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More Than Skin Deep

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Topic: Beauty, Value of

Email@Withheld from South Africa wrote:

Dear Rabbi,

There is a saying that we must not "judge a book by its cover," meaning that we must look beyond the physical appearance. This is shown to us by the mitzvah of "dan lechaf zechus" (judging favorably) and in Ohr Somayach's regular feature " The Other Side of the Story." However, I believe that this is not entirely true because otherwise what is the purpose of the physical world? I believe we must consider our outside performance. If we must not judge a book by its cover then G-d could have made us all angels. Many times in the Torah the beauty is mentioned. For example a person could say "I am not going to keep the laws of tznius (modesty in dress and deportment) because people must look beyond the outside." I do not mean to say that our inside is not important but what is the importance of the physical appearance and where do we draw the line?

Dear Email@Withheld,

Proverbs (31:30) states "False is grace and vain is beauty, a G-d fearing woman, she should be praised." The Gaon of Vilna explains this verse as saying that beauty is vain only when it is not accompanied by fear of G-d. But if beauty is accompanied by fear of G-d, then it is indeed something to be valued and praised.

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