Beit Midrash

  • Series
  • Ein Ayah
To dedicate this lesson

The Respectable Connected to the Unsightly

Why [in the description of the spoils of the war against Midian] does it mention the jewelry that is worn on the external parts of the body along with the jewelry that is worn on the body’s covered parts? It is to teach you that whoever stares at a woman’s small finger is as if he stares at her most private parts.

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Various Rabbis

Av 27 5778
Gemara: Why [in the description of the spoils of the war against Midian] does it mention the jewelry that is worn on the external parts of the body along with the jewelry that is worn on the body’s covered parts? It is to teach you that whoever stares at a woman’s small finger is as if he stares at her most private parts.



Ein Ayah: Evil and unsightly things, from an ethical perspective, can come among living people only when they are enveloped by external beauty. Beauty is innately respectable, and it makes a positive impact internally on the spirit, which "expands" in the face of the feeling of clear, clean delicateness that it contains. However, if the beauty envelopes something that is ethically disgusting, in relation to the person looking at it, then the beauty itself is destructive.

It is not just that the beauty is liable to serve as a trap for the beholder (i.e., cause him to sin), to capture the one who is beguiled by it within the internal unsightly matter. Rather, the impression that this beauty that envelopes something disgusting is itself bad, as it is in any case of prohibited gazing. As such, it weakens the healthy foundation of the stable morality of the purity of the spirit. This is because the beauty draws one internally to it as something that is specially connected to the morally disgusting matter. The spiritual weakness that it creates puts a person at ease with the feeling related to horrible sins because the attractive nature of the beauty covers the unsightliness. Even if the beholder’s spirit has not deteriorated to the point that it is drawn into the trap of disgustingness and sin [to act upon it], still the filth that weakens a life of purity certainly makes a mark with the help of the feeling of the external beauty. For this reason, the jewelry of the outside is connected to the jewelry on the inside.
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