Driving is not tznius?

I spend a lot of time in Monsey. In the area where we live we have a large religious mix of people – but we are not technically in Monsey. To get to many places in the area we have to drive thru what I like to call Monsey Ir HaKodesh (the holy city of Monsey) where there is a high demographic of Chassidic Jews. Driving down Route 306 just before Blauvelt you generally see a couple of Chassidim trying to bum rides into town. As soon as they see a woman driving they retract their hands. Which is fine, because I wouldn’t want to give a ride to someone who wouldn’t want to ride with me as I am a woman and I am driving. Oh the shame!!

Why is it that in many Chassidic circles their women do not drive? I recently posed this question to a few friends. I received answers ranging from “because they might drive away” to “because men are in control and they like to know where their women are at all times”. There were answers about women in these circles not needing independence or even wanting it. That this is the way it is. Chassidic women are not supposed to be “yatzanos” – those who go out, and having the ability to drive a car might tempt them to stray from the home. Driving a car is using a Kli Gever – a man’s object (I thought that only applied to guns?). Apparently also in the olden days only men drove buggies and rode horses, so that translates to driving in this day and age. In the olden days we didn’t have telephones, so I guess all Chassidim don’t have cell phones??!! Some modern inventions are ok, and some aren’t?

I know that it would be very difficult for me if I didn’t drive. Apart from the long  way trek every other weekend. Grocery shopping for a large family isn’t easy, and delivery isn’t an option everywhere. Ferrying the kids to and from school and after school events, or to buy a new pair of sneakers – not having the ability to hop behind the wheel and do this would make it all so much more complicated. Relying on my husband to drive me everywhere – so not for me. Yes, I know there are cab companies – but it adds up after a while.

I feel free behind the wheel, in control of my life to a certain point…perhaps that is the point. Maybe they just don’t want their women to feel free? Why do the women accept this? Why do they not try to change things? A friend who has a Chassidic background told me her mom was the only class mom who drove, something against the way they practice the religion. However, when they needed drivers for class trips, who did they call? Es passt nisht (it isn’t appropriate), until you need a lady driver…..

So glad to be Modern Orthodox…

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55 responses to “Driving is not tznius?

  1. Interesting. From what I know, over here it’s the Charedi women who do most of the daily driving – husbands are too busy learning Torah. Women are expected to do everything else and that usually requires driving.

  2. If the women didn’t like it, my guess is that they would try to change it or they would leave their chassidic community. We might find it oppressive and controlling, but one could probably argue that it is freeing in some ways as well. It just depends on your point of view, I think.

    I take issue with the phrase “the way they practice the religion.” This not being allowed to drive is *not* religion, it is not Judaism. Perhaps it is a chumrah they take on, but it is *not* Judaism.

    And btw, I am also very, very glad to be Modern Orthodox!

  3. It is nothing to do with religion, and everything to do with the Chassidic society being 50-70 years behind the times. Women didn’t drive as much a generation or two ago, and the American Chassidic community has adopted that as the standard of behaviour. Because of their insularity they can enforce it.

  4. Lady Lock and Load

    There are many other minhagim the chassidim have. They wear a covering, or a hat, over the wig. They wear thick seamed stockings. This driving thing is another custom of theirs. Nowadays many chassidic women do drive because they feel it is better for them to drive than to take car services.
    about taxis, they say it is cheaper for them to take taxis then to own a car, which needs gas, insurance, and repair.
    The chassidic women I know seem to not mind too much about not driving, they know how to manage without it. They are not tied up and stuck at home. If you ever go to a women’s event here in monsey it is heavily attended by chassidic women (buses are provided that circle monsey for some events). They seem pretty happy to me, surrounded by tons of family and relatives all the time, what could be bad? Because they don’t drive? They get around plenty, trust me.

  5. Lady Lock and Load

    By the way, a very special Rebbitzen told me that nowadays we can do hachnosos orchim with our car by giving others rides. She said most shabbos guests we have over are not people who really need a place for shabbos. But when we give someone a ride this is true hachnosas orchim into our second home (our car). I try to give rides to the chassidic women whenever I can.

    Additionally, I also have come to admire and respect the modesty some chassidish men have toward women.

  6. I used to have a poster from some conferee that said something like in arab countries women have many rights: the right not to drive, vote, select clothing….

    So maybe the chassidic community wants to be Amish?

