A summary appears in English alongside the original Hebrew handwritten letter (which enlarges when you click on it).
It's important to read the original, but here's a bulleted summary here:
- We need to strengthen ourselves in Torah.
- We need to strengthen ourselves in hasmadah ("diligence") in Torah learning.
- Women should strengthen ourselves in tsniyut (dressing & behaving with dignity & modesty).
- We need to invest more in washing our hands properly before a meal, both in kavanah & the halachic details.
- We need to strengthen our kavanah when we recite blessings with the goal of feeling closeness with Hashem.
The Deeply Personal Side of Our Outer Garments
Are these women bad or superficial?
I mean, maybe some are. But most are really good & sincere.
So let's take a look at what's really going on beneath the surface...
Hopefully, tsniyut was always presented to you and dealt with in a positive way.
But some girls and women experienced a negative approach at some point, making them feel harassed or embarrassed or condemned, etc.
Some endured a severely negative experience or a series of negative experiences regarding tsniyut.
So that's erects a barrier for some.
On the other hand, a friend of mine who attended an exclusive Yiddish-speaking girls school in New York explained that her school always addressed tsniyut positively & respectfully—yet she still found herself feeling defensive about it at times. (She dresses very, very tsniusly, BTW.)
Based on that, she thinks there is something deeply personal about it, which therefore produces instinctive defensiveness, no matter how gently and tactfully a girl or woman is approached regarding improvement in that area.
It's true that girls & women tend to express ourselves through our clothes & accessories. Hairstyles, jewelry, accessories, makeup, clothing, shoes—many females choose these with care, trying them on while deliberating before a mirror and with friends, and so on.
Again, it's a deeply personal expression and you can tell something about a female by the way she has chosen to look.
Not to solely judge someone by her appearance—no!
But let's face it: There is a difference in personality between a woman wearing an extravagant brassy shaitel and large studded hoop earrings & a woman wearing a neat, refined shaitel with pearl stud earring in a delicate gold setting.
Their shaitels & earrings don't say everything about them—earrings & hair-coverings don't indicate how nice someone is, for example—but they do say something.
And the woman who dresses plainly without any adornments? It also says something about her.
Purple is my favorite color.
And I've noticed that women who love purple attract each other.
When I wear purple and there is another purple-loving woman around, she'll approach me. I can do the same with other purple-wearers.
And you know what? In means something! We purple-lovers definitely have certain inner aspects in common.
Yes—a purple sisterhood definitely exists out there; I've experienced it.
So we see from all this, plus our own experiences & observations, that a woman's personal appearance is a vehicle of her own unique self-expression.
And this inborn feminine aspect makes tsniyut more complex & challenging—yet also more rewarding and self-validating at the same time.
It All Starts on the Inside
Whether positive or negative, this social influence comes from her family, her husband, her community, and her surrounding society.
Women understandably use their external appearance to feel good about themselves on the inside.
I can't help noticing that one sign of marital disharmony is when the wife's tsniyut starts deteriorating.
I don't mean right after she marries.
Sometimes, lack of tsniyut right after the wedding simply means her parents had a lot of control over her outfits, but then she married a guy who enjoys laxity in tsniyut (he's wrong, BTW) and she's like, "YES! I can finally dress the way I want AND my husband appreciates it!"
I'm not talking about that.
I mean the ones who cared about tsniyut and then it all starts going out the window during their marriage.
Her husband makes her feel bad about herself on the inside, so she seeks to feel good about her outside.
That's very normal. It's not correct. But it's definitely normal.
But a downslide in tsniyut doesn't always reflect a downslide in shalom bayit.
Other reasons exist.
For example, many women feel like a height-of-fashion "wow!" appearance creates a kiddush Hashem.
This is a common misunderstanding of kiddush Hashem, which reverberates far beyond tsniyut.
Many frum people think kiddush Hashem is anything that makes them look good in the eyes of their surrounding culture.
Many times, that's true. But not always.
Kiddush Hashem means representing Hashem truthfully & with integrity.
For example, if your surrounding culture prizes the abuse of Welsh Corgi puppies, would it be a kiddush Hashem to go around kicking Welsh Corgi puppies?
It would be a disgusting chilul Hashem.
Likewise, walking around looking like a million dollars is a problem.
(Ostentatiousness is condemned for Jewish men too, says Orchot Tzaddikim.)
And I think we've all seen frum women with classy, refined shaitels & clothes, who suddenly develop a need to "upgrade" her appearance. And so she comes out with a va-va-voom shaitel, flashy clothes, and all these swishy, alluring mannerisms & air of blazing confidence...
...and then gushes about how good she feels about herself, how the Torah wants women to feel good about themselves (it does—just not in this particular way), and how covering your hair in this way makes you feel fabulous as opposed to feeling nebbuchy or downtrodden.
