The rambling thoughts of a Modern Orthodox Chassid (whatever that means). Contact me at emansouth @

Wednesday, June 16, 2004

Casual Shabbos III

My recent post on Casual Shabbos attracted far more comments than I have ever gotten on any other post. I was frustrated by my apparent inability to properly articulate the 'nekudah', the essence, of what I was trying to say (as reflected by many of the comments).

Then I remembered a couple of lines from Moshe Koppel's remarkable essay, "Yiddishkeit Without Ideology - A Letter to My Son". Describing his adolescent journey (during the early 1970s) from a Yeshivish environment (where he was not happy) to an MO environment, he wrote the following:

You asked somebody there (an MO Yeshiva high school) if it was ok to daven in your gatkes, they start pulling books off the shelf. Lacking a sense of the heimish and hankering above all for middle-class American respectability they tended to undervalue the little hard-to-pin-down gestures and manners that give substance to Jewish distinctiveness.
I think this is at the heart of the disconnect I am having with many of the commentators. If you ask what are the Halachos of dressing for Shabbos, I will refer you to Simcha. If you ask me why is it ok for Israelis to wear white shirts, slacks and sandals on Shabbos, I will tell you I don't know. But if you ask me whether it is Shabbosdik for someone to come home from shul and make a conscious decision to take off his Shabbos clothes and sit at the Shabbos table in casual clothes, or to put on shorts or khakis and a polo shirt to go the the park, I will ask you whether davening in your gatkes is ok.


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