    A woman in a car by herself is a bad thing in parts of the world or implies something. These days not so likely but think about movies from the 60’s and how women were portrayed that drove alone or in a flashy car. 2 different types of movies.

    But you know if the Rebbe’s wife drove…..

  7. Lady Lock and Load

    Most woman in monsey will not give rides to men. So the chassidish fellow who wants a ride puts his hand down because he knows you aren’t able to give him a ride. he is not trying to snub you, maybe his hand is tired and he wants to give it a rest? Ever try holding your hand up for ten minutes? and what’s with the “bumming” a ride, can’t you just write he is asking for a ride? What’s so bad about him asking for a ride? Here in monsey most people like to do the mitzvah and they get rides pretty quickly, mi keamchah yisroel!
    We must give all Jews the respect they deserve.

  8. Lady Lock and Load

    Here in america I thought it was derogatory…like to bum a cigarette.

  9. a) es passt nishtcould also be “it just isn’t done”

    b) up until the late 1980s, Druze women here in Israel were not permitted to get a driver’s license and if widowed, despite the IDF pension arrangement of no taxes on a car, a special law had to be legislated to enable the widows’ brothers-in-law to own the car so that they could drive their sisters-in-law around.

  10. It has nothing to do with women driving and everything to do with Yichud and Ma’arit Ayin. A car is for all intents and purposes a closed room, and it can be driven to just about anywhere to do anything… Hence going parking….

    So many Chassidic men will not ride in a car alone(or even with another man) with a woman they are not related to.

    • no dan l’chaf zechut here? thats a little harsh that one would assume they were up to nefarious purposes…

      • Al pi halacha Dan L’kaf Zecut does not apply to an area of Maarit Ayin… hence we do not eat chicken and milk together… ect.

        Second yichud is yichud. According to most poskim a man(and according to some even 2) are not allowed to be alone in a room with an unrelated woman unless the door is open. I do not think it is legal to drive with the door open. The vast majority of poskim define a car as a room. It is a fairly basic halakhic issue. Even more MO rabbis such as Aish insist on this.

  11. Interesting post. I noticed the same thing when visiting Boro Park years ago from out of town as a boy. I was told that it’s a tznius issue, and that it wasn’t a big deal there because of public transportation and walking-distance proximity. You certainly don’t see that behavior in out-of -town chassidish.

    While some chassidish women in Boro Park were ok with this, they were not happy with being cooped up in the house on Shabbos with baby carriages they couldn’t push outside (because of the laws of carrying on Shabbos) So, they told their husbands to build them an eruv in Boro Park, which they reluctrantly did. It was deemed good enough for these women to use, but not for the men, of course.

    Here in Rockland, I have a feeling that even chassidish women do drive, but probably just a minority. Certainly, right-wing yeshivish women drive – there is nothing “modern orthodox” about women drivers per se.

    Riding a motorcycle is a different story :>) That’s a modern woman. Now, who would be liberated enough to do something like that??

  12. Lady Lock and Load

    oooh, I think I know of one frum biker mom 🙂
    I was told that nowadays some of the chassidishe women are driving because their Rabbi feels that it is better for them to drive than to take a car service with a man.

  13. Lady Lock and Load

    man= male driver

  14. Someone please answer the following question – What is not tznius about a woman driving a car? The only thing that I can fathom is maybe from the parsh where Dinah (and Leah) are “outgoing” but even that is stretch if by driving a car it is for groceries, pharmacy or picking up the kids. I guess, this is one more fence the rabbis feel is necessary but for what purpose?

  15. i have an old friend who was originally of israeli morrocan descent & was married off at 16 to the son of a supposed “great” mekubal (rabbi who practiced kabbalah). anyhow, she was divorced at 17 prior to the birth of her son but by the time he was 4 yrs old, she got remarried to a gerer chassid who was able to get special dispensation from his rebbe (rabbi) that allowed my friend to continue driving since she did not come from the same background & she strongly felt the need to continue driving even though she was going to continue living her life adhering to a completely chassidish lifestyle.

    i’m sure there are other chassidish women who are granted permission to drive under specific circumstances as described in the case above with my friend.

    truth is, i think i’ve quoted the expression “minhag yisrael din hu” in a previous post which is that a minhag (custom) is as strong (& in some cases even stronger) than the actual din (law). therefore, if the “no driving for women” stringency is a minhag then it is perhaps equivalent to halacha for chassidim.