And that ties in with her wanting to feel good about herself on the outside when she does not feel good about herself on the inside.
So...it's all very understandable.
Expressing Your God-Given Kavod Provides Protection
It's like an iron dome or bomb shelter.
It provides practical protection & spiritual protection, both to the woman herself, to her family, and to all of Am Yisrael.
Is it completely fool-proof?
Is anything completely fool-proof & guaranteed in This World?
One frum teenage boy told me that when he walks around with his friends, a couple of them will say, "Hey, see that girl over there? She looks more 'open.' Let's go talk to her."
At that point, the other boys say no, and they keep walking. (The truth is they're shy & this is all just talk.) Furthermore, the boy who related this expressed the good sense to know that the girls don't realize the impression they're making. He sees they're innocent.
Yet the indecent ones refuse to see female laxity as innocent.
Female dress & behavior offer certain messages to males, whether the message is "c'mon over!" or "trespassers will be shot!", and whether she intends that message or not.
Years ago, I spoke with a friend who staffed the women's crisis hotline at her Ivy League university. She revealed how the most common crisis occurred when a young woman went out to the bar on the weekend nights, got drunk, then got left there alone by her friends.
("I really think you need to get new friends," was one piece of advice my friend used to give them.)
At that point, a fellow male student on the prowl for young co-eds in this precise situation would hone in on her and...we'll omit the details of what happened next, but it resulted in a call to the crisis hotline.
And the predator was almost always an athlete on a sports scholarship playing for that Ivy League university's sports team.
With no proof of a crime, the young women were left with the option of "dean's discipline." However, my friend discouraged this because it usually ended up intensifying the victim's trauma with no justice served in the end.
Well, the Ivy League university dean happened to be a secular liberal white woman who wished to protect her employer's big money-maker (football & basketball).
Or perhaps she was simply a terrible person with a crummy value system.
Anyway, when confronted with a female student post-assault who knew the identity of her violator, the female dean displayed fake sympathy, then proceeded to explain how the violator can't really understand what he did was wrong due to his underprivileged background.
The liberal secular female dean then explained why the young woman should drop her charges against the oh-so pitiable young predator, who simply does not know any better.
Awwww...boo-hoo...the poor morally ignorant boy from an underprivileged background! Bless his underprivileged little heart! Where, o where can I wring out my tear-sopped hankie?
(And you thought only rich, white males enjoy privilege! But no, if you get into an Ivy League university on a football or basketball scholarship, you too can become a repeat offender with absolutely no repercussions!)
Anyway, the point is that some males are predatory.
Sure, it would be nice to shove the predatory types off a cliff. But that's not realistic until Mashiach comes.
So for now, it helps females to develop tsniyus behaviors, like not going around drunk in public areas, and especially not by herself. (Not that you would do that; just using it as one example of non-tsniyus behavior—although not going around by yourself at night, especially if you're a young woman, is always good advice.)
It's not her fault if a predator preys on her vulnerability.
At the same time, the less vulnerable she is, the better off she is.
(More about that here: http://www.myrtlerising.com/blog/two-powerful-lessons-revealed-by-dinahs-ordeal-in-parshat-vayishlach)
And that's the practical protection of tsniyut.
Spiritual protection explains why most frum Jewish women do not remove their hair-covering or change into pants when hanging out a home with a female buddy.
Tsniyut is an enhancement of the neshamah.
Many frum women feel more natural when dressed tsniyusly, which is why she remains tsniyus even when in an all-female environment.
(Certainly, there are exceptions to this statement. I'm speaking generally.)
Tsniyut applies to men too (which is why you do not see charedi men strolling around in Hawaiian shorts or sleeveless shirts), but it applies even more to women.
Though often imperceptible, female tsniyut provides wonderful protection on all levels for herself, her husband, her children, and her Nation.
Growing Stronger One Step at a Time
Please notice he did not say to revolutionize our tsniyut, but to just strengthen it.
This means we can look at our makeup, hair-covering, jewelry, shoes or our behavior and lovingly examine whether we can refine some aspect of it—to beautify it with dignity.
Husbands & fathers can definitely assist in this by internalizing the importance of feminine kavod in Judaism, enabling him to then project that outward onto his female family members.
Most husbands & fathers lack awareness of the powerful influence they have on their wives & daughters regarding tsniyut.
Men can impact tsniyut in wonderfully positive way.
Husbands & fathers can gently & warmly encourage their wives & daughters toward tsniyut with lots of compliments & validation, and also by re-orienting their own minds to view Jewish women with kavod & appreciation for the Jewish female's intrinsic value and innate holiness as a bat Yisrael.
May we only hear good news.