Where Tznius Lives
She’s got it.
She’s walking down the street and she’s practically floating .
Happens to be she’s wearing a hijab, though that’s not necessary for the angelic experience.
Happens to be she’s wearing a long skirt, but that too is not necessary.
She’s got what I call “tznius”, though I am aware that the use of that powerful “t” word has many people already picking up the sledgehammers they keep in the back of their minds and hearts for when such discussions arise.
But despite the whole who-ha, despite the judgements and the anger and the frustration. Despite the irony and the ludicriousity and the hypocritical and the confusing, despite the unfair assumptions and the desire to not see, I keep on seeing.
I see these women, and I can barely look away. They’ve got the Tznius Look.
This is what I see: she’s halfway here, between heaven and Earth. She’s got this sense of security, of safety, that she is securely wrapped and comfortable. But she’s also got this power, this glow, this belief in her sense and her abilities. She’s unstoppable. She’s got borders and boundaries and yet, so, so inviting. When she smiles, I can’t look away. I yearn to have my own children to feel like that, safe within loving, capable, and beautiful hands.
I heard once Rabbi Tatz descibe chutzpah as “ a king without a crown” and I cannot shake that connection with tznius. That is it, exactly. Or the antithesis at least.
When a woman is tznius, and I don’t mean that she is necessarily following the exact measurements and lengths and ideas of Jewish law, but when her ATTITUDE is tznius, when her demeanor is tznius, when the atmosphere around her is pervaded with this sense of the tznius that I believe in, she is a queen. She is royalty.
She is royalty because she knows and is aware of her Divine nature, her extreme importance in this world. She is filled with a sense of worth and value and importance.
I sat in the car one evening many many years ago, with my then- recently-turned-Evangelical friend. Judaism holds, I explained, that “the whole world is created for me” and “ I am nothing but dust and ashes”. She looked away for a second,thinking, then she responded: “ I don’t think Christianity thinks like that,” she said. “ I’ve never heard that idea that ‘the whole world is created for me’ “.
But Judaism does hold that way ( think the famous Israeli Prime Minister Joke, as he tells the US President, “Yes, you might be leader over this many millions of people, but I am a Prime Ministers over a few million Prime Ministers”). We Jews are quite aware of our own capabilities, our own power. Our own cosmic importance in this Master Plan. We believe in the idea of The Chosen People ( though we also believe all people are chosen for their own missions). The whole world is created for us. Our bodies inflate with the intense desire to tikkun olam, the insatiable desire to perfect this world, and our ability to do that. We are extremely powerful, and we know it.
And yet, that is not what keeps the crown of royalty on our head.
There are two crowns to the tznius game that we wear. One is of our importance. The other is of our humility.
The crown of royalty is dependent upon the Awareness of He who bestowed it to us. The crown of royalty necessitates the vast humility that anyone could do what we set out to do, it was just us who was given a specific mission. We are no better than any other people, ever, we just were given certain tasks and gifts.
Moshe Rabbeinu, the epitome of tznius, was the greatest prophet who ever lived. And yet, he was the most humble. Why? Because he knew that if anyone else was given the gifts he was given, they would have done just as good, if not better, a job.
So we walk around with fire and drive, and our awareness of our powerful and beautiful physical, emotional, and mental selves, but we also walk around with the crown of humility, that we are not better than anyone else, that all of our gifts and clothes and looks and abilities are just bestowed on us and can be taken away at any moment. Then we are filled with the ultimate tznius emotion which is gratitude.
That approach also explains why frumpy is not tznius. Because “frumpy” does not have the sense that one is exalted, elated. So one can be totally dressing the halachic part, but also miss the tznius boat. They are not wearing half of the dual crown of royalty, the one that proclaims with pride and power- “The whole world was created for me!” “ I am great, I am beautiful!”
And a lady or man, who walks around with the sense that they are better than another, who struts around town with their nose up high, they have knocked the humility crown which is essential for a redemptive life right off of their head. The wear the mock crown of Pharaoh who proclaimed: “ I am a god and I created me”. They are a king without a crown, they are filled with chutzpah. And their glow and radiation dies. The suck life out from their environment and those they walk upon.
But the man or woman who walks, beautiful, powerfully, living her life in the dual-position of feet on the ground and head in the clouds, part beast and part angel, with an overflowing sense of receiving and giving, knowing what she has and why she has it, she is Chosen. She is Chosen and she is royalty and she is thus tznius because she has balanced the two sides of the same coin that is Our Inheritance: “I am dust and ashes” and “the whole world was created for me”.
And I can’t look away. I revel in the beauty that is her greatest sword; the ability to be a flag for an exalted Gd in this lower world.