This morning, I found myself reading through a selection of posters, stickers, and advertisments, all focussing on one topic: tznius. Modesty. One sticker warned that ”short skirts shorten your child’s life”, while another proclaimed ”four inches below the knee is Torah law!”. Finally, there was the editorial in a magazine, claiming that tznius cures cancer. A woman whose daughter had been dying of cancer lengthened her skirts and swapped her shaytel for a tichel. She claimed that due to her, and other womens’ efforts, the tumour became benign almost overnight. My initial reaction was supposed to be one of awe, I presume. I was meant to be inspired. Inspired to become ”more tzniusdik” in the hope that I would cure cancer. In reality, I was merely offended. I’ve experienced first hand what cancer can do to a family, to an individual- and I’m very aware that it’s due to medicine and the dedication of medical professionals that those affected by this terrible disease are able to survive, and, in some cases, recover almost completely. In brutal honesty- I don’t think that skirt length has anything to do with it.
Writing this article is a difficult job. In fact, I thought twice before deciding to make a start on it. There’s a very fine line to be aware of when I discuss the issue of tznius and its merits. On the one hand, there will be people who detest me for speaking out against tznius editorials. But on the other hand, there will be a different crowd of people who think I’m crazy for believing that the Rebbe zt”l was correct when he said that wearing a shaytel provides a woman with brochos for children. How can I believe what the Rebbe zt”l said, and yet dismiss the claims that tznius cures illnesses? Isn’t that hypocrisy?
I don’t think so. I think that what the Rebbe zt”l said was perfectly logical, and at the same time, I think that this belief that a lack of tznius causes illness (and vice-versa) is totally illogical. When a woman chooses to observe the mitzvah of tznius, she undoubtably brings brochos into her life. While this initially sounds (G-d forbid) superstitious, it’s not. For example; by dressing in a modest manner, an unmarried woman increases her chances of a good shidduch. That’s just logic. Chareidim will want to marry other chareidim, and dressing in a tzenua way is a sign of being chareidi. Another example; when a married woman, with children, starts covering her hair, she changes the atmosphere of the whole home. Covering one’s hair is a mark of being Torah-observant. And in showing her Torah observance, she will encourage her husband and children to do the same. A woman’s influence upon her family’s observance is massive, and changing her style of dress is a mark of extra emunah. On another level, dressing modestly causes outsiders- both Jewish and non-Jewish- to treat the woman with extra respect. Respect is amazing, and is a brocha in itself.
These are all logical rewards. They are in line with human nature, and are just a few examples of the merits of tznius. And although tznius has many merits, curing cancer isn’t one of them.