Beneath the Surface

Modesty is a character trait, and it’s relevant to everyone. How-ever, while most of us are aware on some level that modesty encompasses more than just picking the right clothes, the conversation usually devolves into a debate about how much skin to cover.

I understand why this happens; clothing is tangible. It’s easier to measure something external and visible. Of course, we must define concrete standards that reflect our values and foster a healthy environment, but real modesty is about cultivating the internal. When we address it only in external terms, we diminish it to a soulless list of rules. It becomes arbitrary, petty, and paradoxically superficial. Modesty can’t be summed up in a dress code. It is a value that should characterize all our behavior.

Several years ago, I came across a collection of musar lectures by Dina Schoonmaker. She spoke about modesty as if it were like any other character trait, such as generosity or patience. With that deeper perspective, I suddenly recognized that modesty runs through the very heart of Yeshua’s teaching. As disciples, we can’t allow this value to stagnate in shallow understanding and disinterested lip service or, worse, use it as a cudgel to shame each other into submission. If we dig beneath the surface, we will find that modesty holds the potential for us to develop a fresh stream of life-giving devotion to our Messiah.

First Fruits of Zion