Judaism is more than skin deep

“When we try to look our best, we beautify the vessel, so our beautiful soul shines through,” says image consultant Diane Faith.

She notes that synagogues keep their Torah scrolls in beautiful arks and often dress the scroll in a bejeweled and ornate mantle that reflects love and respect for the Torah. “When you carry the Torah in something beautiful, the inside shines through more.”

As members of the Modern Orthodox congregation Beth Tefillah, Diane and her husband, Scottsdale plastic surgeon Dr. Sean Lille, both say they turn away clients and patients who are seeking beauty for the wrong reasons.

“Religion was able to give me an added dimension of relating to patients,” says Dr. Lille.

“Instead of seeing a body that had a problem, I saw souls. … I am able to give [patients] candid answers and take into account the husband or family. If I see a fractured soul, I can’t do surgery. I turn away 20 to 25% of patients because of that concept.”

Diane says that people have a misconception that makeovers, jewelry, nice clothes and plastic surgery are superficial.

“There is a difference between nice things and flashy, superficial,” she says. “I am just trying to help people become the best version of what they want to project.”

As a certified image consultant by the Association of International Image Consultants International (AICI), Diane says she helps people understand that how they look affects the people they attract. “Women who are frustrated they keep meeting the wrong type of man need to understand that the image you project affects who you attract. If you want a person who respects modesty, you can’t project an image 180 degrees from that.”

“As a makeover consultant, I work with people who may want or have had plastic surgery but don’t feel complete,” she says. “They need to know how to do makeup and clothes and put it all together.”

Diane says many people are familiar with the Jewish injunction against tattoos and think that plastic surgery must also be forbidden. To reconcile her Jewish observance with her belief in a projecting a positive image, she consulted Beth Tefillah Rabbi Pinchas Allouche. Diane says she learned that plastic surgery is not always OK, but in certain circumstances, it is permitted.

The three circumstances when the Torah permits plastic surgery are 1) to remove any abnormality; 2) Psychological need (including stress over appearance); 3) To facilitate a happy marriage or to heal the love in a marriage.

“You are not allowed to harm yourself,” says Rabbi Allouche. “Under these three circumstances, it is a healing surgery.”

Speaking about the three times plastic surgery is permissible, he says:
• “To remove a blemish is repairing the body.”
• “Many texts speak about embarrassment. … If a person is too embarrassed to walk among people, then plastic surgery is healing.”
•”In the Bible, marriage is often parallel to love. It is rooted in Leviticus 19:18 ‘Love your fellow as yourself.’ To love your spouse, you need to be attracted [to one another]. If plastic surgery can heal the attraction and is constructive for love, then plastic surgery is permitted.”

However, while he says those are “general permissions for plastic surgery,” he urges people to talk to their own spiritual leader or counselor.

“Consult your own therapist or advisor as to whether the embarrassment is great enough or if love is at such great risk that plastic surgery is necessary.”

In general, he says that “if enhancement is for a special purpose, such as to enhance love, then it is permitted. If it is only for a selfish purpose, then it is not permitted.”

The Lille family was not always so deeply religious.

An Arizona native, Dr. Lille says he spent most of the first 10 years of his life in various parts of Asia where his father was first stationed as a Marine and then later worked for various companies. In much of Asia, the only international schools were Catholic schools, which he attended even though his family was Jewish.

“Judaism was mainly a cultural attachment for me,” says Dr. Lille. “I had the typical attachment to Israel of pride in their achievements, but I was religiously ignorant. Judaism was a feel-good type of experience for me; it did not involve action.”

The two met in Seattle when he was completing his residency in general surgery at the University of Washington and Diane was an executive with the pharmaceutical company Bristol-Myers Squibb. The couple moved to Illinois for Dr. Lille’s residency in plastic surgery, at Southern Illinois University Medical Center. In 1999, they moved to Arizona for Dr. Lille’s fellowship in aesthetic plastic surgery at the Mayo Clinic Scottsdale, where he then served as an associate in the department of plastic surgery.

When the couple started to have children, Diane wanted to be sure they had a Jewishly appropriate home. Dr. Lille says she began to take classes and “started to gain an interest in a closer connection with God.”

“As things grew with her, she felt it was important I come along on her journey,” he says, noting he did so with some reticence. Converting to a kosher home was especially problematic as he says he had long enjoyed cooking some treyf foods. “She said it was important I commit to trying it for at least six months.”

He kept kosher and participated in Shabbat and other rituals.

“Slowly, slowly I began to realize the significant impact it had made in me,” he says. “I had attained professional and material goals to a level of comfort, and I was at a stage of life when I thought ‘now what?’ I was missing deep meaning and purpose.”

He calls Judaism very powerful and notes that once he understood that power, he could not turn back.

“I was embedded in circles of the mundane,” he says. “Torah Judaism allowed me to connect those circles and elevate them to a higher purpose and that is what makes life meaningful.”

Diane and Dr. Lille are both active with AIPAC and many other Jewish organizations, and she is on the board of directors for Congregation Beth Tefillah.

Married for 23 years, the couple has four children, all of whom are involved in Judaism.

Jacob, 20, spent the summer after high school at Yeshiva in Jerusalem. He is now a political science major at Barrett, the Honors College at Arizona State University. This summer he will be an AIPAC intern in Washington, DC. Last year he helped fund-raise to build a sports court for Tempe Chabad, where he is on the board, to help kids be shomer Shabbat by providing a fun place to play sports and hang out together after services.

Eva, 16, who just returned from a semester at Tichon Ramah Yerushalayim; Raquel, 11; and Ezekiel, 9, are in Israel for a family trip, about the fourth time they have gone as a family. Dr. Lille took Jacob for Shavuot and they both said they enjoyed it so much that Diane is eager to have that experience again this year.

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