Understanding Tzniut
Modern Controversies in the Jewish Community


By Yehuda Henkin
March 2008
Urim Publications
Distributed by Coronet Books Inc.
ISBN: 9789655240054
141 pages, Illustrated, 6 7/8 x 9 5/8"
$21.95 Hardcover


In his innovative and magisterial lead essay, Rabbi Yehuda Henkin analyzes the pervasive yet little-understood area of women’s modesty. In Understanding Tzniut, Rabbi Henkin also examines the issues of handshaking, aliyot to the Torah, and dancing with a sefer Torah, as well as general topics such as questions of rabbinical misjudgment during the Holocaust and the relationship to Israel’s government in the wake of the expulsion from Gush Katif. To all topics, Rabbi Henkin brings halachic stature, scholarship and erudition.


About the Author:

Rabbi Yehuda Henkin, an authority on Jewish law (posek halacha), occupies a central position in contemporary halachic discourse. The author of Bnei Banim – four volumes of Hebrew responsa – and a commentary on the Torah, he also writes prolifically in English on topics of Torah commentary, Halacha and Jewish thought. He is the grandson of the gaon Rabbi Yosef Eliyahu Henkin ztz”l.

Rabbi Henkin’s previous books in English are: Equality Lost: Essays in Torah Commentary, Halacha, and Jewish Thought (1999), New Interpretations on the Parsha (2001) and Responsa on Contemporary Jewish Women’s Issues (2003).


Praise for Understanding Tzniut

The topic of modest dress in Jewish law is one that is very dependent on local custom. While there are some issues that are universal, most of the details are location specific. This became glaringly obvious a few years ago when R. Pesach Eliyahu Falk published a book titled Modesty: An Adornment for Life, which consistently presented practices that represent the norm in certain Charedi/Chassidic circles as the unequivocal standard.

R. Yehuda Henkin has published a detailed and devastating critique of many of R. Falk's fundamental positions. This long essay originally appeared in the journal Tradition and has now been updated and published in a book appropriately titled Understanding Tzniut: Modern Controversies in the Jewish Community. The essay is published alongside another two related essays and a second section of interesting essays on unrelated topic (e.g. whether one must show respect to a disrespectful Torah scholar and the proper attitude towards the state of Israel post-Disengagement). R. Henkin's essay on modest dress analyzes a number of relevant topics (e.g. women's haircovering, necklines) and shows that R. Falk's positions are extreme. In reaching his conclusions, R. Henkin displays a mastery of both halakhic views on this subject and sound reasoning.
-R. Gil Student
Hirhurim blog

Religion; Jewish Studies


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