Bringing the Holy to the Whole Relationship

Bringing the Holy to the Whole Relationship

Bringing the Holy Into the Whole Relationship

Written by Mrs. Shaindel Schapiro based on a talk given by Mrs. Sara Morozow

Dedicated to HaRav Yitzchok, a”h, ben HaRav Eliezer Tzvi Zev Shlit"a, Zirkind

The Ohr Hachaim Hakodosh (Rabbi Chaim ibn Attar) was once traveling through a desert where wild animals were known to freely roam.  As Shabbos approached, still distant from their destination, the Ohr Hachaim realized that he would have to stop.  The non-Jewish caravan, with whom he was traveling, refused to delay their trip and continued their journey leaving the Ohr Hachaim behind. 

The Ohr Hachaim, was left alone in the desolate, and darkening desert, with its endless sand dunes, and wild beasts.  In this arid, lonely and dismal place the Ohr Hachaim Hakodosh spent Shabbos.

 As Shabbos descended, the Ohr Hachaim did his utmost to feel the spirit of Shabbos. Closing his eyes he began to sing soul stirring niggunim (melodies). Suddenly, a ferocious lion came roaring into view and charged wildly at the Ohr Hachaim.  The Ohr Hachaim immediately showed the lion the place of his bris mila ((circumcision) and miraculously, the lion tamed, crouched down gently beside the Ohr Hachaim and spent the rest of Shabbos at his side, protecting him from other predators.

As Shabbos departed, the Ohr Hachaim rode the lion, which made great speed and caught up with the rest of the caravan, who were astounded at the sight of man riding a lion.

The Rebbe (Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson), when telling this story, questioned why the Ohr Hachaim specifically showed the lion the place of his bris milah.

The Rebbe explained that an animal has no power over a human UNLESS a person behaves like an animal.  The Ohr Hachaim had one split second to prove to the beast that he was furthest from an animal. He didn’t show his holy hand which had penned his sacred writings, nor his pure head upon which his tefillin (phylacteries) were placed daily, rather it was the area indicating MARRIAGE that proved how holy, and far removed he was from any animal behavior.(Sicha, Parshas Shlach 5710) 

We as human beings are created betzelem Elokim, in Hashem’s image. We are His partners in creation.  Thus, it is at the time of marital intimacy, when Hashem invests His energies of creation, at that time a Yid can attain the highest of spiritual levels. This is an extremely physical time, when physical feelings and actions are in play. It is a time when a person can act and react with basic animal instincts, or bring refinement and spirituality to the moment, thereby accessing the highest level of G-dly energy that is available. Physical actions, done with holiness, and cognizant of the role Hashem plays, elevate the physical to the spiritual.

This article contains words of Torah and Chassidus. Within these words lie priceless advice for marital happiness and stability in the material world.  Living your marriage the Jewish way keeps it healthy and allows it to thrive.

 A Yid is commanded to make himself holy: והתקדשתם והייתם קדושים (Vayikra 11:44) - this Mitzvah refers to making oneself holy at the time of intimacy. (Rayshis Chochma Shaar Hakedusha, Chapter 16, based on the Zohar)

When a couple is together, the Shechina (the Divine) is drawn down. Before mattan Torah (the giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai) the Bnai Yisroel  (Jewish nation) were told to separate from their wives for three days in order to retain the  highest level of Taharah (spiritual integrity) necessary  for mattan Torah. Immediately after this greatest revelation of G-dliness, however, Hashem told Moshe – YOU come with me and tell the Bnai Yisroel -to return to their tents to be with their WIVES.

Upon hearing this, the Yidden were dumbstruck!  They had just witnessed the greatest giluy Elokus (revelation of G-dliness). Literally seeing and feeling Hashem! Now, after this lofty and unparalleled level of holiness, the next step is intimacy with their wives?!

Yes, said Hashem:  THIS is exactly when we draw down the Shechina.

What better time to do so than just after attaining the high level of spirituality of mattan Torah.

Since the act of marital intimacy draws the Shechina down, we want create a setting where Hashem is most comfortable, thus allowing even more holiness to come into our marriage.

HOW do we achieve this? How do we make Hashem most comfortable, and sanctify our marriages?