    my guess is that it probably works for many of the women (& men) b/c that is the lifestyle with which they grew up & most may not feel the need to do any differently. it may be similar to someone above who made a reference to the Amish. their quaint life-style may seem so foreign & inconvenient to many of us but they deserve to be respected for their beliefs & the same applies to the chassidim even if their practices appear somewhat out-dated, old fashioned or even chauvanistic to those of us who are not in their camp.

    i will end with a quote that i’ve heard which i think applies both to this blog & to the one from last week about non-religious jews & that is “anyone to the right of me (religiously speaking) is a religious fanatic & anyone to the left of me is not religious at all!” as i said last week, i think that as humans we are all judgmental in one way or another b/c i think we like to believe that the lifestyle we have chosen for ourselves in the “shvil hazahav” the golden path & it’s important to show tolerance & respect to others both within & out of our religion who have different lifestyles & belief systems than we do.

  16. This sounds more extreme than my taste. I don’t think it is a mandatory observance; it is more likely a “fence.” As long as they don’t impose that fence upon me, we have no problem.

    The line about non-religious Jews (“anyone to the right of me is a religous fanatic and anyone to the left of me is not religious at all”) reminds me of the George Carlin joke “Everyone who drives slower than me is an idiot and everyone who drives faster than me is a maniac!”

    I don’t think anyone has a real problem with themselves because of someone else. Herman Wouk wrote that regardless of how religious you were, you will be at times on the trefe side of someone else.

    • sheldan the non-driving for women is a stringency for chassidish women (& not all types of chassidish women at that).

      & yes, the line i heard about anyone to the right/left of me is surely a take-off of the george carlin joke…

  17. “so glad to be modern orthodox” is the end of your post. not that we can judge by externals all the time, but you posted pics on http://www.metroimma.com, and you’re wearing a sheitel, your collarbones, elbows, and knees are covered, and the kids are wearing black hats… exactly what makes you modern orthodox?

    • “not that we can judge by externals” – that kind of answers it. But it is a fair question. (Btw – my boys black hat wearing is nothing to do with me and my hashkafa. If it were up to me they would not wear them at all. )

      How one looks does not necessarily translate to one’s Jewish observance. How I look in those pix is nothing like how I look in normal every day life. (pix taken at son’s barmitzvah) If you met me on the street in the middle of the week, you certainly wouldn’t question my hashkafa the same way.

      (thinking to self….Hmmm perhaps I should post the Lucille pix on that forum 😉 )

  18. Lady Lock and Load

    Here in Monsey in the 1970’s, Modern Orthodox used to mean the women did not cover hair, wore short sleeves and pants. The men wore kippa serugot. Now the Modern Orthodox has either moved more to the right and moved out. For example, the parent body of Ashar has many women who do cover their hair and do not consider themselves modern orthodox.
    The definition of modern orthodox appears to have changed nowadays. But what is great about you hadassah is that you are always questioning, always thinking and wanting to learn (even though you are a MO 😉 LOL just kidding.

  19. im just curious, you say i question your hashkafa like its a bad thing, i’m just genuinely interested in what makes you “modern orthodox” because i dont know what defines somone as modern vs mainstream, but in a woman’s case a lot of times it defined by externals such as all the things both I and LLL mentioned. so since i have never seen or met you, and from those you dont “look” modern, i was curious what defines you as such.

    • i didn’t take it as a bad thing…question away. I am always questioning myself about my religious beliefs.

    • hadassah, if i may i’d like to offer my 2 cents here (for a change of pace-lol :)! i may be wrong but i think that it’s safe to say that when you were growing up you fit into the stereotypical MO criteria & in fact i think you’ve written that on previous blogs. however, after you got married the first time, you settled into the yeshivish community for a variety of reasons. that community, however, was not 100% your “cup of tea” (even though you have made many good friends there etc). i would think that you more likely fit into the “grey zone” somewhere between the MO & the yeshivish communities (which is similar to where i feel i fit into as well incidentally). then again, that doesn’t mean that you & i are 100% on the same page hashkafically b/c we are all individuals & i feel there are many shades of grey in which one can fall. perhaps you would classify yourself more as MO machmir which is sometimes the label i pigeon-hole myself into (even though i don’t like pigeon-holes or labels!). i can understand julie’s confusion when you classified yourself as MO b/c what comes to mind off-hand when someone considers themselves to be MO is that the women generally don’t cover their hair & don’t follow the tznius guidelines of wearing skirts, sleeves, higher cut necklines etc…anyhow, i’m not sure if you’d agree but it’s my limited understanding of who you are although we have only met once in person & i don’t claim to know everything about you b/c as ppl. we are all so complex & multi-dimensional.

