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You're Beautiful
Mom with a View

You're Beautiful

Of course it's more important to be kind, but beauty matters.


I agree with the general parenting principle that it's important to praise the act, not the child. We don't say, "You are a great artist." We say, "Look at how you used those colors. And so many of them!"

We don't say, "You are brilliant." We say, "I'm proud of how hard you studied for that test." Or "The Almighty gave you such a good head."

So I'm sympathetic to the idea that this should apply in terms of appearance as well. We don't want our children (especially our daughters) to be focused on the superficial. We don't want our children (especially our daughters) to spend an inordinate amount of time on their looks. We don't want our children (especially our daughters) to be proud of something that they didn't accomplish, that was a gift from the Almighty.

But perhaps they could take pleasure in it.

Can we completely divorce them from the world around them and its emphasis on looks? Perhaps it's not an entirely secular idea but something built into the hardwiring of women. After all, it's a mitzvah for a husband to give joy to his wife on Jewish holidays by giving her clothing or jewelry. (No, a new pot just won't do it).

The Talmud says that at a wedding one should praise specifically the beauty of the bride (it doesn't say anything about praising her character). We go out of our way to enhance the beauty of the bride in front of her groom, not just on her wedding day but throughout her marriage.

If our husbands came home and praised our sense of modesty, we might be gratified. If they appreciate the care we take in getting ourselves ready for Shabbat, we would be glad they noticed. But if they didn't also tell us how beautiful we looked, we'd be let down. There would be a hole, some self-doubt. We may wish we didn't feel like that. But wishing won't change reality. This is how the Almighty made women. (Not the ad industry.)

After the destruction of the Second Temple in Jerusalem, our sages enacted many restrictions to reinforce the sense of mourning and exile. But they were very clear that while certain frivolities would be prohibited, cosmetics could and should continue to be sold!

We want to balance complimenting our daughters' looks with praise for their positive character traits. We may even want to overbalance towards the character traits. But as they get older, their looks take on even greater importance to them and we need to be sensitive to that issue. Teenage girls especially, need lots of affirmation. If they don't get it from their parents, they may, God forbid, look in inappropriate places. (Husbands take note: this is a danger for wives as well).

Of course it's more important to be kind. But they're not mutually exclusive. You can be kind and beautiful, not movie star or model beautiful, not a magazine cover illusion, but each of us is beautiful in her own way. And not just our souls, but our bodies as well. It's something all of us -- and our daughters -- need to believe.

July 1, 2006

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Visitor Comments: 6

(6) Miriam, November 9, 2010 6:14 PM

very true, Emuna

According to the Talmud, we should always say that a bride is beautiful and of an especially fine personality.

(5) Joe, June 30, 2006 12:00 AM

This may be politically incorrect but...

Suppose there are two marvelous, wonderful young Jewsih women. Both are equally brilliant, kind, sweet and educated. One takes the time to make herself attractive, dresses like she cares about herself and is in shape. The other cares more for being "spiritual than presentable" is 40 lbs overweight and dresses in baggy potato sack like outfits.

Who is going to get more dates?

The same applies to men as well. Yes there are always women whose maternal instincts can be aroused by those who are slovenly, and physically incapable. But lets face the truth here!

Lets look at two men. We'll make them both torah giants for the sake of argument. One dresses like a scholar, i.e. no spot on his clothes, and he has seen the inside of a gym. The other is pasty, mono-browed, 40 lbs overweight and disheveled.

Which one will get more dates?

On a deeper level, people who take the time to take care of themselves tend to be more attractive emotionally as well. It is one thing to have one's stuff together and say that one is more interested in being spiritual than physical. It is quite another to have zero self esteem and all the turmoil that goes with it, and to use this philosphy as a crutch, and an unhealthy way of perpetuating self loathing.

Honestly, who would you rather be with?

(4) Rachel, June 27, 2006 12:00 AM

Nonsense, Lesley

A friend of mine was recently seeing for a few months a boy who decided not to marry her.I spent a lot of time comforting her. I saw her in the street yesterday and I didn't recognise, she looked absolutely gorgeous. And I made damn sure she knew she looked good. Similarly, if I see a woman of a senior age who has made an effort with her appearance, I always tell her in a subtle way that in 35-40 years, I intend to follow her approach. Making the effort to look smart and presentable is not an aveirah.And letting people know they look good is not a bad thing to say or mindless flattery, it is part of building their self esteem which is connected in men AND women to how they look as well as their achievements. Why do you think I tell my husband that he has a such a beautiful face that it doesn't matter he is losing his hair? (which is true)Its called building people up and making them feel better about themselves. The aveirah is the acetic nature of some who regard any kind of time spent in grooming as evil. The rabbis of the Talmud could see a human being as being exactly that, a human being.

(3) Laura, June 26, 2006 12:00 AM

Read it again, Lesley

I agree that charcter traits come first, but that's what Ms. Braverman says. She doesn't say beauty comes first, but just that it's important to a girl's self esteem. Yes, self esteem is earned, but you can't deny that a woman feels good about herself if she knows she looks good. Like she says, we may not like it, but that's the way we've been created.

(2) marta zimmermann, June 25, 2006 12:00 AM

beautiful in song of songs

it came just to my heart, in the song of songs 1.8: If you do not know for yourself, you the most beautiful among women. 2.13 Arise, go my beherdess, my beauty and go for yourself. Also 4.1 . I will use the term beauty. Thanks. mrta

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