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Tzniut and Feminity Are Closely Related

Published on Tuesday July 21th, 2020

Tznius is often perceived as a hindrance to femininity. Yet, as we will see, these are two closely related concepts. What is femininity?

The Gemara in Niddah says about woman that she has a very strong natural connection with the Divine. In her, more than in man, matter and spirituality are closely related. Consequently, if she knows how to guard herself, this spiritual dimension will be reflected in her whole behavior.

The Maharal describes woman as created with a more finite soul. This translates into a great spiritual sensitivity as well as an innate closeness to the Divine will. That's why she thanks G-d every morning for having created her according to His will.

Femininity is characterized by the Hei of Ishah (the Hei is made of a Dalet and a Yud). According to the Maharal, the Hei symbolizes the ability to use the material world (Dalet) for a spiritual purpose (Yud). Woman is, like the Cohen Gadol, to whom she is compared, the guarantor of the spirituality of her house. Thus, her three specific Mitzvos (commandments) resemble those of the Cohen Gadol:

1) The separation of the Challah, likened to a sacrifice, symbolizes the ability to raise the material to a spiritual purpose, in other words, to make each daily gesture in her house a way to get closer to the Creator.

2) The Shabbos candles symbolize the spiritual atmosphere that a woman knows how to instill in her house. She has the gift of transmitting Emunah (faith in G-d) to everyone, as well as the love of Torah and Mitzvos, with affection, charm, and sweetness. This sweetness is precisely one of the characteristics of femininity (Ichah and Dvash (honey) have the same numerical value!). And it is not by chance that woman was created with a weaker voice. Sweetness and patience, reflections of her inner strength, are the assets that give woman the power to influence her husband. The Torah testifies of this ability: when Hashem asks Moshe to transmit the Torah, He asks him to address women first, because they will know how to influence their husbands and educate their children. On the other hand, a woman who imposes herself by external force, raising her voice or putting pressure on her husband, loses this gift of influencing, as well as her femininity. Does a soft and refined speech have its place in our time, which invented the most disgusting words in the dictionary? As Rabenou Yona explains, not only does speech defines the person, but it also has the power to shape one’s personality. It is therefore preferable for somebody to express himself with as much softness as possible in order to better himself.

3) The third specific Mitzvah of the woman is related to the concept of Kedusha: it is the elevation of the material to the service of the Divine. Woman is compared to the Cohen Gadol by her great Kedusha (holiness) and her lofty role. She has, like him, very precise laws concerning her dress code and her conduct because of the dignity of her rank, "nobility obliges"! Moreover, like the Cohen Gadol, who adorns himself specially for the "Holy of Holies", it is in the intimacy of her home, little Beis Hamikdash, that she will wear her best clothes.
On the other hand, outside of her house, she will have to combine refinement and modesty. It will thus ensure that her appearance does not erase her inner grace, but, on the contrary, is witness to its value. Woman is compared to the Torah, she represents, like It, the Divine dimension in this world. The laws of Tznius lead the woman to preserve this natural radiance by keeping a noble and refined appearance, speech, and behavior, worthy of her precious role: to remind the world of its spiritual purpose!
At a time when we want to contain the human being to its sole physical and impulsive dimension, confining the body to appearance and the soul to silence, we see an awareness of women to Tznius as well as to authentic and genuine values. Then, with the help of G-d, the coming of the next deliverance, through the merit of the worthy women of this generation, can be realized!

Sarah BENITAH - © Torah-Box

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