THE ROLE OF WOMEN IN THE TIMES OF MOSHIACH
February 7, 2013
Rabbi Gershon Avtzon in #868, Moshiach & Geula, women

If it is the case that the entire world will be elevated to such a spiritual state, will the spiritual requirements of women change as well? Will they become responsible for all the commandments just like men?

Dear Reader sh’yichyeh:

It is well known that men and woman have different requirements when it comes to fulfilling mitzvos. While men must fulfill all 613 commandments, women are only responsible to fulfill – besides all 365 negative mitzvos – the positive mitzvos which are not limited by time (Mishna Kiddushin 1:7).

As we know, the era of Yemos HaMoshiach will be a spiritual utopia. In the words of the Rambam at the conclusion of his magnum opus Mishneh Torah (for which we just celebrated the 31st Siyum of our daily study of the Rambam): “In that era, there will be neither famine nor war, envy or competition, for good will flow in abundance and all the delights will be freely available as dust. The occupation of the entire world will be solely to know G-d. Therefore, the Jews will be great sages and know the hidden matters, grasping the knowledge of their Creator according to the full extent of human potential, as Isaiah 11:9 states: ‘The world will be filled with the knowledge of God as the waters cover the ocean bed.’”

If it is the case that the entire world will be elevated to such a spiritual state, will the spiritual requirements of women change as well? Will they become responsible for all the commandments just like men?

To know the answer to the above, we first must fully understand the reasoning for why woman are exempt from fulfilling most Mitzvos. Once we understand the reasoning, we then can see if that reason will change in the times of Moshiach. When the cause changes, then the effect changes as well. We find conflicting views as to why women are exempt from certain mitzvos:

1) Many commentaries write that women have to spend time on maintaining the household and raising the children, and therefore they do not have time for time-bound mitzvos. Avudraham writes: “Women are exempt from time-bound positive commandments because every woman is subjugated to her husband and household to fulfill their needs. If she were to be obligated in a time-bound positive commandment, it is possible that while she would be doing the commandment her husband might command her to do something. If she puts aside her husband’s command to do G-d’s command, woe unto her from her husband. If she puts aside G-d’s command to fulfill her husband’s command, woe to her from her Creator. Therefore G-d exempted her from time-bound positive commandments, so she can have peace with her husband. [Don’t be astonished by this, since] we see that G-d is even willing to have His name erased in order to have peace between a man and his wife (in the case of a Sota).”

If this is the reasoning, it makes sense that things will change in times of Moshiach. The Navi prophesies (Yeshaya 61:5): “And strangers shall stand and pasture your sheep, and foreigners shall be your ploughmen and your vine-dressers.” In other words, there will be no need for a woman to be “running the home” and educating the children. If so, it would seem logical that they would be responsible to fulfill all 613 Mitzvos.

2) Women do not need – and therefore do not relate to – many of the Mitzvos necessary to strengthen one’s connection to Hashem! This can be fully understood when we contemplate the event of Mattan Torah.

When G-d sent Moses to prepare Israel to receive the Torah, He sent him to the women first and then to the men. All of Israel received the same Torah. But the fact that this was preceded by two separate communications, one to the women and another to the men, implies a distinction between the women’s reception of Torah and that of the men. Differing biologically and psychologically, men and women were empowered by their Creator with distinct roles in their life’s mission.

Man and woman are two aspects of a single soul, separated at birth and reunited through marriage. Each soul is charged to implement the entire Torah: its masculine element through a male body, and its feminine element in a female body to realize the Torah’s feminine goals.

In the words of the master kabbalist Rabbi Isaac Luria, “When the male performs a mitzvah that is uniquely for men, the woman is included in his mitzvah…This is the deeper significance of what our Sages have said, ‘A spouse is as part of the same body.’”

Man and woman are both multifaceted and complex creatures, and no single sentence or thesis can summarize the many ways in which they complement and fulfill each other. Ultimately, we can only say that G-d, who created the human soul and halved it into two separate bodies and lives, ordained for each a program of Torah life consistent with its strengths and potential.

The distinction between these roles is expressed in the Midrash (on Exodus 19:3): G-d told Moses to relate the “general principles” of the Torah to the women, and its “exacting particulars” to the men. The woman relates to the Torah’s all-inclusive essence, while the man relates to the details, specific laws and particular applications.

This also explains the differing roles of the father and mother in determining their child’s identity. In Judaism, the mother determines the child’s Jewish status: if the mother is Jewish, so is the child; if the mother is not, neither is the child. But regarding the particulars of his Jewishness – his tribal identity, or his classification as a Kohen, Levite, or Israelite – the child takes after his father.

The man’s relationship with Torah is detailed, while the woman relates to Torah at its supra-rational root with her female faith, uniting with G-d without the need to dissect; a process that can deflect its force and refract the intensity of its light. Therefore she does not need the connection which is accomplished by fulfilling the positive time-bound mitzvos. (See Likkutei Sichos Vol. 31, Parshas Yisro)

Based on this second explanation, it would seem clear that women will still not need to fulfill all the mitzvos in the times of Moshiach.

(See Seifer Yemos HaMoshiach B’halacha, by Rabbi Avraham Gerlitzky, Vol. 2 page 268 for an in-depth discussion on the above.)

Considering these two opposing views, we are not able to predict with certainty whether or not, or how much, the nature of the woman’s obligation in mitzvos will change.

However, one is thing is assured, that the Jewish women, though their unique roll and special spiritual connection to the Torah and Hashem, will lead us to that final, perfect era. Let us conclude with the words of the Rebbe (B’Shalach 5752): “Just as in the exodus from Egypt ‘the righteous women of the generation were confident that G-d would perform miracles for them, and they brought tambourines from Egypt,’ so too in this final Redemption from exile, the righteous women of Israel must be confident, and certainly they are confident, that immediately and imminently the true and complete Redemption is actually coming. [So strong is their conviction that] “They begin immediately (in the last moments of exile) to sing with tambourines and with dances, for the coming of the true and complete Redemption!”

Rabbi Avtzon is the Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshivas Lubavitch Cincinnati and a well sought after speaker and lecturer. Recordings of his in-depth shiurim on Inyanei Geula u’Moshiach can be accessed at http://www.ylcrecording.com.

Article originally appeared on Beis Moshiach Magazine (http://beismoshiachmagazine.org/).
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