Tuesday, April 09, 2013

Why Do Orthodox Jewish Women Exclusively Wear Skirts or Dresses?

Orthodox Jewish women would consider themselves to be following the Old Testament.  When asked why it is that they wear only skirts or dresses, very often they will refer to Deuteronomy 22:5, and offer an English translation of the Hebrew there:  "A man's item shall not be upon a woman, and a man shall not wear a woman's garment."  That's how I would understand the Hebrew of that verse.  That's how Jews have understood it.  One rabbi writes, "[It] prohibits wearing clothes specifically intended for the opposite sex."

One orthodox Jewish site writes this:

There is a biblical commandment to promote segregation, which prohibits men from wearing any female garments and forbids women from wearing any clothing designated and designed for men. In biblical times women didn't wear pants (Deuteronomy 22:5).  Therefore pants are considered clothing designed for men, and women are not to wear it. There is another reason why women don't wear pants. According to Jewish law it is immodest for a woman that her legs be seen.

A basic statement of the standard is:  "Women are not permitted to wear pants. Women wear skirts or dresses that fall past the knee."  On another, we read about the wife of a rabbi:

Sarah Gitler, the wife of Rabbi Marc Gitler of Edos, is the mother of two, a rebbetzin and an attorney who works at a Denver law firm.  For Gitler, the hardest part of tzniut’s dress requirements is finding the proper attire in Denver shops.

“They don’t sell that kind of clothing in the stores,” she says. “I have to go to more stores than most people to get a single outfit.

“Like the sleeve length. If I’m looking for a dress, the sleeves have to reach my elbows. The collars can’t be too low. It’s difficult to find all that in one place.

“I’ve never found much online that’s really fashionable,” she adds. “It’s hard to find clothes that don’t look dorky and dumb. That’s really the biggest challenge. And that’s why I hate shopping.”

In the work place, Gitler wears long-sleeve blouses, black skirts, cardigans over shells and jackets.

The liberality of apparel some people choose for the work place “can be shocking,” she says.  “Sometimes I see people wearing things that are so revealing that it objectifies them.

“It must be hard to carry on a conversation without noticing that.”

Gitler wears her sheitel at work but chooses hats that cover her hair for the synagogue and on Shabbat.

Like Heyman, she has noticed clothes that while meeting the literal requirements of tzniut “are really tight. Clothing covers the collarbone or the knees, but it’s so skin tight that a loose-fitting pair of pants might seem more modest. That wouldn’t be my choice when it comes to expressing modesty.”

But Gitler never wears pants.

“Friday is jeans day at work. Obviously I can’t do that.”

Tzniut also guides her behavior.

“I like to talk to people and joke with them, but I feel uncomfortable about certain subjects. I refrain from boisterousness or drawing attention to myself. I stay away from water-cooler conversations.

“People curse all the time,” she says. “Normal banter involves curse words. But I watch my language and never use those words because it’s inappropriate.”

Even if religion never came up at the office, Gitler has a feeling that her colleagues realize she is Jewish.

“To the outside world, dress is what distinguishes us.”

They call it tzniut (here you can read another expression of an orthodox Jewish women's experience).  You can watch a video with an explanation by a Jewish teacher (start at about 3:30 on the pants issue). You also read it here (and here and here).

Orthodox Jews would be the ones who would take the Old Testament most literally and their belief and practice of Deuteronomy 22:5 matches up with how Christians historically followed Deuteronomy 22:5.  When I say "most literally," I am understanding that they aren't practicing the sacrificial system or the priesthood, but here we get the interpretation of the Hebrew people that care about the Hebrew.

When I read the issues of orthodox Jews, I read what I can see are the concerns in obeying these passages.  It doesn't fit in with the world.  It feels uncomfortable.  It is more a matter of worldliness than it is a matter of some new study that has opened up a more enlightened view of Deuteronomy 22:5.  This is how Christians practiced for centuries, until most recently.  And it just happens to coincide with everything in the culture sliding toward Gomorrah.

For more information on this topic, read the study here.

Also consider this study on the Messiah for those who revere the God of Israel.


David Ericssohn said...

