OU Kosher’s Rabbi Dr. Safran’s New Book Takes on Immodest Dress

13 Jul 2007


Profoundly distressed by what he sees as a breakdown in the morals of a sex-drenched society in which women’s dress – or lack of same — emphasizes bare skin over modesty, a leading Orthodox Union rabbi has written a searing and insightful book calling for a return to the values that have been emphasized for centuries in Jewish life.

These values are summed up in the word tzniut – modesty. And these values are not only for Jews.

Rabbi Dr. Eliyahu Safran is the author of Sometimes You Are What You Wear: An Argument for Tzniut, newly released by Xlibris, a Philadelphia-based publisher. Rabbi Safran, Senior Rabbinic Coordinator and Vice President of Communications and Marketing of the Kosher Division of the Orthodox Union, usually spends his time dealing with companies around the world on the process of certifying their products as kosher, as well as directing a wide variety of OU educational programs for the Jewish community regarding kosher laws and practices. He is also Editor-in-Chief of the acclaimed quarterly magazine, Behind the Union Symbol, which explains all facets of OU certification for executives and staffs of companies that are OU certified and for thousands of others in the food industry.

However, as a long-time spiritual leader and educator in Jewish schools in Pittsburgh, New York and New Jersey, he inevitably saw the absence of modesty among today’s youth as a severe problem that had to be addressed for Jewish and non-Jewish audiences alike. The book is the anti-Paris Hilton, the anti-Britney Spears, the anti-Lindsay Lohan. Rather, it is a impassioned call for the wisdom of the ages to make itself felt in today’s world.

A Powerful Message

The book’s message is powerful yet sensitive, contemporary yet filled with the wisdom of the ages, and has already been lauded by spiritual leaders and social thinkers as a volume long-awaited in our confused society.

One of those spiritual leaders is Rabbi Dr. Tzvi Hersh Weinreb, OU Executive Vice President.

“I am in the unique and privileged position to have known Rabbi Eliyahu Safran since his youth. I have been witness to his growth into a foremost rabbinical figure,” Rabbi Weinreb declared. “This new book on the topic of personal modesty is but the most recent of his vital contributions to our sacred literature — all based on impeccable sources, and all relevant to the contemporary reader. He is able to blend his stunning erudition with his keen insight into today’s society. Kol HaKavod (all glory), Reb Eliyahu,” Rabbi Weinreb said.

“Modest dress is an essential part of the atmosphere of NCSY,” declared Rabbi Steven Burg, International Director of the OU’s youth program. “It is understood for young men and women alike in our programs that the way you dress can help to increase a person’s self-esteem. Rabbi Safran’s book should be must reading in all homes in which a teen lives, both for the young person and for parents, to reinforce the values that lead to proper dress and an increased positive self-image.”

The Decaying Morality of Modern Man

Rabbi Safran associates today’s fashion phenomenon with the decaying morality of modern man, and calls on the ancient wisdom of tzniut as a remedy. “How we behave in the world – how we face ‘outward’ – is a question of ethics,” Rabbi Safran maintains. “How we behave in holiness – how we face ‘inward’ – is a question of morals.”

Rabbi Safran emphasizes the need to incorporate tzniut if we are to save our children from the superficiality, decadence and damaging influences of our modern, “progressive” society. The book opens with the simple question: “What can an Orthodox rabbi tell me about my children or my life?”

Plenty, it turns out. Rabbi Safran discuses the modern world, the power of spirituality, and the particularly powerful religious worldview of Judaism. He presents the traditional view of modesty in the context of Judaism’s unique way of looking at the world. Judaism seeks an appropriate balance between the physical and the spiritual, denying neither and recognizing that the beauty of God’s creative wisdom inhabits both.

He takes the position that the modern world has turned children into “commodities” that serve to benefit a corporate bottom line but not the children themselves. He declares that the superficiality of the modern world, with its emphasis on body image, has done a profound disservice to our youth, with the result being illicit sexual encounters, alcohol and drug abuse, and eating disorders among other psychological struggles.

Tzniut, on the other hand, teaches the reader not simply to “look,” but to “see with meaning.” It teaches how to focus upon some aspect of creation and not to see just its outer, most superficial quality, but instead its inner, more meaningful aspects. Discussing the concepts of “outside” and “inside,” Rabbi Safran maintains that physical appearance should be designed to call attention to one’s worth and nobility, to a good soul. “Beauty diminishes but a good name endures,” Rabbi Safran says, quoting Jewish writings. Tzniut is the way to achieve an enduring good name.

The 157-page book is priced at $19.99 for the trade paperback and $29.99 for the cloth hardback. The book is available from the publisher at xlibris.com or 888-795-4274. The books’s website is www.modestybook.com.