee of women suggested
that we each choose one particular point in the subject of modesty
in which we can improve. For example, white blouses which may not
be opaque enough. Or shoes which clatter along the street to announce
our coming -- ever think about this as a matter of modesty? Perhaps
a decision not to wear knee stockings even if our skirts are long
enough. They suggest each person take one particular point to improve
on and then follow on from there when they are ready.
"The magnificent response to Bas Melech by women from all
walks of life proves that we are, indeed, all princesses, and people
are desperately looking for guidance on how to warrant this fine title,"
she concluded. If you, too, wish to improve yourself or your neighborhood,
ring up 02-2871735 or 2903735 (Jerusalem). You can also get practical
advice on different aspects of tzniyus, because there is a
solution to almost every problem.
If you cannot attend shiurim, perhaps you can study the subject
on your own. Rabbi Falk's book is easily obtainable. There are periodical
tests, just as with shemiras haloshon. Details are available
Upon hearing that a network of shiurim on tzniyus had
been set up in the memory of Malka Devora Ellis o'h, Rav Falk
of Gateshead, author of "Modesty, an Adornment for Life,"
sent a moving and inspiring condolence letter to Rav Simcha Ellis,
the mashgiach of Lakewood yeshiva. He pointed out the immeasurable
merit the deceased has in strengthening the awareness and upkeep of
this important mitzva. He writes, among other things, that
at the end of the Chofetz Chayim Al HaTorah it is written that
only where there is immodest behavior do we find the frightening words,
"Veshov me'achoreicho. . . .' Hashem will turn away from
you," leaving us unprotected.
In this terrible tragedy, it was as if Hashem removed His divine surveillance
for a split second, from the person He chose to be the sacrifice for
us all. It is as if a bas kol announced that Hashem wants to
see an improvement in the conduct which causes Him to turn away from
us: modest behavior and dress. On the other hand, in the same way
as the lack of modesty causes Hashem to remove HIs protection from
us, thus does the observance of tzniyus make Him extend His
full protection over us. May we merit it.