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Do Women Have Something to Hide?

Do Women Have Something to Hide?

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Question:

Why does Judaism tell women to keep their bodies covered? Is there something shameful or evil about a woman’s body? If men can’t control their urges, then it’s their problem, not women’s. Why should a woman have to hide herself just so others shouldn’t be tempted?

Answer:

You are assuming that the only reason for modest dress is to avoid temptation. While this may be the case in other religions, for Judaism this is not true. The Jewish way of modest dress is not merely about how other people view women, but more about how women view themselves.

Covering something doesn’t always mean being ashamed of it. Have you ever noticed how we treat a Torah scroll? We never leave it lying around open. It is hidden behind many layers. The Torah is kept inside a synagogue, in the Ark, behind a curtain, wrapped in a mantle, held tightly closed with a belt. It is taken out only when it is to be used for its holy purpose, to be read during the prayer service. For those special times we carefully draw the curtain, open the doors of the ark, bring out the Torah, uncover it and unwrap it. As soon as we have finished, we immediately wrap it up again and put it away.

Why do we do all this? Why do we go to such trouble to conceal the Torah? Are we ashamed of it? Is there something to hide? Is there something ugly about the Torah?

Of course not. The opposite is true.

Because the Torah is our holiest object, because it is so sacred and special and precious, we never leave it exposed unnecessarily. We keep it under wraps because we don’t want to treat it lightly; we don’t want to become too casual with it. Were the Torah to be always open and visible, it might become too familiar and its sanctity minimized. By keeping it away from sight, and bringing it out only for the appropriate times, we maintain our reverence and respect for the Torah.

The same is with our bodies. The body is the holy creation of G‑d. It is the sacred house of the soul. The way we maintain our respect for the body is by keeping it covered. Not because it is shameful, but because it is so beautiful and precious.

This is true for men’s bodies too, and laws of modest dress apply to them as well. But it is even more so for women. The feminine body has a beauty and a power that far surpasses the masculine. The Kabbalists teach that a woman’s body has a deeper beauty because her soul comes from a higher place. For this reason, her body must be kept discreetly covered.

In a world where the woman’s body has been reduced to a cheap advertising gimmick, we need no proof for the truth of this wisdom. Where all is exposed, nothing is sacred. But that which is truly precious to us, we keep under wraps.

Aron Moss is rabbi of the Nefesh Community in Sydney, Australia, and is a frequent contributor to Chabad.org.
Image: Detail from a painting by Sarah Kranz. Ms. Kranz has been illustrating magazines, webzines and books (including five children’s books) since graduating from the Istituto Europeo di Design, Milan, in 1996. Her clients have included The New York Times and Money Marketing Magazine of London.
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Discussion (64)
November 2, 2016
Keeping the women's body as explained above is very essential and also it is beautiful, if we want to follow our almighty G-d with respect and righteousness.
Arega Gizaw
September 13, 2016
Objectification
Please don't objectify my body by comparing it to the Torah scrolls! I am a human. I have skin and blood, and your words hurt me.
Noa Hahn
St. Louis
August 15, 2016
Only hide if you feel guilty!
All I can say is: Thank G-d we don't have to hide under a burka. Women like men all have their secrets, no one is exempt from mistakes or from right and wrong.
Feigele
Boca Raton FL
July 12, 2016
Shifra
Women also say the brachot for not being slaves & goyim.
Goyim must serve G-d, but are given very little guidance of how. They have to figure out how, it is difficult.

A slave can't do many mitzvot, they are required to only follow the directive of the master.

At the times these brachot were written women had horrible lives. Cooking, cleaning, danger during chlidbirth, and care made for heavy daily burdens. Women were too busy to learn or daven on a set schedule, so they were released from these obligations. Children still make a mockery of the word schedule.

The brachot are to thank HaShem for the guidance He gave in the commandments,&for the sayer being given the guidance.Men are glad they don't have the lack of guidance & burdens women have, so they say a brachah.
A minyan is a gathering of obligated people.Women aren't obligated.
A witness is someone obligated to go to the court.That is an unreasonable burden.so women are excused.Excuse means ineligible.
Thanks to R.E.Silberberg
Sarah Masha
West Bloomfield MI USA
July 6, 2016
Really. we are spiritually higher and therefore not allowed to be rabbis. that makes sense, that the gender that is naturally more spiritual be excluded from formal religious leadership. it is a funny kind of apologetics that tells us we are spiritually superior and therefore more restricted and excluded from religious authority. like saying that a certain group of people are more intelligent and therefore you will restrict their educational advancement. Just know that your interpretation of jewish law hurts real people whether you intend to or not.

we are spiritually higher and therefore men thank God everyday of their lives that they are not women, goyim or slaves. We are spiritually higher and therefore our testimony is not valid as witnessess. we are spiritually higher and therefore cannot hold the torah. We are spiritually higher and are therefore not counted in a minyan. we are spiritually higher and therefore excluded from the study of talmu
shifra freewoman
boston area
February 2, 2016
Woman
I am old now, not ashamed to admit it.......we all have to age. Women. Beauty.......the desire for someone to be close to, to love, to cherish, to have children with......the ideal. I didn't know when I was young, the great lure of the female body. I didn't have anyone who explained the danger. How merely the form of the female can take one down to the sensuous world, and keep oneself occupied in that realm for a very long time. I didn't know what love was. I thought it, the attraction, was ABOUT love, but no, just an enthralment with a form, so beautiful, sensual and yes, erotic.

Now, I know B"H, but it took most of my life to come out of that place, to purify my nature, and realize the FOLLY of it.

Women should know that men are very affected by their beauty, and keep it to themselves until the right person, hopefully their beshert, appears. Many women DO KNOW, and use their beings to manipulate and control men.
Eleazar Goldman
San Francisco
February 1, 2016
Men Need to Respect Women Regardless of their Attire, or Lack Thereof
The idea that it is up to women to dress modestly because men cannot control themselves is insulting to me as a man. It's the same kind of male dominant thinking which is so evident in the Bronze Age religious edicts of Muslim imams. It should be a shame and dishonor for any man to proclaim such an idea.
Baruch
San Carlos
December 21, 2015
When I lived in Africa most native women were naked or nearly naked and even the soldiers didn't take notice.
Anonymous
UK
October 15, 2015
Ha!. Of course women have "something to hide": ever since Eve let it all hang out!
Why do you thing god provided animal-skin clothing?
Joshua
Melbourne
August 4, 2015
Meira Shana
You asked why is it okay for men to be immodest.
Simply put, it is not okay.

We don't talk about it so much, it seems that most men are able to absorb and practice modest dress more easily than women. That could be why we talk about it less. Or perhaps there are other reasons.
Men are not to go about shirtless, and they should wear long pants, not shorts. In the winter this is easy. In the summer, well, it depends on where you are. In truth, many men do not want to wear their tallit katan (four cornered fringed garment) on their skin. The reason is that a garment worn purely for the sake of a mitzvah should be worn in a modest way. So they wear a T-shirt, the tallit katan, and then a shirt. Three layers! Even though my T-shirt has long sleeves I think it is less. And the tallit katan may be made of wool, it is a very warm layer. (Some men wear ones made of cotton, those are cooler, and easier to wash.)

There are rules for modest dress for both sexes. Lack of modesty is not okay.
Sarah Masha
West Bloomfield