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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 (48)
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
February 6, 2013
A bland world
Ray Bradbury wrote a story about a future time where peace on earth had been achieved. Having no other cause in the world to worry about the great crusade was about unpleasant odors. Women went door to door to collect for community deodorizers and fumigators and whatnot. Until one day a little boy came up with the best idea of all. He simply taught people the way to avoid bad smells was to cut off everyone's noses.

As a Jewish man I'm instructed not to follow my eyes...what merit is there in doing this in a world where there is nothing to look at? What kind of man am I if I am so weak that I can't look at a beautiful woman without taking my thoughts to a base level? The nose is not only responsible for smell but the majority of ones sense of taste. Cutting off one's nose robs the world of any taste.

We had to be driven from the slavery of the shetl by acts of horror. Now it's time to excise it from our souls. We're not slaves to our base natures. We're Jews.
Scott
Israel
February 5, 2013
A Jewish woman is like a Jewel and pearl
I believe being modest is good for Jewish woman to have strong family and strong Jewish community. We should focus on family and in Holy Zohar is written that being modest is good for family. When a Jewish woman is modest then she could focus more on her children and raise good righteous children which Judaism need. She could focus on education and good deeds. Being modest is for own good. Since, I started to become modest then I view my world different. From being a shallow person then I learned to become deep and think to serve One True G-d and not become like a doll then men look at me and then if a woman just instead of thinking to do good deeds and make Our Father in Heaven happy with us then wants to look sinful to make men happy!!!! Each man should be happy with his own wife and if all Jewish ladies wear modest clothes then it will happen that strong family then strong Jewish nation.Amen
Anonymous
February 2, 2013
I am not jewish but I believe in one G-d and I know we were created to serve him, to live for him. So,I have a yearning in my heart to please G-d . I was 12 yrs. old when I fell in love with him and he has been my guide all these 63 yrs. of my life.This body of mine I have put under subjection to him and it hasn't been easy! The clothes for us women have been made to reveal and parade all our secret parts and boy do they make those clothes look pretty too! I gave a talk to a group of women, on the subject of women wearing men's pants. Yes ,I know they make women's pants also,But the issue is that pants on women reveal every nook an cranny.What about baggy pants? Have you really studied women's behavior when they are wearing them? They sit with their legs open, they squat down like a man ,some even walk like a man. The waistline in the back of the pants goes down revealing underwear or not...Maybe the real question should be, what is the motive for my wearing such revealing clothes?
Becky
February 1, 2013
Modesty for men as well
It's not just women, but men too are required to cover. These rules of personal comportment are not unique to Judaism. Every religion I know of requires it's adherents to cover. Compliance is often another matter.
Schvach
here
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