Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

1 Kislev 5767 - November 22, 2006 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly










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Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Shema Yisrael Torah Network

Opinion & Comment
Challenges of the Modern World: Tsnius — the Soul of our Nation

Not over every problem do gedolei Yisroel led by Maran HaRav Eliashiv shlita all come in person to attend a kenes aimed at improving the situation. In their capacity as advisors of countless individuals and organizations, they would certainly come only when they see for themselves the tremendous need to deal with a growing issue that has caused serious damage and could, if not checked, do much worse.

The thousands who came to hear the message of gedolei Yisroel at the kenes also showed, by their very presence, that the subject is of deep importance to them.

The subject of tsnius is a make-or-break issue for Klal Yisroel. It lies at our very core. Just as even the peripheral problems of a vital organ such as the heart or the brain cause serious concern if they crop up, so there are no aspects of the tsnius complex that are trivial or of low importance. These are not chumras or excesses of religiosity but the very soul of our people. They must be addressed with the same seriousness whether they arise in the middle of Jerusalem or at the outskirts of Gateshead. The solution may be adapted to the particular circumstances, but the issue has the same seriousness wherever it arises. Nothing in this area may be dismissed as of no consequence.

Throughout the generations, our greatest enemies tried to destroy us by undermining our standards in this area. Bilaam advised Bolok the king of Moav that our Divine Protector hates such breakdowns, and Bolok attacked us with temptations that caused the deaths of thousands. Medrash Eichoh Rabboh said that Nevuzaradon briefed his troops about this issue as they sought successfully to destroy Yerushalayim and the first Beis Hamikdosh. Homon also told Achashverosh about this secret as he advised him about making the great feast that proved the cause of one of the most serious threats that Klal Yisroel ever faced (Yalkut Shimoni 1057).

Tsnius is not just a set of behaviors, though it certainly includes standards for things like clothing and personal contacts, it is also — really primarily — a kind of mindset and way of being. It is an important and worthwhile goal not only to adopt the proper behavior, but also to become the type of person who is tsonu'a in essence.

There are no terms to describe the inner core of a person's being, but it can be talked around and examples given.

One of the key terms is being a private person, one who looks for worth in one's own behavior and not in the way one is perceived by others. Most of the standards for dress, for example, are to avoid clothing that draws the attention of others. One should not need that kind of superficial attention and it should not be part of one's identity to seek it out.

The non-Torah world does not even consider this kind of lifestyle as an option. Fame, recognition and publicity are goals pursued without a second thought. A woman is complimented by saying that she looks "attractive," without any thought as to why of whether she would want to look that way.

The highest goals of a Torah life are defined in terms of who and what we are deep inside, and not just by how we appear on the outside. But it is a firm principle that we must be thorough and consistent, and must not neglect the externals in pursuit of our true inner selves.

Maranan verabonon and the many participants expressed the strong need that there is for work in this area. It is up to each and every one of us to meet this challenge, for ourselves and for the safety of Klal Yisroel as a whole.

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