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Tzniut - Modesty
Halacha (Jewish law) requires married women to cover their hair; Maimonides (RaMBaM) calls this requirement Dat Moshe (the law of Moses). The most common hair coverings are the snood, the tiechel (scarf) and the sheitel (wig). Hat, berets, bandanas are also worn.
Tzniut, Modesty is much more than a dress code for women, tzniut is a way of life - how one dresses is simply its most visible application. Tzniut encompasses our behavior, our speech, and even our thoughts. Tzniut is a source of power and self-worth, and a prerequisite for spiritual growth. Tzniut means an awareness of being in G-d’s presence at all times. This is the reason that tzniut applies when we are alone as much as it does when we are with others. Always conscious of our Creator, every aspect of our lives assumes a transcendental value far beyond its superficial manifestation.
The laws of tzniut are not only for women, men, married or not, usually cover their heads. The most common head covering is the kippah, also known as the Yarmulke. Hats are also worn but those who wear a hat will also usually wear a kippah underneath.
Both sexes are required to dress and behave in a dignified way. However, the laws of women’s dress are more detailed because women’s bodies affect women and men in many more ways.
The head covering / hair covering was never intended to make a married woman look ugly. Beauty is a divine gift, and Jewish tradition encourages both men and women to care for their appearance and always look presentable. Jewish tradition also encourages modesty; not in order to detract from our beauty, but rather to channel our beauty and attractiveness so it be saved for where it belongs -- within marriage.
The goal of a woman covering her hair, or adhering to standards of modesty in dress, is not for her to make herself ugly; rather, the goal is for her to portray herself in a way that is not provocative and covering the hair infuses a one with a continuous message of modesty.
Modesty is a fundamental concept in Judaism and a character trait that we are suppose to incorporate into our lives:
"What does Hashem demand of you; but to do justice, to love loving-kindness, and hatzneah lechet im Elokecha - walk humbly, modestly, discreetly with your G-d” (Michah 6:8)
The Hebrew word "tzniut" is derived from this verse in the Book of Michah. The prophet is teaching us that tzniut is all about what is inside. What our values are, what we care about, what motivates us – this is what G-d wants us to offer to Him and to humanity, purely, unadulterated by ulterior motives.
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