Let us explore five components of modest behavior as found in Torah. This behavior helps a woman to appreciate the beauty of a sacred, intimate relationship. Using these five components, allows her to create a more satisfying relationship, simultaneously creating an environment in which Hashem feels welcome.

These five components are:

  • 1)    Dignity: Constant awareness of a Higher Being

  • 2)    Unity: Soul OVER Body

  • 3)    Privacy: Maintaining borders

  • 4)    Femininity:  Embracing our unique role

  • 5)    Responsibility: Sensitivity to others

Let us, briefly, review each of these areas of Jewish conduct and see how each leads to a more fulfilling and holy relationship with our spouse.

1.     Dignity: Constant awareness of a Higher Being

Many years ago Rabbi Zalman Gurary, a”h, as the principal of the Lubavitcher Yeshiva, received a letter from the Frierdiker Rebbe (Rabbi Yosef Yitzchok Schneerson, obm).  In this letter, the Frierdiker Rebbe wrote about the behavior of the students during recess.  

The Frierdiker Rebbe was not pleased with the children’s rough behavior, coarse language and wild games.  He instructed Rabbi Gurary, a”h, to appoint a supervisor during recess so that the children should know that even while playing there remains a refined way to play, a pure way to speak, and a genteel way to behave. 

There are times and situation where we may think it’s a time to let loose and forget any inhibitions, let it all hang out.  Torah teaches us:  והצנע לכת עם אלקיך (Micha Chapter 6) live modestly in the presence of the Aibishter – meaning ALWAYS.

It is perfectly fine to relax and have fun, as long as it is in a way that remains comfortable for Hashem.

The mitzvah, of tznius, teaches us the laws of dressing and undressing, emphasizing that even in our bedrooms, we are cautious to ensure that we dress modestly. (Shulchan Aruch 3:1)

Of course one may wonder – what difference does it make when I am in my innermost chambers?  Hashem is everywhere! Hashem can see through my clothing too.  What difference can it possibly make that I must be so careful?

You are correct.  Hashem CAN actually see through.  So why DID He give us this Mitzvah? 

We’ll come back to the answer shortly, but first a little story.

When I was around twelve years old, I flew, along with a group of friends, as minors, to NY to spend Tishrei with the Rebbe.  To say that we were an excited group would be an understatement. 

After passport control, we were off to customs, obviously with nothing to declare, and there we were, with our suitcases on our wagons, racing through the nothing to declare lane.  Since there was no one else around at the time, we had races, riding the wagons through. It was even more fun because the mirrors on either side of us allowed us to see each other’s reflections.

A year or two later found me in the same place, but this time, I was called to the side by a customs official and taken behind this mirrored wall so that my luggage could be searched.

I was shocked to discover that what I had thought was a mirrored wall, was actually a ONE WAY mirror. I recalled thinking I could behave as I pleased with no one watching!  In actuality, the custom agents sit behind the one way mirror watching every person, his actions, his facial expressions etc.  

Since then, I am careful to walk through customs with dignity and the awareness that I AM being watched.

Hashem wants us to dress and undress modestly, EVEN in our bedrooms, not because He needs us to be dressed but because Hashem is giving US a GIFT.

Just as making me aware that someone was watching me behind the mirrored WALLS, caused me to BEHAVE differently, Hashem is giving US a tool.  When we behave in a certain way, when our lifestyle is one of discretion and modesty, it reminds us, creating sensitivity within US to the fact that Hashem is constantly present, bringing US to a deep awareness and an appreciation of Yiras Shamayim (fear of Heaven).

A young Chassid said to an elder Chassid: “It says in Shulchan Aruch (Code of Jewish Law) that if one does not wash negel vasser for three days a ruach rah gets a hold of you, yet here it is three days that I did not wash negel vasser and nothing is wrong!' Replied the elder Chassid, “The fact that you are not bothered, by not washing negel vasser for three days, IS a ruach rah! For YOU have lost your sensitivity”.

There was a shochet (ritual slaughterer) Reb Mendel, who finally landed a job in a slaughterhouse.  The building where the shechting (ritual slaughter) took place was not heated and in the freezing winter days, the shochtim took turns in between shecting, to warm up in a small cubicle where there was a furnace.

