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Oct032013

THE INNER CIRCLES OF MODESTY

The following is a small glimpse into a quiet initiative that is gaining momentum and expanding into endless circles, a modern day phenomenon whose influence is burrowing deep into the hearts of Lubavitcher women and manifesting in a more refined outward appearance. Yes, the seemingly impossible is actually happening; groups of women are joining together out of a deep and true desire, sitting together and discussing how to increase the nachas to the Rebbe MHM, and to represent him in a dignified manner. Here you will read about the latesttrendto come out of Kfar Chabad, whose ultimate goal is to take the reigns of the fashion world in its hands, by getting ever more Jewish women to model the fact that greater modesty equals greater beauty.

By Racheli Dickstein

Somewhere between elementary school and high school, at the point where colors are blurred and boundaries are being explored, the topic of tznius is given the place of honor. If you want to hear a collectiveoh no,” get a bunch of teenagers together and announce, “Today, we will talk about tznius.”

But it doesn’t have to be that way; the era of Geula has penetrated here too and things have changed.

Meet Mrs. Rivky Greenberg and Mrs. Yaffa Spinner, young N’shei Chabad from Kfar Chabad.

How did it all begin?

“Two years ago, R’ Ashkenazi, the rav of Kfar Chabad, addressed women involved in chinuch on the topic of tznius,” said Yaffa. “He made an impassioned call to do something that wouldn’t fade with time. My son was born a short while after this gathering, while the rav’s words were still fresh and echoed in my mind. During the birth, there were some very emotional moments in which I asked the Rebbe that Hashem give me an idea and an approach. Gathering the girls and talking to them was not it. A change had to be made and something had to be done.

“Another thing that moved me to take action happened after the birth. I went home and found my refrigerator full of food, thanks to the Shifra U’Pua organization in Kfar Chabad, but my children still wanted my soup. I tried to show them the array of delicacies that had been prepared for us, but they insisted, ‘We want your soup.’

“I learned a lesson from this in Avodas Hashem, that there are numerous things we can do for the Rebbe – Chitas, mivtzaim, learn Chassidus – but there is something that is a woman’s personal matter, which nobody else can do for her, and that is tznius.

“Tznius is just like a mother’s soup. I can promise you that the soup I made was nothing special, but I put my neshama into it, as a mother. That is what the Rebbe asks of us, to put ourselves into it so that the gift is uniquely ours.”

“I will tell you at what point I realized that a change is needed,” said Rivky. “In my classroom, I gave a series of lessons on tznius. With one lesson, a very pleasant mood was created that invited conversation. The girls asked and discussed details of their dress code and then one girl showed her shoes and asked about them. The shoes were a strong color with a showy design. Some of the girls said the shoes were inappropriate, while others said that was being petty and after all, they were just shoes.

“Then I asked them: Girls, are these shoes in the style that the Rebbe wants us to wear? This question gave them a yardstick by which to measure whether the shoes were okay or not. They were unanimous: no.

“That was the first time I used that kind of question. It’s not the way I usually spoke, but after a second thought, I realized why I had asked it. When I went to high school, the principal was R’ Tuvia Blau. He always told us about the Rebbe’s letter to the school which said, ‘ … Obviously, a Chabad school is desirable in a number of places, especially Yerushalayim, but specifically if it is run properly, and in Yerushalayim at least on the same level as the school that is there.’

“R’ Blau spoke to us a lot about how the Rebbe also has what to say regarding the style of clothing which is beyond the realm of Halacha. I also heard from my mother-in-law, Mrs. Sarah Greenberg, about how she was sent by R’ Mordechai Levin, the principal of Beis Rivka in Kfar Chabad at that time, to ask R’ Chadakov for tznius guidelines. The answer she got was: ‘Regarding tznius, find out what they do at Beis Yaakov and act accordingly.’

“Back to the shoes in the classroom, I suddenly found myself asking not whether it was halachically acceptable, but whether the style was appropriate. I realized that the Rebbe was talking to us then about style, which is beyond the letter of the law.”

How do we apply this practically?

“Yaffa and I shared our thoughts and feelings on the subject,” said Rivky. “Together with Mrs. Sarah Greenberg, we thought of ways we could take action that would be well received; first for ourselves, and then for whomever would be interested. We thought that the best possible way would be with a support group. If support groups work for dieting and parenting, why not for tznius?

“We called women and told them about our new initiative. The first group consisted of fifteen women. The common denominator was the desire to do what the Rebbe wants with Kabbalas Ol, with the understanding that change is a slow process and that every move forward is important and is very precious!

“Today, Boruch Hashem, there are sixteen groups in Kfar Chabad and surrounding cities. Each group consists of up to fifteen women so as to maintain a comfortable, intimate atmosphere. The meetings are friendly, honest, and empowering without being judgmental.”

