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By the CyberRav—Rabbi Rafi Rank

Rabbi Rafi RankDear Cyber Rav,

You undoubtedly have never received a question like this before, but I’m interested in your opinion.  I am a woman, early 30’s, in sales.  Without bragging, I’m reasonably attractive and enjoy fashionable clothing.  Religious?  Not really, and yet I am drawn to Jewish tradition and values.  Here’s my query.  Am I violating some sacrosanct Jewish tradition by deliberately wearing a short skirt or a lower cut blouse when dealing with male clients?  You see, I think that when I play up my sexual self, particularly with men, I can close a deal faster, then when I dress more conservatively.  But my girl friend, Orthodox through and through, talks to  me about “tzinius” [modesty] all the time, and chides me (gently, really as she is my very good friend), about sinning.  I’d hate to think that I’m going to burn in hell because of the length of my skirt (ha-ha), but seriously, are my skimpy clothes a sin?

Dressed to Sell


Dear Dressed to Sell,

What an interesting question!  First of all, you’re right--no one has ever asked me this before.  But it’s a legitimate question and your asking it tells me volumes (all positive) about who you are as a Jew.

I think great sales people sell themselves as much as the product.  The most successful sales people, as I’m sure you know, are those who can establish trusting relationships with their clients.  The successful sales people are real people people.  They smile, they emote, they shmooze, they exude confidence, they compliment, they listen, they sympathize, they joke and in the end, they sell.  There’s nothing wrong with any of this.  Dealing with talented sales people ought to make business a pleasure, even in down economies such as the one we are living through right now.

It’s clear to me that you intuitively understand all this, as you have used your own fashion preferences to advance sales.  But your friend who talks about (I’ll use the proper Hebrew pronunciation) tzeniut or modesty is correct.  Tzeniut is an important Jewish value, for both men and women, and we strengthen our own identity as Jews when we dress modestly.  But what does it mean to dress modestly?

Let’s begin by stating what it isn’t.  It isn’t dressing like a 19th century Polish Jew, and isn’t looking dowdy or decrepit, and it isn’t dressing with hemlines dragging on the floor or necklines up to the chin.  Above all, it isn’t an attempt to mute your personality as a woman.  It’s true that tzeniut generally would have us cover more than we reveal from a fashion perspective, but it doesn’t mean eradicating the sexual dimension in a male/female transaction—that would, in any event, be impossible.

Tzeniut is a statement about cherishing our bodies, not erasing them from view.  Like sacred places that are hidden from public display, covering our bodies underscore how important they are to us and to God.  Observing tzeniut need not make you look unattractive at all.  That is not its purpose.  Ultimately, what will really draw men, and women, to you, is a personality that is outgoing, fresh, compassionate, and non-threatening.  I don’t think that is a function of your clothing.  And though you claim that the clothing is what assists you in sales, how do you assign your success to the clothing when all these other factors are in effect during the time of the sale?  Having had the kishkes (guts, hutzpah, etc.) to ask this question in the first place, I can tell you must be a lot of fun to be around.  I bet that is the reason for your success, more so than you sexy clothing.

We can be proud of the physical attributes God has given to us—no question about that.  But I suspect that you clinch the sales by dint of personality, not by dearth of clothing.  Tzeniut need not get in the way of your success.  To the contrary, a client who sees you as a thoughtful person with serious convictions will most likely take your sales pitch seriously.

Much success to you and if this letter inspires you to purchase a whole new wardrobe, enjoy the shopping spree.

The Cyber Rav

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