In preparation for the commemoration of the giving of the Torah, it is customary each year to hold this Convention of Jewish women.
The Torah was given to the entire Jewish people. Furthermore, as obvious from the verse "The Torah which Moshe commanded us is the inheritance of the congregation of Yaakov," the Torah is given as an inheritance to every member of the Jewish people, i.e., to all the descendants of the Patriarchs, Avraham, Yitzchak, and Yaakov, and the Matriarchs, Sarah, Rivkah, Rachel, Leah, Bilhah, and Zilpah. These are the ancestors of the entire Jewish people, including those of the generation of the Redemption who will serve in "the Sanctuary of G-d established by Your hands."
It is our service in the era of exile which prepares for this revelation. We see a parallel in the Jew's preparations for the giving of the Torah. Our Sages explain that before the redemption, the Jews had been informed that they would be given the Torah as Moshe was promised, "When you take the people out of Egypt, you will serve G-d on this mountain." When they left Egypt, they yearned to receive the Torah and with anxious expectation, counted the days until the giving of the Torah.
Similarly, each year, this pattern repeats itself. On Pesach, G-d chooses the Jews as His nation. Afterwards, we count the Omer, and on the holiday of Shavuos, we relive the experience of the giving of the Torah.
There is an interesting concept in regard to the Counting of the Omer: Generally, one counts when there is a possibility of an increase or a decrease and one needs to know the exact number of days. In regard to the Counting of the Omer, however, the number of days is fixed and there is no possibility for change.
In contrast, seemingly there may be changes in regard to the content of these days, i.e., our conduct may be desirable or the opposite, but this is not what is being counted.
Nevertheless, in truth there is no genuine possibility of change regarding our conduct as well. The giving of the Torah represented the full expression of G-d's choice of Israel as His nation. At that time, His true desire and will for the Jews was expressed. This choice makes it certain that a Jew will fill his days and weeks with G-dliness, conducting himself in his day-to-day life as G-d desires. This is a clear and certain reality.
This applies to every Jew men, women, and children. Indeed, in this regard, women are given prominence over the men for, before giving the Torah, G-d approached the women first. Although the Ten Commandments were directed to each member of the Jewish people, before the giving of the Torah G-d gave precedence to the women. This is because the women are akeres habayis, a term which can be interpreted to mean ikro shel bayis, "the essence of the home." It is women who have the unique emotional nature necessary for them to shape the personalities of the members of their household, particularly, the young children. A woman teaches with all her heart, with life and energy, and also with the softness and sensitivity which make her listeners more receptive. And thus, it is through Jewish women that the Torah has been communicated to the entire Jewish people throughout the generations, including the generation of the redemption.
And it was for this reason that G-d told Moshe to approach the women first and tell them -- in a pleasant and happy manner -- that G-d is prepared to grant the Torah (His wisdom and His will) to the Jewish people, to the people as a whole and to each person individually.
This is the role and the mission which has been granted to Jewish women, to educate their children. It is a holy obligation incumbent on each woman to do what she can in the field of education. (This also includes increasing one's own education, for doing so will inevitably allow one to educate others more effectively.)
In particular, this should be expressed in training one's daughters to light candles before the Shabbos and before the festivals, and in doing so, to increase the light of their homes.
There is a connection between the above concepts and the Counting of the Omer for the Counting of the Omer is a preparation for the giving of the Torah. The seven weeks of the Counting of the Omer have an effect on the entire year, making it a year of Torah and mitzvos, and thus a year of financial success. This is reflected in Parshas Bechukosai where G-d promises that "If you walk in My statutes," He will grant us an abundance of material blessings, including the blessing "And I will have you proceed upright" -- i.e., our subjugance to the gentile nations will be nullified and we will be able to proceed with pride to the redemption.
Herein, there is also a connection to Jewish women for the Arizal relates that just as "in the merit of righteous women, our ancestors were redeemed from Egypt," the coming of the ultimate redemption is dependent on Jewish women.
This will be accomplished by fulfilling the mitzvah of lighting candles on the eve of Sabbaths and festivals, an activity which brings light into the home and particularly, into the room in which the festive meal is being served. That meal surely consists only of those foods and beverages which are kosher, i.e., fit to become assimilated into the system of a Jew and to become part of his flesh and blood.
This will surely hasten the coming of Mashiach. And may his coming take place directly after the conclusion of these words. Then we will proceed, behind the Patriarchs and the Matriarchs, and behind the Previous Rebbe who will be at the head of the procession, together with the entire Jewish people of all the generations, to Eretz Yisrael, to Jerusalem, and to the Beis HaMikdash.
May you convey the message which was communicated here to all other Jewish women wherever they are located in the present exile, whether in places where Jewish observance is common or in places where there are few synagogues and houses of study. There the people are waiting for other Jews to come and erect such buildings, or to come and take the Jews out from these places as Mashiach will do.
Mashiach's coming will be hastened by our gifts to tzedakah and by making tzedakah a fundamental part of our being. In this context, it is worthy to mention the importance of having a tzedakah pushka placed in the kitchen and for a woman to give to tzedakah before she begins to cook. Needless to say, this is in addition to giving a portion, and indeed a choice portion, of the food she prepares to the poor.
The decision to do this will lead to wealth, in a figurative sense, for the wealthiest people are those who have the willingness to help others, and also, in a simple physical sense, an abundance of material wealth.
Here we see a connection to the parshiyos, Behar ("On the mountain") and Bechukosai (which relates to the word chok, "engrave"). G-d will grant the Jews a mountain of material blessings so that the desire to give tzedakah will be engraved in the Jews' hearts. Simply put, when a Jewish girl will enter her neighbors' home and see that they are lacking some of the good that her own family possesses, she will come with a demand to her mother to help them.
The significant role played by Jewish women is particular evident in these days before the celebration of the holiday of Shavuos. This year, that holiday is preceded by Shabbos and so we have a three day continuum of holiness. And this continuum of holiness is introduced to the home through the candles lit by Jewish women and girls.
This in turn will lead to the ultimate Redemption when we will merit the construction of the Third Beis HaMikdash. May the merit of the righteous women of our generation hasten the advent of this era. And may this be in the immediate future.
(After giving tzedakah to be distributed to the women in attendance, the Rebbe Shlita said:) May you have a happy Shabbos, a happy holiday. And may you receive the Torah with joy and inner feeling.
- (Back to text) The communal and individual nature of the giving of the Torah is reflected in the parshiyos, Behar and Bechukosai, which are always read before the holiday. See the sichos of Shabbos Parshas Behar-Bechukosai, 5751.
- (Back to text) Although women are not obligated to fulfill the mitzvah of Counting the Omer, they are aware of this mitzvah and encourage others to fulfill it. For this encouragement to be effective, it is necessary to possess the unique emotional qualities which women have.
- (Back to text) Within the Beis HaMikdash, will be the Holy of Holies, in which is contained the Holy Ark which, in turn, contains the tablets of the Ten Commandments and a Torah scroll.
- (Back to text) At present, when many women earn their livelihood themselves, they should give of their earnings to tzedakah. Surely, they should also try to influence their husbands and children to give generously to tzedakah.
- (Back to text) The concept of three is intrinsically related to the holiday of Shavuos as our Sages stated, "G-d gave a three-fold light to a three-fold people in the third month."
- (Back to text) This also relates to the theme of chazakah.