Good information, Kent. Very similar to what I describe in Spiritual Entropy.

Watchman said...

I understand the point you are trying to make, but this is just a dumb statement (not your statement, but what you quoted):

"In biblical times women didn't wear pants (Deuteronomy 22:5). Therefore pants are considered clothing designed for men..."

In biblical times men didn't wear pants either.

KJB1611 said...

Actually, Watchman, the orthodox Jews who said women didn't wear pants in the OT were correct; it isn't a dumb statement.

"Breeches,” a split garment like trousers, one that is periskeles (Gk.), going around the legs (cf. Ex 28:42; 36:35; Lev 6:3; 16:4; Ezek 44:18; Sir 45:8, LXX; also Philo, On The Life of Moses 2:143), is only found on men (specifically on the priests) in Scripture (Exodus 28:42; 39:28; Leviticus 6:3; 16:4; Ezekiel 44:18). Furthermore, In addition to the pant-like garment in the Bible being found only on the man, Qumran sectarian texts likewise mention “breeches” on men alone, possibly on priests (1QM 7:10; 4Q491 f1_3:18). The Mishna does not appear to restrict such “breeches” or “trousers” to priests, but does still keep them on men alone (Yoma 7:5; Sukk 5:3; Tamid 5:3; Kelim 27:6). So when the orthodox Jews said that only men wore pants in the Bible, they weren't being dumb--they were 100% accurate.

For more on this, see my study of Deuteronomy 22:5 here:


I would like to commend Pastor Brandenburg for pointing out the Orthodox Jewish interpretation here--it is a very good point, and not one that is made very commonly.

William Dudding said...

That's good. Let's go to the Pharisees to understand how to apply the law.

Watchman said...

If you believe that a linen undergarment covering "from the loin even unto the thigh" (Exodus 28:42) is the same thing as pants, you don't understand what pants are. These were not a "garment like trousers" as you claim. The item of modern clothing they most resemble is shorts.

In Bible times some priests (depending on where they were ministering) wore shorts as undergarments beneath their priestly robes. That isn't pants no matter how much you claim it is.

So yes, it is a dumb statement to say that men in the Bible wore pants. They didn't.

Kent Brandenburg said...


He quoted the foremost lexicon of the Hebrew language to back up what he said. He's saying that's what these Jewish and Hebrew scholars believe, which is why they wrote what they did. And you say they're just dumb. Is that because you know the Hebrew well?


Have you ever done a word study on either a Greek or Hebrew (that's Hee-Broo) word? Did you know that the words very often have a meaning already when we enter into the text of the Bible? Did you know that lexicons go to secular literature to study how people understood the word? These Hebrews actually know what Hebrew words mean.

I would understand your not knowing that, because of your top notch Golden State theological studies, learning how to inflate a big ball and detail the pastor's car. Plus, ya know, it's 'deep and wide' not to offend seeking transvestites. You want to be careful with your cross-dressing drive-ins.

Anonymous said...

Pastor Brandenburg,

A good friend of mine directed me to your blog. As a young Christian, I was so encouraged by what I have been reading... until now.

I really don't understand the context of everything that has been written here but I find myself terribly discouraged by what you wrote to Will. Is he someone antagonistic to God's Word or maybe an unbeliever who attacks your blog? I admit to being very confused as to your comments to him, they do not seem to fit the image I have of you.

Any help in this matter would be appreciated.

Thank you for your good blog.

Patrick Fortie
Orcutt, CA

Watchman said...

If I walked into your church next Sunday morning dressed in a linen garment that covered me "from the loin even unto the thigh" all the learned Hebrew scholars past and present with all of their lexicons combined would not be able to persuade you that I was wearing pants. I wouldn't be, and everyone who saw me would know it.

In the words of Westley (aka the Dread Pirate Roberts): "Truly you have a dizzing intellect."

Kent Brandenburg said...


What is it that discourages you about what I wrote? I'd be happy to know what that is. Did I go after Will's ridicule? Yes. Did I answer his ridicule with ridicule? Yes. Is this the norm for me? No. But the doctrines are too important to have someone discredit them to readers with ridicule.

