In his sefer on laws of Nidda, Darchei Taharah, Former Sephardic Chief Rabbi of Israel Mordechai Eliyahu zt’l addresses the question of Erva.
He writes (see attachment for original) “Women that are accustomed to showing up to the top of the elbow or open their shirts up close to their breasts, this is a bad custom, about this it is said “bad laws” (Yechezkel 20:25) and (the rule) ‘טפח באישה ערווה’ only refers to parts of the body that are normally revealed.”
1. Throughout the sefer Rav Eliyahu is very exact with his words, when the act is forbidden or permitted he says so explicitly. Why in this case does he write “a bad custom” – it almost sounds like he is saying “by the letter of the law it’s permitted, but in bad taste.”
2. In our times (unfortunately) showing of cleavage is very common. If “טפח באישה ערווה” applies to hair because all women in our times (at least in western societies) show their hair would not the same principle apply to cleavage? Can a woman reveal up to 1 טפח of cleavage if she so desired?
Thank you for your insight,
- I think what he means is that he is referring to what he just wrote, that uncovering the upper arm is forbidden, and it is not dependent on minhag or not. Therefore, the fact that some women dress this way is considered a bad custom, as it is against halacha, and therefore such a minhag does not have and bearing on the halacha.
- A woman may not expose any part of her body that is intended to remain hidden, even if it is less than a tefach. Even less than a tefach of a married woman’s hair may not be purposefully exposed according to almost all poskim, ( including R’ Moshe Feinstein zt”l. Even according to the minority op inion that it is permitted, that would only apply to the woman’s hair, but not to any other part of her body.