One time, as Reb Mendel was sitting in the warming cubicle, it was his turn to shecht. Reb Mendel ran out of the cubicle to start shechting.  At a certain point, he noticed that his yarmulke had fallen off during the time he had been in the cubicle and he had even shechted a few chickens without it.  Reb Mendel was very distressed, knowing that a shochet has to have an extreme sensitivity and Yiras Shamayim. He felt that he must have lost that sensitivity since he didn’t even realize he was shechting without a yarmulka. He decided that he could no longer shecht and he left this job, knowing that he was losing his entire livelihood.  Hashem later rewarded him for his integrity and he eventually became very wealthy. 

To sum up DIGNITY:  

Acting with dignity and modesty, even in private, reminds us of Hashem's constant Presence and creates a setting where He is most comfortable. Living in this elevated way allows us to feel true satisfaction in our relationship. 

2.     Unity: Soul OVER Body

Picture in your mind the image of a platter of beautiful fruits. Ripe, brightly colored, and enticingly arranged. How would you describe such an image? Would you say it was pretty? Or would you look beyond the superficial array of colors and textures and see food that is brimming with nourishing nutrients?

If you see a close up image, of a single eye, tears falling. Are they tears of joy or tears of sadness? 

Finally, imagine an image of an old man. Face lined with wrinkles, snow white hair and beard. Do you see his wrinkles? Is he just old? Or is he wise, learned, an icon to the world?

Each image is actually comprised of both concepts. There is the superficial, external view and then there is the deeper view, the underlying layer, filled with the depth of each object. 

Everything is multidimensional. Nothing is only as it appears at first glance.

Before the chet etz hadaas (the sin of eating from the Tree of Knowledge), we know that Adam and Chava did not wear clothing, and yet there was no embarrassment. Yet as soon as they sinned, suddenly they became ashamed of their nakedness. Why?

Originally, the body expressed the holiness of the neshama  (soul); the body was transparent to the soul that rested inside of it, allowing the holy light of the neshama to shine through, effectively ‘clothing’ the body in visual holiness. Therefore, one did not see the body as an entity unto itself, but only the intense Kedusha (sanctity) radiated by the neshama.  

A dichotomy arose in the world at that point. The body, seeking supremacy, attempts to conceal the neshama and its holiness. Thus began our entire struggle:  to retain focus on the fact that the body is merely a tool, through which we can bring holiness into this physical world. The corporeal body is secondary to the purpose of the neshama and we must now strive to bring the light of the neshama to the forefront.

Going back to the pictures we discussed, we see there are two different ways to look at the same thing. Yiddishkiet and Torah, train us to look deeper, to find the soul and see the depth in everything, helping us remember that the SOUL is the main player here.

Modern society, in the secular world, puts the emphasis and focus on the external. A person’s measure of value is based on his/her physical appearance and success. Everything is about what feels good, what looks good, and what tastes good. The non-Jewish style of dress expresses that mentality and culture with focus on the body, the external.

As Yidden we have a different perspective, Soul over Body, and therefore we must have a different mode of dress to reflect those differences. In Torah, we find the mitzvah of ולא תלכו בחוקות הגוי (Vayikra 20:23) you should not walk in the ways of the non-Jew.

Shulchan Aruch continues: be separate from them in your dress, speech and actions just like you should separate yourself from their philosophy and religion.

The Shulchan Aruch also explains which areas of dress this is referring to.

  •                A. Bigdai Gaavah – Clothing that is arrogant, ostentatious and flashy. (Kitzur Shulchan Aruch Siman gimmel seif bais)
  •                B. Bigdei Pritzus – Clothing that is provocative and draws attention to certain parts of the body.
  •                C. Strange, trendy clothes – Clothing of such outlandish appearance that no one would ever wear if it weren’t in fashion.

The theme underlying all of these, and actually the whole point of the fashion industry (besides moneymaking), is to draw attention to the BODY, to bring the display of the body to the forefront, the exact opposite of what we, as Yidden, are trying to achieve.  The Jewish way is so much deeper than the body that holds us. Our focus is on identifying ourselves with the neshama, making everything in our lives richer, including our marriages.

