Monday, October 29, 2007

Beauty is a Virtue

Rabbi Chiya cited a braisa: A wife is only for her beauty. A different braisa states: A wife is only for her cosmetics and jewelry.

The Gemora in Yevamos (63a) records an incident with Rabbi Chiya that is in line with his teaching here. Rabbi Chiya’s wife would constantly torment him. Nevertheless, when he would find something in the market that he thought his wife would like, he would wrap it in a shawl and give it to her as a gift. Rav asked him: “Doesn’t she bother you?” Rabbi Chiya responded: “It is enough that they raise our children, and protect us from sinning.”

The Gemora is teaching us that a wife who adorns herself for the sake of looking attractive to her husband is preventing him from sinning, for he will not be enticed to gaze at other women.

This is quite possibly the explanation for the Gemora Taanis (31a). The Mishna had stated: On the fifteenth of Av, the daughters of Yerushalayim would go forth in borrowed white garments, so as not to embarrass whoever does not have and they would go forth and dance in the vineyards. And what would they say? "Young man, lift up your eyes and see what you choose for yourself. Do not set your eyes on beauty, set your eyes on the family.

The Gemora cites a braisa: The pretty ones among the maidens would say: "Pay attention to beauty alone, because a woman is made only for beauty." Those among them who were from a distinguished family would say: "Look to a distinguished family for women are but made to bear children.” The homely ones among them would say: “Make your selections only for the glory of Heaven, but provide us with gold jewelry and pretty clothes.”

The Peleh Yoetz explains that this merely means that beauty is a virtue for a young man to look for in addition to other virtues. It is quite possible that the girls who said “look to beauty,” could have meant that they had many other virtues besides their beauty. Our Gemora is stating that even if beauty was their only virtue, it can still have a spiritual benefit. Women and their beauty are vitally important since they prevent a man from sinning.