Tuesday, November 25, 2008

A Beautiful Wife

By: Rabbi Ari Enkin

There's a widespread misconception that a religious Jewish woman is not permitted to expose her beauty. Such a concept, however, does not seems to exist anywhere in Torah literature. In fact, both the Torah and Talmud teach that a woman is to make herself attractive in the eyes of her husband whenever possible.[1] A woman who is sensitive to her appearance and cleanliness, not to mention prudent with the household budget, is regarded by our sages as the perfect wife.[2] So too, a married man must take pride in his own appearance as well.[3] Make no mistake, making oneself "attractive" is a requirement, though making oneself "attracting" is in fact a prohibition and contrary to the spirit of the Torah. Both men and women[4] must ensure that their appearance and conduct not lead to sin. One should not overly compliment a woman on her beauty.[5]

Click here to read moreOne will notice that throughout the Tanach women are often introduced by means of a description of their physical appearance.[6] It is likely from such precedents that our sages teach that a woman's most important quality is her beauty.[7] Rabbi Yishmael himself would personally tend to and finance the beauty needs of women, especially the poorer ones, in order to better their chances of finding a suitable mate. Consistent with his commitment to proper grooming and appearance, his concern for women extended even to their dental needs. Rabbi Yishmael's efforts made such an impression and were so effective in saving marriages that we are told that all the women of Israel wept when he passed away.[8]

We are taught that a beautiful wife adds significantly to the thrill and delight of a marriage.[9] As such, it is considered completely legitimate to marry a woman based foremost on her looks.[10] One should also bear in mind that one's wife should be attractive in order to better one's chances that one's children will be attractive, as well.[11] Indeed, Avraham Avinu instructed that Eliezer that beauty was to take priority over lineage when seeking a wife for his son, Yitzchak.[12] We are told that Yaakov only married Rachel over Leah because she was better looking.[13] Although in an otherwise dreadful marriage, Rabbi Chiya was forever grateful to his wife for making herself attractive enough to him that he was never tempted to gaze at other women.[14] It is often permitted to break off a shidduch based on bodily features which one finds unattractive.[15] Before committing to marriage one should be sure to examine both the bodily form as well as facial features of one's potential spouse.[16]

A Jewish woman should always appear immaculate, wearing the finest clothes and jewelry that she is able to afford.[17] God, himself, provided jewelry for the Jewish women to wear in the desert by sending some along with the Manna each day.[18] A woman is also obligated to take care of her skin to ensure it is soft and wrinkle free, as well as ensure that any unwanted or unattractive hair is removed.[19] A wife that does not to tend to her cleanliness, hygiene, and appearance is deemed to be committing a form of spousal abuse.[20] Men must do their part as well to ensure that their wives are well dressed. A husband is also required to provide his wife with a perfume allowance.[21] In fact, a woman should wear enough perfume to overpower any other fragrances in order that her husband is able to quickly recognize his wife's distinct scent.[22] One must even ensure that one's unmarried daughters appear attractive.[23]

To be continued...........................................(bli neder)


[1] Radak;Bereishit 29:18
[2] PeleYoetz;Ahavat Ish V'isha
[3] Bava Metzia 84a
[4] Nedarim 9b
[5] Orchot Chaim of the Rosh 98
[6] Bereishit 12:11, 24:16, 29:17, Shmuel I 25:3, Esther 2:7
[7] Ketubot 59b
[8] Nedarim 66a
[9] Yevamot 63b
[10] Ta'anit 31a
[11] Radak;Bereishit 29:18
[12] Tosfot;Ta'anit 4a
[13] Radak;Bereishit 29:18
[14] Yevamot 63a
[15] Ketubot 72a, Chavot Ya'ir 220, Shevut Yaakov 1:104, Torah Temima;Shir Hashirim 2:148
[16] Radak;Bereishit 29:17
[17] Ketubot 59b
[18] Yoma 75b
[19] Tosfot;Ketubot 66b
[20] Nedarim 79a, Rambam Nedarim 12:1,5
[21] Ketubot 66b
[22] Likutei Chaver ben Chaim cited at: http://dafnotes.blogspot.com/2007/11/perfume-for-yerushalmi-women.html
[23] Ketubot 59b

Twitter Delicious Facebook Digg Favorites More