Summer – Trials, Challenges and Triumphs
By Rabbanith Ruth Menashe
Low cut tops, short skirts, and sleeveless dresses are some of the immediate associations with summer in the mind of society today. This is the world in which we live and every single one of us is affected, to one degree or another, by its influence. As Jewish women, how do we deal with these sometimes overwhelming challenges?
As the world goes further in the direction of immodesty and impropriety in dress and conduct, it behooves us to make a special effort to strengthen our own moral fiber and values. The summer months are the zenith of this charge towards immodesty and it is precisely at this time that we must ensure that we will not be influenced by what we see around us but rather by what we know is correct as revealed to us by our holy Torah.
There is much pressure placed on us to follow the world around us. Sometimes people want to do what they know in their hearts is right, but they are afraid of how others around them will react or what they will say. I would like to share with you a story about a woman I know.
This woman made a conscious decision to become observant, and took upon herself — in addition to many other changes in her lifestyle — to substantially modify her style of dress. She told me that she was amazed to see how the same people reacted differently and altered their attitude towards her once her dress code changed. She said: “People started treating me differently. They showed a lot more respect to me and spoke with much more honor and deference.”
How can we explain this apparent contradiction? On the one hand, the world seems to be saying that in order to gain acceptance we must follow the path towards immodesty. We are told in no uncertain terms, be it via images that we are subjected to, or comments that we hear and read, that dressing provocatively is what will bring us popularity and acceptance. On the other hand, we see from this true story, that the exact opposite occurred. The more care this woman took to be a Bath Melekh (daughter of a king) in the true sense of the word, the more respect she gained.
As Jewish women, our importance, value and self-worth, stem not from external factors but from our own inner selves and qualities. The more we can appreciate who we are inside, the more we will be able to attract people who appreciate our inner essence and the beauty that is hidden within us. Dressing provocatively prevents others from seeing our true value and inner beauty. Their understanding of us would simply stop at the sleeveless tops and other revealing clothes that they would see.
Even though, for the purposes of this article, I am only concentrating on the aspect of our dress code, it is important to mention that this is only one facet of modesty. However, all aspects of modesty, including behavior and speech, also have a major effect on how others perceive us. The more modesty they observe, the more they will treat us with respect. But there is another even greater gain.
Not only do we gain personally, but more importantly, it brings much blessing into our homes and to our families as well as to the entire Jewish nation. The more we raise the bar of modesty and increase the level of holiness, the closer we will bring the entire Jewish people to the Geullah (redemption), may it come speedily in our days, in the merit of righteous women, Amen.
geulah, bizchut nashim tzakaniot, women’s torah, rabbanit ruth menashe, rebbetzin ruth menashe, midrash ben ish hai, midrash ben ish chai