Is there an actual mitzvah for women to dress tzanua in and of itself? Or is it simply helping out a man's mitzvah of not looking at ervah when learning/saying brachas, and not being led to forbidden thoughts?


2 Answers 2


Yes. The Baal HaTanya wrote in his Shulchan Aruch (2:1) (quoting the Tur) that "one shouldn't act in an immodest manner even not in front of other people ... even if one is is alone in a room at night one must be modest in front of Hashem ... therefore one shouldn't reveal his flesh, even a little".

The Mahadura kamma added that modesty adds to one's feeling of subjugation to Hashem.

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    The Mitzva is to be as covered when sleeping alone as if one were outside with a bunch of men?? It sounds more like this is a different kind of tzniyut than what the OP referred to.
    – Double AA
    Commented Feb 2, 2014 at 19:03
  • The tanya is most likely referring to men. But there are halachos about women taking chalah naked and even making a berocho. Kimchis also comes to mind, so it seems other women were not so strict. The whole modern idea of what is called tsnius for women is really totally wrong. The idea of tsnius is that she should not call attention to herself. She can be 'fully' dressed and still be doing that. It has nothing to do with the way she is dressed.
    – k'byochel
    Commented Feb 2, 2014 at 20:12
  • @k'byochel Do you have a source for "The whole modern idea of what is called tsnius for women is really totally wrong. The idea of tsnius is that she should not call attention to herself."? Ruth was so different in here extreme tsnius that it caught Boaz's attention to the point that he wanted to marry her!
    – Adám
    Commented Feb 3, 2014 at 15:30

I don't think Daagah is worrying about whether there is a HALACHA of tzniut - there are many - but if there is a MITZVAH of tzniut, a Biblical injunctive. Tzniut vis a vis G-d seems to emanate from Deut. 23:10-15, to not re-join your army troop after a nocturnal emission until after mikvah, and to take a shovel into battle to cover feces. The verse recommends modesty, cleanliness & chastity so that "your camp shall be holy" so that "He not see an unseemly thing ("ervah") in you, and turn away from you." We derive laws like defecating modestly from here. Tzniut vis a vis men (or for men, women) seems to be derived from Leviticus 18:6, "None of you should APPROACH to any that is near of kin to him to uncover their nakedness; I am the Lord!" Since the word for approach, TIKRAVU, has a connotation of coming close in some way, the Rabbis understood that to mean anything that increases the likelihood of inappropriate sexual conduct, e.g., suggestive or unduly attractive clothing, suggestive remarks, spending time together in private, etc. (With men tending to become stimulated visually, modesty for women has often revolved around clothes & make-up.) Early non-Biblical sources, but before the Talmud's "Hair in a woman is ervah" & "The thigh (shok, translated by many as the calf) in a woman is ervah", is the Midrash Rabbah Beraishit that while G-d formed Eve, He repeated, "Tznuah te'hei! Tzenuah te'hei!" (Be modest! Be modest!), yet Woman is still challenged in issues of modesty. Also, the Mishnah in Bava Kamah (Ch. 8) where Rabbi Akiva levies a heavy fine on a man who pulled off a woman's head covering for "boshet", personal embarrassment. Though the man proves that she wasn't so careful about uncovering her own hair, Rabbi Akiva doesn't lower the fine. (Sorry if incomplete, I'm working without books here...)

  • Mitzva means "Biblical injunctive"? What about the blessing "al mitzvat eiruv"?
    – Double AA
    Commented Feb 3, 2014 at 15:50
  • Double AA, I'm not sure if Resh Lakish would've included that in his battery of questions. Yes, a Mitzva D'Rabbanan is a mitzvah too. From Daagah's phraseology that included "not being led to forbidden thoughts" as an example of it not being a mitzvah, I intuited - perhaps incorrectly - that he was looking for Mitzvot D'Orayta, and perhaps ancient sources as well. Commented Feb 3, 2014 at 18:12
  • Raving Rabbi, thank you for your answer, it is very interesting indeed. You articulated what I was asking better than I did. Commented Feb 3, 2014 at 19:47
  • @RavingRabbi He wouldn't have needed to because R Yochanan I'm sure was very precise in his language. Yeridas hadoros...
    – Double AA
    Commented Mar 27, 2014 at 6:07

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