Halacha for Thursday 1 Tammuz 5779 July 4 2019

Personal Modesty

The Gemara (Yoma 47a) states: “Our Sages taught: Kimchit had seven sons, all of whom served as Kohanim Gedolim (High Priests). The Sages asked her, ‘What have you done to merit this?’ She replied, ‘The beams of my house have never seen the braids of my hair.’” Rashi, in his commentary on this Gemara, quotes the words of the Talmud Yerushalmi which expounds the verse in Tehillim (45, 14) as follows: “All honor [awaits] the king’s daughter who is within; her raiment is superior to settings of gold”- A modest woman deserves to have a son who shall be a Kohen Gadol dressed in golden settings.

This means that Kimchit was so careful about her modesty that she had never even revealed her hair in front of the beams of her home! This was a result of her extraordinary modesty before Hashem, whose glory fills the entire world.

Maran Ha’Shulchan Aruch (Chapter 2) writes: “One should not wear one’s robe while sitting; rather, one should insert one’s head and arms into one’s robe while lying down and by doing so, when one gets up, one will be covered.” We see that one must be modest even in a place where there are no other people present, for Hashem’s presence fills the entire world and just as it is improper to reveal themselves immodestly in front of one another, it is likewise improper for one to reveal himself immodestly before Hashem besides for when this is necessary, such as, when one is bathing since there is no other way to do so and this poses no concern whatsoever.

Let us now explain if this is an actual law and how much one must be careful in this regard.

The Gemara (Shabbat 118b) states that Rabbi Yose would exclaim about himself that the beams of his home never saw the lining of his robe (meaning that he would never reveal himself immodestly even when he was alone in his own home). The fact that Rabbi Yose praised himself about this shows that it is not an actual law; rather, it is merely a pious behavior.

Nevertheless, Hagaon Harav Menashe Klein zt”l writes in his Responsa Mishneh Halachot (Volume 6, Chapter 2) that the fact that the Talmud, Poskim, and Maran Ha’Shulchan Aruch write that one must not reveal himself within his own home proves that this is indeed a complete law and obligation. The reason why Rabbi Yose praised himself is not because this is a lofty level of piety; rather, this was because most people were not careful regarding this law and Rabbi Yose was proud that he was. He proceeds to prove this from the incident of Kimchit as well.

However, the above opinion is quite difficult to understand, for it is improbable that most people in the times of Rabbi Yose disregarded an explicit law and Rabbi Yose praised himself because of the fact that he merely observed this law. Regarding Hagaon Harav Klein’s proof from Kimchit, it seems that, on the contrary, Kimchit observed an extraordinary level of piety. Indeed, the great Menorat Ha’Maor writes that the Gemara exaggerated here, for it is impossible that the beams of Kimchit’s house never saw her hair since she did shower and comb her hair; rather, this is just meant as an overstatement because she possessed such a high level of modesty.

Thus, halachically speaking, although this is not a halachic obligation, it is good and worthy custom for one to act as modestly as possible even within the privacy of one’s home where no one else can see him. Similarly, Maran Rabbeinu Ovadia Yosef zt”l writes that this is not a complete halachic obligation and the above Halacha which we quoted from Maran Ha’Shulchan Aruch is meant only as an excellent custom which one should adopt as much as possible. By doing so, one will likewise come to the realization that even when one is alone, there is always someone looking, listening, and writing down one’s actions. One will therefore grow in fear of Heaven and be spared from sinning, even when no one sees him.

 

Ask the Rabbi


8 Halachot Most Popular

Taking Haircuts and Shaving During the Omer Period

Abstaining from Taking Haircuts During the Omer It has become customary among the Jewish nation to refrain from taking haircuts during the Omer counting period: According to the Ashkenazi custom, until the 33rd day of the Omer and according to the Sephardic custom, until the morning of the 34th day......

Read Halacha

Praying Barefoot

Question: May one pray while wearing sandals or while one is barefoot? Answer: When one prays, one must prepare one’s environment, clothing, body, and thoughts accordingly, for one will be standing before the King of all kings. Respectable Garments While Praying The Gemara (Shabbat 9b) ......

Read Halacha

Question: How many “Kezayit”s (olive’s volume) of Matzah must one consume during the Pesach Seder?

Answer: One is obligated to eat altogether three “Kezayit”s of Matzah during the Pesach Seder. Every Kezayit amounts to approx. 30 grams of Matzah. Nevertheless, there is room for stringency to eat four or even five “Kezayit”s of Matzah, as we shall now explain. The Order......

Read Halacha

Kissing One’s Parents’ Hands on Shabbat Night- The Students of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai

Question: Should one kiss the hands of one’s parents and receive a blessing from them on Shabbat night and does the same apply equally to one’s father and mother? Answer: The Gemara in Masechet Avodah Zarah (17a) tells us that when Ulah (a sage who lived during the Talmudic era) would......

Read Halacha


Reciting the “Shehecheyanu” Blessing Upon Performing a Mitzvah for the First Time

Question: The custom in our community is that when a young woman reaches the age of Bat Mitzvah, she performs the Mitzvah of separating Challah for the first time and before doing so, she recites the blessing of “Shehecheyanu” as well upon performing this Mitzvah for the first time. Is t......

Read Halacha

Taking a Haircut of the Night of the 34th Day of the Omer This Year (5782)

Tomorrow night and Thursday will mark Lag Ba’Omer (the 33rd day of the Omer) and Friday will be the 34th day of the Omer. Until When Are Haircuts Forbidden? We have already discussed that one may not take a haircut or shave during the period of the counting of the Omer in addition to sever......

Read Halacha

The Pesach Seder-Kadesh

The famous order of the Seder of the eve of Pesach, Kadesh, Urchatz, Karpas, Yachatz, Magid, Rochtza, Motzi, Matzah, Maror, Korech, Shulchan Orech, Tzafun, Barech, Hallel, Nirtzah, was established by the leader of the entire Jewish nation, Rashi. The entire Jewish nation customarily follows this ord......

Read Halacha

Using Holy Names

The Mishnah in Pirkei Avot (Chapter 1, Mishnah 13) states: “He (Hillel) would say: Whoever does not add shall be gathered, whoever does not learn is worthy of death and whoever uses the crown shall pass.” Rabbeinu Ovadia of Bartenura explains the phrase “And whoever uses the cr......

Read Halacha