Dear readers,

I was pondering the following question: Is too much of a good thing better, or is it not good at all?

My initial response was: what could be bad about having more of a good thing? But, if you think about it, too much of even good things can be downright damaging.

And I’m not talking about sweets. We all know that an occasional treat can be good (like my stash of chocolate for those afternoon cravings!), but that too much is not beneficial.

I’m referring to qualities that are inherently positive. Take kindness or compassion, as examples. Can you have too much kindness?

Actually, yes.

If we don’t temper our kindness with a measure of discernment, kindness can become destructive.

A parent who acts with too much kindness towards his child, without any measure of discipline or judgment, will suffocate him. On the other hand, a parent who callously withholds kindness is similarly acting destructively.

Withholding charity from those in need is cruel. But, at the same time, supporting a drug addict’s habit is also an act of cruelty.

Notice how one quality, dished out in extremes, either too much or too little, can produce the same negative outcome. Perhaps this is what Maimonides meant when he taught that we should seek a “golden medium” in our character traits, and strive not to exhibit extreme behavior.

So, how about modesty? Nowadays, the concept of modesty generates so much confusion that it’s actually difficult to find its golden medium.

In one polar extreme, there are cultures with such rigid modesty laws that women are forced to cover themselves literally from head to toe, and to basically become invisible.

At the other extreme, there are such loose standards of modesty that women feel obligated to parade themselves with almost no coverage. As a result, their real self, their talents and qualities, also become invisible, overshadowed by physical attributes.

Both cultures claim to be protecting and respecting women, their rights and freedoms. Ironically, both are actually demeaning and objectifying women in the worst possible manner.

So, is modesty a positive quality that we should strive for? Is there a “golden medium”? Or is modesty just something that becomes corrupted by extremes—both of which debase women and femininity?

How does Judaism define modesty? And is this elusive concept applicable to men, too?

These are the questions that we explore this week in Will Modesty Please Take a Stand. We take a deeper look into the much-misunderstood and -maligned quality of modesty, as we strive to find a proper balance in our lives.

Looking forward to reading your thoughts and comments.

Chana Weisberg,
Editor, TJW

P.S.: Also on the topic of women, Rochel Holzkenner gives us much to ponder in Fighting Ire with Fire, as does Yanki Tauber in his classic The Wonder that is Woman. And with Passover just around the corner, you’ll want to read 10 Steps to a More Serene Passover. Happy preparations!