Let’s take a look at marriage through the lens of the neshama:

Torah explains that intimacy is the union of two halves of one whole.  Each couple is two parts of one whole neshama that belongs together. These two halves are put into two separate bodies, one male - one female. We are then born as two separate people, with different emotions and interests. When a couple marries and comes together intimately, the two halves are reunited into one whole - continuing to reunite each time they come together. To that whole, Hashem gave a gift, the gift of intimacy, where we remove anything that may lie between us. That special time is exclusively for the couple. No external distractions, no outside thoughts, just the two of them, and them alone. Private, intimate, each totally present for the other, tuning into each other’s needs, cultivating the sense of unique oneness that belongs only to them, allowing each of them to tap into, and unite, that oneness. 

If we understand that intimacy involves much more than the physical body; that there is a soul connection, we will appreciate that, despite our external dissimilarities, our souls are truly one.

To sum up UNITY:

 To recognize that we, as Yidden, are much more than corporeal beings. Striving for oneness at the level of our neshamos creates a deeper, richer, kedusha'dike relationship.

3. Privacy: Maintaining Borders

Before emancipation, a woman had no means of supporting herself. Ever cognizant of this, Torah mandates that after a woman marries, and her father no longer supports her, it is now incumbent upon her husband to provide for her. In the Ketuba (marriage contract) it states that a husband must provide for his wife, physically, financially and emotionally. Part of this support is that a lump sum of money is set aside for the woman in the event of a divorce so that the woman has the means to live.

If a marriage terminates against the will of the woman, OR if a husband undermines the marriage through any form of abuse: verbal, physical or emotional, and there is no way to repair the marriage, he must give his wife this lump sum.

However, if a woman undermines the marriage, and it is impossible to repair the relationship in a manner dictated by Torah, then the marriage cannot possibly survive, and she is not owed even a penny.

There are two categories of behavior with which a woman undermines the marriage:

One falls under Das Moshe

And one is Das Yehudis

Das Moshe – The laws of Torah MiSinai: The willful transgression of certain mitzvos on the part of the woman is considered a betrayal of trust. Hashem regards women with the highest esteem. Their word is trusted one hundred percent as is seen in the laws of Taharas Hamishpacha and Kashrus, for example. There is no one overseeing the woman’s observance of these vital mitzvos. Hashem trusts her to be honest and trustworthy. Therefore, if the woman intentionally deceives her husband in the observance of mitzvos, where he relies on her implicitly, she undermines the marriage. The Mishna (Mishna Kesubos 72) brings examples from this category: 

מאכילתו שאינו מעושר, ומשמשתו נדה, ולא קוצה לה חלה - she serves him food from which maaser wasn’t taken, she has relations while niddah, she serves him bread from which challah was not taken.

In all of these cases, she acts with deceit, pretending that the food is Kosher when, actually, she failed to remove that which had to be removed, being dishonest of her niddah status, and serving bread which he assumed was prepared in the halachically correct manner. This behavior undermines the relationship, for how can he live with someone whom he cannot trust!? The entire foundation of a marriage is based on trust and if this integrity is lacking, then the whole marriage crumbles.

The second group of laws is called Das Yehudis, “The way of the Jewish Woman”.

 

Imagine driving down the highway and you see a sign saying “Slow Down”. Failure to slow down in this zone holds the penalty of a fine, perhaps points on your license. Most will take a quick look around, and if no one is around, drive on through at normal speed.

Now imagine the sign said: “Slow Down, My Daddy Works Here”. These words would touch your heart. You would slow down no matter what to be sure you did not harm some child’s father. The difference is you now WANT to slow down; it no longer seems just a rule, it now includes common decency, humanity, and care for another, so you slow down. This is the stuff life is made of.

Das Yehudis are behaviors, and precautions that Jewish women, like you and me, instituted for themselves – and continue to institute in each generation – to safeguard the halachos of Tznius, in recognition of their infinite value. If my body is only for my husband, it is valuable. I don’t want to share it – not even the slightest bit! I will do anything keep it sacred, keep it special and keep it mine. Das Yehudis includes safeguards which ensure that PHYSICAL PRIVACY, as well as emotional privacy, is upheld.

