Some people are born with deformities, or become such as a result of an accident or a treatment.

Why they were made ugly?
What is the point of having ugly people, as they feel bad and others feel bad for them?


See the Gemara in Taanis 7a-b

כדאמרה ליה ברתיה דקיסר לר' יהושע בן חנניה אי חכמה מפוארה בכלי מכוער אמר לה אביך רמי חמרא במני דפחרא אמרה ליה אלא במאי נירמי אמר לה אתון דחשביתו רמו במאני דהבא וכספא

The Gemara cites a related incident: This is as the daughter of the Roman emperor said to Rabbi Yehoshua ben Ḥananya, who was an ugly man: Woe to glorious wisdom such as yours, which is contained in an ugly vessel. Rabbi Yehoshua ben Ḥananya said to her, in a seemingly unrelated response: Does your father keep his wine in simple clay vessels? The emperor’s daughter said to him: Rather, in what, then, should he keep it? Rabbi Yehoshua ben Ḥananya said to her: You, who are so important, should put it in vessels of gold and silver.

אזלה ואמרה ליה לאבוה רמייא לחמרא במני דהבא וכספא ותקיף אתו ואמרו ליה אמר לה לברתיה מאן אמר לך הכי אמרה ליה רבי יהושע בן חנניה קריוהו אמר ליה אמאי אמרת לה הכי אמר ליה כי היכי דאמרה לי אמרי לה והא איכא שפירי דגמירי

The emperor’s daughter went and said this to her father. He put the wine in vessels of gold and silver and it turned sour. When his advisors came and told the emperor that the wine had turned sour, he said to his daughter: Who told you to do this? His daughter responded: Rabbi Yehoshua ben Ḥananya. The emperor summoned him and said to him: Why did you say this to her? Rabbi Yehoshua ben Ḥananya said to him: Just as she said to me, so I said say to her, to demonstrate to her that fine material is best preserved in the least of vessels. The emperor said to him: But there are handsome people who are learned.

אי הוו סנו טפי הוו גמירי דבר אחר מה שלשה משקין הללו אין נפסלין אלא בהיסח הדעת אף דברי תורה אין משתכחין אלא בהיסח הדעת

Rabbi Yehoshua replied: Had they been ugly, they would have been even more learned. Alternatively, the Torah is likened to water, wine, and milk because just as these three liquids are spoiled only by diversion of attention, so too, are Torah matters forgotten only through diversion of attention. If water, wine and milk are guarded, they will not spoil or have dirty objects fall into them.

Rashi says there that ugly Talmidei Chachamim are wiser because they are humble and it is (almost) impossible for a good looking person to avoid haughtiness so he will come to forget from his learning:

כי היכי דאמרה לי - אי חכמה מפוארה בכלי מכוער הכי אמרי לה דיין משתמר בכלי מכוער אף התורה מתקיימת בי יותר משאילו הייתי נאה:

אי הוו סנו - אותם נאים שהם חכמים:

טפי הוו גמירי - שאי אפשר לנאה להשפיל דעתו ובא לידי שכחה:

Also see the Gemara in Taanis 20a-b

תנו רבנן לעולם יהא אדם רך כקנה ואל יהא קשה כארז מעשה שבא רבי אלעזר (בן ר') שמעון ממגדל גדור מבית רבו והיה רכוב על החמור ומטייל על שפת נהר ושמח שמחה גדולה והיתה דעתו גסה עליו מפני שלמד תורה הרבה

The Sages further taught in praise of the reed: A person should always be soft like a reed, and he should not be stiff like a cedar. An incident occurred in which Rabbi Elazar, son of Rabbi Shimon, came from Migdal Gedor, from his rabbi’s house, and he was riding on a donkey and strolling on the bank of the river. And he was very happy, and his head was swollen with pride because he had studied much Torah.