    • Julie,

      I was in my 30s before I even heard the terms “traditional” and “modern” Orthodox. I wasn’t even aware that there was a difference. From what I understand, the former are somewhat more insular (less likely to interact with the outside world) whereas the latter attempt to maintain some relationship with the outside world and still be observant.

      Man, I hate labels!

      • sheldan when you say “traditional orthodox” i was wondering if you meant “ultra orthodox”? -i know, i know, more labels!

        also, i was also wondering if you consider yourself to be part of the Orthodox camp or not b/c if not perhaps that may explain why my explanation to Julie/Hadassah of Modern Orthodoxy versus the Yeshivish communities & the “grey area” in between may be somewhat confusing to understand…

        • Batya,

          No, I think at the time the word used was “traditional.” That is a very general word, and it could mean ultra-Orthodox, but it could simply mean those who are more stringent in their observances but not “ultra.”

          As for me, I would say that I am somewhat observant but not as much as many of the posters in this blog. I grew up in an Orthodox shul in Memphis (Baron Hirsch) and am a product of the old Talmud Torah Hebrew School (three days a week). I am grateful to the teachers I had there, who influenced me to learn about Judaism over the years. I would probably classify myself as somewhat inconsistent in my observances, but I try to do as much as I can. I don’t always agree with some of the interpretations that I hear, but I recognize that the mitzvot are binding on me whether I observe them or not.

          I don’t think your comments are confusing; I think it is the reaction to the “labels”!

          • actually i think the terms that Julie used above were “modern” versus “mainstream” Orthodox. interestingly, when i think of ppl. who call themselves traditional jews, what comes to mind generally are ppl who identify with the Conservative movement in Judaism & are not observant per se (eg shomer shabbos) but they may drive to shul on shabbos, & have 2 sets of dishes for meat & dairy, buy kosher meat, light chanukah candles every night of chanukah, have 2 seders on pesach & eat kosher for passover food on pesach etc…anyhow, thanks for clarifying your background…anyhow, sorry if my “reaction to the labels” was confusing to you though i’m not exactly sure what you mean by that…

            • I remember a movement called the Union for Traditional Judaism. In that sense, “traditional” means to the right of Conservative (conservadox?). What I meant by “traditonal” was something else entirely.

              I think you misunderstood me…it was MY “reaction to the labels”! 🙂

              • i believe the UTJ is located in my NJ township-small jewish world indeed. don’t know if they have many branches or not though…

                all i will say is “too many labels, too little time!” 🙂

  20. yes batya, in my mind “traditional” totally means the right-winged side of conservative, and i grew up doing each of those things you listed, but not more. and anyone i know who uses the term traditional means just that.

    now i would say i fit in the left-winged side of the yeshivish black hat world. i adhere to the strictest letter of the law, but dont take on chumras and value secular education.

    • julie, i’m just curious to know if you have found elementary/high schools for your kids (assuming that you have kids of course!) that is to your liking (strong emphasis on secular education & left-winged yeshivish)? truthfully for me, in the MO machmir zone or possibly in the left-winged yeshivish zone you described (i too follow the halachos strictly but like you am also not especially into chumros/stringencies), i have sought out that kind of education for my kids but i have found that nothing is 100% to my liking unfortunately :(.

      • Julie and Batya,

        MO machmir…left-wing yeshivish…


        (Get me a scorecard!) 🙂 (or 😦 ) (I don’t know whether to use one or the other this time)

        • gimme a break sheldan! did u not use a “label” (oh the horrors 😉 when describing the hashkafa of the the Union of Traditional Judaism (UTJ)? i seem to recall you saying that is was “to the right of conservative-conservadox”. well, last i checked THAT is a label too my friend!!

