Modesty

The Daughter of a King

A Jewish woman must always remember that since she has always been a highly esteemed princess, she cannot allow herself to imitate the simple girls of the land

03.11.15 | 05:06
The Daughter of a King

There are some women who have been so accustomed to wearing immodest clothes that they find it difficult to comprehend the great importance Jewish law attributes to a modest dress code. If they could only imagine the high level of morality the nation of Israel would be on had all the women dressed in a respectable, modest way, their perspective would change. The tensions that exist in the workplace and in other places outside the home would dissipate and many destructive behaviors and damages that occur as a result of these tensions would break. It’s no secret that many cases of domestic turmoil, emotional breakdowns, violence, and even murder and suicide are caused by impulses that could have been prevented had a modest dress code been adopted, as this kind of unassuming style creates an inner and outer atmosphere of respect.

When a woman’s appearance is proper and befitting, it’s easier for her to avoid inappropriate places of entertainment or conversations that wander off into tasteless territory.

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Four perspectives on modesty:

1.      As we know, diamonds and other valuables are kept in respectable hiding places; they do not roll around on the streets like useless pieces of trash. A woman who maintains her dignity and doesn’t publically display certain parts of her body is proving to herself and to the world that she is a precious diamond that people do not have a right to stare at. The self-image and self-worth of this woman is elevated in her own eyes as well as in the eyes of others. However, a woman who tries to attract attention by exposing parts of her body is showing that she does not have any inner substance that she can be valued for and therefore must use her body to receive that recognition.

2.      When you look at something, it’s as if you’re using it. That’s why you need to pay to see a show, a concert, or a film, even though you don’t actually walk away with anything physical. So what kind of respectable woman would allow the eyes of random passersby to use her body in such a way?

3.      Staring is like touching. As we know, the eyes give off a certain beam that forms a connection with the object that the person stares at (staring is different than looking, as it involves closer examination). Our sages say the following regarding this type of staring: “One may not stand over his neighbor’s field when its crop is fully grown,”[1] when its stalks are ripe and its crops are standing in the field in all their glory. This kind of staring can cause damage to his neighbor’s crops. The same is true for any kind of staring that attracts the eye, as it can cause an “evil eye” on that which is stared at with great concentration. A woman’s modesty protects her from this kind of damage that can potentially cripple many areas of her life.

4.      One of the negative mitzvot of the Torah is, “Do not place a stumbling block before a blind man.”[2] This prohibition includes anything that causes spiritual damage to another person. The Rambam says in Sefer Ha Mitzvot , “This prohibition also includes assisting another in the commission of a sin, for he will lead that person, whose rational sight was clouded by his impulse and desire, to become blind, and he will tempt and assist him in completing his sin or he will set the stage for him to carry out the sin.”[3]

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If someone sees a woman dressed immodestly, and seeing her this way causes him to have improper thoughts, she becomes guilty of committing a severe Torah prohibition by simply walking down the street. Knowing this, what woman would agree to put herself in such a position? By doing this, she accumulates heavy bags of transgressions without even knowing it. (And what about at a pool or beach? Is the dignity of a woman who exposes herself at the beach or the pool any different than that of a woman who exposes herself to the guests in her living room?)

A Jewish woman must always remember that since she has always been a highly esteemed princess, she cannot allow herself to imitate the simple girls of the land. Anyone born from or has lawfully converted to the seed of Avraham, Yitzchak, and Yaakov[4] belongs to a “kingdom of priests and a holy nation.”[5] This is the nation concerning which G-d said, “You are children to Hashem your G-d,”[6] and “I have separated you from the peoples to be Mine.”[7]

In other words, “The nations of the world are citizens of My country, but you are My children, as you are the descendants of the Patriarchs who maintained their loyalty by sacrificing themselves to Me, and I have therefore chosen their children to represent Me in the world.”  - [8]

This noble title was not granted to her by humans, rather the Creator of the world gave her the title of “princess.” She is the daughter of the King of the world! It is certainly proper for every Jewish woman, through her appearance, to hold herself and her Father in high regard—as He is the King of all Kings, the Holy One, blessed be He.

 

Notes and Sources

[1] Bava Metzia 107a.

[2] Vayikra 9:14.

[3] Sefer HaMitzvot, negative mitzvah 299.

[4] A lawful conversion means circumcision, immersion in a mikveh, and acceptance of the mitzvot. This process transforms the structure of the soul. If one of these steps is missing, a person remains a total gentile. For further reading on this topic, see HaTzofen, pp. 336–337.

[5] Shemot 19:6.

[6] Devarim 14:1.

[7] Vayikra 20:26.

[8] Tehillim 45:14.

 

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