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Op-Ed: Is Tznius One’s Private Business?

As we continue through the summer months, when dressing modestly becomes a greater challenge, we present an op-ed by renowned author and educator Rabbi Moshe Wiener, who relates the Rebbe’s message as to whether dressing immodestly is a private matter, or something that negatively affects others.

by Rabbi Moshe Wiener

Some argue that whether or not one dresses in accordance with the laws of tznius is their private business.

Some argue that focusing on modesty of dress is a distraction from the more primary concern of whether one has proper midos and is a good and kind person.

At the farbrengen of 12 Tamuz 5730, the Rebbe refuted these positions and demonstrated that dressing immodestly causes harm and damage to others and is an act of cruelty.

Due to the importance of this message, the Rebbe meticulously edited this sicha.

Following is an English translation of the Rebbe’s sicha:

Immodesty: Provoking the Dark Side of Others

Those who don’t behave modestly do not only defy the path of Torah. Their behavior contravenes basic decency, basic morality, and simple common sense.

When one behaves immodestly by exposing a part of the body that ought to be covered, one’s intent is to provoke the evil inclination—the negative side of the other person.

This does not help the other person to become a better person. It will not stimulate his mind and make him smarter. Nor will it improve his character traits by positively affecting the respect he accords to his parents, brothers, or sisters, or even to his own wife. Nor will it influence him to donate more charity.

What is the impact of dressing in violation of the requirements of modesty? If until now, the other person’s negative side was hidden, or not excited and aroused—one provokes that person and inflames that side.

[And then one shares in the [responsibility] for the wickedness of the other person.  One doesn’t benefit in any way, because it’s the other person’s wickedness—the other person fulfills his desire, whether through gazing, or in another form. Yet it is worthwhile to do everything, as long as one provokes another person—and not his positive side, but his negative side.]

One becomes a source of harm, may G–d save us, and not only to one’s own Divine Soul, but also to another person, and still another—in fact, to everyone one meets. What an utterly degenerate path—may Hashem protect us.

Sicha of 12 Tamuz, 5730


  • 1. Yes wrote:

    it is so so sad that the kids are just so silly and selfish that they do not care. they just do whatever they feel like bec only they are important and they only see themselves.
    it is impossible to comprehend how a person could be so into themselves

  • 2. Questions wrote:

    1) how do we know that the intention of a woman wearing, for example, a shirt with sleeves above the elbow in July is to arouse a mans yetzer hara? Perhaps her intention is simply is to feel less hot.
    2) why is the woman responsible for the thoughts and actions of that man who is aroused by the sight of a woman’s forearm/elbow? Perhaps it is the responsibility of that man to either not look at the woman or to not be bothered by such things.

  • 3. Oy wrote:

    The people who need to read this aren’t even looking on these sites…….. they have magazines……..
    Whats gonna be?? Atleast Rabbi Osdabe sent out his
    Pamphlet to anash worldwide!! A step in the right direction!! Thank you Rabbi Osdabe

  • 4. #2 wrote:

    never heard that ones forearm needs to be covered, you are just trying to diminish bc this makes you uncomfortable. You know very well that we are talking more than elbows…it starts with not covering the elbow and then downhill from there. The Chachomim were much smarter than little girls in Crown Heights, that’s why they made guidelines.

  • 5. Another take on this wrote:

    Thank you, Rabbi Wiener, for this sicha which I have been looking for.
    It seems to me that many young people today want to deny that their behavior has an effect on others because they don’t want the responsibility. But denying the reality doesn’t make it go away. A 90-year-old cousin of mine, born in Europe, who escaped Hitler YMS, has two children who married out, and none of her grandchildren identify as Jews R”L. She longs for a Jewish great-grandchild. Her comment to me once was that she respects those of the younger generation who live a full halachic Jewish life because they are taking responsibility for the community and for the future. (She didn’t mention her kids but surely she meant in contrast to them.)
    In my opinion, tznius is one of the most excruciatingly difficult mitzvos. But when we take the challenge upon ourselves and do our very best, the positive results are huge.
    In the words of Rabbi Manis Friedman, “Hashem doesn’t tell us our purpose in the world because if He did, it would go to our heads.”

  • 6. x33 wrote:

    if one considers themselves part of Am Yisroel, and part of the Rebbe’s shechuna, then they should know that they have the responsibility to dress in a somewhat toned down manner.
    as when non frum people are invited to our Chasenas, it says : women, please dress according to Jewish law.
    However, whether they choose to do this is another issue. Sometimes they are using tzanua as a tool for their anger and frustration for something.
    its not very useful to do that, it accomplishes little, other than to let their parents and family know that they’re angry.