  21. sorry sheldan but just i didn’t see the humor although i did see the double-standard…

  22. I found your post to be very interesting. It does not surprise me that many charedi women are not allowed to drive, what suprises me is that you think being able to drive means you are modern orthodox! I know many charedi women who drive. The following comments about modern orthodox machmir, modern orhtodoxy liberal, left-wing yeshivish, it’s all a little crazy to me. MO does not mean orthodox light. It does not mean that people choose the easy way, like driving to the grocery store because it’s easier. It means that people have the belief that modern culture is good, and has great things to be gleaned from it. And some of these things can coincide beautiful with Torah, such as some definitions of feminism, pluralism, interacting with non-Jews, etc. Driving, while it does mean that women are allowed some freedom, is in no way seen as feminist or equal. And your reason why women need to drive in your mind is because they need to go food shopping! and drive errands! being modern means that women can drive because it is right, because there is NO reason not to (kli gever is an absurd idea, especially when it comes to a car- try to find an halakhic source for that and you’ll be searching for a LONG time). Women, and people in general, should be allowed to due what Hashem permits, not just what the culture dictates , not that minhag and community norms don’t play a role. But, as frum Jews our ultimate goal is to try to understand hashem and Torah’s truth and to live lives of ahavat torah and ahavat hasem. and that is what it means to be modern orthodox.

    • modern ortho,

      clearly you are comfortable with identifying yourself as modern orthodox b/c if not, you probably would not have chosen that as your screen name for the blog. if my assumption is correct than kol hakavod to you if that is the Orthodox group which most accurately describes you from a hashkafic point of view. not all of us in the Ortho camp are quite as comfortable with the feeling that MO or Yeshivish Orthodoxy represents their particular Hashkafa. for example, although i happen to live in a community that is widely considered to be the “bastion of modern orthodoxy” in America, i don’t feel that the term MO is representative of me & my family’s hashkafic outlook. it certainly is easier for those among us in the Ortho community who feel that they identify solidly with either MO, or Yeshivish Orthodoxy, or to one of the many Chassidish sects. I find that it harder when one feels that they are in that “grey zone” & vacillate between the MO & yeshivish communities & therefore they seek other descriptives which they feel may be more representative of their particular hashkafas confusing or “crazy” though it may seem to others who are not in their position.

  23. I think that one thing is clear from all these posts. There is no one monolithic Orthodoxy. There is a spectrum of practices that are classified as Orthodox. Unfortunately, “Orthodoxy” is a term that had to be invented to describe Judaism as it had been practiced since Sinai, in response to Reform Judaism, which challenged that status quo.

    I feel comfortable with a philosophy like Modern Orthodoxy because it shows how to balance the requirements of halacha with the challenges of living in the modern world. It is probably not for everyone, but issues like technology would have had to be addressed eventually. Not all of us are going to look at these issues the same. However, I think we need to accept that we may need to agree to disagree with each other on some things and recognize that there is a boundary called halacha behind which we all have commonly accepted principles.

    On second thought, the labels may not be the problem; it is the stereotypes that people create of EVERYONE who accepts the label. It is all right if some of us call ourselves Modern Orthodox, others “traditional” Orthodox, others Hasidic, others Charedi, others Yeshivish. The trouble starts when we wind up on the trefe side of someone else…

    • hey sheldan,

      although i am admittedly exhausted from all of this back & forth, i feel that i should respond to your latest comment so that we can hopefully end this conversation on a friendly & respectful note.

      i think it may be helpful for me to explain my seemingly opposing/confusing view on labels. as i have explained, i DO feel that they have their place & are important for ppl. in order to be able to determine which community they feel would be most comfortable for them or ‘just because’! i realize now that in my earlier posts i may have caused some confusion b/c i didn’t explain what my issues were with labels & i just mentioned it casually & then left it alone. my main gripe with labels are when ppl. (usually more to the right of me religiously) tend to judge me b/c of the MO community in which i live or the MO shul i attend & then they proceed to make incorrect assumptions about me or my level of observance which is unfair. this is my main issue regarding labels.

      anyhow, i hope the addendum above has clarified things somewhat & in any event yes, we can agree to disagree regardless. happy chanukah!

      • Batya,

        That was precisely the point of my last post. I don’t think we have a disagreement.

        I think that I have had to think a second time regarding “labels.” I think I have made it clear in my last post that labels may not be the problem. It is what people DO with the labels. That is what drives me up the wall sometimes. If someone is going to judge you or me because of assumptions, they are doing us a disservice because if we are truly trying to live as Jews (and live within halacha), we have more in common with each other than we are different.

        I am sorry if things were unclear earlier. I am actually enjoying the give-and-take in this blog. 🙂

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