Let's break it down with Will. When he says, "That's good." He doesn't mean it's good. He's being sarcastic. When he says something about getting our application from Pharisees, it's ridicule again and not true. Orthodox Jews are following Deuteronomy 22:5. Do they believe in Jesus? No. But they know what the Hebrew words mean. Is their practice the root or meat of our argument? No. But it certainly supplements what Christians have historically believed about designed distinctions in dress.

Yes, he's being antagonistic. His most recent comments to me were about another post I wrote, to which he said, 'it was a joke.' And previous to that, he called those who criticized worldly or profane worship music as "separation Nazis."

I have to think a little while as to whether I would pull out an answer like I gave him, but I've tried giving him reasonable and patient answers to his ridicule, but he keeps ridiculing. Is ridicule carnal? It can be, but not always. Here's something that could be help to your understanding, that I agree with:


I'm glad that you recognize it as something that I don't ordinarily do, sort of a rare spice off the rack.

Kent Brandenburg said...


Thomas is making really only two points that I see, and both valid, neither of which you are answering with your comment.

First, in OT times only men wore what we call trousers today, when you understand the Hebrew word translated "breeches." The exact quote above was:

""Breeches,” a split garment like trousers, one that is periskeles (Gk.), going around the legs"

Second, that's what these orthodox Jews recognize, who take it literally.

You seem to be taking it much farther than what Thomas is taking it, saying that men today should be wearing what the priests wore. These orthodox Jews are regulating their dress by OT prescriptions. Modern Christians regulate their dress by their feelings.

Watchman said...

It is not clear to me why you and Thomas reject God's description of what breeches were for the description offered by Jewish scholars. God does not say they were "a split garment like trousers going around the legs." God said they were a covering "from the loin even unto the thigh." That isn't talking about pants in any meaningful understanding of the word. Period.

I am in no way saying men today should wear what the priests wore. I am saying that what men today wear is not what the priests wore, and calling it the same thing defies logic and Scripture.

Kent Brandenburg said...


Sometimes this does happen, that is, people aren't getting each other, that in fact want to do that. I would call this one of those times, but I think it's better to hold off on "dumb" until you're sure someone is just being dumb. I say that with complete calm.

I do think I get you now, and I'll try to help. First, I've never really used the breeches argument for men/women's dress, but I do think it is interesting connection that Thomas is making. He himself is a Hebrew scholar. He has his devotions in the Hebrew OT. He's almost as scholarly as Will, not quite though (that last sentence was a digression into sarcasm, meant in an excoriating way). He says the Jewish teachers are getting that one sentence from that understanding. I think he's right, which strengthens that argument, I believe. Second, yes, the breeches covered from one point down to another point, but definitionally they were "britches," that is, went around the leg. That is the root meaning of the word. Words have a meaning. These breeches covered down to a certain point---how does that contradict what Thomas is saying?

I think with that we might be getting somewhere.

Watchman said...

OK, in an attempt to be serious, neither snarky nor inflammatory...

If they said that some men (only priests are mentioned in Scripture), at certain times (only during tabernacle/temple service is mentioned in Scripture) wore shorts under their robes, I would have no objection. But that is not what they are saying. I am not a Hebrew scholar, but I am fully capable of reading comprehension.

Based on the description given in inspired Scripture, what the Bible describes as "breeches" was underwear, not pants. If you showed anyone an illustration of the garment depicted in Exodus 28 without setting them up in advance for the answer you want, they would not describe what they saw as pants.

So rather than "dumb" let me use a better word. The declaration that men wore pants (as we understand them in our culture) in Old Testament days is wrong.

Joshua said...

Hi Watchman,

It certainly isn't the strongest argument around against ladies in pants, but it does seem pertinent to me that the only time we ever see anything resembling pants in the Bible, they are allocated specifically to men.

Just curious, what did you think about the rest of the article, and the overall argument that ladies wearing pants is condemned by Deut 22:5?

Kent Brandenburg said...


I agree with Joshua on this.

