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Wednesday
Feb152017

WHY THE FRIERDIKE REBBE PUT SO MUCH EFFORT INTO THE EDUCATION OF GIRLS AND WOMEN

Dear Reader sh’yichyeh, 

This Shabbos (Yisro) is Chaf Beis Shvat. It marks the 29th Yahrtzait of Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka, as well as the Kinus HaShluchos. It is only fitting that this week’s lesson should be focused on the role of women in Avodas HaChassidus and especially in the Avoda of our time: “To greet our righteous Moshiach in actual reality, in order that he should be able to fulfill his shlichus in actuality and bring all the Jews out of exile!”

It is well known that historically women were not taught Torah and certainly not the secrets of the Torah. This all changed with the revelation of Chassidus. From early on, Chassidim put a focus on the education of women and young girls. As time went on and the winds of “enlightenment and culture” were spreading over the world, and as we get closer to the Geula, the Rebbeim put a bigger emphasis on this. The Rebbe often points out that the Frierdike Rebbe founded “Achos HaT’mimim” and spoke of the tremendous responsibilities of the Jewish woman. The Rebbe himself would address many women-only gatherings and encourage the attendees to utilize their natural caring tendencies to affect those around them.

[This idea, of teaching Torah to women and girls, is also alluded to in this week’s parsha, the parsha of the giving of the Torah. When Hashem instructs Moshe Rabbeinu to give over the Torah, he tells him (19:3): וּמשֶׁה עָלָה אֶל הָאֱלֹקִים וַיִּקְרָא אֵלָיו ה’ מִן הָהָר לֵאמֹר כֹּה תֹאמַר לְבֵית יַעֲקֹב וְתַגֵּיד לִבְנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל – Moshe ascended to Hashem, and the Lord called to him from the mountain, saying, “So shall you say to the house of Yaakov and tell the sons of Yisroel.” Chazal (brought down in Rashi) tell us that “the house of Yaakov” is referring to the Jewish women. Moshe was told of the importance of their instruction and teaching before the men!]

In the HaYom Yom of 26 Adar Beis, the Rebbe (based on Sichos and letters of the Frierdike Rebbe) writes: All that is sacred to the nation of the G-d of Avraham and is fundamental to the house of Israel – in establishing and rearing an upright generation, kashrus of food, the sublime pure holiness of Shabbat, was entrusted by the awesome and revered G-d, for preservation and development, to the woman of Israel. The woman who fulfills her obligation and destiny in the life of the family, in conducting the home, and in seeing that the education be according to Torah, this woman is the subject of the verse, “The wisdom of women constructed her home.”

Similarly, in the HaYom Yom of 21 Shvat: It is the duty of Chassidic wives and daughters (may they live and be well) to stand in the first rank of every activity dedicated to strengthening religion and Judaism in general, particularly concerning taharas ha’mishpacha. They must organize a Society of Chassidic Daughters to reinforce all the chassidic practices concerning upbringing and education of children – as prevalent from time immemorial in chassidic homes.

[It bears noting: These are the two main HaYom Yom entries that focus on the role of the woman in the home and in her community. Both are connected to the Rebbetzin: The first one is a day after her birthday and the second a day before her Histalkus.]

In last week’s column, we mentioned the farbrengen of Yud Shvat 5717 (as it “corresponds” to the seventh chapter of Basi L’Gani that we all learned this year). In that farbrengen (Toras Menachem Vol. 19 pg. 62) the Rebbe addresses a question that brings out the uniqueness of the way women serve Hashem.

The question: In Parshas B’Shalach, the men sing Az Yashir with Moshe Rabbeinu and the women sing with Miriam. It seems that the main singing is by the men. Yet, the Haftora speaks of the singing of Devorah, which would show that there is something about the singing of the women in the Parsha that is even greater than the singing of the men?

The Rebbe brings a fascinating answer from the Tzemach Tzedek: Because their singing was with great joy, together with their musical instruments, it made a deeper and more profound impression above by Hashem. It is the women that have the power to really affect the future of the Jewish people.

This extra enthusiasm and joy is a continuation of the general merit of women that brought about the exodus from Mitzrayim. It was the righteous women of that generation, who strove mightily to continue to bring forth children, regardless of the grueling servitude and despite Pharaoh’s decree that the male children be killed. Hashem aided them in realizing their wish by miraculous means.

