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HALACHA-----tznius/ rabbi falks sefer

Star Posted - 04 December 2000 18:53

Could one wear a skirt that is just covering the knees? Where does that "4 inches from the knee" come from?

- 04 December 2000 18:59

All you have to do is cover the knee. There is no such thing as 4 inches below in Halachah.

However, the knee must be covered even when sitting and walking as well, and if your skirt just covers your knee while standing straight it will not cover it in other positions. Therefore, some length has to be added. There is however, no Halachic quantification for this. If you need 4 inches, then it's 4 inches. If you need 3, 6, or 8, then that's what it is. Whoever told you 4 inches, I guess, figured that that's the amount you will need to cover your knee in all positions.

Star Posted - 15 December 2000 15:10

Currently, there is a style of very straight, just covering the knees, skirts. I myself have such a skirt. When, I sit, I kind of have to pull it for it to cover my knees fully. I know I should wear more tznius skirts but I can get away with it and it has a very chic look. Many girls I know where this type of skirt, even some of the frumies!

MODERATOR Posted - 15 December 2000 15:22

You can get away with it in school, perhaps, but not with Hashem....

So now the question is: For WHO are you dressing Tzniusdik? For your school or for G-d?

alexis Posted - 03 January 2001 20:40

I had never heard of a specific 4" rule either, but last week I was in the bookstore and saw a book called _Modesty: Adornment for Life_ by Rav Pesach Falk (I had to check the title just now, as I lost the slip of paper I wrote it on, so that MIGHT be the wrong book, but the author's name sounds right). He specifically said skirts had to be 4" below the knee.

(The book, btw, appeared to be one of the more comprehensive works I've seen on tzniut--I'm not qualified to attest to the Rav's authority, but he covered all aspects in great detail.)

MODERATOR Posted - 03 January 2001 22:23

Do you know what his source is for the 4"?

alexis Posted - 07 January 2001 20:18

Unfortunately I don't know it--I was only browsing in the shop, and saw that paragraph, and remembered this thread. So I copied down the author and title in case anyone wanted to look into it further.

It's available via Eichler's on the web.

MODERATOR Posted - 07 January 2001 21:36

OK. If anyone out there has this book please look this up and tell us where the author got this from.

basyisroel-613 Posted - 08 January 2001 17:20

In Modesty - An Adornment for Life, R' Falk writes:

"It has been carefully assessed that dresses and skirts must hang at least four inches (10 cm.) below the lowest point of the knee cap to guarantee that the knees will be covered at all times... The halacha that dresses must extend to 4''(10 cm.) below the knee is the ruling of Hagaon Harav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach z"tl, yibodel l'chayim Hagaon Harav Yosef Shalom Elyashiv shlita, Hagaon Harav Shmuel HaLevi Wosner shlita and has been endorsed by many other great Poskim... In fact no authoritative Posek has voiced a contrary opinion."

MODERATOR Posted - 08 January 2001 18:47

Ok, so there is no intrinsic reason for the 4" below the knee, it is just an application of the rule that the knee has to be covered at all times, and you need those extra inches for when you're sitting down or whatever. This we knew before, that the knee has to be covered always. But let's say, for instance, a girl is just putting on a skirt just to go outside and mail a letter, where she will not be sitting down in the skirt at all, she would not need the extra 4 inches as long as her skirt covers her knee

rachel2001 Posted - 09 January 2001 16:28

I know rabbi Falk is really smart and everything, but he a very high standards concerning Tznius. most ppl I know don’t keep half of that book (and I go to a pretty strict school). does everything a great rabbi decides become halacha? I wouldn’t exactly call a four inches past skirt, 'short'.

MODERATOR Posted - 09 January 2001 16:43

That's like asking if a great doctor tells you you're sick does that make it so?

We generally trust great doctors that they know what they are talking about, and unless we have reason to believe that they are wrong - like maybe another doctor disagrees, or you know how to read X-rays and you say he made a mistake - we assume they are correct.

It's the same thing with rabbis. If he tells you a Halachah, it's wise to assume he is correct unless you have reason to believe otherwise.

If you have two rabbis saying different things and you are unable to determine on your own who is correct, you should follow the rabbi who is bigger.

Rabbi Falk here is not saying anything that we did not know before. He is saying that your knees have to be covered while sitting, standing, and in every position. That's a fact. The 4" is what he assessed is necessary to make sure your knees are covered even while sitting. OK, so what's there to argue with? If your knees are covered while sitting with only 3 extra inches for instance, then even Rabbi Falk would have no problem with that.

