Father grips the wheel. The weather is wet and the roads are slick. His son whimpers in the back seat, but dad does not lose focus. Arrgh, tire debris. Their car skids and crashes into a tree. The impact instantly kills the father but the child – ensconced in his five-point harness – survives with only broken bones. The air-ambulance lifts him to the hospital for immediate attention. It is not long before they wheel him into the operating theater. The surgeon takes one glance at the boy, and chokes up.
“I can’t operate, that’s my son.”
Or not? The surgeon was the boy’s mother.
We are too quick to stereotype. This leads to all kinds of mistakes; erroneous, egregious and devious. Inner reality becomes murky, even obscured, when myths become truths.
Tznius is a prime example of the ideal being obscured. A plethora of misinformation has created an atmosphere of uncertainty. Tznius has turned into a touchy and controversial topic. In many circles, mere mention of the word is nauseating.
In today’s society, the foremost misconception is defining modesty by objective parameters. There is a kernel of truth to this notion; there are details in the dress code which are cold judgments. But there are really no hard and fast rules. A person’s gait and girth will affect the way they carry their clothes. Halacha may provide a dress code, but this does not equate with Tznius. Modesty is an innate awareness, detached from nitty-gritty facts.
There are other mistaken beliefs which have gained legitimacy. People assume that dressing fashionably, gracefully and trendily is incompatible with a Tznius image.
The Tabernacle, as confirmed by the Kabbalists, was constructed to duplicate the human body. The holy-vessels correspond to various organs, and the walls provide the skeletal structure. The coverings, which roofed the edifice and bedecked its sides, represent the clothing for the body.
There were three coverings atop the Mishkan:
- The bottom was a multicolored tapestry woven from wools and linen.
- The middle layer consisted of panels constructed from goats’ hair.
- Uppermost was leather, the animal skins supplied by rams and Techoshim.
The largest and longest of the three was the middle covering. The extra material fell over the front entrance and the balance trailed at the back of the tabernacle. Our Sages have descriptive imagery to depict this additional drapery.
Half of the panel hung over the eastern entrance like a modest bride who covers her face with a veil (Rashi 26:9)
The School of Reb Yishmael taught: What did the Tabernacle resemble? A woman who goes in the street and her skirts trail behind her (Shabbos 98b)
The Mishkan provides a fantastic refutation to the modern misconception. It combined, what current society would view as opposing elements. In the spirit of a majestic woman she bedecked herself with a trailing skirt. Simultaneously, she exhibited her modest character by veiling her face. The very same item – the goat roofing – combined elegance and modesty. These two attributes, contrary to popular belief, are not incompatible. It is possible to be both dignified and sophisticated.