What is the Jewish take on feminine beauty? Is it something to be ignored and neglected? Hidden behind a burka?


Not at all. The fact that the Scripture chooses to highlight the beauty of many biblical women – such as Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel and Esther – demonstrates that the Torah ascribes value to beauty; yes, the physical variety too. Indeed, the woman's passion for beauty is a reflection of her very essence and purpose: bringing beauty into all areas of life—from the most spiritual to the most mundane. (See Feminine Beauty for more on this topic.)

But this is only when the physical beauty is seen as only one part of the equation. By focusing exclusively upon a woman's physical beauty, all her other qualities become obscured. Rather than complementing its owner, her beauty debases her. "Like a golden ring in the snout of a swine," goes the proverb, "is a beautiful woman who lacks good sense."1

In the famous Woman of Valor hymn, King Solomon writes, "Charm is false and beauty is futile; a G‑d-fearing woman—she is to be praised."2

There seems to be an extra word in this verse: "she." Poetic license aside, the verse could have said, "...a G‑d-fearing woman is to be praised."

So here is an insightful explanation I have heard: Charm is false and beauty is futile—when it is only a veneer, or when it is the sole point of focus. But if a woman is G‑d fearing, then "she," – i.e., the beauty and charm – is also to be praised! (In Hebrew, a "grammatical gender" language, the word "she" can refer to a noun, such as "beauty.")