Beit Midrash

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To dedicate this lesson
condensed from Ein Ayah, Berachot 9:269

The Place for Internal and External Beauty


Various Rabbis

Nisan 5773
Gemara:One does not need [the previous derivation]. It says, "… for one may not come to the courtyard of the king in clothes of sackcloth" (Esther 4:2). If it is prohibited to appear before a human king in sackcloth, which is not disgraceful, certainly it is forbidden to spit, which is disgraceful, before the King of the kings.

Ein Ayah:There is intellectual beauty and beauty that is beheld by the senses. Intellectual beauty, such as kindness and straightness, good deeds and fine attributes, must be the dominant concern. However, even the less critical physical beauty is to be used, as we derive from "This is my Lord and I will adorn Him" (Shemot 15:2) that one is supposed to spend up to an extra third in price in order to fulfill a mitzva in a way that is pleasing to the eye (Bava Kama 9b). Indeed, the pasuk says: "Glory and beauty is before Him, strength and grandeur are in His sanctuary" (Tehillim 96:6).
In the negative direction as well, the main things from which a person should distance himself are internally, intellectually unseemly things. However, there is also a value in distancing oneself from externally unseemly things alongside the internally unseemly. Therefore, we can derive the prohibition of spitting in Har Habayit in a way that it relates to keeping away from internally unseemly things. However, the gemara continues, there is also a value from the external perspective. It teaches us that in general, external beauty has a place in our value system if we give it an appropriate place. "Charm is a lie and beauty is vanity" (Mishlei 31:30) is said only when one takes matters out of proportion and out of the context of true intellectuality and justice and concentrates only on the external side, as superficial people do. However, when done with the right balance, there is a great value to beauty, as the pasuk says: "And they will find charm and goodly wisdom in the eyes of Hashem and man" (Mishlei 3:4).

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