It's true that what he wrote is a bit misleading since it makes it sound like covering the knees are not enough, and your skirt has to be longer than that. Someone may think this means that while sitting your skirt also has to be 4" below the knee. That's not the case. The point he is making is to make sure your knees are covered at all times. So he's saying that in a standing position if your skirt just covers your knee it won't help you when you sit down in the same skirt. That's nothing new.

Maidel123 Posted - 16 January 2001 22:14

The issue that I have with R' Falk's book is that it is often difficult to differentiate between halacha and chumrah. Perhaps other people don't have this problem because they can more easily discern the difference, but I find it overwhelming and frustrating that no matter what I do, there must be something wrong with it-it's too attractive or too ugly, it's too long or too doesn't give me the feeling of 'room to grow', it gives me the feeling of 'stifling as well as unreachable'.

mutt Posted - 29 January 2001 23:24

I don't understand something. if the rabbis out there said that four inches below the knees are necessary - what's the difference if I’m going to the store or sitting or standing? Their ruling is a ruling for everyone at all times! Or are we allowed to decide when we should keep to the rabbis' rulings or not? I am confused.

MODERATOR Posted - 06 February 2001 16:06


I tend to agree with you. It's important to know what’s Halachah, chumrah, minhag, etc. If you just say this is assur and mutar without explaining that, many problems could develop. Rav Yaakov Kaminetsky ZT"L says this in his Emes L'Yaakov on Pirkei Avos. He says this is what "Lo am haaretz chosid" means -- even though the ignorant guy can just do what everyone else is doing, since he will not know if it is a halachah or minhag etc., he will end up doing the wrong thing.


What you’re saying is of course true, but I am just explaining what Rabbi Falk must have meant. See, Rabbi Falk is not making a new Halachah - he is just relaying to you what we already know from Chazal and poskim. And there it is clear that the knee is the limit, not 4 inches. So if theoretically there was a contradiction here between R. Falk and the Rabbi Shulchan Aruch and poskim, we would listen to the Shulchan Aruch and poskim. The Halachah was already clear cut way before Rabbi Falk printed his book. It may not be so clear from the way he writes it, but there’s no question that what Rabbi Falk is trying to do here is to make sure that your knees are covered in all positions, which may take 4 extra inches. But it's the knees that have to be covered.

For instance, if Rabbi Falk really meant 4" below the knee as the real limit, then if you have a skirt that reaches 4" below the knee when standing, you'd be less than 4" below the knee when sitting. Now is that skirt inadequate? It covers your knee when sitting, but not 4" below. Let's say only 2" below. If that's true then you’d have to wear a skirt MORE than 4" below the knee to give you that level of coverage when you're sitting.

nevurtulate Posted - 13 February 2001 15:28

Moderator, I disagree with what you said about the 4inch thing-with the girl going to get the mail. It is so clear that short skirts ,even the ones which cover the knees are not tznius. the skirt just covers when standing, but were not only Jewish when we stand ,were Jewish when we sit, when we run ,when we fall, and when we go up stairs too! who knows what might happen while going to get the mail!?

I’m totally against short skirts always wore short skirts, but I stopped this year, because I decided, that

#1,who needs to see my legs?

#2, it is so uncomfortable, because your always making sure that its covering the your knees

#3 even if it is covering your knees while your sitting, any one across from you can see right through, all the way down!!!!!!!!!!!

#4 when going up steps, your knees show

#5 when sitting on the floor(Chinese style)your knees also show. I wouldn’t take a risk, even when taking in the mail! It was really hard to stop, because I have some really cute short skirts, and because I look really good in them, but I decided to do what’s right!

MODERATOR Posted - 13 February 2001 19:24

You're not disagreeing with me. We both agree the Halachah say your knees cannot be seen, ever, but that's it. I agree it's good advice to wear a bit longer even if you plan on not sitting down etc because "you never know", but the question here is: If you did wear a skirt that only covered your knees, and you did only stand and your knees were not visible at all, did you violate any Halacha?

According to what it seems to these girls from Rabbi Falk's book, you did violate a Halacha in that case. I was explaining that it is not so, and the extra 4" is just "insurance", and that Rabbi Falk himself surely does not mean anything different. The insurance is needed because as you said, girls do sit down sometimes etc., but the idea is the knee has to be covered, and that the 4" is just insurance for the knee, as opposed to an intrinsic Halachah in itself. There are many practical differences between the two understandings.

