Sanctity, Purity and Modesty

On the basis of the profound saying of the Alter Rebbe, founder of Chabad, to the effect that "A Jew has to live with the time," i.e., the weekly Torah portion, which is the timely "guide" and inspiration for each and every day of the week.

It is significant that the portion of the Shabbos of the Convention enumerates a series of Divine blessings as a reward for following G‑d's statutes and observing His Mitzvos. These blessings reach their zenith in the Divine promise, "And I will make My sanctuary among you... and I will walk in your midst; I will be your G‑d, and you will be My people."

While the condition for receiving G‑d's blessing is stated at the beginning of the portion, namely, adherence to Torah and Mitzvos, the high point and conclusion of the promised blessings alludes to the basic tenets of Kedushah , (sanctity), Taharah (purity), and Tznius (modesty) in Jewish life. For Kedushah, Taharah and Tznius are the foundations of the indwelling of the Sanctuary and Shechinah among Jews in general, and within every Jew, man and woman, in particular.

The sanctity of the "camp," the Jewish home, and of Jewish conduct, is clearly emphasized elsewhere in the Torah, namely: "Your camp (at home and outside the home) shall be holy, that He not see in you any immorality, and turn away from you."1

Our Sages explain that Tznius and Kedushah must be observed in every aspect of Jewish life, including speech and thought, and certainly in dress and general conduct.

In this area, especially, as in certain other areas of Jewish life, the Jewish woman and daughter set the tone and standard, as experience has shown. Our Sages often stressed that the future and happiness of children is largely tied in with the tzniusdik conduct of the mother.

May G‑d grant that your Convention of which the main theme is Tznius will implement the true ideals of Jewish womanhood in actual practice, and set in motion a far reaching drive to make Tznius the pervading spirit in deed and in speech, which in turn depend on the sanctity of thought.

Excerpt from a letter of the Rebbe,
Likkutei Sichos, Vol. VII, pp. 360-361

Tznius - The Secret Of Our Continued Existence

Our Sages relate2 that at the time of the Exodus certain nations insisted that it was literally impossible for the Jewish people to have retained their sanctity, holiness and purity, after 210 years of exile. Especially so, since the Egyptian exile was one of the most difficult exiles, where the Jewish people were enslaved and held captive by the despotic Pharaohs in the words of the Haggadah : "We were slaves to Pharaoh in Egypt."

In response to this, G‑d testifies at the conclusion of the second census recounted at the conclusion of the book of Bamidbar , that each and every Jewish family remained pure and holy; the Jewish people left Egypt with exactly the same degree of purity and sanctity that they enjoyed when Jacob and his family descended from the Holy Land into Egypt. In fact, the Jewish people were taken out of exile precisely because of their undefiled and holy state, not having succumbed to the customs and mores of the land in which they found themselves, the land of Egypt.

At that particular point in history Egypt was a highly advanced civilization. This was so both with regard to their culture, as well as with regard to their general knowledge, wisdom and philosophy. In these areas, Egypt outshined by far all other nations that were then extant. So much so, that their knowledge in certain areas such as the art of forming particular vessels, dyes, etc. stymie and confound us to this day.

The Jewish people, enslaved as they were to the mightiest, largest and most developed country, nevertheless did not adopt the mores and customs of their Egyptian neighbors. Rather, knowing as they did that they were sons of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and daughters of Sarah, Rivkah, Rachel and Leah, they realized that "I shall descend with you to Egypt,"3 that G‑d was with them in Egypt every step of the way. Consequently, they recognized that they must surely and steadfastly cling to G‑d and conduct themselves according to His dictates. Only then would they be able to leave Egypt whole, unsullied and unblemished.

Thus the Torah relates that the Jewish people departed Egypt whole and complete, "with our youth and elders, with our sons and daughters,"4 i.e., children, parents and grandparents were entirely united in their outlooks, perspectives and attitudes without any generational gaps a unified nation, a whole and intact nation, and a healthy nation, both physically and spiritually.

It was with this spirit of unity that they all left Egypt in order to receive the Torah on Sinai in the month of Sivan , with the Torah as their and our eternal guidepost in life, thereby ensuring that the spirit of unity between generations endures for all time.

