Tuesday, May 01, 2007

An Unenforceable Edict Is a Bad Idea

Yeshiva World reports (via Ynet) that a Tznius Hashgocho (modesty certification) has been established in Israel. A Tznius Beis Din (court) will give certifications to worthy vendors. One particular target of this seems to be Lycra.

Now, I'll certainly entertain arguments that some frum women dress provocatively. We have some Hot Chanies who live in my own neighborhood. But the idea that you can fix the problem with a hashgocho is downright silly.

As eliezer notes in the comments on the YW thread:

What’s to stop a women from going into to one of these stores and buying a dress two sizes too small? How can that be stopped? What if a dress looks tight, but a very thin woman buys it and it fits her Tzniusdikly?

There are just too many variables that go into determining whether a particular outfit is proper for the wearer. Size, material, color, body style, fabric and probably a dozen other factors go into it. This isn't a decision that can be made on a store-by-store basis.

Furthermore, what will be with stores that sell lingerie? How will they judge which stores get a hashgocho when all the clothing therein is meant to be worn in the privacy of one's own home?

In any event, the concept lacks two important factors that are necessary to make it work - an enforcement mechanism or the willingness of the public to only buy items with the hashgocho.

The former is illustrated by drugs. In order to buy a drug in the United States, it must be approved by the FDA. If it is not approved, it cannot be (legally) sold in the US and stores that sell it (and people who buy it) can face criminal charges.

The latter is illustrated by food hechshers. No one is going to put you in jail if you buy non-kosher food. But since most Orthodox Jews voluntarily keep the laws of kashrus, the system works.

This system has neither element. There is no enforcement mechanism and there is no public will (by virtue of the fact that the clothing is already being bought and worn). Even if you closed down every clothing store that lacked a hashgocho in the cities where these people live you could not enforce the decree. Now that we live in the days of easy travel, catalog shopping and the Internet, you can order things from around the globe and well out of reach of the Tznius Beis Din. As such, the edict is, to all extents and purposes, unenforceable. And an unenforceable decree is worse than no decree.

The Wolf


Ezzie said...

I specifically told someone who emailed me the story that it's too stupid to even write about. (No offense :) )

This is true for all the reasons you mention and more. Economically, this will simply drive customers away from some 'frum' stores as they buy what they need from other stores. Perhaps it's just the cynic in me, but I'm becoming more and more curious as to whether certain clothing and/or fabric companies stand to gain on this, and if they helped push such a stupidity along. This is mind-bogglingly stupid.

Anonymous said...

The point of a hechsher for Kashrut is that it is not apparent to the consumer if the product is kosher--you have to be in the plant when it is being made to tell. After all, no one needs to put a hechsher on a banana, because anyone can see that it is kosher. The clothing has no hidden features. The consumer can readily see for him or herself what parts of his or her body it covers and how tight it is.

It adds the problem of reinforcing the pernicious notion that tzniut is only a regulation of women's clothing. It is about distinguishing between the private and public in far more than clothing.

Rafi G. said...

ezzie - I agree with you. I was going to write about it then decided it was too stupid and not worthy of a post

ADDeRabbi said...

ezzie and rafi - there's no such thinjg as too stupid to blog about. what you can do from now on is post a link to a stupid idea with the letters 'tstba'

Anonymous said...

Well I wrote about it on my blog. (http://veeblog.wordpress.com)

I just wondered, as you do, how it will work practically. Different clothes fit people differently.

Anonymous said...


You said "Even if you closed down every clothing store that lacked a hashgocho in the cities where these people live you could not enforce the decree." If you take away from people the ability to buy the clothes and there are no other stores nearby and people don't have easy access to transportation and they don't have Internet, then this ban will work close to 100%. Of course this is for people in very sheltered communities.

Even without that, if a Rav in Charedi Yerushalayim tells his followers that they must shop in the kosher stores, then this decrease the amount that shop elsewhere. While there won't be 100% compliance, it will increase compliance.

This type of decree is not for us or most. But in the sheltered Charedi world (or American Chassidic even) it can work to some degree.

What is the point in poking fun at all these decrees that are clearly aimed at a different population than we belong to?

Anonymous said...

This is too funny for words. I can envision a Mel Brooks movie entitled Gedolim-Rabbis in Lycra.

BrooklynWolf said...


My point was not to poke fun. If I meant to poke fun, you would have seen elements of humor in my post.

The Wolf

Holy Hyrax said...

the willingness of the public to only buy items with the hashgocho.

Give this time. Eventually, newly minted BT's will be brainwashed into thinking one MUST buy clothing with hashgachot. These BT's will teach their kids and so forth. Eventually, Gap, J-crew and others will pick up on this and will create specialty stores for orthodox areas.

BrooklynWolf said...

Eventually, Gap, J-crew and others will pick up on this and will create specialty stores for orthodox areas.


If the businesses do this on their own, I don't have a problem with that... it's a business decision. The Gap isn't forcing anyone to buy only at The Gap.

The Wolf

Zev Stern said...

Oh, but there is an enforcement mechanism. Sell clothing that doesn't meet our standards and we'll burn your store down. Wear clothing that doesn't meet our standards and we'll throw bleach on you.
Any wonder my son is as cynical about the Orthodox establishment at 24 as I am at 54? The devil take them all.

come running said...

Lakewood Venter wrote about this and I started to comment but I realized it was turning into it's own post "All Hail The Rabbis"

I read the original article and found that no more comments were allowed. Which just enforces the view point that the Rabbis are always right and you cannot disagree.

btw-just found you and have added your link. would you do the same?