The Rada"K on Feminine Beauty

Rabbi David Kimchi, known as RaDaK for short, was a medieval biblical commentator. Most people are unfamiliar with his Torah commentary, because it is not included the classic Mikraot Gedolot volume of commentaries. Mikraot Gedolot on Navi (Prophets) does include his commentary, for which he is better known.

My son’s edition of “Torat Hayim,” first published by the Mosad Harav Kook in 1986, does include the RaDaK on the Torah. The Torat Hayim is so much easier to use than the Mikraot Gedolot. The commentaries have been edited and appear in large, clear print, not the annoying “Rashi” script. Rashi script, never used by the classic French medieval commentator Rashi, should be outlawed.

Today at our women’s shiur I quoted the RaDaK on the passage, ???? ???? ??? ???? ???? ???? “veRachel hayta yefat to’ar vifat mareh.” (Genesis 29:18). RaDaK writes that this means she did not have any blemish or disfigurement. He follows other commentators in saying that to’ar refers to the shape of her face, her features, and her posture, but adds that mareh refers to her flesh which was red and white, while her hair was black [like Snow White?]. I wonder whether this was the ideal of beauty in medieval Spain. I once read about a study that showed that across cultures, women with symmetrical features are considered beautiful.

The RaDaK goes on to ask why tzaddikim (righteous men), who are not guided by lust, should choose to marry beautiful women. He gives three reasons:

  • A beautiful woman arouses desire, resulting in more children.
  • Their sons and daughters will be beautiful.
  • Beauty makes people happy. God “ordered” beautiful wives for the patriarchs and other tzaddikim so they should be happy with their lot.
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Comments

  1. mominisrael says:

    My bad. I thought the word could be used both ways. I changed it.

  2. [Poster points out a dumb mistake by me, too embarrassing to leave up even in the comments. glad to know someone is reading.]

    Edited By Siteowner

    Edited By Siteowner

  3. sounds like good reasons to me

  4. Not really on topic, but your post reminded me and encouraged me to use my daughter’s Torah Haim to study Parshat Shavua. When I pay attention to the Torah reading in shul, I often find interesting questions or insights. But I only have a Humash at shul, not commentary, and I don’t always remember to look everything up at home. And I don’t have patience for a Parshat Shavua Shiur. So my husband suggested just learning what interests me on my own, and I decided to start with Parshat Shavua. Your post helped me give myself permission not to struggle through the Rashi script. Thanks!

  5. mominisrael says:

    SP–You’re welcome!

  6. Lion of Zion says:

    “I once read about a study that showed that across cultures, women with symmetrical features are considered beautiful.”
    this is what i learned in a psych class
    “Rashi script, never used by the classic French medieval commentator Rashi, should be outlawed.”
    some people think that printing rashi in anything but “rashi” script should be outlawed (but i’m with you)
    “My son’s edition of “Torat Hayim,” first published by the Mosad Harav Kook in 1986, does include the RaDaK on the Torah.”
    i bought my torah hayyim set in yeshivah in israel. devarim had just come out. it is nice that it includes radak and others not standard in mikreot gedolot, but it left out some generally included.

  7. There is some mention somewhere that says a talmid chacham should get someone to verify the looks of the woman he marries. The assumption may be that he won’t or can’t do it himself.
    The beauty of Sarah actually caused substantial worry and possible danger for Avraham. Interestingly, Yitzchak adopted the same tactic as his father with Rivka but was spared the experience of having his wife taken. Some commentators observe that Elimelech had learned from his experience and was not about to do anything hasty the next time someone with a a good-looking “sister” came to town, especially from the family of Avraham.

  8. Interestingly, Yitzchak adopted the same tactic as his father with Rivka but was spared the experience of having his wife taken.
    Just goes to show you what happens when you leave Israel to Egypt.

  9. Thank you for that post, and for giving me a little burst of Torah learning! It’s been a while!

  10. mominisrael says:

    Ariella, a talmid chacham shouldn’t be judging a beauty pageant like Ahashverosh.
    Jameel, you never miss a chance to give some mussar.
    RM, there are better blogs than mine for Torah!

  11. Agreed about Rashi script. Plus, my eyes are getting weaker. I vote for large letters for everything.

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