Written by Devorah K.
In a letter from a mother recently published on this site, she is perturbed by the idea of a man inquiring about the exact Tznius standards of a prospective girl, and wonders whether this isn’t inappropriate for a man to do, and if there should be a rule instituted that provides that mothers inquire about a girl’s dress, instead of fathers.
I find this view fascinating, and wholly incomprehensible.
Firstly, in case the mother is the one asking these questions – would she not then relay that information to the father? But, you say, at least the conversation won’t be uncomfortable. Is discussing Shidduchim and probing about a boy or girl ever comfortable? One who feels uncomfortable about or overly sensitive to discussing all matters relating to the prospective girl or boy, as is necessary for the Shidduch process, should step aside, and allow someone more qualified to have that conversation. There is a time and place for sensitive conversation and polite niceties, and orchestrating a Shidduch isn’t one of them. When it comes to Shidduchim, every topic and inquiry is important, and should be on the table.
More important, however, I take issue with the particular example she cites. Already, there are too few question that can shed light and elicit answers of any value, as many are so vaguely addressed or subjectively qualified as to provide no knowledge of any import.
If there was ever a question that may offer profound insight into the prospective girl, and perhaps can be a defining question that cuts straight through the Great Divide of Jewish standards, it’s this: “Does her skirt cover her knees even when she sits?”
This may be a testament to the diversity that is Lubavitch today, and a world in which one can never take anything for granted. It does not suffice to simply declare “the girl is Tznius” – most say that about themselves, and for radically different standards. The Tznius question is all about specifics, and perhaps no question offers more insight and really cuts through to the core of the issue then the one of whether her skirt cover her knees when sitting.
One wonders, however, if it’s appropriate for a man to inquire into such things…
Of course, from a practical standpoint alone it would be inadvisable to cordon off sections of the Shidduch making process to a single gender, in this case the mother. Why create additional boundaries in the way of achieving an ever more elusive Shidduch? Even if the price is minor discomfort, so be it.
But practicalities aside, I see no inappropriateness involved whatsoever. Is it appropriate for a man to inquire whether the girl keeps Shabbos? I think we agree the answer is a resounding Yes. Is it appropriate for him to inquire whether the girl wears pants? Or whether she plans on covering her hair after marriage? Let’s assume the answer is Yes, too. So what’s wrong with finding out whether she is ACTUALLY Tznius (and not merely one who considers herself Tzinus in her subjective reasoning). The only way to do that is to ask the grand, super accurate, impossible to skirt (pun intended) question: Does her skirt cover her knees when sitting?
I’m left to assume this mother is using hyperbole when declaring that this question made her blood boil. But seriously, “probing her wardrobe” is quite the job (these days, anyways) of someone who wants an honest and accurate answer as to whether the girl keeps Shabbos, um, I meant keeps Tznius!