Maccabee Posted - 24 August 2001 15:10

Moderator, your comments are commendable, but not completely intellectually honest. You asked a young woman early in the debate whom she was dressing tniusdik for, other people or Hashem.

As any student of Tanach and Midrash knows, the first people, Hashem's as-close-to-perfect-as-possible creations, walked around completely exposed. Hashem did not require tznius from them because there was no such concept associated with the body. In fact the Torah describes that they were not "ashamed" of their nakedness. However, once Adam and Chava became aware of their nudity, they sought to cover themselves--and people have been doing the same ever since.

It is clear from our history that tznius is almost completely reliant on other people. Of course, Chazal did proscribe some areas of tznius that seem to relate exclusively to Hashem--the laws of tznius between a husband and wife during relations, for example. But these also have interpersonal ramifications. It is clear, Moderator, that one dresses tznius for other people and Kavod HaBrios, not Hashem, per se, although one could argue that Kavod HaBrios is directly associated with Hashem.

MODERATOR Posted - 24 August 2001 18:46

The only reason we care about how Kovod Habriyos or any of the Bain Adam L'Chaveiro aspects of our Tzniyus is because Hashem told us to. So we are always Tzniusdik because of Hashem.

ts Posted - 27 November 2002 18:29

Re: Rabbi Falk's sefer--

B"H I've been learning Rabbi Falk's sefer for the last few months. Firstly, I think he makes very clear the distinction between Halacha and Chumra.

For instance, he states that the arm until past the elbow must be covered, but it is admirable to cover the entire length of the arm. He clearly makes such distinctions throughout the sefer. However, a very strong theme in his sefer is that a bas yisroel should value her status, and this should be reflected in her manner of dress and action. Fact of the matter is we are princesses, the daughters of Hashem, so why do we want to look otherwise?

He therefore doesn't just provide the bare-bones halacha. Doing so would just dry up this whole mitzvah and make it unpalatable like school rules. He first lays down a strong foundation of hashkafa and then teaches the halachos, interspersing them with hashkafa as well. He makes admirable the desired goal. He describes the way a bas yisroel and (future) eishes chayil, mother of future generations, provider of the kedusha in her home, should dress and behave, to create the maximum kedusha for her family and klal yisroel. After all this is what tznius is about.

I suggest that any girl who wants chizuk in her tznius learn this sefer. You will be a changed person. I know I am.

HappyGirl Posted - 27 November 2002 23:08

Kol hakavod ts. I couldn't have done a better job describing the sefer. A lot of people feel that the sefer is too stringent, full of restrictions, and not doable. But I think if you really read the sefer the way it is supposed to be read, and not just read the halachos, then you'll WANT to follow it. He instills a pride in being a tznua. Being tznius (in dress, character, speech etc.) is REAL beauty.

MODERATOR Posted - 28 November 2002 0:09

I have found a number of problems with teenagers who have used Rabbi Falk's sefer. I know that it has become popular in numerous Bais Yaakovs recently, but I also know that girls have been very confused, turned off, and have rightfully questioned a number of things that he has said.

We'll start with the questioning. As an example, on p.123 Rabbi Falk includes in the things that women may not observe, "appalling forms of female dress." In a BY school here in New York, a student, who had an assignment to write a book report on Rabbi Falk's book, asked "does this mean that we are not allowed to see women who are dressed improperly?" The teacher answered simply "yes." And indeed, that is what the book indicates.

And that is simply false. What is he saying? That girls aren’t allowed to see other girls in short skirts?

In that same section, he says women aren’t allowed to see "pritzus", yet he does not tell the reader what constitutes pritzus that women are not allowed to see. You can imagine the confusion and misunderstanding that such ambiguity - in a halachah sefer! - has caused.

The reality is that, as he writes, women are obligated in the lo sasei of lo sasuru acharei ainaichem, which prohibits seeing anything that can generate lewd thoughts. Women may not stare at certain acts of aveiros that trigger improper thoughts, but it does not include seeing pritzus in the sense of improperly dressed women.

Here, both teachers and students have been rightfully confused and honestly misdirected by his mixing of mussar (the undesirability of hanging around where women are not dressed properly) with halachah (the prohibition of seeing pritzus), resulting in this strange conclusion.

On p. 262 he brings a disagreement in the poskim whether there is a rabbinic prohibition for girls to have long, unbraided hair. He concludes that it is therefore "highly recommended" that they don’t.

