Thursday, August 21, 2008

Would Rashi Necessarily Condemn Pants Because They Show The Split of the Legs, As It Seems From Oz veHadar Levushah?

I digressed a bit to discuss whether Rabbi Falk's portrayal of Rus, and his presentation of the Taz's position. But now we return to where we left off, in this post. On page 309 of Oz veHadar Levushah, in the very next paragraphs, we have what is pictured to the right.

His first point is that slacks and trousers are forbidden because "they display the general outline of the upper sections of the legs (the point mentioned in the previous paragraph)." But, as we pointed out in an earlier post in this series, this was not the standard explanation of that gemara in Nedarim. Rather, that gemara was talking about looking at a woman's naked vagina. And even according to Meiri, it was talking about looking at a woman's clad buttocks, rather than the upper sections of the legs. Further, it seems from a plain reading of that Meiri that the woman was doing nothing wrong dressing as she was dressing, but it was solely the man's fault, and the punishment was for his being a pervert. And in an even earlier post, we discussed whether Ibn Ezra, and Rashi on Moed Katan, and Moed Katan, actually interpreted the pasuk in Shir HaShirim to require extreme covering for the thigh area. (I do not think it does.) So this first point he makes is somewhat questionable, to my mind.

At least based on the sources he presented. There might well be other sources.

But his second point is that
"they exhibit and emphasize the full shape of those limbs -- see Rashi Pesochim 3a s.v. b'Zov and Responsa Shevet HaLevi 6:118.2 about the pritzus of פיסוק רגלים -- displaying the division of the upper sections of the legs."
The strong implication of this is that Rashi there is assuring pants, and that when he talks about pisuk raglayim, he is talking about "displaying the division of the upper sections of the legs." Thus, it is not just Rav Shmuel Wosner, shlita, in Shevet HaLevi, who forbids pants because of this pritzus, but Rashi, a Rishon, says this as well, in explanation of the gemara. Which would then position it more as a requirement across the Orthodox spectrum.

But here is the actual gemara, and actual Rashi, pictured to the right. You may wish to click on the image, especially to be able to read Rabbenu Chananel.

The gemara says that the Torah used a pristine language, by referring to "riding" for a man but "sitting" for a woman. Rashi explains that even though they refer to the same thing, in terms of tumah for a zav and a zava, it is not proper to mention rechiva and pisuk raglayim by a woman.

Looking up this source with Rabbi Falk's definition of pisuk raglayim in mind, it would then seem that Rashi is saying that the Torah did not refer to women riding because it is not fitting to mention riding and thus the place of the division of their body into their two legs. And by extension, if one should not even mention the activity which has to do with this place of division of the upper sections of their legs, certainly it is an extreme violation of tznius if a woman wore pants, such that people could see that a woman had two legs, and that her body divided at that point! Thus, Rashi would prohibit pants because it is pritzus.

However, Rashi is not saying that. If so, the Torah would also never mention a woman walking, because walking involves the fact that the woman has two legs which divide at the upper section. At this point, please step away from the computer screen and try the following exercise. Pretend you are riding a horse or a donkey. Keep your back straight, but spread your legs widely apart and bring your pelvis down, as if you are sitting on a horse. Take away the horse, and you are left in a pretty crude and non-tzniusdik pose.

That was what Rashi was talking about. Pisuk Raglayim does not mean the place, or displaying the place, of the division of the upper sections of the legs. Rather, it means the spreading, or splaying of the legs. Read Rashi again and see that that is what he is saying. And then read Rabbenu Chananel, who says the same thing, in slightly different words -- shehamerkav hu bipisuk raglayim -- that riding is done by the spreading of the legs.

And so does Rashi use it in his commentary on Yirmiyahu 3:13:
יג אַךְ דְּעִי עֲו‍ֹנֵךְ, כִּי בַּה אֱלֹהַיִךְ פָּשָׁעַתְּ; וַתְּפַזְּרִי אֶת-דְּרָכַיִךְ לַזָּרִים, תַּחַת כָּל-עֵץ רַעֲנָן, וּבְקוֹלִי לֹא-שְׁמַעְתֶּם, נְאֻם-ה. 13 Only acknowledge thine iniquity, that thou hast transgressed against the LORD thy God, and hast scattered thy ways to the strangers under every leafy tree, and ye have not hearkened to My voice, saith the LORD.

And Rashi writes:
and you have scattered your ways This is an expression of harlotry, spreading the legs to the woman’s private parts.
And in Hebrew, Rashi uses the term pisuk raglayim: ותפזרי את דרכיך - ל' זנות פיסוק רגלים למשכבי אשה: Thus scattered your ways = spread your legs.

