“Every year before the summer, generally at the Yud Bais Tammuz Farbrengen, the Rebbe would speak about Tznius,” says Rabbi Michoel Seligson.
A little background: In late 1969 much focus was placed on a new mode of dress.
On Simchas Torah the Rebbe had already addressed the issue of tznius at length. When the N’shei Chabad mid-winter convention took place in Adar, the Rebbe set tznius as the prime theme of the convention. In Iyar, when the Rebbe spoke to the assembled N’shei Chabad, tznius was the topic.
The following is a letter from the 7th of Adar I 5730/1970 – Rebbe’s Igros volume 26, page 324 (free translation from Yiddish):
“I have noted on various occasions regarding the necessity of strengthening tznius. However, taking into consideration the present situation on this topic, I find it necessary to come out with a highly urgent appeal.
From the Torah’s perspective, it is unnecessary to elaborate on the importance of tznius. It is sufficient to note that our sacred Torah, which is referred to as The Torah of Life, because it is the guide to all the areas in one’s life, and assures an appropriate and a true joy in life, places a great stress on Tznius.
In many ways, there is a greater emphasis [on tznius] than on other aspects of daily conduct. so that tznius is one of the primary foundations of Jewish life, as stated in the verse, ‘Be modest with your G-D’.
Already from the reward assured in the Torah, in the Talmud, and the Zohar, and from the words of our sages obm, relaying how Jewish women over the course of different generations merited through tznius to exceptional G-D’ly blessings, not only for themselves but also for their husbands children, and grandchildren; makes it easier to understand the importance and meaning of tznius.
On the other hand, the strictness and admonitions about the sad consequences, G-d forbid, as a result of the lack of tznius (as clearly described in Isiah chapter 3 etc.), does not leave a shadow of a doubt about the severity of this matter.
There are those people, who as a result of their lack of Torah knowledge in general, and on the topic of tznius in particular, assume that the laws, regulations and customs relating to tznius, diminish the Jewish woman from her social privileges [is considered different from others –editor’s note] or affect her dignity, and the like.
This is a false assessment. The truth is exactly the opposite. Our sacred Torah and our sages obm have stressed the dignity and beauty of the Jewish daughter and woman numerous times. Many regulations were instituted exclusively to protect and preserve their honor and importance. Related to this, the well-known verse ‘The glory of a princess comes from within’ (Tehillim 45:14) is often quoted. The Torah describes the Jewish woman as ‘glory’ and ‘princess’, but requires this should express itself in a manner of ‘inwardness’, or tznius.
But even from a logical perspective, we see, especially in these last years, what the collapse of tznius has led to. The shameless styles in women’s clothing, aimed to provoke the low class traits of the animal soul, express the downfall of the modern world, as far as the basic foundations of morality are concerned.
The hefkerus and pritzus, rachmona litzlan, of a large part of today’s youth has brought about shocking tragedies in many homes. It is a fact that if these young people would have been raised on the foundations of tznius in accordance with our holy Torah, many tragedies could have been avoided and many young lives would not have been disturbed.
In the light of the above, I am of the opinion that the topic of tznius needs to be placed as one of the main points on the daily agenda in responsible Jewish circles.
Especially as N’shei Ubnos Chabad is the central body of all the branches worldwide, it is your urgent task at this moment to initiate an intensive action to rouse the Jewish public, and in particular, Jewish women’s organizations – whatever their purpose should not be – that the concept of tznius should be integrated into their practical activities.
We need to alert Jewish mothers to the danger of neglecting tznius in raising their daughters.
Faculties of girl’s schools everywhere, should be made aware to be stringent on the topic of tznius, and explain to the students that tznius is the most beautiful midah, the crown of the Jewish daughter and woman.
We need to exert ourselves to show all who understand and observe tznius, that they have a responsibility to their sisters and they need to influence them by word and deed, being role models, to strengthen the tznius in their home and circle.
It is high time that Jewish women and daughters should acknowledge their Jewish pride and be independent of the false, misleading and generally ‘empty’ styles of the surrounding environment; styles that have no value, aside from the greediness of those who have a financial interest in this.
And in the merit of strengthening and spreading tznius in all aspects of daily life, the Almighty should grant the fulfillment of all the blessings that the Torah grants us, for observing tznius, and in the greatest measure, especially in true Jewish nachas from children and grandchildren, with health and parnossa in abundance, with much joy together with one’s husband, for long and good years.”
/The Rebbe’s Signature/