So vital are the laws of Das Yehudis, that Halacha considers them binding. Whereas in most mitzvos, the application of Halachic rulings is entrusted to the Rabbonim, according to the principles of Torah, the proper fulfillment of "Hatzneia Leches Im Elokecha" was entrusted to the refined Jewish women of each generation.

 

If a woman transgresses Das Yehudis in any way, she undermines the marriage and can lose the rights of her Kesubah.

The Mishnah brings some examples of a breach of das Yehudis within physical privacy:

יוצאה וראשה פרוע – she goes out in public with her hair uncovered (certain parts of hair covering fall under das Moshe, Torah MiSinai, but an extra level derives from das Yehudis)

וטווה בשוק – Weaving in the shuk (marketplace) – an act that, by default, leads to exposure of the arms due to the back-and-forth pulling motion involved in the activity.  NOT that she goes out initially with uncovered elbows, or other parts of body that halachically have to be covered, because a Jewish woman would never do that! But even if she is not careful in her activities to ensure that she remains properly covered at all times, Torah considers that a breach of physical privacy.

It is amazing how we see this approach in the Rebbe’s response to the principle of Beth Rivkah of France regarding the length of skirts.

שמדה השוה לכל נפש (בנות ישראל תחיינה) ובכל מקום – היא שתהיינה הברכיים מכוסות אפילו בשעת ישיבה

Rather than giving exact measurements, the Rebbe defines the bottom line about the appropriate skirt length as one that ensures that the knees are covered in all circumstances, even sitting down – as per the principles of Das Yehudis

This is physical privacy, maintaining the boundaries of keeping your physical self, private, for you and your husband and no one else.

Das Yehudis also includes emotional privacy.

ומדברת עם כל אדם... אף הקולנית: chatting indiscriminately with other men, or speaking publicly of private matters.

At Mattan Torah, Hashem said Anochi and Lo Yihye.  One may think that they are the same idea.  However, they are actually two concepts.  Anochi – I am Hashem, I am yours. Lo yihye –there should be no other! Meaning Hashem is ours to the exclusion of all others. 

This same concept applies to our marriages.  Our husbands are OURS and they are ours to the exclusion of all others. 

Not only physically, are there things reserved exclusively for one’s husband; there are other aspects of life that retain that same exclusivity.  Some things just aren’t meant for other people to know. There are things that are private, between the two of you, for the two of you and no one else.

The Gemarah lists seven things that a wife provides her husband through marriage. These are represented by the seven times she circles him under the chuppah.  One of them is a chomah! A wall!

A wall erects a border. This border delineates what remains inside and what stays outside.

This is not always clearly black and white.  It is up to us to set those boundaries and adhere to them.

A friend of mine runs a school that is right next to the highway.  One time, as part of a huge construction job, the fence of the yard was removed and an orange rope was tied around the perimeter of the yard.  The children were warned not to go past the orange rope, but with all the warnings and all the speeding vehicles whizzing by, the children were terrified to go remotely close to the rope. They literally kept their activities as close to the school wall as possible. In the process their whole yard shrunk significantly. 

It may sound funny, but when we maintain boundaries, we have more freedom to be who we are.  When the gate was up, the children had the whole yard; when the gate was removed, the area shrunk. They were more secure in the smaller space that created their comfort zone.

So how big do you want this special and exclusive space with your husband to be? The choice is yours!

What goes on between couples within the privacy of their lives does not have to be broadcast to the world.  Actually, publicizing private matters devalues them – no longer is that privacy, and all it entails, exclusive to the couple. It loses that special touch and significance.

What is meant to be private, besides the obvious – that which transpires in the bedroom?

Broadcasting private matters on Facebook, and other social media, telling the world how amazing your husband is, because he did A, B and C, takes that special privacy outside the boundaries, into public domain.  Everyone does not have to know WHAT you love about your husband. There is infinitely more meaning in an act that you know is just between the two of you, for the two of you, knowing that no one but you will ever know about it. This shows that these actions were for your benefit, and yours alone, no public recognition involved. This allows for a real, true and deep relationship.

On the other hand, if everything you share between you will be viewed and analyzed by 23 of your friends, how exclusive is it? Is it really your own personal relationship or simply a show for those who will hear?

