Modesty means keeping things private that should be kept private. In this week's Torah portion, Bilaam blesses the Jewish people because they set up their tents in a modest, dignified way, so that people couldn't gawk into each other's private dwellings. Acting with modest dignity shows we respect privacy -- and respect ourselves.


Debby was thrilled when her cousin, Laura invited her to spend the day with her as her guest at her classy country-club resort. The meals and snacks were scrumptious, the sports facilities outstanding and the Olympic-sized heated salt-water swimming pool was a dream.

The girls had just finished swimming when Laura gave Debby a big smile and said, “Okay, now I’ve saved the best for last…”

“Really? I can’t imagine anything could possibly be better than this pool,” Debby cooed.

“That’s because you haven’t yet seen the club’s Royal Star exclusive gift boutique!” Just the name made Debby’s eyes light up as her cousin went on, “If something’s in style they have it—and if they don’t have it, it means it’s not in style.”

“Wow!” Debby said, “Is it a far walk from here?”

“Nope—it’s right over here, next to the pool.”

“So what are we waiting for?” Debby squealed, “Let’s go!” She started jogging in the shop’s direction when Laura called her back.

“Um, not so fast, Deb—we have to change first.”

“What do you mean?”

“The boutique has a rule; you have to be fully dressed to go in, we can’t go in straight from the pool.”

Debby wrinkled her nose.

“Why not? What’s the big deal?”

“I guess it’s just more modest that way. More dignified, you know what I mean?”


“No, I don’t,” Debby crossed her arms in front of her. “What difference does it make how I’m dressed?” she said. But realizing she had had no choice—and since she really wanted to go into the boutique, she reluctantly agreed…


“Wow Laura,” Debby said looking at the elegant displays of silk scarves and top name perfumes, “I’ve got to admit this place is everything that you said it is—and more. It’s the ideal place for me to spend my birthday money. But I still don’t see why we had to change before we could come in.”


“It’s just more, you know, dignified…” Laura shrugged, trying to explain it to her cousin, when the earring counter caught Debby’s eye.


“Hey let’s check those out!” she said, heading over.


“How can I help you?” asked the salesperson behind the counter.


“I’d like to see some earrings.” Debby said as Laura looked on.


“You’re looking at them,” the man smiled, gesturing with his hand at the countertop display of dangling earrings. Debby shook her head.


“No, I don’t mean those,” she said. “I want to see something…classier, something you keep locked up under the counter.”


“Oh, I see,” he nodded knowingly and took out a velvet box, which he opened up revealing much nicer jewelry.


“How did you know that?” Laura asked as they were walking out of the boutique with Debby’s purchase.


“Know what?”


“To ask to see the earrings that weren’t on display?”


“Easy,” Debby giggled. “Everyone knows that it’s the cheap stuff that’s just displayed out in the open and what’s really classy they keep covered up.”


“Oh, really? Is that so?” Laura grinned as she pointed her head at the sign by the store entrance that said; ‘SWIMSUITS ARE FOR SWIMMING - PLEASE COVER UP BEFORE COMING IN.’


Debby’s eyes went wide as she read the sign. Then she smiled.


“I guess it would feel kind of silly for people to walk around in a classy place like this in bathing suits. And…I guess by keeping ourselves ‘under cover’—it shows that we’re classy too.”



Ages 3-5

Q. How did Debby feel about the store’s rule about dressing appropriately at first?

A. She didn’t like it or feel there was any reason for it.


Q. How did she feel in the end?

A. She felt it made sense and that it made her feel more dignified.


Ages 6-9

Q. What life-lesson do you think Debby learned that day?

A. She hadn’t realized that the way a person chose to dress reflected on their dignity. But going to the classy boutique and realizing that even classy jewelry was classy by it being displayed in a dignified way helped her value dressing in a dignified way as well.


Q. Does the way someone dresses say anything about the way they feel about themselves?

A. In general, a person who dresses in a neat, appropriate and modest way show that they feel comfortable with themselves and have high self-esteem. And someone who dresses in an outlandish or inappropriate way shows the opposite.


Ages ten and up

Q. What do you think it means to be ‘dignified’?

A. Being dignified means having self-respect and acting in a way that reflects that. Part of this includes dressing in a way that is appropriate for where we are and that shows we value our privacy and expect others to respect it, too.


Q. Is there such a thing as dressing ‘spiritually’?

A. Since all of us are comprised of a physical body and a spiritual soul, when we dress in a way that, while neat and attractive, doesn’t overemphasize our body, it allows others to easier relate to the spiritual, ‘soul’ part of ourselves.