On the backdrop of the security situation in Israel, videos circulated on social media in recent weeks show young Jewish women who have grown closer to religion, ripping immodest clothes they used to wear in the past in order to make them unusable.
Thanks to this self-sacrifice, they believe, God will have mercy on the people of Israel and save them from the recent wave of terror.
Removing earrings (among men), adopting modesty rules (among women) and erasing tattoos (among women) are nothing new in the religious scene known as the “world of repentance.” But in times of emergency, every such video of a an individual who has “found religion” goes viral and takes on a national meaning.
The YouTube channel of the Tiferet Dvora Rivka school for girls in Ashdod, headed by Rabbi Yoshiyahu Pinto, presented recently a ceremony in which students were seen proudly burning immodest clothes. The Or Lanoar website reported of a similar event which created “a huge sanctification of God’s name.”
“Dozens of girls are cutting immodest clothes and getting modesty in return,” the website reported. “And for dessert, a married woman fulfills Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky’s command and smashes the new iPhone.”
The website warned, however, that “before making all kinds of hasty decisions, one should consult the great Jewish scholars and not do things without guidance… Some girls decide to burn pictures and burn clothes. We recommend much simpler and less dangerous ways: Cutting and throwing in the garbage…
“The important thing is for each person to set his own boundaries in order to escape the sin. If a person breaks his cell phone but doesn’t really break his evil inclinations and passions – what good will his ‘external’ acts do? An internal change is much more significant than an external change.”
‘These clothes cannot be donated’
The clothes destruction phenomenon is enthusiastically encouraged by the “Mi La’Adonai Elai” (“Whoever is on the Lord’s side, come to me”) Facebook page, which is named after Moses’ declaration to the people of Israel after the golden calf sin, and Mattathias ben Johanan’s call to the Hellenist Jews during the Maccabean Revolt.
The page has more than 584,000 followers, who receive regular updates on women who have decided to get rid of their revealing clothes and adopt a more modest wardrobe.
“The sanctification of God’s name continues big time,” the page’s operator wrote Monday. “May God rip all the difficult and bad command imposed on us that way… Why rip rather than donate? Just like we won’t donate non-kosher meat to people, we don’t donate revealing clothes to girls.”
The page’s operator presents himself as Yaakov Cohen, a 26-year-old bus driver from Jerusalem, who “became religious 10 years ago.” He says that there is no organization behind him. “I am a private person, not a yeshiva student, not Haredi, not a rabbi – and I’m not even responsible for this phenomenon,” he stresses. “Girls sent me such videos, I posted them once, saw the enthusiasm it created and continued posting.
“Girls saw it and posted that they have also decided to become more religious and tear up their revealing clothes, especially now that there are a lot of terror attacks and they want to do good things for to the people of Israel.
“All these videos have received a lot of support and shares, and thank God, Jewish girls are filled with enthusiasm and see that they can bid farewell to all this immodesty. After all, these clothes cannot be donated to other girls, otherwise they will fail and reveal themselves. So they have to be ripped.”
Cohen says his page has been active for more than five years and used to be “a hit among the youth”.
‘The intention was to help anyone who wants to get closer to God and become more religious. Because of people’s thirst for biblical discourse and tradition, it gained momentum.”
‘It happened at once’
One of these young women who has become more religious is 25-year-old Ines Ruth Oren of Ramat Gan, who defines herself as a traditional Jews and has also ripped her clothes and posted the documentation online.
“My family observes everything, except Shabbat and modest,” she says. “For me, religion was always there, but I guess I didn’t have enough willpower and preferred to suppress it and make excuses. Every time I tried, I managed to do it for exactly two days before reverting to my evil ways.
everal months ago, she heard for the first time two songs which led to a “real awakening,” and that’s when the change began. “They really touched me. I would just start crying, a feeling I cannot explain in words. Something just happened.”
She experienced “difficult times” in her personal life as well, and started becoming more religious – ‘but on the inside.” She began watching lectures on YouTube according to the doctrine of Rabbi Nachman of Breslov, which helped her “rise up a little every day,” until “I could probably contain everything, and then it happened at once’
“I began praying one prayer a day, observing the hand washing mitzvah, reciting Psalms, saying the Shema prayer before going to bed, and modesty,” she says excitedly. “With God’s help, I slowly want to start observing Shabbat too… I’m trying not to rush, because there are things the soul can contain easily when it wakes up, but the body can’t. So slowly. The process takes time, but I am definitely happy and confident about my decision, and I am certain it’s the right way.”
Why tear? Can’t you make them modest, by adding basic shirts for example?
“I left the things which can be repaired, like long dresses which I will wear under my winter sweaters. I had dresses I ‘saved’ and turned into skits. But I cut all the pants, jeans, vests and short shirts, everything I thought would no longer be usable.”
Ines works in a clothing store. Will the process she is going through affect the store’s customers? “I wish!” she says. “But I have only accepted full modesty this week, so I can’t change the world yet. My goal in principle is to become more religious and repent, and with God’s help to start my own small business of modest clothes in a bohemian and gypsy style.”