So we find in the midrash sechel tov:
שכל טוב (בובר) שמות פרק יב
תנא דבי ר' ישמעאל לעולם יספר אדם בלשון כבוד, שהרי בזב קראו מרכב, משום דדרכו של איש לרכוב, ובאשה קראו מושב, דכתיב וכל אשר תשב עליו יטמא (ויקרא טו כ), לפי שמרכב הוא פיסוק רגלים, ודרך גנאי הוא להזכיר פיסוק הרגלים גבי אשה במקום שאפשר להזכיר בלשון כבוד
And in Yalkut Shimoni:
ילקוט שמעוני יחזקאל רמז שנו
תמן תנינן המפתה נותן שלשה דברים, האונס ארבעה, המפתה - נותן בושת ופגם וקנס, מוסיף עליו אונס - שנותן את הצער, צער דמאי? אמר רב נחמן אמר רבה בר אבוה צער של פיסוק רגלים, וכן הוא אומר ותפשקי את רגליך לכל עובר:
which makes it clear it means "spread your legs." This Yalkut Shimoni was actually citing a gemara in Ketubot daf 39:
אמרו לו: אינו דומה נבעלת באונס לנבעלת ברצון!

אלא אמר רב נחמן אמר רבה בר אבוה: צער של פיסוק הרגלים, וכן הוא אומר (יחזקאל טז כה: אל כל ראש דרך בנית רמתך ותתעבי את יפיך) וַתְּפַשְׂקִי את רגליך לכל עובר [ותרבי את תזנותך]
Where the payment for "pain" in the case of rape is for pisuk haraglayim, the spreading of her legs.

And the phrase is also used in Igros Moshe to mean the same thing:
שו"ת אגרות משה אבן העזר חלק ד סימן מא
וא"כ אף אם נימא שהמאנס שאינו חושש לה כלל עושה גם בפסוק רגליה אבל מי שחושש לה יכול לבעול גם בלא פסוק רגלים כל כך אלא אף בפחות מזה שיכניס רק מקצת אבל ודאי מסתבר שא"א בלא פסוק רגלים כלל, וכ"ש שא"א כלל בדחקה ודבקה רגליה זה לזה שליכא אף פרוד כלל ליכא מציאות לכניסת ראש האבר לשם אפילו לנשיקה
So Rashi was not talking about pants, or tznius, or even the issue of a woman standing straight up in pants, when one can see that (forfend!) she has two legs, which separate from her pelvic region into two separate entities, just as human beings tend to do. He is talking about discussing a woman in a specific pose, which is necessary for riding a horse -- which is to have her legs splayed widely apart.

But someone just reading Oz veHadar Levushah without carefully looking up all the sources in context could quite readily walk away with the impression that Rashi, a rishon, says that it is pritzus for a woman to wear clothing which shows the form of her two legs, all the way to where they split apart.

I am not sure if this is deliberate misdirection; or an error in which Rabbi Falk mistook the meaning of the words because it is a homonym for what Rav Wosner discusses; or an extension which Rabbi Falk feels is obvious and justified. Regardless, it would have been nice had this been made clear.

Rav Wosner, in Shevet HaLevi, chelek 6, siman 118, ot 2, writes (click here to read online):

The portion cited seems, at first glance, to consider the issue of pissuk raglayim to be a problem because of that which Rabbi Falk wrote in the paragraph beginning "some Poskim." That is, it is tikkunei digavrei. Because in previous generations, women did not wear it because of the etzem pritzusa of pissuk raglayim. So even now that it is not considered by the public at large to be problematic, the qualities which make it beged ish still exist, he is asserting. This is

But along with this is the assumption that it is in fact etzem pritzusa. And we will see that Rav Wosner says this elsewhere. So Rabbi Falk would certainly seem to be correct in asserting that Rav Wosner holds this.

But I would point out that modern trousers were a late innovation. Though Persians had them in the 4th century at least. I don't know the real source for this assertion, but:
In the fourth century, women in the Western world wore pants, which they adapted from the Persians. At that time, pants were considered unmanly.
Perhaps, they wore some other clothing on top of where the legs connected, like Rav Wosner discusses in terms of the precedent of pants by the Teimanim (in the source we will discuss next). And general early European attitudes of women wearing pants may not have an impact on whether it is pritzus according to halacha, much as Victorian-era prudishness should not compel us to put diapers on all our horses.

At any rate, in Shevet HaLevi, chelek 2, siman 63, available online here, we have the following selected paragraphs from his teshuva (but the entire teshuva is there). He makes clear that the issue is whether this is a problem of cross-dressing, as described above (see first paragraph). But in the second paragraph, he expands upon the pritzus issue as a separate reason.

