Friday, April 07, 2006

On Overritualization

My wife observed something while shopping for clothing on Pesach, which led to an interesting discussion (and disagreement) between us.

She was trying on clothing in a dressing room when she noticed a sign hanging on the wall. The sign stated something to the effect of "please have in mind while buying clothing that you are being m'kayim the mitzvah of tznius" (you are observing the commandment of modesty). She thought that it was a nice thing. I wasn't so sure of it. To me, it represented the creeping over-ritualization of things.

My initial rebuttal was "does this mean that when you buy lingerie, you are violating the mitzvah of tznius?" Her response is that it depends on how you're going to use it. If you're going to use it in the bedroom, then you're not. My response to that is that the "mitzvah" of tzniyus should be decided at the time you are wearing it (and any mental declerations should be made at that time).

She tried another tack - that it doesn't hurt; it does no harm. My answer to that was that hopping up and down whenever I buy a box of tissues doesn't do any harm either - but that hardly makes it a valid Jewish practice.

What do you think? Valid, or just part of the trend toward overritualization of everyday events?

The Wolf


Unknown said...

A little of both, really... some things are nice, some seem to be people trying to force everything into neat little boxes. Overall, I'd have to side with you - let people make their own decisions about what mitzvos they want to have in mind when. Too many people are turning into robots about mitzvos.

almost_frei said...

I think it's valid.

The owner of the store has a right to post whatever he wants, especially if clothing for sale in his store are only dark blue or black suits, and other so called tzneusdike outfits. Clothing that were never in style and make anyone wearing them look like they are 60 years or older.

How else can he get girls and women to feel good about wearing shmattes.

aj said...

Its kind of funny for me to hear the phrase "m'kayim the mitzvah of tznius" - I come from a Brisk/Rav Soloveitchiky/Gush background, and the idea of tzniut being a Mitzvah that one can be Mkayim by doing anything (for me, Mkayim does not have the connotation of observe...its fulfill. Even if it were to be a Mitzvah that you could fulfill, it would be at the moment of first wearing (or whenever wearing) not when buying.

But its OK - the next Artscroll siddur will have a Bracha אשר קדשנו במצותיו וצונו על מצות צניעות (asher kidshanu bmitzvotaiv vtzivanu al mitzvat tznius - "who has sanctified us with his mitzvot and commanded us regarding the mitzvah of tzniut"), which will be proceeded by a "Hineni Muchan UMezuman Lkayem Mitzat Aseh shel Tznius" which should be said every time one buys cloths (assuming the clothes are Tznius)

Anonymous said...

Does this mean that if she bought the clothes without the proper kavana, she was oiver kalut rosh? Also would a new bt shopping there need to make a shechiyanu?

Anonymous said...

I still don't think that having in mind that you are being makpid (stringent) on buying tzniusdik clothing is a bad thing to keep in mind. In this day and age, it is NOT an easy thing for a woman to do. The sign was put up L'iyluy nishmas (to elevate) someone's neshama (I am embarassed to admit that I don't remember the name), and maybe that little thought you make while trying on clothing can truly heip to raise that person's neshama. So what's the harm?
And, just for the record almost_frei, not everything in the store is a black or blue suit designed to age you instantly upon putting it on!

ADDeRabbi said...

wolf how's this:
when you pay the credit card bill, have in mind that you're being mekayem the mitzvah of 'she'eira ksusa ve-onasa lo yigra'. at least it's a real mitzvah, and can blunt the effects of the size of the bill.

tmeishar: said...


The Chainik Hocker said...

A bagel place in Lakewood has a sign over the sink where you wash which goes something like: remember, you are eating in order to have strength to fulfill Hashem's mitzvos.

I appreciated the sentiment.

Orthonomics said...

I certainly don't expect the store owner to put up a sign stating (from the Ben Ish Hai) that a wife must be careful with her husband's posessions, budget accordingly, or more.

But, a wise husband might just want to put that sign up on every store window! My husband, doesn't have to worry. I'm careful and don't shop very much.

Liek you, wolf, I could do without all of the mitzvah this, mitzvah that. Sometimes, easy does it.

The Hedyot said...

Another nutjob. It absolutely is an example of this idiotic over-ritualization of religiousity. AFAIK, I don't think there's any specific mitzvah of tznius (like tefilin, or shabbos), it's rather a general concept that is understood to be part of living properly as a religious Jew. If he wants to talk about real mitzvot, he should put up a sign that when you wear your clothing, you should have in mind to be yotzei the mitzvah of not wearing shatnez. And when you pay for your purchase, why not have in mind that you are not being over "lo signov"? Also, when you eat a nice salad, have in mind, "v'nishmartem me'od l'nafshoseichem". And when you treat people properly, have in mind, "v'ahavata l'reicha kamocha". Don't forget to have in mind, "kabed es avicha" when you call your parents to say good shabos! Oh, and speaking of shabbos, I suppose that the entire day one should constantly keep in mind, "zachor v'shamor" as he goes about his day not being mechallel shabbos! Of course all this should be for the aliya of a neshama, because hey.... you never know!

turquoiseblue said...

I would not feel imposed upon by such a sign, to the contrary.

But then again, I'm a huge love-to-see "support the troops" magnets/ribbons, flags flying kinda gal...

All in the spirit.

Makes me remember to feel, to be.

No harm in that. In fact, it reinforces all the specialness about being a Jewish woman/Jew. And the latter, about being American.

Anonymous said...

Hey adderabbi..I happen not to have a credit card, and I payed cash (a gift from my parents!). Now what?

chareidi said...


Anonymous said...

funny! but you should understand that there is a concept known as bchol darkecha dehu- know Him in all of your ways.When these thoughts come about with a sincerity and hergesh- that's wonderful. But when someone needs to make a sign that's moronic.
(besides the point that it is a machlokes of mitzvos tzrichos kavana, and usually we don't pasken that it is required, however it is praiseworthy- this is the halachic fine print)

crazyone said...

i couldn't agree with you more. putting up a sign like that in a dressing room is obviously ridiculous. but i think this is a major problem in some of the jewish communities (i.e. brooklyn.) everyone "over-ritualizes" everything. its not just the sign that your wife saw, it applies on all levels. everyone thinks they can tell other people what to do, how to act, even what to think!
the biggest problem is that this just encourages Jews as a whole to stop thinking for themselves.

Melissa said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Melissa said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Melissa said...

I saw that sign and it disgusted me. Don't tell me how to think.

Your wife thinks it can't hurt? Wrong. It can hurt. It can make someone who isn't fond of the Jewish community even less fond of it. If my family weren't in New York I'd be out of here in a second.

Anonymous said...

A reminder to be mindful that we are constantly "on the job" in the service of Hashem, is disgusting?!

Do you always have kavana that you can say, 'Don't tell me how to think'?

Some of you think that the sign makes people stop thinking for themselves. Yeah right, as though people are having lofty thoughts about G-d in the dressing room as a matter of course and have no need for a reminder.

As for the lingerie question - oh please ... The sign wasn't hanging in a lingerie store. What sort of sign could possibly hang in a lingerie store? How about "shivisi Hashem l'negdi samid"?

Hedyot seems oblivious to the numerous halachos of tznius which means observing them is a mitzva. As for all the actions and accompanying thoughts one could have, that Hedyot enumerates - good ideas! Why are you mocking them?