The midrash recounts that when Pharaoh decreed that “every boy that is born you shall throw into the Nile” (Shmos 1:22), some men did not want to have more children. What did the Jewish women do? They went to draw water and Hashem provided that half of their jugs be filled with water and half with small fish. They would return home and place two pots on the fire, one for hot water and the other for the fish, which they would bring to their husbands in the field. There they washed them, anointed them, fed them, and kept up their relationship so that they would have more children together. (Sota 11b)

The women were already pregnant when they returned home from the fields. When the time came for them to give birth, they cast their gaze heavenward, and said to Hashem: “I have done my part regarding what You said, ‘Be fertile and multiply,’ now You do Your part.” The women would go to the fields to prevent the Egyptians from killing their sons and would give birth under the apple trees, as it says (Shir HaShirim. 8:5): “Under the apple tree I roused you; it was there your mother conceived you, there she who bore you conceived you.” Hashem would dispatch two angels from heaven above who would cleanse the infants, as a midwife cleanses the newborn. They then brought the infants two round stones, one of oil and the other of honey, and they fed them, as is said (Deut. 32:13): “He fed him honey from the crag, and oil from the flinty rock.” According to another tradition, the Holy One, blessed be He, Himself cared for the infants, as it is said (Yechezkel 16:9 –10): “I washed you in water […] I clothed you with embroidered garments.” (D’varim Rabba 14–15)

When the Egyptians saw the Jewish women going to the fields to give birth, they would take stones and go to kill the infants. Hashem performed a miracle, and the babies were swallowed by the earth. One tradition attests that the infants were swallowed in the field, to reappear far away, before being swallowed yet again and again, until the Egyptians tired and left. According to another tradition, the Egyptians would bring oxen and plow the ground in order to find the infants, but without success. After the danger had passed, the children would burst forth from the ground, like the plants of the field, as it is said (Yechezkel 16:7): “I let you grow like the plants of the field; and you continued to grow up.” When they grew up, they returned to their homes in flocks, as the same verse says: “and you continued to grow up ba-adi adayim,” reading the latter phrase (literally, with the choicest adornments; usually translated, in the context of the verse, in the sense of “until you attained to womanhood”) as be-edrei adarim, “in flocks” (Shmos Rabba 1:1).

How did they know they should go to their homes? Hashem would enter with them. He would show each one his house, and tell him: Your father is named so-and-so, and your mother is named so-and-so. The child would ask her: “Don’t you remember that you gave birth to me in such-and-such a field on such-and-such a day, five months ago?” She would ask him: “And who raised you?” And the child would reply: “A young man with curly hair; none is as fair as he. Here, he is outside and he brought me here.” His mother would request: “Show him to me.” They would go out and search in all the lanes and alleys, but they could not find him (D’varim Rabba 14–15).

This is why when Hashem was revealed to the Jews at the parting of the Red Sea, the children were the first to recognize Him, since He had raised them and cared for them in their infancy. Consequently, they were the first to sing “This is my God and I will glorify him” (Shmos 15:2), for they had already met Him and knew Him at first hand. When they saw Him at the sea, they would tell their mothers, pointing with their fingers, “This is my God”—this is the fine young man who raised me (Sota 11b; Deut. Rabba 14–15.).

Just as it was in the merit of the Jewish women that we merited to Yetzias Mitzrayim, the same is true in regards to the Geula. In the words of the Rebbe (Besuras HaGeula chapter 62): “The writings of the Arizal explain that the generation of the future Redemption is the reincarnation of the generation that went out of Egypt. Accordingly, the righteous women of our generation, in whose merit we will be redeemed, are the same righteous women in whose merit we left Egypt.

“Our generation is the last generation of exile and the first generation of Redemption, for, in the words of my sainted father-in-law, all aspects of the Divine service have been completed and we stand ready to greet our righteous Moshiach. Since this is the case, my sainted father-in-law, the leader of our generation, endeavored to affect and influence the women, in order to hasten the Redemption in the merit of the righteous women of our generation.

“…There is a unique and essential lesson in regards to the concept of the song, as exemplified by the song of Miriam and the song of Devorah: 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


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