A Woman’s Most Important Quality Is Her Beauty

If the Torah says it, it must be true!

If you hate this teaching, you hate the Torah!

Don’t blame me, blame God!

Rabbi Ari Enkin writes:

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]

One 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]

..There are many rabbis who try and counsel their students away from these "obvious" attributes when seeking a wife, arguing that they are not things that a "Ben Torah" should be thinking about. I say — TIYUVTA.

Yid posts: "That "a beautiful wife adds significantly to the thrill of a marriage, and it is considered completely legitimate to marry a woman based foremost on her looks" is both obvious & human nature. It’s like saying that eating is enjoyable, and it is OK to enjoy a good dinner."

Tzurah writes: It took me years to even admit to myself (not to mention a shadchan) that looks was important to me. I would continue dating with some women that I had very little attraction to because I just felt so terribly guilty about ending the match. I just wonder how many guys are out there in a non-ideal match because they were trying to be too much of a tzadik.

Another perspective that my wife told me about is that among many frum girls, looking good is never discussed, and the art of wearing clothes well and applying makeup is shunned while growing up until suddenly, girls *have* to care about it for shidduchim. Then, since it’s now something of great importance that they have no control over (they never learned how to present themselves well), it gains a magical, orverarching status.

Kishke posts: This is a load of hogwash. Who are these "many rabbis?" How about naming a few? Where’d you get this supposed "widespread misconception that a religious Jewish woman is not permitted to expose her beauty." Please, come to Flatbush, Boro Park, Lakewood, and tell me that women there do not "expose their beauty." There is no such "widespread misconception"; there are no “many rabbis.” I’ve been a part of the "charedi" community all my life and have never heard tell of any who say that it’s not important for a ben Torah to find his prospective wife attractive. You’ve set up a straw man and are vigorously knocking it down. It’s all nonsense.

Doda posts: Google Sarah Palin. Throughout the campaign, she basically dressed like a frum woman. Based on what men say about her, I guess she was attracting.

I agree most rabbis seem to push their students in the opposite direction. I think part of the problem is that when a lot of boys start looking, they have not been around women and so they have a very narrow view of beauty. They do not necessarily know how many types they could like, and they are impressionable. So when the community tells them to ask what size the girl is, they decide any woman above a certain size is pasul. What’s called attractive is often cookie-cutter. I once heard a shiur by Rav Shechter given to YU boys about how neat a girl must look. But I happen to know many guys don’t always or only want a girl to look perfect with nothing out of place.

Another problem is that since women are people, they can’t be important only or mainly for their looks. If we are also created in God’s image, and are endowed with intelligence, there should be other things to give us value. And what about unattractive women? God created them, they must have a purpose.

Also, why only discuss Hazal’s assigning importance to looks? There are also gemaras that talk about the importance of money in shiddukhim. For instance, Rashi brings the midrash that Abraham gave Eliezer a sh’tar of his property so everyone would chase after Isaac. Should money also be the basis for marriages? Should we encourage this?

But if you want to address a problem, you should look at what women have to deal with if they are not attracted to a man. When I was dating, if I rejected a boy because of his looks, I would be told that my priorities are messed up. I needed to look at his neshama. I needed to talk to a rebbetzin. But you don’t go to bed with a neshama. I know the gemara does not emphasize male beauty; in fact, a woman may marry a man without seeing him. But I’ll tell you, it is important and no woman should be made guilty for being human.

Also I think it’s unrealistic to expect women to be makhavven their beauty. Even if a woman is not married, she knows how her looks are appreciated. It’s only natural for her to want to get men to look at her. And yes there are gemaras against this. Nevertheless.

I don’t even buy that there is a difference between attractive and sexy. Sarah Palin is attractive. She behaves and dresses in a classy manner. Men find her sexy. It’s part of the sexy librarian phenomenon. And obvioously when we’re talking about men dating women, and being attracted to them, we mean sexually. If a man is dating a woman and has no hirhrim about her, either he’s a big zaddik or he’s not attracted to her. In either event, they should probably break up. If he’s that big of a zaddik, he won’t please her.

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see Amazon.com). My work has been noted in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (Alexander90210.com).
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