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HaRav Yitzchak Ratzabi Regarding ‘Taliban Women’

HaRav Yitzchak Ratzabi Shlita in a recent shiur addressed the ongoing controversy surrounding women who dress similar to Arab women, known in Israel as Taliban Women or Shawl Women. The rav is a prominent Torah figure in the Yemenite community in Eretz Yisrael.

The rav feels that the opposition is incorrect and the women wishing to take on additional stringencies regarding tznius should be praised, not admonished. The rav ponders how rabbonim, talmidei chachamim in Yerushalayim and Bnei Brak can be waging war against the trend, which he views in a positive light.

“For example, if a woman comes to a school wearing a shawl, the children will not be accepted in the school, simple as that. In my opinion, this falls into the category of ‘hindering one from doing a mitzvah’”.

The rav cites an example of a “prominent rebitzen in Yerushalayim, a well respected person, who has set a precondition to entering into her shiur, the removal of a shawl. Truthfully, we must check into this, perhaps there is an error. However, I believe this is one of the things that our generation must do tshuva for since we saw that the shawls and the scarves worn previously, up to the last generation, have disappeared in Eretz Yisrael and we never dreamed they would return. As I wrote in the abbreviated Shulchan Aruch that this was one of the things seen with our mothers [taking the words from Song of Songs (5:7)] … they stripped my mantle of holiness from me, the angelic watchmen of the wall. Hashem should pity us for the ‘mantle of holiness’ was taken away from our generation.

“What existed in many lands, not all countries, has disappeared in our generation and truth be said, we cannot offer a good reason why the scarves have vanished from the women in our generation. This of course leads to michsholim (stumbling block) but no one came out against it. Now there are some righteous women that have renewed this, and to come and oppose this is most difficult for me to comprehend. While the rabbis may not be capable of instructing women to do this, but now, there are those who have decided to take this upon themselves and they are not honored or respected, but ridiculed. They call them names in the street; ‘Arabs, Taliban, Palestinians’. They are shamed and disgraced and they are embarrassed but they continue with mesirus nefesh, L’Shem Shomayim, and the matter must be probed”.

In response to questions, the rav explains why the rabbonim oppose this. He stated the rabbis feel this is not the way, that they attract more stares this way than dressing as others do, and some rabbonim feel such apparel is a chilul Hashem since the non-frum look at them and speak of how the chareidim dress. The rabbi explained his words refer to shawls and scarves, emphasizing regarding a veil, “there is nothing to talk about”.

The rav also stated there is another “very serious” matter, that the same rabbonim who publically came out against the shawls are not speaking out against the wigs. “If they were speaking out against permissiveness and immorality, and also spoke out about this (wigs), I would say their actions are L’Shem Shomayim, but it appears the evil inclination has grabbed them. The yetzer hora at times targets righteous people.”

(YWN – Israel Desk, Jerusalem)

21 Responses

  1. He’s teimani. Ashkenazim are more bothered by by the burkas because it seems foreign and over the top to a Westener. On the other hand sheitels and barely knee-length skirts seem foreign and immodest to someone who is accustomed to seeing burkas. A lot of older teimani women still wear arab-type outfits, so this is not surprising. It’s not a problem for them, since it is their minchag. We all have taken some things from the golus. The issue is when Ashkenazi women start to dress and behave like Arab women. Then, they are copying the goyim, which is assur. Also, they end up violating halacha. A good example is when they refuse medical care based on tznius concerns. Muslims do that. Jews dont’t. Pekuach nefesh takes precedence.

  2. so ashmorris613 it only bothers teimanim that “jewish” women wear “barely knee-length skirts” ? thats not copying from the goyim? it should bother everyone. that is assur according to all. the real issue here seems to be massive miscommunication. the rabbonim spoke out against burkas and he is a proponent for scarves as opposed to wigs. someone should be clarifying this to him

  3. I’m trying to understand this Rav. As far as I am aware of no one is coming out against Shawls. They are coming out against wearing Burkas. They are coming out against women that won’t let their husbands home until 11:30pm so that they won’t be around their 12 year old daughters (see article in YWN). They are coming out against the child abusing Bruria Kerens of the world that proclaim themselves self righteous while beating and molesting their kids.

    What makes these misguided balei teshuvas who refuse to listen to true daas torah respectable in his eyes? Something tells me that he is looking towards his youth when he lived in a world that dressed that way and is happy to see its return. (this is just a hypotheses. I know nothing of his upbringing) We do not live in that world anymore and the situation is very different today. The hatred from the Arabs is much greater than ever before and the dangers are real. I’m ashamed to say that I question whether he is looking at the whole picture. (I wouldn’t say this if not for the fact that most of the gedolim are coming out against these women and also his reasoning doesn’t seem sound.)

