By Yael Renov
In trying to think what it is about Peninim tzniyus sensitivity groups that inspires me, I decided to research the name “Peninim,” translated in English as “pearls.” It is no coincidence how relevant the name of this revolution is to the definition and character traits of such a gem. Peninim, pearls, are unique in many ways, and like so many things in Hashem’s world, their lessons can teach us a lot about ourselves and our mission in life.
Pearls differ greatly from other gems in that they are not mined but rather are formed over time within a shell, as multiple layers pile upon a once intrusive foreign matter inside the shell. As these masses bind together they form a cohesive, beautifully finished, expensive pearl.
This process resembles a life wherein one strives to take the foreign matter, the yetzer ha’ra, and cover him over with layers upon layers of learning, growth, and development of sensitivities for the purpose of uncovering the ultimate pearl of wisdom that we were each created to become. It is not surprising, therefore, that the pearl is one of the most valuable gems, as it is so finely perfected over time. Likewise, it is no wonder why a program, whose goal is to assist and encourage this type of fine-tuning, has become so widespread and popular throughout our community and so many others across the globe.
When a blemished pearl is worked on to remove the blemish, its value increases because of the work that has been done to perfect it. It stands to reason that this is why Hashem values the work we do on ourselves. Though it may seem counterintuitive to seek out those areas which we have yet to improve for fear of highlighting our flaws, it is precisely by identifying these aspects of ourselves that we are able to work on them in a personal and constructive manner. When we chisel out the thoughts, ideas, and perspectives which are not in harmony with Hashem’s ratzon and replace them with those of higher meaning and kedushah, we become closer to Him and even more beautiful in His eyes.
Peninim groups afford each member the appropriate time and atmosphere to think about where she is holding in the area of tzniyus and contemplate what she feels she would like to develop in herself. These meetings are opportunities to find support for the nuances a woman feels she wants to discuss, learn, understand, and improve further. They yield long-lasting effects because they encourage heightened awareness and greater sensitivity towards tzniyus yet are in no way competitive or pressuring. As with everything, we are all meant to assess only ourselves. Our speech, behavior, and dress are personal aspects of our beings and each member is encouraged to move at her own pace.
At Peninim meetings, I am moved by the sincerity and honesty with which the women of our community approach the arduous task of forming and reforming themselves. These women represent the pearl’s essence in more than just their evolving nature, but in their capacity to, like the finest of pearls, absorb and reflect the light from within.
Just as there are delineated instructions of how to handle, use, and store pearls lest their delicate nature become vulnerable to damage from outside elements, so too our minds, bodies, and neshamos require halachic guidelines regarding tzniyus to protect them from threats that abound. This is precisely what the Greeks set out to destroy. By disconnecting us from our Torah lineage, their hope was to sever our connection to Hashem. They forbade us from learning Torah for this reason. But our response then and our response now are one and the same; we will forever learn and grow and infuse whatever we do, wear, and say with kedushah. Though the Greeks broke through our boundaries and tried to blur the line that separates us from them, we persevered because of our acknowledgment that what they found beautiful and exciting was truly vain and empty. Though we may be tempted to adopt their ideas of “beauty,” we know deep down that our lives, our bodies, and our souls were created with the potential to achieve so much more. Peninim affords us the opportunity to do just that.
Our decision to be more careful and sincere in our tzniyus is the difference between having a blemish and achieving perfection, between connection and disconnect. Our increasing awareness in tzniyus serves as a conduit by which we can elevate ourselves, our families, our homes, and our communities.
With the introduction of Peninim into our midst, we women have been granted a wonderfully practical opportunity to maximize our potential and to create a tremendous kiddush Hashem. May our lives be filled with choices that bring us closer to our goal and our true essence. May we be zocheh to rebuild our homes, our perceptions, and our commitments to bringing the ultimate light of kedushah back into the world. May we merit experiencing the final geulah as a result of our never-ending dedication to fulfilling Hashem’s ratzon and yearning to cling to Him.
I look forward to welcoming all of you to my home, 9 Beechwood Drive in Lawrence, for the Peninim inaugural event where you and your friends will have the opportunity to learn more about Peninim and how it has impacted the many, truly wholesome, women of our community. Please join us on Sunday night, December 23, 8:00 p.m. to hear how you can become a part of the Peninim Revolution.