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Hadracha-Style Of Dress


Rabbi Elchanan Lewis

6 Cheshvan 5767
I wanted to ask the Rav the following seemingly sensitive, yet very relevant question for the times we live in. I understand that Halacha dictates that a Jew is meant to conform with a certain dress code. This of course, is listed as one of the Zechusim that enabled Klal Yisrael to leave Eretz Mitzraim. It is clear to me how significant it was that Klal Yisrael, as one unit, dressed in a different fashion than the Goyim. Which leads me to the following question: Today, different segments of Klal Yisrael take dramatically different approaches in regards to their "dress code". I have learned that when it comes to a question in Halacha one must look at the Gedolim and Manhigei Yisrael for guidance. Upon reviewing the positions of the Gedolei Hador- I see that the majority- favor the stance of mantaining the style of dress of previous generations. The primary foundation of this mode of dress would include wearing a hat and jacket by tefilla. I also take note that ALL of the most senior Gedolim (regardless of what portion of Klal Yisrael they lead- including Rabbi Shapira Shlita, Rabbi Elyashiv Shlita, Rabbi Simcha Kook Shlita, Rabbi Kanievsky Shlita), wear a hat and jacket during tefilla. They also wear the same mode of dress of previous generations. With these observations, I wish to understand the position of those that feel that one may change the style of clothing Klal Yisrael should wear- including during tefilla.
Rabbis of a certain stature have a certain dress code; that does not mean all have to dress the same. These very rabbis whom lead communities that don’t dress like them don’t have any problem with that. Rav Shapira for instance, never asked not even his students in his Yeshivah to wear black hats even though, as you mentioned, he defiantly does. If you are part of a society that have a strict dress code you must not differ from them, however the “Jewish dress code” does not speak about the colour of your shirt or the need of a jacket, there are Halachot to do with dress, it should be modest, you should have a Tzitzit, it should not be Shaatnez, etc; and these are kept by all observant segment of Klal Yisrael.
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