Summer is a real struggle for me. I hate the heat, and I can’t stand putting on all of my layers when I just want to be in a short sleeve shirt and shorts. This morning, when I was getting dressed and searching for a clean shell, my cleaning lady asked me why I wear more than one shirt at once! Well, the truth is that I don’t really have an answer for her, as I don’t really want to be sweating triple!
Even when I find the rare high neck, 3/4 sleeve shirts, I am still too hot. Plus, everyone hates being around me because I get very irritable when I am overheated.
-Modest and Melting
Dear Modest and Melting,
Yep, you sure sound heated about this issue.
Ok, first of all, I think it is time to do your halachic research to find out if everything that you are covering is actually halachically mandated, or if it is a minhag or a chumra. I remember a college friend of mine who was a ba’alat t’shuva of 4 years said to me, “I had no idea that I was allowed to wear skirts above my ankle! But I see that you do and you all the time. Is it really ok?” Plus, she was pretty tall, so she must have been having a heck of a time shopping before maxis were in!
That is an extreme example, but it is possible that you are going the extra mile and that extra mile may make you burn out entirely. We don’t want that.
Next step is practical tips to stay cool: When you are outside, make sure that you are pretty much glued to a drink with ice in it. That will cool you from the inside out and can make a world of a difference. When you are inside, pump the a/c or change into your shorts and t-shirt. While there are inyanim to stay modest in the home, it’s also important not to have an extremely cranky woman of the house! Just make sure you don’t have guests around. (Also, if you have older sons make sure to calculate them into the equation of what your lounge-ware will be.)
Additionally, it is very important to go back to basics. What is it about Judaism that makes you a Torah Jew? Hopefully, at some point in your life you made some sort of decisions to go on this path or to stay on this path. Well, layering on while the rest of the world is peeling away is part of this package. Finding where your commitment came from may cool you down and soothe the irritation.
This is a sacrifice that you are making for the sake of Yiddishkeit. Your body is telling you one thing, you are not listening (well, hopefully you are partly listening by staying hydrated!), and instead, you are clothing yourself in a way that is strictly l’sheim shamayim. That is a really big deal. In this day and age, living in a religiously free country, living in the most techno-convenient lifestyle known to man, there are so few mitzvos that we actually have to work through.
Let this be your glowing (and sweaty) white mitzvah that you earn this time every year. This is what makes you a proud Jew.
And if, you end up like some, and decide that it is just too much and start showing more skin, just remember that one mitzvah that you struggled with and lost doesn’t mean that now you need to lose all the others too. Let’s compare it to our bodies. Everyone has a weaker side and a stronger side. Having the weaker side doesn’t mean that the stronger side doesn’t exist. On the contrary, the stronger side is that much more responsible for holding you up! So if you find that you are just too weak in the summer, make sure to identify your stronger mitzvos. Bolster those up because that is what will hold you up.
And remember—everyone has weak mitzvos that they fail, but most people don’t wear it on their sleeve, or lack thereof if they can help it. The key is to stay connected to Hashem through the mitzvos that we are strong in, and to express to Him our desire to become stronger in the mitzvos that we are weaker in.
This isn’t permission to let go of halacha, it is merely a knowing stance that you are human among other humans, and we are all striving. This is part of the struggle.
Ultimately, if you deem your tznius muscle too weak, don’t just discard it. On a day when you feel like you can cover up more, cover up more. You are not labelled or in a box, so grab the mitzvah when you can.
And avoid poly-synthetics at all costs!