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In Yabia Omer YD 6:14, Rav Ovadia Yosef ruled that it is preferable for a woman to wear women's pants than to wear a "mini-skirt" (חצאית-מיני). He writes that a full skirt is preferable to both.

In the beginning of the responsum (וברור..."‏") he explicitly rejects the opinion of the Peri Megadim (OC MZ 75:1) that the body part שוק (which he assumes a woman must cover) refers to the thigh, while accepting the opinion that it refers to the calf.

His concluding line is:

ובמקום שלא ישמעו לנו הבנות ללבוש חצאיות או שמלות המכסות את הברכים, יש להעדיף מכנסים על חצאיות ושמלות קצרות, עד שיוכלו להשפיע עליהן ללבוש בגדי צניעות ככל בנות ישראל הכשרות
And in a place where the women won't listen to us to wear skirts or dresses which cover the knees, one should prefer pants to [short] skirts or short dresses, until one can influence them to wear modest clothing like all Kosher Jewish women. (my translation)

Why is R' Yosef willing to accept a skirt which only covers the knees but not the calf?

  • Is he saying that he prefers an uncovered שוק to wearing pants?
    • Is he relying Bedieved on the opinion he rejected earlier in the responsum without saying so? (Did I miss it?)
    • Is he just making a cost-benefit Tzniut analysis? If so is his conclusion due to leniency regarding שוק or stringency regarding pants? (This would mean that men could not recite Shema in front of a women dressed like that.)
  • Is he implicitly assuming that the skirt which covers the knees is being worn with opaque socks/leggings which cover the calf? (This would mean he preferred full pants to skirts which don't cover even legging-covered-knees, and all the more so to skirts which don't cover the entire calf if worn without opaque socks/leggings.)

My question is about R' Yosef's referenced opinion. Not about anyone else's opinion about anything.

  • I did not see it inside,but it seems that since there is a strong opinion which is followed by many that the shok is called the thighs then it is at least acceptable,however if it it is above the knee then there is no halachik opinion who allows it. – sam Jun 25 '14 at 20:24
  • @sam It's actually a ridiculously weak opinion, though you are correct that it is followed by many. As I said though ROY explicitly rejects this opinion in no uncertain terms in the beginning of the responsum. You are indicating my first suggested resolution as listed in the question. – Double AA Jun 25 '14 at 20:24
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    He does mention (in section 1): וברור שירך חמור יותר משוק – Fred Jun 25 '14 at 20:28
  • it really seems from the qoute of the tshuva that it is at least keep to the knee,but if one would have asked him personally he would have said to the calf,it is more of what the people do in the street. – sam Jun 25 '14 at 20:31
  • @sam I'm not sure what you mean. Is he not issuing his own psak here? If he thinks pants are better than leaving the calf uncovered then he should just say so. What's the problem? – Double AA Jun 25 '14 at 20:34
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Looking at both the question and the answer found in Yabia Omer, it is not speaking about adult, married women. It is discussing teenage girls in school only. It specifically is dealing with teenage girls who show up at a religious school in mini-skirts and refuse to listen to the school directors about wearing modest skirts. From the outset, this is portrayed as a cost-benefit situation.

Rabbi Yosef doesn't say what he disagrees to from the Pri Megadim. He says that this response is not the place to get into it. Simply looking at the Pri Megadim there are several different viewpoints mentioned about what שוק means. He tries to say that in some places שוק can mean thigh. The source he points to for this is Mishnah Chullin 10:4.

This may be what Rabbi Yosef is objecting to because Chullin is discussing the שוק of an animal. In regard to the laws of modesty, it is about the שוק of a human being, which is different. The variation in anatomy for human beings is described in Mishnah Oholot 1:8.

For human beings, שוק means calf, not thigh.

The closing paragraph (8) makes clear that לכתחילה girls should not be permitted to wear long pants because they are garments of haughtiness, meaning they draw attention to the form of woman and accentuate it. He emphasizes that for girls who wear mini-skirts, efforts should be made to influence them in a pleasant way to wear modest skirts and dresses that also cover the knees also when they are sitting. As discussed in the earlier paragraphs that means when standing the skirt is well below the knee (more than 4 inches). It is only in situations where the girls refuse to wear skirts of that length that long pants are preferable to mini-skirts.

As Rabbi Yosef points out in paragraph 3 based on the Bach to Yoreh Deah 182, pants worn to protect from the weather are permissible for women. That was part of the question posed at the beginning. In paragraphs 3-6 he also points out that the concept of beged ish does not apply for a variety of reasons enumerated.

It is in paragraph 7 where he runs through the cost analysis citing Sotah 48, Sefer Chassidim 176 and the response of the Rashba among others. As he points out, there are valid opinions that long pants are covering the ervah and are acceptable in certain limited circumstances.

1) Rabbi Yosef is not saying he prefers uncovered שוק to wearing pants.

2) He is not relying bedieved on an opinion he rejected earlier. (Assuming you are referring to the Pri Megadim comment)

3) Yes, he is making a cost-benefit analysis. No, it is not about a leniency regarding שוק. I don't understand what you mean by a stringency regarding pants.

4) He discusses stockings with skirts, but I think it was not dealing with opaque ones but rather transparent stockings like nylons. Nylons are not considered as covering. The question of opaque stockings would require additional review.

  • "stringency regarding pants" means the reason he prefers knee-skirts to pants is because pants are so bad (the alternative is because uncovered calves isn't so bad). So which value is he compromising on? – Double AA Apr 23 '17 at 21:36
  • I'm not sure how the summary parts in this answer help answer the question. – Double AA Apr 23 '17 at 21:38
  • I don't understand how you can hold points 1 and 4 at the same time. He clearly prefers knee-skirts to pants. Whether or not there are stockings too is debatable, but you can't hold there are no stockings AND he does not prefer uncovered calf to wearing pants. Hence I don't understand what you are trying to say. -1. Think of it this way: if he doesn't prefer uncovered calves to pants, then he should prefer pants to knee-skirts where there aren't opaque stockings, which is not his ruling here. – Double AA Apr 23 '17 at 21:46
  • @DoubleAA You keep trying to use your expression 'knee-skirts'. That is not in the response of Rabbi Yosef. He is talking about modest skirts that completely cover. Also, in keeping with your request in the question, none of this answer is how I hold. It is simply what Rabbi Yosef wrote. As he says clearly, long pants are a compromise but not because of ervah. Review paragraph 7 closely and you will see it. – Yaacov Deane Apr 23 '17 at 22:02
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    I'm not trying to use the expression 'knee-skirts'. I am using it. They refer to skirts which cover the knees but not the calf. It is those skirts that R Yosef recommends instead of pants (I don't know what you mean by "He is talking about modest skirts that completely cover"; please be more explicit). The question is why, ie "Why is R' Yosef willing to accept a skirt which only covers the knees but not the calf?" (I never thought any of this was what you hold, and indeed I couldn't care less what you hold.) – Double AA Apr 23 '17 at 22:06

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