Baseball Fans love to argue over who belongs in the Hall of Fame. Every fan has his or her own opinion both on players who are not yet in the Hall and on players who are actually in the Hall. We can spend endless hours arguing over the merits of Phil Rizzutto vs. Pee Wee Reese, whether Don Mattingly or Bert Blyleven really should be inducted or if we should induct players who were undoubtedly great on the field, but had off-field problems.
Part of the problem, I suppose, comes from the fact that there is no clear definition of exactly who a Hall of Famer is. Bill James, the noted baseball writer and statistician, said in his book Politics of Glory “The Hall of Fame is a self-defining institution that has by and large failed to define itself.” Since the guidelines of what, exactly, a Hall of Famer is are vague and ambiguous, there will always be arguing about who belongs in the Hall.
For good or for bad, however, the concept of tznius has morphed over time, to include restrictions on how women (and, to a far lesser extenet, men) dress and behave. However, as with the Hall of Fame, there is no clear definition of tznius, but rather one that varies greatly over time and distance. It’s kind of funny in a way – no matter where (or when) we come from, we all agree that a esrog is the fruit indicated in the verse pri etz hadar and we all agree that tefillin need to be black and have four parshiyos. Yeah, we may disagree in some minor details (the order of the parshiyos, etc.), but we agree in the main details. And yet, when it comes to tznius, the definition of how women are to dress varies greatly from one community to the next. In some communities a wig is the only acceptable head covering. In others, a wig is forbidden, only a kerchief or a turban is acceptable. In some communities, women shave their heads completely upon marriage, thus making absolutely sure that no one sees their hair (including, I guess, their husbands). And on and on it goes. Since we’ve failed to establish some universal standards for tznius (beyond, I suppose the bare minimum) each community argues for what it thinks is the proper standard.
However, of late, I think that we’ve been taking things a bit too far. We’ve taken the concept of tznius, as it relates to women’s dress and behavior, and begun carrying it to an extreme. Whereas at one time it may have meant simply being modest in dress and behavior, it is now approaching the point where we have ever-increasing restrictions and regulations. It has been noted in more than one place that black seems to be the newest fashion trend among Orthodox Jewish women. However, it that because it is just the “fad of the season” or is it because we’ve become afraid to wear any other color because it might be ruled “untzniusdik?”
There are things that are happening today in the name of “tznius” that would have been unheard of fifteen years ago. Consider the following paragraph from Miraim Shaviv’s recent article in the Jewish Chronicle:
As with just about all things in life, there is a key word that one must apply to one’s actions and thoughts – moderation. In all things, one must be moderate. Going overboard on anything is a bad thing – and that includes tzniyus. Going overboard on tzniyus regulations to the point where you begin measuring how thick stockings have to be, or how shiny your shoes are or what color banana-clip you can wear in your hair only serves to alienate women from Judaism, not to attract them to it. And when you alienate women from Judaism, it's usually the tzniyus restrictions that are the first thing to go.