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About Modesty and Head Coverings

Modesty Equal Majesty


"The grace of the princess is internal (private), her raiment is of gold settings" (Tehillim/Ps. 45:14)

According to the Talmud, the greatest attribute of a women is her innate sense of modesty and virtue (Bava Kamma 82b).  Women are advised to wear modest garments and head coverings in order not to inflame the men's sensibilities.  Yisrael was redeemed from Egypt because of the righteousness of the women (Sotah 11b) and that their sexual modesty and virtue played a role in that redemption.  We are also taught that women have greater power of discernment than men (Niddah 45b) particularly in their keen intuitions concerning personality.

According to Judaism, women possess a special trait called binah (deep understanding).   Women are described by the sages as having insight and perception beyond logic, external details and shallow facades.  If women are viewed superficially, devoid of their rich internal character and spirituality, they are stripped of this unique gift called binah.  The consequence is that they will be objectified and degraded - we see that cultures who admire women primarily for their physical characteristics ultimately demean them and take advantage of them. But, this is not to say that a woman's modesty must be 'frumpy' - one of the regulations instituted by the scribe Ezra upon leading the Jewish Nation back to Yisrael in 424 B.C.E. following the Babylonian exile was the mandate that merchants should travel throughout Yisrael, selling cosmetics to endear wives to their husbands.

It might seem that the Talmud's directives on modesty apply more to women than to men, but both sexes were responsible for behaving appropriately toward each other.  Modesty applies to everyone as Scripture demonstrates:

"(HaShem) tells you, man, what He requires of you, but to do justice. love kindness and walk modestly with your G-d" (Micha 6:8)

"...and with the modest ones lies wisdom" (Mishlei 11:2)

Worshipping Modestly

In Judaism, it is traditional to physically separate men from women in order to set the appropriate mood and decorum for prayer.  The synagogue has been transformed into a place of gathering and meeting similar to that of the Holy Temple celebrations of old.  In order to subdue distractions and make it possible to concentrate on praying to G-d, it became necessary to institute the rules of the partition.  Holiness is achieved in gender relationships by healthy separations during specific events, such as conmmunity prayer.  Both the Torah and Talmud contain teachings that encourage safeguards to uphold a Godly standard of modesty and sexual propriety.

Chukei HaNashim (Laws of Women)

It is equally important for a woman to beautify herself for her husband.  This obligations is incumbent upon her, regardless of whether her husband is particular about her appearance. (Rabbi Yosef Chaim).

She should wear her best jewelry and clean herself prior to her husband's arrival.  Upon awakening, she should rinse her mouth, wash her face, cover her hair properly, and dress herself in becoming clothes.  

We see that the origins of this obligation to beautify oneself stems the highest of divine realms.  It is well-known that Adam, in comparison to our fallen state, existed on a divine level of existence.  Adam was beyond the animalistic desires which Yetzer HaRa (the Evil Inclination) has instilled into our hearts.  Yet, when G-d created Adam's soul mate, Chavah, she was endowed with an unblemished body which did not lack in any detail of beauty and perfection. 

Even the body part, the side (tzelah) of Adam, chosen by G-d to create Chavah from  is a concealed part of the body in order to instill the trait of modesty into the very fabric of Chavah's being.  Therefore the trait of modesty is an integral component of every woman's being.

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