Our Rabbis tell us5 that one of the things in whose merit the Jewish people were freed from Egyptian bondage was that "they did not change their mode of dress." Jewish men, and especially Jewish women and daughters retained their distinctly modest Jewish mode of dress, and were not at all influenced by the Egyptian style of dress and conduct.

It was a given that their uniqueness as a people would prevent and prohibit them from altering their Jewish dress code, notwithstanding that they were dispersed among the Egyptians. To have done so would have meant lowering and demeaning themselves by chasing after Egyptian fashion, that because Egyptians are wearing such garments we must Heaven forfend imitate and copy them.

Indeed, modesty of dress is one of the most fundamental principles of tznius the central theme of your convention for the aspect of tznius which is most readily discernible is with regard to clothing.

Here, too, Torah teaches us that we are not to change our mode of Jewish dress. Moreover, retaining our Jewish dress code will not cause us to lose favor and respect among our non-Jewish neighbors. Quite the contrary, the nations among whom we find ourselves will realize that we are a people who sticks to our principles. And even if doing so may sometimes prove difficult, we are not frightened by this, for we realize that by observing our Jewish dress code, observing tznius , we preserve our identity, guaranteeing our strength and existence as a nation and as individuals. This is the path that leads us out of exile.

There is yet another aspect to this: When G‑d said that He bears witness that the Jewish families remained holy and pure, something that depends on the conduct of Jewish women6 [then and now, and all generations in between], there was but one single exception among all the millions of Jews.

This solitary deviation occurred because there was a lack of tznius in speech this individual did not speak in the manner expected of a Jewish woman or daughter.

Herein lies an even more profound lesson: One may demand of Jewish women and daughters that tznius be applied not only to something so fundamental as dress, but also with regard to conversation. There as well, G‑d blesses and enables us if we but so desire that even our conversations with one another be conducted in a manner of tznius.

As mentioned on numerous occasions, Torah is not G‑d forbid a history book that recounts events that transpired many years ago, with the sole purpose of relating to us that which took place with our forebears. Rather, Torah is a "Torah of Life," a "living Torah," in a manner whereby "the deeds of our ancestors are signs to their progeny" when the Torah relates that which happened with our ancestors, it is a sign to us how we are to conduct ourselves.

This, in itself, demonstrates that now as well, this year and this very day and wherever one finds oneself, all Jewish women and daughters are capable of conducting themselves in a manner of tznius with regard to all matters: conduct, dress, and even speech. Moreover, they are capable of doing so with joy and gladness.

Excerpt from a Sicha of the Rebbe,
Likkutei Sichos, Vol. VIII, pp. 222-225

Tznius And The High Priesthood

The Midrash7 on this week's Torah portion of Vayechi states that the reward for the spiritual service of Asher is that "he shall produce [wearers of] the eight [priestly] garments." Thus Rashi , in his second comment on the verse8 "Let him be acceptable to his brothers," states that "daughters of the tribe of Asher were beautiful and married to High Priests who wore eight priestly garments."

What is the connection between "beautiful daughters" and High Priests. Obviously, in the present context we must say that the beauty we speak of is spiritual, something that is indeed related to the High Priesthood.

G‑d says9 of the woman, "I will make a help-mate for him," i.e., a help-mate for man in his spiritual service. This was most apparent in the instance of the High Priest, whose service on Yom Kippur in the Holy of Holies required that he be married and "atone for himself, and for his 'house,' "10 which our Sages explain11 to mean the High Priest's wife. Having a wife was crucial; otherwise the High Priest could not perform his service.

The true beauty of the Jewish woman, the concept of "The entire glory of the king's daughter is within,"12 i.e., the concept of tznius, leads to and assists the high-priestly office.13 It is achieved by virtue of the service of Kabbalas Ol , acceptance of the Divine yoke.

When a person's conduct is based on Kabbalas Ol , in accordance with the Shulchan Aruch which includes the principle of tznius , then one merits to establish a generation of righteous children: one will be blessed with children and grandchildren who occupy themselves with Torah and mitzvos, verily High Priests.

What is meant by "children who become High Priests"?

The High Priest enters the Holy of Holies which contains only the Holy Ark with the tablets on which the Ten Commandments are engraved. The Ten Commandments were not inscribed with ink, a substance distinct from and added to parchment, but engraved upon the tablets signifying an absolute unity. These High-Priestly-children thus become one with Torah.

