Here's a great tip:
Enter your email address and we'll send you our weekly magazine by email with fresh, exciting and thoughtful content that will enrich your inbox and your life, week after week. And it's free.
Oh, and don't forget to like our facebook page too!
Printed from chabad.org
All Departments
Jewish Holidays
TheRebbe.org
Jewish.TV - Video
Jewish Audio
News
Kabbalah Online
JewishWoman.org
Kids Zone

Do Women Have Something to Hide?

Do Women Have Something to Hide?

 E-mail

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.
© Copyright, all rights reserved. If you enjoyed this article, we encourage you to distribute it further, provided that you comply with Chabad.org's copyright policy.
 E-mail
1000 characters remaining
Email me when new comments are posted.
Sort By:
Discussion (52)
July 14, 2015
covering or not is seasonal!
No its not difficult at all to change and cover oneself like style changes all the time, one time short, one time long, different colors this season or that season, winter and summer time we dress differently, so what's the difference?
Feigele
Boca Raton FL
July 14, 2015
What are the potentials of humans?
Something about the story as told in Genesis about Adam and Eve. How they were at a very high level, but fell through the Serpent. Man has great potential, but there are forces and beings that oppose that potential and do everything to try and bring humans down to a lower level. So, the TORAH is what Hashem gave to the Jewish people to raise them up, back to the level of Adam and Eve. Modesty is a part of that teaching. It's an awareness that Hashem wants us to behave in certain ways, and when one has that awareness, then doing it becomes important and not difficult.
Eleazar Shlomo ben Yakov Goldman
Yerushalayim
July 12, 2015
modesty
I really think it's all about what you're used to. For example, me, who grew up covering myself up, anything else just- I can't do it! But someone who is used to exposing themseves- it is admittedly extremely difficult to start covering yourself and something you really just have to get used to.
Chani Goldberg
Albequerque, New Mexico
December 23, 2014
The world of separation
It's rare that I ever see modesty where I live. Typical of the "normal world" of television, videos, performances in public, the "normal" way to dress and so on, most people are lost in a sea of sensualness and overt sexual behavior. Even within boy and girl-friend relations, it's very common now to "cheat" on them.....of course, usually behind their backs in secret.
Holiness and modesty, whether with a man or a woman, go together. Purity and modesty are inseparable. Innocence is also where one finds natural modesty.

When I went to the kotel, in Yerushalayim, I felt the presence of the Shekinah, the place was so HOLY, and, of course, everyone behaved and dressed modestly.
Eleazar Shlomo ben Yakov Goldman
San Francisco
May 4, 2014
To Miriam Baley
The topic of the respective sources of male and female souls is a large and complex discussion. Very briefly, female souls stem from Malchut, the ultimate of the Ten Sefirot taught in the Kabbalah. While this is the final Sefirah, it has certain qualities which surpass those of the upper Sefirot. Two metaphors for this Sefirah are the earth and speech. The earth displays the power of vegetation, producing new things, which reflects G-d's infinite power of creation. This is not found in the higher Sefirot. Speech brings about greater depth of understanding, which shows that it infuses the intellect with greater power, although it is supposedly below the intellectual Sefirot. You can read more about this here: www.chabad.org/380390. This is because, on one level, Malchut has a greater ability to express G-d's essence than do the upper Sefirot.
Rabbi Shmary Brownstein
Chabad.org
April 20, 2014
Well, i for one... being a woman... not a Jewish woman, but coming from a world of immodesty... LOVE this article... it teaches us as women, the importance of modesty and how this keeps a family together ... (is my thinking...)

Thank you Rabbi Moss for this article.
Anonymous
April 20, 2014
Rabbi Moss, you said that women's souls come from a higher place. Can you explain that, please?
Miriam Baley
Mexico City, Mexico
December 4, 2013
Easier for women
LOTS of things are easier for women to hide. Hmmmm.

Yet, it's a bit of everything - not all good to have this type of law.

Ron Stackler is right.

Why is it ok for men to be immodest?
Meira Shana
San Diego, CA/USA
synagoge-karlsruhe.de
April 2, 2013
Covered
Thanks for your thought provoking post.
Patricia Robertson
February 15, 2013
Pure hypocrisy!
Beauty and Ugliness is a part of nature in this world. It’s not the noses we should cut but maybe the eyes if we are to hide beauty and ugliness. If looking at both makes you feel guilty and ashamed, then close your eyes and walk outside, in the streets and in the fields. If women are completely covered from head to toes, how about them looking at gorgeous men or ugly ones too, they are free to do so behind their veil and no one can tell. It is a matter of personal decency to cover enough intimate parts of the body and not an obligation towards others or a submission to the other gender. Unfortunately, today, lots of women are exposing themselves because it is what sells the most. They will get the jobs while the ones modestly covered will not. So men are provoking and promoting this fad while at the same time blaming the women for exhibiting themselves.
Feigele
Boca Raton
Show all comments
FEATURED ON CHABAD.ORG