He failed to point out that the poskim state that the accepted minhag in our communities is to be lenient. In a question of a rabbinic prohibition with a clear community custom to be lenient, it is absolutely untrue that it becomes "highly recommended" to change your community standard. Yet Rabbi Falk’s "highly recommended" is given without any such qualification.

There are many such examples throughout the book.

Often the edge between Halachah and mussar is blurred, unclear, and the message to the average teenage girl becomes distorted. I have had teachers, and students come to me totally bewildered and confused after reading it.

Another issue is the way the sefer has become normative halachah in certain bais yaakovs, such that girls are reprimanded if they do not follow the psakim found therein.

Rabbi Falk is a legitimate rav, and a talmid chacham, and he is entitled to his halachic opinion. But he is not a godol hador and so his sefer is not binding on klall yisroel. Girls do NOT have to follow what it says in there more than what they hear from any other equally legitimate rav. Just because he wrote a book in English on Tznius does not mean everyone has to follow it. And it does not even mean that any given psak - or dvar mussar - represents the accepted or majority opinion among rabbonim and poskim.

Every Bais Yaakov should have their own Rav who should pasken not only halachic issues that come up but also which halachic seforim to use and what standards to teach.

While I understand the dire need to "reign in" today’s teenagers and instill clear and uncompromising standards of Tznius, not only with regard to the exact number of inches or centimeters that are permitted but also in regard to the sense and feel of Kol kevuda bas melech, nevertheless, presenting mussar as halachah and chumras as psakim is not the way to do it. That was the mistake of the first woman in history, Chava, when, after touching the aitz hadas, said to herself "I crossed the line already - I touched it and didn’t die, so I may as well eat it." The Kli Yakar explains, that Adam added a "siyag" and told Chava that she is not allowed to touch the tee. But Chava did not understand that touching was just a siyag, and she thought that when she touched, she already "crossed the line" of doing the aveirah, and she didn’t die, so she may as well eat.

And - and this is very important - it is not enough for the author to be able to say "I never said explicitly that such-and-such is a halachah - read closely!" That’s not good enough. It's not good enough not to explicitly mislead - it has to be explicit and clear that such and such is only a dvar mussar etc. The readership of this sefer is largely teenage girls. They are not sophisticated enough to figure out, when someone writes that the Navi Yeshaya reprimanded the women for wearing colored makeup, if this means that (a) they cant do it, (b) they shouldn’t do it, (c) its better if they don’t do it, (d) the women is the days of the Navi should not have done it but such standards are not expected of us, or (d) its assur to do.

The sefer is lacking in that kind of clarity, even when the material itself is uncontroversial.

Girls are being led to believe that if they do certain things they have already taken themselves out of the category of "Bais Yaakov" girl, or "tznuah". They are saying "well if I wear colored makeup I may as well wear short sleeves. I am anyway not a BY girl." I have heard such sentiments from girls myself.

What is a clear Halachah must be presented as a clear Halachah; what is a siyag must be presented as a siyag; what is a dvar Mussar must be presented as a dvar mussar; what is a community custom must be presented as a community custom; what is agreed upon by everyone must be taught in the schools as agreed upon by everyone; what is a minority opinion or a disagreement must be presented as such as well.

And it must be made very very clear which is which. It cannot be left even 1% ambiguous. We are not doing the Bnos Yisroel any favors if we get them to believe that white is gray and gray is black.

The Ralbag asks, if Midos are so important, why did Hashem not give us an explicit Mitzvah to only have good Midos. He answers, that Midos are at certain times difficult to control, and if, for instance, every time a person got angry he would violate a laav, the same as if he ate treif, he would look at himself as a sinner and become disillusioned and look at himself as being on the level of someone who violates mitzvos, which will only lead him to see himself as already "crossed over the line", and it will be easier for him to do other aveiros.

While Rabbi Falk's book has many worthwhile features, what is happening among many of its readers is, they are feeling that they are sinners and have already hopelessly "crossed the line" of being a non-tznuah.

If that were the truth, we would not change the halachah to change anybody’s feelings - we would work on changing people’s feelings to accommodate the halachah. But Rabbi Falk's intermingling of Halachah, mussar, his own personal opinion and accepted norms, has caused girls to think "I have already touched the tree."

