Of Skirts and Skis

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skiing with skirtsBy Rabbi Yair Hoffman for the Five Towns Jewish Times – Skiing Halachos Part II

It seems that skiing is a popular sport these days if four requests within two hours came in to address the halachic issue of ski pants for women. It would also seem that after a somewhat serious fall of snow, that now would be the time to print it. Before we get to the actual rulings of the Poskim, let’s discuss some of the underlying issues.

Skiing is actually a remarkably healthy activity. Experts say that one can lose up to 3,000 calories during six hours of skiing. It can help you lose up to five pounds of weight in a week. It can tone stomach muscles, boost immunity and even relieve depression. Exercising is one of the best ways to maintain health. Indeed, according to numerous Poskim, exercising, when done in a private and modest venue, is actually the fulfillment of a Torah commandment – v’nishmartem me’od l’nafshosaichem (Dvarim 4:15).

There are no less than four possible issues involved in women wearing ski pants:

MEN’S CLOTHING ISSUE

The first issue is that pants, by their very nature, may possibly be considered men’s clothing. If so, it may be a violation of the verse in Dvarim (22:5) not to wear clothing of the opposite gender. There are two explanations for the prohibition. The first is that found in the Sefer haChinuch (Mitzvah 542) that the reason for the prohibition is to prevent inappropriate mixing between genders that can lead to inappropriate activity. The second reason is found in the Rambam’s Moreh Nevuchim. Essentially, he states that the Torah concerned with the inappropriate thoughts that cross-dressing can engender.

Perhaps we can suggest that the debate cited in the Acharonim regarding Purim as to whether or not one may dress up with some clothing of the opposite gender but not all clothing may revolve around this point: According to the Rambam, even one article of clothing of the opposite gender could engender inappropriate thoughts. According to the Sefer HaChinuch’s reason it would not apply. The Mishna Brurah recommends being stringent.

There are also Poskim who cite proofs from psukim that indicate that pants are a uniquely male article of clothing, by definition.

TZNIUS (MODESTY) ISSUE

The second issue is the issue of Tznius – modesty. The Meiri in Kesuvos (72a) explains that there is a general prohibition in appearing in immodest attire. The sages explain that the honor of a Bas Melech is pnimah – inward. The Queens of England has a certain dress protocol, that at least in some form or another, was once generally kept by the first ladies in this country as well. An inherent aspect of pants is that by nature it is form revealing, and thus not in line with the parameters of the ideal form of modesty. The Radbaz (Responsa #770),and the Shach (YD 340:22) both write that it is forbidden to dress in a manner where one would be able to detect the shape of the limb through the clothing. Indeed, although we do not pasken like this opinion, the Bach (Yoreh Deah 340:10) goes so far as to write that it is equivalent to the bare skin. Other Poskim who forbid seeing the shape of the lower limbs are the Chochmas Adam (Klal 152:6), the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch (195:3),the Be’er Heitev (340:13), and the Maharsham (Daas Torah 75:1).

WAYS OF THE GENTILE ISSUE

The third issue, discussed by Rabbi Moshe Feinstein zt”l (Igros Moshe YD I #81), is a violation of ubechukosaihem lo sailechu, “do not walk in their ways.” It is a violation of walking in the ways of the gentiles if one adopts a practice that originated and is practiced by gentiles that involves either idol-worship or immodesty.

LIFNEI IVER ISSUE

A fourth possible issue, discussed by Rabbi Ovadiah Yosef (Yechaveh Daas III #67) zt”l, is the prohibition of v’lifnei Iver lo sitain michshol – do not place a stumbling block in front of a blind man.” Some of the ski pants or snow suits, it seems, would fall under this category.

And now onto the rulings of the Poskim.

It seems that there are three opinions on the matter.

It is clear from a responsa of Dayan Yitzchok Weiss zatzal (Minchas Yitzchok Vol. II #108) that he is of the opinion that skiing is not permitted for women because they may never wear ski pants, even if it is covered over with a skirt.