  • 7. Andrea Schonberger wrote:

    You can only be provoked if you want to be. I’m responsible only for my own actions and not that of others. I’m a mature adult and as such I know that there are boundaries and limitations that can’t be crossed–for example I’m married so dating other men is past history and it’s a poor excuse if I give in to temptation by saying “well I have friends who go on dates so why shouldn’t I date too”. Take responsibility for yourself and don’t blame others for your own weaknesses.


      “You can only be provoked if you want to be.’


  • 9. #7 wrote:

    Im sorry, but if you would know Jewish law you would know that a woman is not allowed to dress in a way that would cause a man to look at her. G-d created men this way naturally, and yes it is hard to accept, but it is the womans
    job to dress in a way that is not provocative. Its the mans job to control his eyes, but the woman who makes his job harder sins and causes him to sin also

    • 10. Andrea Schonberger wrote:

      I’m a Jew so yes I do know Jewish law but I can’t control how other people dress or act so it’s up to me to be responsible for my actions. As for men having drives, women have natural drives too and don’t tell me they don’t–that’s where understanding boundaries and limitations is so important in real life situations. Don’t blame other people for your own personal failings.

  • 12. Anonymous wrote:

    Chukas hagoyim

    Trends are the big thing. What’s so great about copycat dressing? Where is the individuality? It’s just a yetzer Hara.looking good and dressing fashionable is perfectly acceptable and there are so many ways to do that within halacha.
    It comes down to self respect and not seeing oneself as a showpiece.
    Any woman can look good. Erva is not what makes it happen.

  • 13. Intent wrote:

    Of issue is not the intent of the person who does not dress modestly, but the outcome, namely that immodest dress hurts other people. Hence, the act of dressing immodestly is an act of cruelty, regardless of the intent. We do not defend and justify acts which cause others bodily damage by saying that the harm cause was not the perpetrator’s intent, how much more so regarding acts which cause damage to the ruchnius and Neshama of others. It’s the harmful outcome that is of issue.

  • 14. Bas Melech wrote:

    Do we justify or defend people who smoke and damage the health of others through second-hand smoke by saying that their intention in smoking is for their enjoyment and not to harm others? What matters is that they are hurting others with their second hand smoke. People who dress immodestly are harming others spiritually which is worse than harming their physical health.

  • 15. a fire is raging wrote:

    what is the solution? It is so shallow how come these young ladies just dont get it? How come they have no self respect?

  • 16. Dont get married wrote:

    Don’t get married if you ain’t tzinus
    You will be an Aisha’s ish and you will be sharing your body with all the men on the street almost like a sotah

  • 17. The other of this article is the problem. wrote:

    The other of this op-ed should be ashamed of him self! It is not tznius for a man to be thinking, articulating and writing about tznius. That in and of it self is not tznius.

    I find “Their behavior contravenes basic decency, basic morality, and simple common sense” for insecure adult men to be living breathing anti tznius machines. Its in fact not tznius and indecent to have such thoughts all the time!

    Please refine your thoughts. They say studing torah helps!

    • 18. Berel wrote:

      Behold the glorious internet where everyone gets a say. Those who neither study nor consider publish their nebulous opinions for all to hear.

      You no talk about tznius cause tznius k!!!

  • 20. A concerned citizen wrote:

    Ok all guys in this community married or not stare at the undressed women in the street stop hiding youre taivois behind chassishkite and holyniss.

    • 21. Berel wrote:

      You are a liar. You will not catch a Chabad man staring at woman in public and this is true for even the modern looking men. The black hatters barely look up from the street. Shame on you concern troll.

  • 22. #10 wrote:

    yes because chinuch begins at 3!!!! We train our children from a young age so that its ingrained in them when they are older

    • 23. Ok wrote:

      isn’t that sad. Little girls causing adults to sin. It’s amusing, no?

  • 24. Who is at fault? wrote:

    The Rebbe Rashab explains in Kuntris HaAvoda (chapter 2) that if a male sees a non-tznius dressed female and does not feel something, that is a sign that the sight is affecting the male so deeply that the damage is not felt consciously. It is impossible that the sight of a non-tznius dressed female does not cause damage to the ruchnius of anyone who sees her. Regardless of the woman’s intent (even if she is dressing that way for her convenience and without provocative intention) the result and outcome is that she is causing harm and damage to those who cannot avoid but seeing her if she is in public. Hence, the act of not dressing modestly is an act of cruelty, since it hurts others severely (regardless of whether or not that was her intention).


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