Friday, January 16, 2009

Preoccupation with appearance

Every Friday night we all say Shlomo Hamelech's words, "Sheker Ha'Chen V'Helvel Hayofy, Isha Yirat Hashem Hi Titshalul." – ‘Grace is deceitful and beauty is vain, a woman who fears G-d, she is praiseworthy.’

Now is the time to apply these words to our life. For both girls and boys, appearance should not be primary. Middos should be the main emphasis. If we do put emphasis on these external things, we are really saying that Shlomo Hamelech's words are not true.

Chazal has a very inspiring interpretation on this verse: It is true that "Sheker Ha'Chen V'Helvel Hayofy," 'Chen' (charm) is false and 'Yofi' (beauty) is vain, but when "Isha Yirat Hashem" when a woman has Yirat Shamayim, then even chein and yofi even her charm and beauty are worthy of praise.

We are letting the perception of the world around us influence us to a major degree. Why do we let the goyishe world influence our choices especially when these choices are so far reaching and important? Even the goyishe world recognizes that only 5% of the population resembles the idealized version of beauty that the models peddle.

With the preoccupation with appearance, we are also driving our girls to Chas V'shalom ruin their health for such a transient mania. And what do these boys gain? After one or two children, no woman looks the same as she did as a girl, even if she manages to retain a figure.

Externals are helpful for first impressions; beyond that, if the qualities are there, externals are less relevant. One should not be put off by the other's appearance, that is a given, but to overemphasize looks is basing a lasting commitment on a temporary foundation.

Over and over I hear that it is the mothers that influence the boys in wanting girls in mannequin sizes. While the mothers cry that it is the sons who will not go out with anyone other than a "size 2". Incidentally, someone made the very valid comment that if you ask a boy who is a "size 2" most of the time he will point out an 8 or a 10. They really B"H do not know what "size 2" are, and are only parroting others.

I am sure there are some mothers who insist on a particular size or look and there are some boys who specify externals, but even more so, we as mothers must start early enough to inculcate in our children that it is middos that are important, that it is the pnimius that we are looking for. We must show by example that we believe what Rabbi Meir says in Pirkei Avos: “Al tistakel b'kankan ela b'ma, sh'yesh bo” or as we say in English: ‘Do not judge a book by its cover.’ If we have done our job well, then our children, both boys and girls, will not tell us they will not go out with anything more than a size 6. They will ask first what are the qualities this person has.

Therefore let us start changing the way WE see things and start influencing our children to look for the right things.


rosie said...

As a mother of a boy in shidduchim, I agree with your statement about externals having a place in first impressions. I once was at a chassunah where all the single friends of the kallah had spent the day on their hair, make-up, nails, etc and were all wearing lovely dresses; all but one. She stood lonely at the side of the crowd, almost no make-up, frizzy hair in a pony, and a figure that needed a girdle. Most of the girls who cared for their appearance are now mothers. The plain girl is still single but luckily no longer plain. She lost weight, straightened her hair and wears make-up. She is now a beauty. Hopefully some mother of a boy will see that lovely girl at another chassunah and decide that she is the one for her son.