Let's try again though. Women did not wear breeches. Only men. When we talk about pants, we talk about put in your pants on one leg at a time. Well, this garment had two places where each of the two legs went in and each entrance had cloth that surrounded each leg, that was breeches, that is britches, which are what pants are. Women had no garment like that. Since that garment was one designed for men, then if women were to be wearing it, they would be wearing a garment designed for a man, which is exactly what Deut 22:5 forbids. OK, there we go. I don't think I can make it any clearer. I'm guessing Thomas isn't writing anything because he's reading what we're writing, not knowing what else to say.

KJB1611 said...

My point was that the orthodox Jewish website was exactly right when it stated, "In Biblical times women didn't wear pants." They didn't wear split garments; the split garments are on the men every time they appear in Scripture. Shorts are a type of pants--they are short pants. The point wasn't that they were jeans that went down to the foot, or dress pants like you wear for church, etc.; the point was that split garments appear only on men in Scripture. Since we ought to learn from the examples of Scripture, and examples are profitable for doctrine (2 Tim 3:16), this Biblical fact, which was recognized in Judaism also from the Talumdic times to now when the Jews have websites, has validity, although it is certainly not the only argument or the only thing that shows that Deut 22:5 requires the pant/skirt distinction today. No ancient Hebrew text, whether Scripture, Qumran material, etc. puts this split garment on women.

KJB1611 said...

Also, the priestly vestments were an example of godly dress, even as the priests were types of Christ who is our great Example. A woman would not want to dress in a split garment that only men wore. The fact that the specific men who wore the split garment are the priests did not mean that other men did not wear split garments. By the way, I'm not saying that men didn't wear robes also; they did, of course.

Watchman said...

I think we're at loggerheads. You and I both know what the Bible describes when it talks about breeches isn't pants in any meaningful modern sense of the word. But it's your blog, and you don't have to address it if you don't want to. I think I will bow out with these questions:

What specific item(s) of male clothing was Moses prohibiting in Deuteronomy 22:5? Was it the breeches we have been discussing, or was it something else?

Kent Brandenburg said...


Women could not wear male only ones and men couldn't wear female only ones. There are none of these in our present culture, because Christianity has decided that it doesn't care about obeying Deuteronomy 22:5. What I'm saying is that present culture has no designated, designed female only or male only garments. Like the first comment from David, this kind of approach to scripture affects everything.

d4v34x said...

Is the split leg garment thing only for biblical times or are hose inappropriate today under this view?

Kent Brandenburg said...

Hi Dave,

I don't know if they wear socks or not. However, I think they both do and don't see that as a distinguishing garment. There are common garments for them, so neither male or female. Nevertheless, I think Thomas's point about breeches is where they get their basis for that one statement that Watchman mentioned in his comment. You're talking about hose, which are put on like pants, so is that an inconsistency if relying on the breeches argument. Maybe. I don't think they argue it all on one particular point. They see pants as a male garment and the skirt or dress as a female one.

Jonathan Speer said...

I think it would be instructive if anyone who has difficulty with the point of this article would be willing to describe what men and women in the Bible actually wore.

Watchman, especially, do you think that God fearing people in the Old Testament times all wore essentially the same things with only insignificant differences between the what those of the different genders wore?

Do you think there were great differences?

Do you think they wore the same clothes as the unbelievers around them wore?

Do you think that the necessity to dress differently than the culture around us is a recent phenomenon?

Tell us what you think they were wearing and please provide the basis of your opinion on the matter.

I know I am asking a lot of questions, but your language has been pretty strong so far and I am hoping that you have a good foundation upon which to base it.

Chozn Ford said...

How pants that are made for a woman a man's garment? Female pants look totally different from male pants which distinguishes the gender roles. For someone to say that a woman wearing her pants is trying to be lesbian is just plain stupid. OK if pants were originally for a man then so was other things like boots, t shirts, and so forth but nobody ever mentions that. Its always pants pants pants.

KJB1611 said...

Dear Chozn,

Could you explain this? How do they "look totally different"? I can't tell the difference from 6 feet away. I can tell the difference between boots and pants--they really "look totally different." Or was your statement meant to be venting, not rational argument?


Kent Brandenburg said...

