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The Value of Beauty

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The Value of Beauty

 

Rabbi Jacobson,

I listened to your tapes and I liked them. One question that I would appreciate if you could address is: “Why did G-d make women so beautiful to men?”

Why should such a trivial and silly thing determine whether someone should marry that person? The Talmud forbids one to marry one who is not attractive to them.

But why did G-d make it so that looks should play such an important part in the life of a man? Is visuality holy and man corrupted it and that is why they are punished, or is it that this sense is bad like king Solomon said that beauty is false and charm deceptive but a woman  who fears………. ?

[name redacted] 

 

Dear [name redacted],

Everything in this physical world evolves from the spiritual counterpart that is its origin. Harmony in the physical world is a manifestation of spiritual harmony and the same is true of love and beauty.

It is for this reason that the Torah puts an emphasis on performing mitzvot in a beautiful way — “zeh E-li v’anveihu — This is my God and I will beautify Him [Exodus 15:2]”, because even though physical beauty on its own is superficial, when we recognize that it is an extension and manifestation of spiritual beauty, it carries great power. Indeed, the purpose of creation is that we express inner beauty outwardly; that we integrate the inner and outer parallel dimensions into one seamless whole, so that true inner beauty doesn’t remain locked inside, but is expressed outwardly in the domain of the material. The outer should not be severed from the inner, but rather reflect it.

Judaism bridges the gap between the soul and its outward material expression. The ultimate expression is when we serve G-d in a way that is beautiful and appealing, attractive even on the external level, so that we sanctify the physical world and recognize the beauty of G-dliness even visually.

Asking “why did G-d make it so that looks should play such an important part in the life of a man” is essentially asking why G-d created a physical universe where we measure things and base our value on our sensory tools, sound, sight, taste, touch and smell. The answer is that that is the challenge of life. The entire purpose of creation is that we should “make a home for G-d in the lowliest of worlds,” by sanctifying the external, sensory, visual world by making it one with G-dliness.

The same holds true regarding the beauty of women. Mystical texts explain that the beauty of a woman is the result of the root of her soul.  Feminine energy originates in the spiritual realm of “Malchut” (queen) which is connected with “Kesser” (the supernal crown), hence the power of the woman’s beauty

Indeed, the verse you cite, “Charm is deceptive and beauty is naught, a G-d fearing woman is to be praised. [Proverb 31,30]” is explained this way: charm and beauty are deceptive and naught when they are seen as an end unto themselves. But when one is G-d fearing and G-dliness permeates the charm and beauty, then they become sacred, and couldn’t be further from naught.

I hope this was helpful.

Blessings and best wishes,

Simon Jacobson

 

Can I ask why the spelling for ‘demon’ and the spelling for a woman’s breast are the same in Hebrew? Is this anything to be concerned about?

 [name redacted]

 

While an unhealthy attitude or obsession to sexuality is demonic, healthy sexuality is sacred. Hence the connection also with the Divine name “Sha-ddai.”

I hope this was helpful.

Simon Jacobson.

 

Rabbi Jacobson,

King Solomon says to intoxicate yourself with the breasts of your wife’s youth.  Are you allowed to forego having kids if you are not ready for them, but at the same time wish to get married to avoid being pulled into sin?

What do you do if beauty is so important to you, and your wife will lose beauty by being pregnant? Why did G-d make it so that physical beauty is diminished with time and through pregnancy? I know that it is obviously not such an important component, but unfortunately beauty is very important to men. I wish that man was blind to looks, but that is not the case.

 

Dear [name redacted],

As I wrote to you in my previous letter, sexuality and more generally, human beauty, can be directed and channeled to the divine, or they can be abused and be — G-d forbid — destructive.

Beauty and sexuality are divine instruments — G-dly energy, which is why they have so much power. When we channel them in a healthy way, they can change worlds and lift a person to the greatest heights. Conversely, when not appreciated for its true value, this same energy can completely consume and destroy a person, lowering him/her to the depths of misery.

It is a great blessing to be able to see beauty. We need to be wise and see the inner soul of beauty — a reflection of divine harmony. As the verse states: “Deceptive is charm and naught is beauty, a G-d fearing woman — she should be praised. [Proverbs 31:30]” We must realize that the true value of a woman’s outer beauty is only when it is a reflection and expression of her inner beauty and dignity. This also makes the beauty eternal, not transient and temporary — subject to the changes of age and other factors.

When you have the balance between inner and outer beauty, then you can recognize the beauty in your wife both when she is pregnant and once she has borne children.

Yes, you should do everything possible to find a woman who is beautiful — both physically and spiritually — to marry. Once you marry someone you love, you and her will work out the issue of children.  And remember, G-d will send you the appropriate person when you are ready for her.

May G-d bless you with the wisdom to appreciate both inner and outer beauty. You can help the process along by studying about spiritual beauty, which will make you more sensitive to it, helping you to find your soul mate and recognize the beauty and great blessing of transcendent, eternal love, and the beauty of a relationship that perpetuates itself through the bearing of fruit — an eternal love that is manifested and perpetuated through children. And children who will one day have their own children, that will continue your legacy for generations to come.

Blessings and best wishes for a joyous year,

Simon Jacobson

P.S. For more on the topic of beauty and sexuality, you can read the chapter on Intimacy in my book, Toward A Meaningful Life.

If you don’t have a copy of the book, you can obtain it in any bookstore, at amazon.com, or if you like you can also order it from the Meaningful Life Center online store.

 

So can I ask, if a woman is not attractive or has flaws, does that mean she is spiritually impure or ugly?

Aren’t there so many women who are so ugly on the inside yet so beautiful on the outside?

Then why are we so attracted to false beauty?

 

[Name redacted],

No, you cannot say that a woman who is not pretty is spiritually impure, just as you can’t say that the fact that a woman is physically beautiful means that she is spiritually pure. Every person has spiritual purity by virtue of their soul which is essentially pure, and it is up to each of us to recognize that purity within ourselves and allow it to shine through to the physical level. We each have free will to choose whether to be superficial and surface oriented, or to look a little deeper, and not judge based merely on externals. A physically beautiful person can choose to be unrefined, and a not so pretty person can choose to be very refined within.

For reasons often unknown to us, sometimes in this imperfect and distorted world it is possible that there be an inconsistency between inner and outer beauty. G-d in His mysterious ways can allow a situation where the outer does not reflect the inner beauty, and the challenge that behooves us is to look beyond the surface to what lies inside, not being influenced only by the external.  A handicapped or otherwise challenged person has inner strengths and beauty that we must recognize and bring to the surface.

Indeed, this is the purpose of creation: to recognize and reveal G-dliness and holiness even in an imperfect world. G-d deliberately took our souls from a pure spiritual environment where there was no inconsistency, no dichotomy between the inner and the outer, and where inner and outer beauty were a seamless continuum, and placed us into a world where there is this dichotomy. He did this in order for us to bridge the gap. We must not allow ourselves to be deceived by the allure of the external, but discover the beauty within and then allow it to shine outward until we create a world where the outer reflects the inner.

This is why we are challenged with a world that can distract us, and we are commanded (as we say in the Shema): “do not stray after your hearts and your eyes” [Num. 15:39].

I hope this dialogue has brought you some degree of clarity.

Sincerely,

Simon Jacobson

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