Rav Ovadiah Yoseph wrote in a responsa (YO YD VI #14) that when dealing with certain (baggy) pants that are clearly designed for women and are so loose that they are not shape revealing, they do not violate either of the two issues, although he clearly expresses a preference for the fully modest skirt over this type of pants. It would seem from the responsa that he would hold that thicker ski clothing may not necessarily reveal the shape of the lower limbs. However, someone once mentioned to me that he had subsequently changed his mind on the matter of baggy pants. I have not found this in print, though.

Rav Elyashiv zatzal, however, held otherwise. He held (as cited in the Yashiv Moshe page 170) that women may wear ski pants if they are covered by a skirt. The next question is whether the length of the skirt that goes over the ski pants would cause a danger either to her or to others on the ski slope. Clearly the skirt must be wide enough so that it not pose a danger to herself or to others.

It seems that most observant female (Ashkenazik) skiers in Eretz Yisroel follow the view of Rav Elyashiv. Working with this, although one should ask one’s own Rav or Posaik, it would seem that it would be forbidden for a woman wearing an appropriate length skirt to ski on anything but a beginner’s level slope., on account of the danger. Later, when she is certain that she can manage and she has a wide enough skirt, then she can go down the more advanced ones.

Once again, everyone is reminded to ask their own Rav or Posaik regarding these specific halachos.

The author can be reached at [email protected]

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13 COMMENTS

  1. Two issues were ignored. Firstly, due to the many incidents of serious injuries suffered while skiing, can this activity be considered a sakanah and possible asur? Ice skating, sledding, bowling, etc are some activities which don’t result in nearly as many injuries, if any at all. At a minimum, if someone takes to the very dangerous and difficult ski runs without proper training and instruction I would submit that he/she is endangering their life. Would you drive on Route 17 at night in a summer thunderstorm if you never drove before or don’t have a license?

    Secondly,all this talk of the ski pants, ski skirt etc for women and no mention of checking these garments for shatnez? A ben or bat torah must not let down their guard even during winter break.

    Be safe chaverim!

  2. Wow, that is so tzniusdig. Women wearing skirts and skiing.

    Today nothing is an issue. Need to cover your hair? No prob. Just wear a wig that’s even nicer that your hair and totally provocative and you’re covered. Need to wear skirts, no problem, wear form fitting skirts, you can even wear miniskirts, just make sure to put on leggings to cover the ervah parts( but a teeny amout of skin showing at the ankles, is on, it’s totally mutter). See, no problems.

    This is the 21st century definition of modesty. Do whatever you want, and you won’t even be untzniusdig. Every day we are becoming better in balancing modernization and halacha.

    Ah Yid always get zich ah eitzah.

    You gotta be smart and know the rules.

    And then you can do whatever you want.

    The main thing is that women memorized in school more moforshim than men. So they are talmudai chachumim even. And don’t get me started on yiras shomayim. So what’s the shaileh? Yes, yes, sure, go skiing cause skiing with men is totally tzniusdig. Just remember to wear a skirt.

  3. “Firstly, due to the many incidents of serious injuries suffered while skiing, can this activity be considered a sakanah and possible asur?”

    The death rate from snow injuries is approximately 0.7 per million skier days. The auto accident death rate is approximately 1.2 per 100 million miles driven. So if you drive fifty miles to/from the ski area you are much more likely to die from an auto accident while traveling to or from the ski area.

    Snowboarding has a much higher death (and injury) rate than alpine sking; cross country skiing is so safe that they don’t record death statistics for it (it is possible that there may not be any). Beginning skiers have higher rates.

    ” checking these garments for shatnez”

    I have never heard of any ski apparel containing any linen.

  4. Philosopher:
    You’re on to something.
    Its called being a “naval birshus hatorah”.
    Also, make sure none of the school administrators from Lakewood catch you there. Otherwise its bye bye time.

  5. Ugh the comments on ywn drive me crazy sometimes! Philosopher, before you start bashing women for their lack of tznius, why don’t you take care of yourself?

    You’re wasting your time online. Absolutely inexcusable bittul Torah!

    But that’s the 21st century’s version of an eved Hashem, i suppose.

  6. Letakein Girl,you needn’t “worry” about my bittul Torah because I’m a woman.

    Anyway, even were I a male ( chas v’sholom!), how would that make a difference regarding what I said?!!!!