Arts & Culture

Angetevka

It’s an open secret amongst my family and friends that I have a thing for rabbis.  I really do.  When a rabbi walks past on the street, or when I bump into one at a Jewish event, my girl friends … Read More

By / August 26, 2009

It’s an open secret amongst my family and friends that I have a thing for rabbis.  I really do.  When a rabbi walks past on the street, or when I bump into one at a Jewish event, my girl friends will giggle and poke me as if we are in junior high school.   I am not particularly picky about age or affiliation either.  Reconstructionist or Orthodox, with sidecurls or without – I’m flexible.  Talk to me about God, and my heart goes pitter-patter. So at a recent wedding when the rabbi’s wife turned up wearing a tight, low-cut dress, and all the guests were gasping at the shande, I thought it’s a good thing I didn’t marry a rabbi (not that anyone asked, but still).   How could I have given up fashion for a man?  This past week, how women dress or don’t dress was much in the news.  In Central Park, women were marching for the right to go topless.  This, I have to say, I don’t completely understand.  Whom does it benefit if we women go topless?  It just means more sunscreen and worse sunburns, and one more body part that will be judged by others, whether you want it to be or not.  And then there’s the cumulative effect of gravitational pull to consider.  But by all means, if you want to go topless, feel free, bearing in mind it will definitely exclude you from being a rabbi’s wife. Then, there was Michelle Obama and America’s ongoing fascination with her bare arms (woo-hoo!) and now, her vacation wardrobe.  She wore short shorts to the Grand Canyon, and this week in Martha’s Vineyard she’s been seen in cotton summer dresses, in case you haven’t been keeping up.  What she wears very much affects how she’s perceived by the average American and how much we’re willing to like her.  Her clothes can’t look too snobby, and she has to be mindful of the fact that we’re in a recession, which is why we are tickled pink when she turns up in Gap T-shirts and J Crew cardigans.  On the other hand, when she dons her bright-colored, slightly offbeat designer duds, she does us proud because she’s saying to the rest of the world that Americans are unique, fun, vibrant risk-takers!    Obviously, whether you’re male or female, your choice of clothing or lack thereof sends a message to others.  It can telegraph your personal taste, perhaps your ethnic background, your socio-economic status, your education, your availability, maybe even how artsy or conservative you are.  But one thing I personally feel your clothing doesn’t do is reflect your relationship with God.   The notion that a "religious" woman, especially a rabbi’s wife, should be covered up is common to most faiths, for all sorts of reasons, some of which have to do with exposure=sex =impiety.   For quite a while, the church in which I grew up required women to wear dresses that hit the middle of the knee. Apparently, if it were even slightly above the knee, mayhem would ensue, men might not be able to restrain themselves, and God would be in a wrathful way. I don’t know that God has a dress code, but I do find it funny (as in funny ridiculous) that we women continue to judge one another based on a male God supposedly whispering "what women should not wear" fashion tips to the men! It’s a good thing, for many reasons, that I settled for marrying the son of a rabbi.   It’s hard enough putting together an outfit that is neither too matronly nor too mutton-dressed-as-lamb.  If I had to take into consideration my husband’s congregation, I might rebel and join my sisters in Central Park, sunburn and sagging be damned.