Excerpt from a Sicha of the Rebbe,
Likkutei Sichos, Vol. I, pp. 109-110

The Positive Effects Of Tznius Even On The Unborn

Torah, the "Torah of Truth," declares that as soon as a baby is born it is affected by all that transpires around it. Surely, the conduct of the infant's parents has a profound impact on the child, even when it is extremely young.

Moreover, even the conduct of the parents during the nine months that precede the infant's birth, have a profound influence on the child.

Thus the Gemara14 relates that "Kimchis had seven sons, all of whom merited to serve as Kohanim Gedolim, High Priests. The Sages asked her, 'What have you done to merit this?' She answered them: 'The rafters of my house have never seen the plaits of my hair.' "

In other words, her profound conduct of tznius to the extent that even when she was alone in the house "the rafters of her house never saw the plaits of her hair" affected her sons to such an extent that they all merited to become Kohanim Gedolim.

Her behavior thus had an effect many, many years after she conducted herself in this manner after her children had already become Bar Mitzvah and after they had reached the age of twenty, when they became fit to become Kohanim Gedolim.

Moreover, her conduct also had an influence on her grandchildren and great-grandchildren, for the son of a Kohain Gadol inherits his father's position.

Since this tale is related to us by the Oral Torah, it follows that this is not just a story of something that transpired in the past, for "that which has passed is past." Rather, it comes to teach every Jewish daughter how much she is to scrupulously observe tznius , even when there is no one else in the house, etc.

[The reason for this is: Since repeatedly acting in a certain manner causes it to become second nature, it is possible to forget oneself and act in this manner even when someone else is in the house, etc.]

By behaving in this ultimate manner of tznius, one affects for the good one's children and grandchildren, as we glean from the above tale of the Gemara.

Excerpt from a Sicha of the Rebbe, Chai Elul 5742

The Blessings Received For Strengthening Tznius

The Gemara and Zohar elaborate in many places that strengthening one's conduct of tznius is an infallible way to be blessed with good health, sustenance, and much nachas true nachas from children and grandchildren.

This depends on each and every one of you: that you yourselves act in this manner, and see that your good friends, relatives and acquaintances become aware of the great potential that they possess [to act in a like manner], and the blessings that such behavior brings with it.

Excerpt from Igros Kodesh, Vol. VIII, p. 204

The Effects Of Tznius On One's Children

Tznius the concept of "The entire glory of the king's daughter is within"15 is one of the most crucial factors in a woman's conduct, something that has a powerful effect on her sons and daughters.

Thus we find in the Gemara16 the following regarding the reward for the tremendous degree of tznius practiced by Kimchis: "Kimchis had seven sons, all of whom merited to serve as Kohanim Gedolim, High Priests. The Sages asked her, 'What have you done to merit this?' She answered them: 'The rafters of my house have never seen the plaits of my hair.' "

One should not think: Must I act with such a tremendous degree of tznius so that my children will become Kohanim Gedolim ; why should I care if my children grow up to be regular priests. Furthermore, all Jews are holy!

Herein is the lesson from the lighting of the Menorah, which was to be done specifically in the Beis HaMikdash. This teaches us that if at all possible we are to increase the amount of illumination even in those places that are already most holy.

Here as well: If a woman is granted the ability to train her sons that they grow into Kohanim Gedolim , it proves that this is her task; should she not do this, she does not carry out her obligation and does not fulfill G‑d's desire.

Excerpt of a Sicha of the Rebbe, Shavuos 5717

Tznius - At All Times And In All Places

The Evil Inclination may still offer the following lure: True, he says, tznius must be observed with regard to permanent and abiding conduct, but with regard to temporary conduct17 it is not necessary to be so stringent with regard to tznius , to treat all aspects of tznius in the same critical manner.

Herein comes the lesson from the verse "How goodly are your tents, O Jacob,"18 concerning which our Sages comment:19 "He saw that their doorways were not facing one another" even in temporary tent dwellings and in temporary situations, we are to scrupulously observe the same degree of tznius as in a permanent situation.

Excerpt from a Sicha of the Rebbe, Likkutei Sichos, Vol. XIII, p. 84