HappyGirl Posted - 26 December 2002 16:22

Moderator, are you being fair? Granted, the sefer's not perfect, but it has definitely helped hundreds, if not thousands, of girls and women improve their tznius. The fact that it confuses and frustrates some girls (e--I read your post and I understand what you're saying) doesn't seem a good enough reason to "throw the baby out with the bath water."

MODERATOR Posted - 26 December 2002 16:54

I say simply that the torah tells us that this is not the proper way to help people, and that it will backfire. That was Chava's mistake.

We are commanded in Koheles "Do not be an excessive Tzadik", meaning "do not be a bigger Tzadik than Hashem". That means if Hashem says He doesn’t want things done this way, we should not make calculations that we know better.

The Dubno Magid had a famous moshol about this. A guy borrowed a silver goblet from his friend, and then ,when his friend returned it, he added a small silver "shnaps glass".

"What's this?" the owner asked.

"Oh, your goblet gave birth while in my possession. That little one is the baby. It belongs to you."

Not wanting to look a gift horse in the mouth, the guy took the little silver shnaps glass, no questions asked.

Then the same guy borrowed a set of silver knives.

And returned 2 extra one.

"Twins!" he said.

Then the guy borrowed a giant silver vase. The owner was sooo happy to lend out this item, and was already figuring on a place to prominently display his new, "baby" vase, that he figured for sure is coming.

But when it came time to return the vase, the borrower appears at the door empty handed, with tears in his eyes.

"It . .. died," he said. "I'm so sorry for your loss."


"Excuse me --- you believed me every time I said your items had babies - so now you have to accept the fact that they can die too!"

The nimshal, he said, is that when we "add" something to the Torah, it is like when that borrowed returned a new "baby" item. We think that we got richer, and we think that its good, but the reality is, that it shows we do not respect the Torah authority - and when you start messing with the Torah, adding things, even for good causes, you will eventually take away form the Torah too. If you can add, you can also subtract. Kol hamosif goreah.

We must present halachos as halachos and chumros as chumros etc etc. Teaching people Torah and clarifying for them the truth is the way to make people more frum - confusing them and hiding the truth is not what we are instructed - or allowed - to do. Even if it seems to us that that makes people more frum.

Because Hashem says it doesn’t.

Rabbi Falk's book has many good things in it, but it also contains elements of exaggeration, confusion, and simple misdirection. Its not an issue of throwing out the baby with the bathwater, its simply an issue of "I only want to learn things that are true." There are plenty of places where girls can learn the Halachos of Tznius - we have been doing so for centuries. Whatever inspiration the book lends may not come by telling people things that will give them the wrong ideas of what Hashem wants or expects.

yideleh Posted - 26 December 2002 20:52

Mod, do you think you can print out all the stuff you wrote about this sefer and send it to Rabbi Falk, to see what he'll say? I'm really curious.

MODERATOR Posted - 26 December 2002 20:58

Good idea. If anyone one the site is from England and knows him, please do that. I heard he teaches in the new Gateshead Seminary. Do we have anybody here who can ask him these q's?

yideleh Posted - 09 January 2003 6:39

He teaches in the old Gateshead seminary... My sister is there, but I doubt she'll feel ok giving him these things to answer. Maybe anyone else who has some azus might!

yideleh Posted - 09 January 2003 14:05

happyGirl, I don't doubt that Rabbi Falk wrote anything that he did not believe was Emes. I wasn't saying he should be CONFRONTED. That's way too strong a term.
Machlokes in Torah is not bad if it's lesheim shamayim. I just want to have a better picture of what his side is, as apposed to the other sides out there.

But the bottom line is probably "everyone at their own level!", therefore, I'm not going to be the one to actively ask him anything about the topic.

MODERATOR Posted - 09 January 2003 14:16

It has nothing to do with azus - its always best to hear two sides of a story.

Emuna Posted - 23 June 2003 7:13

Thank you so much, Rabbi Mod, for posting that critique on "The Tzniut Bible"! That book has been waved in my face and made my blood pressure rise one too many times. I am presently very worked on tzniut-wise, but that book...I could not handle it then, and I still can't handle it now. Thank you for writing so eloquently about what contributed towards me being turned off tzniut to begin with.

ginger Posted - 05 July 2004 9:30

I’m in England, I’ll get it to him.

MODERATOR Posted - 05 July 2004 9:37

Great. Please KIT and let us know what happens.

ginger Posted - 21 July 2004 8:36

Oops, just realized how old this forum is. Did anyone ever send it to him? did he comment?

MODERATOR Posted - 05 November 2005 19:53

I never heard anything back.

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