Rabbi Yissocher Frand on Tznius – Oz v’Hadar l’vusha
The spiritual DNA of women is to be modest. Chazal tell us that Chava was created from a hidden part of Adam’s body because that is the way the Almighty wanted women to be –- hidden and modest by their very natures. It was their natural “hard- wired” tznius that got them (the Moabite women) off the hook for not taking the initiative in going out and offering water and provisions to the Jewish women.
But how can we claim that all women are hard wired to be modest and withdrawing? Look outside! Anywhere we go, we seem to find that this is not the case. Millions and billions of women across the face of the earth are not modest in this sense of always “staying within”. What happened to this hard-wiredness? What happened to the fact that they were created from the hidden rib of Adam?
Anyone who has daughters – even those who attend Bais Yaakov – know that matters of expected “tznius” are tremendously challenging in today’s world. It is very difficult. The “spirit of the times” is alien to the concept of “tznius” and to withdrawal from taking active roles in society. How can we understand the Talmud telling us that modesty is an innate quality in women when we see the way virtually all women dress and act in our modern world?
The answer is that society has perverted us and perverted our women to the extent that something which should come naturally to women today is a major spiritual challenge. The entire world we live in is so decadent and so obsessed with matters of pleasures of the flesh and so forth that society has succeeded in taking something from its natural state and changing it to the extent that Tznius for women today becomes a major battle. In our world, Tznius is a difficult thing to “sell”.
It should not be like that. In the Victorian age, women would not dress like they do today. Society has changed what should be the natural inclination of women and made it into a major challenge.
It always strikes me that in the chapter of Proverbs dealing with the “Woman of Valor,” we extol the values of the Eishes Chayil by saying “Strength and majesty are her raiment” (Oz v’Hadar levusha) [Mishlei 31:25]. The word Hadar means beautiful. Shlomo HaMelech is saying that the garments of the Woman of Valor are beautiful. This we understand. But he also describes those garments with the word ‘Oz’ which means strength. How are we to understand that?
The answer is that Shlomo HaMelech is describing a time when for a woman to dress properly will require tremendous inner strength. The Woman of Valor will need to go from store to store to find something appropriate to wear. She will need to suffer the stares of people who see how she is dressed in the summer and give her looks like she must come from another planet! This takes strength – the attributes of Oz and Gevurah.
It should not need to be like that but such is the society we live in. Therefore, our women need to dress not only with Hadar [beauty] but with Oz [strength] as well.