And Rav Wosner is certainly entitled to his opinion on whether pants for ladies is pritzus. But I will be so bold as to state that it is more than possible that if I disagree with him, it is not a matter of my own insensitivity to tznius and kedusha, but rather a difference driven by a sociological disparity. Rav Wosner is a member of the Eidah Chareidis, and lives in Benei Berak. And Bnei Brak and chareidi standards and conceptions of tznius are very different from my own.

But see this recent post at Hirhurim, where he discusses the specific issue of women wearing pants. And it seems that more than just Rav Wosner see a tznius problem with pants. But not everybody holds that pisuk raglayim is the problem. But see also the comment section there, for a good discussion on the matter. There does seem room to navigate.

One comment in the Hirhurim thread, which quoted a post on a mailing list, goes as follows (some spelling errors corrected):
One of the writers questioned whether there were halachic authorities that permitted the wearing of slacks by women. For sources that permit the wearing of slacks by women, see Shut Bena Baim vol 2, at page 211, where Rav Yosef Eliyahu Henkin is quoted by his grandson, also a well known posek, as permitting loose- fitting slacks. So too, Rav Aharon Lichtenstein is quoted in Dov Frimer's dissertation on tziniut as permitting loose fitting pants. Even my own rebbi, Rav Bleich, in his article in Contemporary Halachic Problems II 144-147 is very ambivalent about the issur and states "While there is little doubt that in many instances the type of slacks currently in vogue do not conform with halakhic norms of modest dress, it is difficult to agree that this must necessarily always be the case." He concludes that wearing pants is something that wives of talmidai chachamim, and others who represent torah, should not do. As with all postings of this type, people have to be careful when they post about unanimous opinions of halachic authorities.
Michael Broyde
{Update: But see bion's comment about Rav Bleich's position in his article, which may demonstrate that Rav Bleich considers mekom pisuk raglayim to be a problem. I have to check that article out, and see what he says in context.}

At any rate, Rav Wosner is perfectly entitled to hold that pants are not tznius for women because they show the mekom pisuk raglayim, and Rabbi Falk is perfectly entitled to hold like him. I just wish that a work such as this would not present this opinion about pisuk raglayim as if it were universally accepted. Furthermore, Rav Wosner's problem is with mekom pisuk raglayim, which is really just a near homonym to pisuk raglayim, and so it does not seem correct to conflate the two, as seems to be done in Oz veHadar Levushah. (Perhaps Rabbi Falk is relying on some other place I have not seen in which Rav Wosner equates the two. Regardless, I think it is not correct to conflate them.)

As a final note, Rabbi Falk does not list those who argue with the position that it is a problem of beged ish for the reason above. Instead, he avoids mention of meikil positions by noting that those who argue are listed in a footnote in another book geared towards Jewish women, Halichos Bas Yisroel, by Rabbi Yitzchak Yaakov Fuchs. That book is available via Google Books, but unfortunately that particular note seems to be not part of the limited preview they provide. But see the aforementioned Hirhurim post.


Anonymous said...

in r bliech's article, he only says that there should not be an issur with tunics over pants he seems to view pisuk raglayim as an issue

joshwaxman said...

thanks. I have not actually read that article. I will have to check it out.

I do not have a problem with people deciding that pisuk raglayim is an issue. (although it seems that some do not -- we still apparently have Rav Henkin and Rav Lichtenstein -- though I have not seen them inside either.)

a large part of my problem here is the claim that this is clearly what Rashi is saying on that gemara, which I don't believe is borne out by a close reading.

joshwaxman said...

again, I have not seen the article. Does he specifically mention pisuk raglayim as the issue, or is this is a derivation from his mention of tunics? just from what you said, it is possible that Rabbi Bleich's issue is the fact that pants are form-fitting, and one can see the outline of the buttocks, rather than mekom pisuk raglayim. (though tunics seems to fit in with Rav Wosner's argument about Teimanim.) or perhaps he is talking about for the types of pants currently in vogue. Bli neder, I'll try to see if I can get a hold out the article.

Thanks, and Kol Tuv,

Anonymous said...

and why did Adom Kadima, put up with a multitude of men taking teachers wands to different limbs of His body???

Well....he turned them into dogs...

Anonymous said...

"again, I have not seen the article. Does he specifically mention pisuk raglayim as the issue, or is this is a derivation from his mention of tunics? just from what you said, it is possible that Rabbi Bleich's issue is the fact that pants are form-fitting, and one can see the outline of the buttocks, rather than mekom pisuk raglayim."

I just read it again and you're right - he doesn't mention pisuk raglayim. i assumed that was why he mentioned tunics, and that he'd mentioned it, but he is just discussing modesty generally.

joshwaxman said...

I'll try to get a hold of that book and read the article. It sounds interesting, and I should familiarize myself with it.

kol tuv,


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