Questions Regarding Tzeniut (laws of modesty in attire)

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Dear Rabbi Simon
I have a few questions regarding tzeniut:
At what age is a girl not allowed to sing in front of an uncle, nephew, cousin, or other non-related man?
At what age does a girl need to cover her feet and legs?
Is a woman allowed to walk around with the front part of her hair exposed a drop in front of her snood?
Is a woman allowed to walk around with her feet, toes, and/or the lower part of her legs uncovered?
Is a woman allowed to appear in public with her collarbone exposed?
Starting at what age is it inappropriate for girls and boys to be swimming together without the girls being properly covered?
The above with the girls being fully covered?
In the event that any of the above cases are permitted, which of them would cause a problem for a man to make a berachah in her presence?
Many thanks,

Dear Deetza
Thank you for your questions. As you have asked in straightforward halakhic terms, I will answer in brief, without reference to the considerations which underlie this important body of law (excuse the pun).

  • Girls should refrain from singing in front of a male from age 9.
  • A girl should cover her legs above the knee from age 9. Below the knee and legs may be exposed, unless this is a violation of community norms.
  • Regarding hair exposure from snood: In the home, yes. In the public domain, there are those who allow it. The devout try to minimise this to the extent possible.
  • Feet and toes: Essential halakhah allows this. Many wear tights to avoid outright exposure even below the knees.
  • Collarbone: There are grounds to allow this. Meritorious is to cover the collarbone as well.
  • Mixed swimming should be avoided as follows: boys from age 9, girls from age 6. Girls should be fully covered from age 9.
  • A man is allowed to recite a berakhah in the presence of all the cases mentioned above. When reciting the berakhah he should not gaze at any of the women or girls, but only “in the presence of.” BTW if he turns away entirely, he may always recite Shema, etc., even in proximity to a woman who is exposed (unless he personally is unable to concentrate due to the distraction of his surroundings).

I hope this succinct treatment of a nuanced subject is nevertheless useful.
Best wishes,
Rabbi Rashi Simon

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Ask the Rabbi: Quinoa on Pesach
Dear Rabbi Simon,
Where do you stand on quinoa (and the kitniyot ban) for Pesach?
Many thanks,
Dear Tzippy,
In line with other American authorities, I am in favour of quinoa. Although I reject completely the voices (mostly from Israel) seeking to abolish the ban on kitniyot entirely, IMO we do not need to include in the prohibition pseudo-grains that were unknown in the Old World until modern times. Best to buy with a Pesach hechsher though, to be free of any possible wheat contamination.
Rabbi Rashi Simon
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