“The idea for groups came from the realization that you need strength for a transformation,” explained Yaffa. “It is hard to make a transformation on your own. A group can create a tone akin to that of a farbrengen.

“We put together the first group of fifteen women who really cared about what the Rebbe wants. We met once every two weeks, weighed, discussed, sat, learned, and essentially worked on developing more keen eyes regarding the style of clothing the Rebbe wants. We invited people who received guidelines from the Rebbe like R’ Tuvia Blau, Mrs. Sarah Greenberg, and others. A cousin of one of the women in the group, who comes from a Chabad home and is the assistant principal in a Beis Yaakov school, heard about the group. She was very excited and said: You are Lubavitch and Lubavitch makes revolutions. Your taking action about tznius will affect us too!

“Later on, we found out that the Rebbe encouraged R’ Gafni to have women speak in small groups because the impact is more powerful. Boruch Hashem, we were in sync with what the Rebbe said.”

How does it work?

“The groups have a goal and there are principles,” explained Rivky. “The goal is to carry out the Rebbe’s wishes regarding the style of dress.

“The way to achieve the goal is through three principles. Principle number one is ratzon-will. If you desire it (and who doesn’t?), you are invited. The second principle is accepting the Rebbe’s ratzon with Kabbalas Ol, even if it’s hard. The final principle is that every step forward, as small as it might be, is exciting and very important. Nobody expects an entire wardrobe to be changed in a day. On the contrary, slow progress is desirable because it’s long-lasting.

“In the groups, you are accepted as you are and you are given the support to take the steps at your pace and your taste. Nobody is looking for ‘what else needs improvement.’ Rather, it’s about ‘how have I already improved.’

“Those who were in the first group started additional groups. Each woman is like a pebble thrown into a pond, creating more and more circles. That is why we called it ‘Circles – Come, Let’s Talk About It.’”

“Something very special happens in the groups,” said Yaffa. “The participants say their minds are always working on the topic. Even if they continue wearing the clothes they have in the closet, they consider every detail and their next shopping trip is different. The process the women go through is in their minds. Who tells them what they can and cannot wear? They do!

“The group provides a feeling of inclusion. It is also a place where the unvarnished truth is told. It’s all about taking it in stages; only you decide your pace. The change begins on the level of thought; you suddenly start thinking differently than you used to. It moves on to your speech, and then to action.

“It’s important to emphasize,” added Yaffa, “that tznius is synonymous with beauty, as the Rebbe says in a sicha, ‘The primary element of prettiness and beauty, both physically and spiritually, depends on the woman, for as is known, beauty and the ability to beautify are particularly feminine attributes’ (20-22 Shevat 5752).’

What are your plans for the future?

“The hisgalus,” smiled Yaffa, “that we should be ready to stand before the Rebbe at our very best.

“We invite women who want to join ‘Circles – Come, Let’s Talk About It,’ to be in touch with us and join in the success.”

Mrs. Sigal Berg started a group. We asked her how she got involved.

“I am a baalas t’shuva. A baalas t’shuva is someone who seeks the truth. When it came to tznius, I wanted to know what the Rebbe’s view is.

“I opened a volume of Igros Kodesh, volume 26, page 324, to a very long letter all in Yiddish. The only word I could understand was ‘tznius.’ It took me a long time until I got a full translation of the letter with the Rebbe’s view on tznius. At the end of the letter, the Rebbe wrote to the recipient to influence her friends.

“I, along with my mashpia, thought about what I can do. We decided to photocopy the letter and give it out to the women in the community. We added practical tznius guidelines and gave it to many women. On the envelope I wrote: From the Rebbe to You – the Secret to Brachos. Because the Rebbe says that a woman merits brachos by way of tznius.

“When I heard of the support groups, I spoke to Yaffa and Rivky and together with them I formed a group. I learned many things, like the concept that tznius includes a lot more than dress and that it is expressed in the little details. We are planning to start another group here soon.”

What does tznius mean to you?

“Tznius is like a large channel for a woman through which she may receive all the bounty that Hashem wants to shower on her,” says Sigal. “We have the merit to be the channel for this abundance. In Chabad, we try to be particular and to do things in a beautiful way, and B’ezras Hashem, in tznius too.

“We all need to prepare to welcome Moshiach in the proper way, and being vigilant about our clothing and appearance effects everything we do.”

CIRCLES OF BLESSING

Malky Lipsker, a wig stylist in Kfar Chabad, hosts one of the “Circles” groups in her house. She tells about the change the group has had on her:

“Hosting the group in my house gives me so much and has a tremendous effect on the children and the entire house. The concept of tznius is no longer frightening. On the contrary, I hear my family discussing the topic and internalizing the ideas. In general, since I’ve been hosting the group, I feel outstanding bracha in everything.”



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