נזדמן לו אדם אחד שהיה מכוער ביותר אמר לו שלום עליך רבי ולא החזיר לו אמר לו ריקה כמה מכוער אותו האיש שמא כל בני עירך מכוערין כמותך אמר לו איני יודע אלא לך ואמור לאומן שעשאני כמה מכוער כלי זה שעשית כיון שידע בעצמו שחטא ירד מן החמור ונשתטח לפניו ואמר לו נעניתי לך מחול לי אמר לו איני מוחל לך עד שתלך לאומן שעשאני ואמור לו כמה מכוער כלי זה שעשית

He happened upon an exceedingly ugly person, who said to him: Greetings to you, my rabbi, but Rabbi Elazar did not return his greeting. Instead, Rabbi Elazar said to him: Worthless [reika] person, how ugly is that man. Are all the people of your city as ugly as you? The man said to him: I do not know, but you should go and say to the Craftsman Who made me: How ugly is the vessel you made. When Rabbi Elazar realized that he had sinned and insulted this man merely on account of his appearance, he descended from his donkey and prostrated himself before him, and he said to the man: I have sinned against you; forgive me. The man said to him: I will not forgive you go until you go to the Craftsman Who made me and say: How ugly is the vessel you made.

היה מטייל אחריו עד שהגיע לעירו יצאו בני עירו לקראתו והיו אומרים לו שלום עליך רבי רבי מורי מורי אמר להם למי אתם קורין רבי רבי אמרו לו לזה שמטייל אחריך אמר להם אם זה רבי אל ירבו כמותו בישראל אמרו לו מפני מה אמר להם כך וכך עשה לי אמרו לו אעפ"כ מחול לו שאדם גדול בתורה הוא

He walked behind the man, trying to appease him, until they reached Rabbi Elazar’s city. The people of his city came out to greet him, saying to him: Greetings to you, my rabbi, my rabbi, my master, my master. The man said to them: Who are you calling my rabbi, my rabbi? They said to him: To this man, who is walking behind you. He said to them: If this man is a rabbi, may there not be many like him among the Jewish people. They asked him: For what reason do you say this? He said to them: He did such and such to me. They said to him: Even so, forgive him, as he is a great Torah scholar.

אמר להם בשבילכם הריני מוחל לו ובלבד שלא יהא רגיל לעשות כן מיד נכנס רבי אלעזר בן רבי שמעון ודרש לעולם יהא אדם רך כקנה ואל יהא קשה כארז ולפיכך זכה קנה ליטול הימנה קולמוס לכתוב בו ספר תורה תפילין ומזוזות:

He said to them: For your sakes I forgive him, provided that he accepts upon himself not to become accustomed to behave like this. Immediately, Rabbi Elazar, son of Rabbi Shimon, entered the study hall and taught: A person should always be soft like a reed and he should not be stiff like a cedar, as one who is proud like a cedar is likely to sin. And therefore, due to its gentle qualities, the reed merited that a quill is taken from it to write with it a Torah scroll, phylacteries, and mezuzot.

  • The Gemara on 20a-b doesn't really express Judaism's view on ugliness. It simply relates an incident involving an ugly person.
    – Alex
    Jan 15 '18 at 5:12
  • I thought it provided a great perspective on how we should relate to ugly people.
    – Eliyahu
    Jan 15 '18 at 5:14
  • It seemed to me that the question was more about Judaism's explanation as to why ugliness exists than the question of how to relate to ugly people. I think it would be someone akin to answering judaism.stackexchange.com/questions/88381/… by citing a Gemara that says to give tzedaka and treat them nicely. But I could be wrong.
    – Alex
    Jan 15 '18 at 5:36
  • I understand your perspective. My primary answer was the first part obviously. I just thought that the second Gemara was well worth including as well. By the way, Rav Shimon Schwab in Maayan Beis Hasho'eva does use that Gemara to explain how the reason people were ugly changed from before that point to after that point, however I don't know the Maareh Makom offhand (although I believe it's around Parshas Vayigash).
    – Eliyahu
    Jan 15 '18 at 5:55
  • It's okay; I myself was considering quoting that Gemara (until I decided that I think it does not directly address the question).
    – Alex
    Jan 15 '18 at 6:04

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