  4. its not the shawls that are the real problem, it is the mentality of these women who think that they are holier than thou. They believe that because they wear these garments that they are better than the meah sharem crowd.

  5. I don’t think that even a regular shawl worn over the head and shoulders is an issue. It’s more the face covering that is being protested against.

    #3 AhavasChinam is also correct about some of these other issues like refusing medical care.

  6. He speaks the truth and I actually think Rabbi Ratzabi is being too lenient. We should be emulating our matriarchs and all women should be forced to stay home. Remember, Kol Kvuda Bas Melech Penimah.

  7. Rabbi Ratzbi, Sorry but your judging a book by It’s cover. Why don’t you read It’s contents first. The shawl ain’t be a problem, many normal and decent humans wear shawls but they are not abusive to their spouse or kids. They have 2 normal family life. spouse and kids alike are treated with love and affection. medical attention gets sought after properly. kids learn in regular schools and play with neighbors and friends like any other.

    The issue here is what goes on under the shawl right inside the heart. But the men who are not happy with this change are at fault for not stopping it or divorcing abusive crazy wife’s.

    Rabbi pls get your facts right before coming out in public.

  8. Everbody should mind there own bussiness, stop pushing their own agendas on others and follow their own mesorah.

    If the teimanim want to wear burkas fine. If the Chasidim want to shave thei heads fine. If Meah Shearim ladies want to wear tichels fine.

    My wife and daughter will follow teir mesora and wear a sheitel and dress in the mode that their mothers – who were yarei shomayim – dressed.

  9. i don’t know whats wrong whith the way they want to dress, the gemara in shobbos says that the women dressed like this in there times… the woman only had one eye open to see… each to there Owen…

  10. It’s an old story.
    Sefaradim are ‘Tmimus’dig’, and when one changes their own Mesorah they listen to his pious words, and don’t see the great danger involved.

  11. 13, – one little difference: in the time of the Gemara it was acceptable. The world was different.

    Forcing your family to be different and look more like Goyim than like Yidden, can later outbreak with horrible implication, and it takes Gedolei Torah WHO UNDERSTAND THE ERA and the community involved, who arn’t a product of a different world (Yemen) to guid us and show the way.

  12. This Rav is right. Its a beautiful and rare thing in our times. There is minhag, and there is halacha. This Rav is talking about halacha. Women just started wearing wigs, against all the oppinions of the Rabbanim of their day. Its also not a ‘minhag’, if only your gandmother started doing it!!!!! There was no wig wearing 3 generations ago, and thats because everyone said it was clear cut assur.
    What it all comes down to, is it is abhorent how we keep reading articles about ‘taliban women’. These women are attempting simply to attain to the level of tsniut that was readily found 2 generations ago, H’ yishmor. In the Gemara we are told, that in the time of Mashiach, “those who fear sin will be ridiculed”.

  13. Oh and if Rabbanim are worried about the way frum women dress turning off hilunim…… What about how the men dress???? I am always lobbying for the haredi world to consider that the way they dress is a major turn off to otherwise open Israelis and friers. Tol earn more about black clothing, look up Kiddushin 72A.
    And what about how fry jewish gals often are confused by wig wearing and think its creepy and dishonest?

  14. Why is this even news? Its someone’s opinion/minhag that does not affect anyone outside of their circle.

    Do we have articles about the way Yemenites pronounce a Gimel? Do we have articles about how make Ashkenazic Gefilte Fish? Same as when some random Chasidic sect decides to smash cell phones and ban internet!


  15. To PinchasErez:

    Get your facts straight. Sheitels were permissible even during Talmudic times. In a Mishnah (64b), it states that a woman may go out in public on the Sabbath wearing a wig and it would not be considered carrying. Look it up yourself. So saying that wearing wigs is against halacha is a comment coming from total ignorance and stupidity. There are many poskim who allow wigs including Rav Moshe Feinstein, the Lubavitcher Rebbe, the Mishnah Breruah, the Pri Megadim and the Rama. So we wig-wearers have who to rely on. So stop your wig bashing and grow up.

  16. Klugeryid, you totally missed my point. Wearing barely legal skirts, flamboyant wigs, and burkas are ALL examples of copying from goyim. Which example bothers us more depends upon which goyim we’re used to. Those of us from the Western world are more freaked out by burkas. Those from the Arab world are more freaked out by over-the-top sheitels and short skirts. BOTH are wrong, however.

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