Hi Chozn,

There is not homogeneous standard of "women's pants." Sure there are pants in the women's department that fit men, but most of them are just like men. The biggest difference, if there is one is that they are tighter. Our nation departed from designed gender distinctions. That was the move for woman to wear pants, and everyone knew it was happening. Everyone. No Christian went along with it at first, but that eroded like so many other practiced. The Biblical practice has not been replaced. You sound like you couldn't care less. You should take that up with God.

Tamika Ford said...

Only a closed minded person sees women in pants that are specifically jeans and slacks like what men wear but there are girlish style pants that a man would never be seen in because they are made for a woman.

Kent Brandenburg said...


Are you closed minded to the possibility that you are wrong?

Tamika Ford said...

Wrong how? What scripture do you have to prove that a woman's garment is wrong for her

Kent Brandenburg said...


To be open minded, you must be willing to believe that something is right or wrong. If you can't be convinced, you're closed minded.

My position is the historical position. It is a biblical defensible position. I've written a lot about this, and I don't want to rewrite it all here, when you could read all the articles I've written.

What verse prohibits abortion?
What verse says that it is wrong to use four letter words?
What verse says it's wrong to smoke crack?

People took Deuteronomy 22:5 and 1 Corinthians 11:3-16 as what taught women and men to have designed distinct garments a symbol of submission and headship.

I want to ask another couple questions for you: Is a woman an abomination who wears a pair of jeans bought in the men's department? Is a man an abomination of he wears pants bought in the woman's department?

This will help me see where you are coming from.

Tamika Ford said...

Sir abortion, murder, profanity, fornication, drunkenness, adultery, etc are ALL sins but a pair of pants are not.

Tamika Ford said...

We don't have to get in a debate over pants made for men or pants made for women. Bottom line is the condition of the heart when Christians decide to dress period. The main factors that should come into play are there distinctions in the person's born gender (no sex operations). Will what they have on be appropriate to back their testimony as a Christian or will it incite lust and offensive attention. I think from reading other people views about pants vs dresses on women, not everyone will totally agree because there are various types of pants made for women that are OBVIOUSLY a woman's garment. Most video makers only refer to pants that a woman zips up and down like a man. But not all female pants have zippers, neither are all jeans. I know this Jewish woman who wears her pants very loosely and always,always with a very long shirt and you can only see the pant part that starts at her knees. She is very modest and does not look a bit seductive nor does she look to be imitating a man. The main thing is showing love and helping encourage brothers and sisters (that's right both male and female) to present themselves as representatives of Christ and not the world.

Kent Brandenburg said...


You've helped me understand where you're coming from. You were arguing that women wear pants that are women's pants, but that isn't even the position that you believe. You don't believe any pants on women, ones from men's department or women's department are a problem. So there is no designed distinct garment for a man or woman, violating the historic and biblical interpretation and practice of Deuteronomy 22:5 and 1 Corinthians 11:3-16. The point isn't seduction in those texts, but God's distinctions in the roles between men and women. God wants us to support that. Jesus said, if ye love me, keep my commandments, my words, my sayings. It isn't love to disobey scripture, but sheer sentimentalism.

Tamika Ford said...

If men and women wear robes, they are both the same type of cut (long flowing garment) but just because they are cut the same does not mean they are unisex or cross dressing. There is a robe made for men and a robe made for women. End of discussion.

Chozn Ford said...


Click on this link and if anybody cannot see that this woman is dressed in female pants and she is very modest and does not look like a man by her garments then they are sadly blind and pitiful.

Kent Brandenburg said...

Tamika, i.e., Chozn,

I am convinced you don't believe in separate roles for men and women, even by our interaction here, or male headship, so it is all water under the bridge anyway for you, rebelling against God's design, in addition to inane fad arguments to avoid obedience to scripture. You don't do anything with the verses themselves, end of discussion.

Chozn Ford said...

Deut. 22:30 and other scriptures associated skirts to men in Bible times but in our generation and culture women wear skirts. Any thoughts......?

Anonymous said...

Kent Brandenburg

God bless!
What do you think about women wearing leggings or something shorter than leggings that go around each leg and stuff like that underneath a skirt that's either super long or at knee?