The last Mishnah of Tractate Taanit1 discusses Tu B'Av, the day when eligible girls of Jerusalem would dress in white and dance in the vineyards. They would call out, “Young man, lift up your eyes and see, what will you choose for yourself? Don't look at beauty, look at family. ‘Charm is false and beauty is futile, a woman who is G‑d-fearing is to be praised.’ ”2

The Rebbe asks: Was it possible that every maiden in Jerusalem came from such a good family that she would be able to say, “look at my family”?

The question becomes even stronger. The Talmud3 brings a beraita that details what exactly the young ladies said. “The pretty ones said, ‘look at beauty.’ The ones with family pedigree said, ‘look at family.’ The homely ones said, ‘take your pick for the sake of heaven.’

The beraita seems to contradict the Mishnah, which says that everyone would urge the young men to “look at family.” The beraita, conversely, tells us that they would point out the specific virtues they possessed. Also, it seems very vain and shallow of the pretty ones to say, “look at beauty.” Is that a Jewish value? And how does it fit with the wholesome message of the Mishnah, that “charm is false and beauty is futile?”

There are two approaches when it comes to viewing the qualities of a person. You can take a general view of a person, or you can look at the details.

In the general view, you see a Jewish girl, a daughter of our matriarchs—Sarah, Rivka, Rachel and Leah—who inherited their beautiful qualities. Even though the qualities might be hidden at the moment, you know that they are there, and that they will eventually surely surface. The Mishnah is talking about this general view. That is why it says, “Lift up your eyes and see,” because it is taking a general bird’s-eye view. And when it says, “charm is false and beauty is futile,” it is referring to shallow beauty and shallow charm.

The beraita is speaking of a detailed view, after you have already has seen the general view. The girls of Jerusalem are speaking about meaningful Jewish virtues. Why is she beautiful? Because she took the beautiful qualities bequeathed from Sarah, Rivka, Rachel and Leah, internalized them and made them one with her essence. Therefore, she is truly beautiful on the inside, and when she is beautiful on the inside, it comes out on the outside. That is Jewish beauty worth mentioning, neither false nor futile.

In other words, if you accept the gifts given as your inheritance and make them your own, then the details have value. However, if you only have the details without making the inheritance your own, it is empty beauty. It is shallow and futile.4

This brings us to the parshah of Behar-Bechukotai. Behar is a mountain. Tall, strong and beautiful, it is referring to the details. Bechukotai is our essence, our inheritance: the Torah. If you make the Bechukotai, the Torah, your own, then the Behar, the details, are of value. But if you only have the Behar, the details, then it is a merely a pretty rock, with no Yiddishe taam and no Jewish value.5