She relates how she used to picture the modest attire of religious Jews as dull and stifling. She was amazed to discover in Rabbi Falks sefer a totally new dimension of this fundamental expression of the Jewish women. The sefer has literally transformed her way of thinking through its profound concepts and wonderful elucidations.
The story behind the Kiryat Sefer group is an incredible lesson in turning hardship and limitation into phenomenal spiritual growth. A woman in the community who was bedridden for several months decided to use the time lying heavily on her hands to earn some priceless zechusim. She proceeded to call every English- speaking woman in Kiryat Sefer about the program which resulted in a record breaking 80 sign-ups.
One young women writes, "The ad in the Yated piqued my interest. It said that it was a free home-study program on the sefer Oz Vhadur Levusha, that one could join or form a group of five, that two short assignments would be given monthly followed by a quiz, and that a $50 gift certificate would be awarded to one lucky winner every month. I knew the sefer. Dubbed the mishna berurah for women, it is a groundbreaking monumental work on tznius that has gained an honored place in thousands of frum homes around the world. I had even leafed through it and read parts of it. One day, I promised myself, I would study it from cover to cover. But that day somehow never came. Between work and myriad other obligations the thought had just found itself a place to hide under layers of other ideas floating around in the nethermost part of my mind. Until I joined the program. Some weeks later with a group of seven in hand, I was systematically on the road to learning the sefer."
The Oz Vhadur Levusha sefer was published by Feldheim Publishers in 1998 and became an instant bestseller. The supplement which appeared a short while later, provided clear diagrams and visual aids on the practical halachos of tznius, and is now in the process of being translated into Yiddish and Hebrew. The sefer is endorsed by a kaleidscope of Rabbonim, including haskamos from Rav Pam, zatzal, and y"bdl, Rav Aaron Schechter, Rav Bezalel Rakow, Rav Chaim M. Wosner-Satmar/London, and Rav Shmuel Berenbaum.
Authored by Rabbi Pesach Eliyahu Falk of Gateshead, England, a world- renowned posek and the mechaber of numerous seforim including Sefer Machze Eliyahu and seforim on bedikas tolaiim and hilchos shabbos, it is a comprehensive, pioneering work on the laws and concepts of modesty. In his preface, Rav Falk provides several illuminating explanations as to why our generation so sorely needs such an extensive, detailed work on the subject. The weakening of mesorah, the growing moral decay in society around us and the grave spiritual pollution in the air have all served to weaken our sensitivities and have made frightening inroads into this fundamental area of yiddishkeit. The sefer was therefore written to fill an urgent need for chizuk and instruction.
How does this pioneering home-study project translate a womens desire to learn this remarkable sefer into actuality? The carefully designed program breaks down the sefer into manageable sections, sends twice monthly quiz-reviews by e-mail/mail/fax, and offers a simple but highly structured method of navigating through the sefer. The program consists of groups of five women headed by coordinators, who each receive introductory information including a calendar, and are then responsible for mailing, grading, and returning the quizzes to the women in their group. A score of 85% or higher on a quiz entitles a women to a coupon, which is then entered into a monthly raffle for a $50 gift certificate at selected stores.
Rabbi Katz, a mechanech who lives in Passaic, NJ, is the founder and director of the home-study program. It all started when the sefer came into his hand one day. He read through some sections and was immediately inspired. The beauty and eloquence of the sefer touched his heart. He was so moved and uplifted that he knew wanted to start learning groups for women.
One day Rabbi Katz came home to find his wife deep in the midst of one of her bi-weekly ntzor lshoncha tests (At the time, Mrs. Katz was a participant of the Ntzor Lshoncha Home-Study program, based on the sefer "Guard Your Tongue"). Something in his brain clicked. Why not take Rabbi Falks sefer and do the same!
With great determination, thought, perseverance and much siyata dshmaya the project was launched. His wife said that she would compose the tests. His sister-in-law volunteered to type them. His brother-in-law donated a copy machine.
Rabbi Katz received a very warm haskama letter from Rav Mattisyahu Salamon, mashgiach of Bais Medrash Govoha of Lakewood. Rav Falk was very much involved in the program from the start and still continues to infuse it with words of chizuk and encouragement. The project, which began over two years ago with less than ten women in Lakewood has mushroomed into a world-wide movement where women of all ages and backgrounds are discovering the hidden glory of tznius. Groups have formed across the United States and Eretz Yisroel, including participants in Yerushalayim, Bnei Brak, Kiryat Sefer, California, Monsey, Lakewood, and Brooklyn.
"We are targeting everyone," Rabbi Katz says. By that he means that the program was designed for women from all walks of life. The sefer may not jive with your present lifestyle. But as in limud haTorah, one learns in order to purify ones soul, to broaden ones mind, to iron out ones hashkafos hachaim, and eventually this is mchazek the person to elevate his or her maasim.
Recent catastrophic events, including the World Trade Center collapse, terrorist attacks in Israel, and the petirah of several of our greatest gedolim in rapid succession, are sending us frightening messages that we are in desperate need of more zechusim and that there is a gaping hole in our level of tznius which needs immediate and concrete attention. Lets seize the moment now to strengthen ourselves in this vital foundation of yiddishkeit!