Sometimes it is hard to remember this. Privacy is not trending.  If you don’t have a picture – it didn’t happen.  If it’s not posted, it was unworthy, the more comments it gets, the more fun it was.

But remember: by making it public, you devalue it.  It’s no longer just yours.  It loses its special touch.

If it stays private, you expand your wall (not your Facebook wall), to include it. This way it becomes yours and it remains yours to cherish and celebrate! It remains unique, exclusive and valuable. 

To sum up Privacy:  

The laws of tznius train us to value our privacy and help us preserve the exclusivity of our marriage. Creating strong, secure walls allows us to develop our own unique and intimate relationship in which the Shechina can dwell.

4. Femininity: Embracing Our Unique Role

There is a famous story about four people named Everyone, Someone, Anyone, and No one. 
There was an important job to be done and Everyone was sure that Someone would do it. 
Anyone could have done it, but No one did it. 
Someone got angry about that because it was Everyone's job. Everyone thought that Anyone could do it, but No one realized that Everyone wouldn't do it. In the end, Everyone blamed Someone when No one did what Anyone could have done.

This is a cute, old story but it contains a very valuable lesson: there need to be distinct and defined roles for every person. Where there are not, no one takes responsibility.

It’s breakfast time in your house and you are out of staples. 

You ask your son and your daughter to buy juice and bread respectively.

What if they each relied on the other to do their assigned task, so that neither of the items is bought?  No breakfast in this house.

What if your son did his job and bought the juice, but your daughter did not buy the bread? Meager breakfast…

What if they each bought juice, because that’s what they preferred…… plenty to drink, but not much to eat!

Each needs to stick to their designated roles to ensure a wholesome outcome.  Stepping in for someone else, while shirking one’s own responsibility, leaves a gap in final product.

This brings us to the fourth component of modest conduct.

לא יהי' כלי גבר על אשה ולא ילבש גבר שמלת אשה (Devarim 22:5) – A man’s garments should not be worn by a woman and vice versa.

Men and women have their own attire and it’s not just about clothing, rather it’s about our lifestyle.  We each have a valuable and distinct role. Torah teaches us to embrace our unique individuality and be grateful for these differences.

A wholesome marriage and family require both a Man and a Woman. The boundaries ofלא תלבש direct us to nurture our individual role as women, thereby contributing a very integral part of the complete marriage equation.

What is our role?

A woman’s role is כל כבודה בת מלך פנימה – the glory of a woman is within. Within what?

Well, first of all, within her home – she is the akeres habayis (mainstay of the home), making her home a mikdash m’at specifically through working within the physical.  She creates a welcoming environment through her warmth, and her soft, understated word, inspiring and nourishing her family with her feminine touch.

The second part of penimah is within herself – a woman’s glory is her innate ability to deeply connect and tune in to another.  A woman is graced with intuition and the ability to nurture and touch another’s heart, particularly those of her husband and children. Nurturing behind the scenes can create a deep sense of Shalom Bayis from the inside out. The Sun is bright, bold and strong, necessary to the world to survive. The Moon too serves a vital role, with a soft, understated glow, subtle light. It is less obvious and bright, but important nonetheless. Each has a time and a place, a role to play in this world.

To sum up FEMININITY:

Dressing and acting in a feminine manner helps us appreciate our special role as women. When each partner recognizes his or her unique contribution to the relationship, the result is a peaceful home in which Hashem delights.

5. Responsibility: Sensitivity to Others

We live in a world of democracy, freedom of speech, freedom of dress, freedom from many things. It is easy to fall into the secular way of thinking, namely, that we should be free to wear what we please at any time. Why is it our problem that a man may see us and have immodest thoughts? Every man should learn to control his own thoughts and reactions. Why is this, my responsibility?

It is important to understand that men were created with a natural, deep attraction to a woman’s body, for a very specific reason.  Hashem invested the deepest powers of ein sof (the Divine origin of all creation), i.e. the ability to create, within a woman’s body,. 

