Photo Credit: Jewish Press

The great importance of tznius is illustrated in a unique story of the Rebbe Maharash, the fourth Lubavitcher Rebbe, whose slogan was “lechatchila ariber” – that one should always “go over” an obstacle as an initial option rather than first trying to “go under.”

As we know, tznius is a sensitive topic, and it has to be approached in a very sensitive manner. We see from this story how the Rebbe Maharash approached this topic.


In the year 1854, the Russian government enacted a decree called “the decree of the knupin.” In Yiddish, knupin means “knots.” The women at that time covered their hair with a shawl that ended with a knot on top of the head. These shawls covered the hair nicely and stylishly. Nikolai the First, however, made a decree that the women are not allowed to wear those head covers. As mentioned, the year of that decree was 1854.

The Rebbe Maharash continued the story: In 1874, twenty years later, there was a new decree, called “Nova Palazhenye,” meaning “New Condition.” Until then, the army draft was restricted to a certain quota from each town. In the “New Condition,” however, they took everyone into the army.

The Rebbe Maharash said that among those who stood up to the first decree – those women who despite the decree still covered their hair – none of their children, who were now twenty years old, was drafted into the army. However, the women who did not withstand the first decree had many problems under the second decree. The Rebbe Maharash said, “They are coming to me, so I know what type of problems they have.”

We see here a lechatchila ariber approach to tznius and modesty. Tznius is relevant for the children who will be born. If a woman conducts herself in a tznius way, then, with G-d’s help, her children will be safe. If not, G-d forbid, she is endangering the spiritual welfare of her children.

It is self-understood that no Jewish daughter, however frivolous, however rebellious, would want to endanger her children. Therefore, the Rebbe Maharash’s approach is that tznius is important not only to the individual and not only to the general community, but to the person’s own children.

We should merit to have a lot of Yiddishe nachas from our children, with arichus yomim v’shonim tovos!


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Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman is director of the Lubavitch Youth Organization. He can be reached at [email protected].