A neshama, a literal part of Hashem is hosted, and nurtured, in its transition to its shlichus (mission) in this world, within a woman’s body. This is extremely powerful.  That is why the parts of a woman’s body that are involved in creating, and nurturing are the most attractive.  This beautiful attraction serves a sacred purpose – in the right time, the right place and with the right person.

Hashem gave us this huge gift to maintain and uphold, with deep sensitivity. However, along with this gift comes responsibility.

We ARE responsible because we ARE powerful! There is no power that does not come with responsibility.

Which brings us to the final component: לפני עור לא תתן מכשול (do not place a stumbling block before a blind person) (Vayikra 19:14)

What happens when I put a block in front of a blind man? He falls! Why is that MY problem? I didn’t trip him up. 

True, I didn’t force him to move his feet in exactly that spot, but who am I trying to kid? The person is blind, and therefore we have a responsibility to take care that our actions do not cause him, any harm, even indirectly.

A woman has a responsibility to dress as befits one who holds such power. She has the responsibility to do all that she can so that a man should not come to sin on her account.

The responsibility of lifnei iver is also a gift, for it helps us realize that our beauty is powerful. Being aware, at all times, of the effect of our dress and behavior on other men helps us appreciate the intimacy we share with our husbands.

This responsibility continues WITHIN our marriage.

Creating intimacy, during the tahor stage, is dependent upon the way we conduct ourselves during our stage of separation.  A woman can say, eh, whatever, my elbow is not attractive to my husband, it is okay if he sees my legs, I don’t have to keep that one, what is exciting about an elbow after all?

If someone with no sense of smell is walking through a fragrant and aromatic rose garden we don’t tell them, lucky you, you cannot smell anything. Rather, we feel bad that they are unable to fully appreciate the gift to the olfactory senses that abounds in this garden.

In the same vein, every single touch, and every single part of us SHOULD be attractive to our husbands.  They should be sensitive to every nuance of our personal selves. By maintaining a distance during the time of separation, this appreciation and attraction will be enhanced, strengthened and revitalized.

To sum up RESPONSIBILITY: 

When we consider the effects of our dress and behavior on others, we develop a sensitivity to the nuances of the male-female dynamic, making our marital relationship all the more powerful and holy.

Why is it that in a society, which is so open and uninhibited, there remains such instability within marriages? Part of the reason lies in the fact that people tend to focus almost exclusively on the most external, physical and superficial aspects of the relationship. There is no emphasis on inner depth and spirituality.

The personal boundaries of relationships are blurred. That which should be private is made public. Exclusivity of the relationship is lost. Inevitably the relationship gets boring, stale. People seek new excitement, new thrills.

Torah gives us the guidelines, the parameters on what will make a marriage holy, special, richer, more focused and enduring. Marriage is so much more than the physical joining of two people, shared rent and domestic responsibilities. Marriage is sacred and that sanctity is protected by the boundaries Torah sets for us. Boundaries that are in complete sync with the way Hashem created each of us, satisfying not only our physical needs, but our emotional and spiritual ones as well.

There is the story of Reb Hillel of Paritcher who had great mesiras nefesh (self-sacrifice) for Chassidishe levushim (manner of dress). When Chassidim asked why he expended this tremendous effort to the point of sacrifice, Reb Hillel replied that clothing are very powerful. The garments one wears are makif, they surround the person, and therefore the clothing we wear can actually have a profound influence on us. 

In Egypt, the Bnai Yisroel had fallen to the forty ninth level of tumah (spiritual impurity). They were about to, Heaven forfend, sink to the fiftieth level. However, the merit of the women who did not change their Jewish mode of dress, saved them from descending to that lowest level, veritably a point of no return. Reb Hillel continued, saying that among his possessions was a hand-written note from Reb Pinchos Koritzer that says that right before Moshiach, the Yidden will once again plummet to a very low spiritual level but on account of a small group of Yidden, who will maintain their Jewish mode of dress, the Yidden will be saved from sinking to the fiftieth level. 

In 5752 (1991-1992) the Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, said that now, as we literally stand on the threshold of Geulah (redemption) there will be an addition in the way women will keep tznius: lifnim mitzniyus (above the standard). WE are those women that the Rebbe empowered, and we are the ones in whose merit all of Bnai Yisroel will be redeemed from this golus (diaspora), may it be NOW!


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