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Shabbos Parshas Behar-Bechukosai

The Address to the International Convention of N'shei uBnos Chabad

   25th of Iyar, 5750

Shabbos Parshas Bamidbar

Shavuos & Shabbos Parshas Naso, 5750

Yechidus

Shabbos Parshas Behaalos'cha

To the Graduating Class of Bais Rivkah and the Girls who will be Serving as Counselors in Summer Camps

Shabbos Parshas Shelach

Shabbos Parshas Korach

Shabbos Parshas Chukas

Shabbos Parshas Balak

Yechidus

17th Day of Tammuz, 5750

Shabbos Parshas Pinchas

25th of Tammuz, 5750

Shabbos Parshas Matos-Masei

Shabbos Parshas Devarim, Shabbos Chazon

Shabbos Parshas Va'eschanan, Shabbos Nachamu

Shabbos Parshas Eikev

Tzivos Hashem, Day Camps

Shabbos Parshas Re'eh

Shabbos Parshas Shoftim

To the Campers of Emunah

Shabbos Parshas Ki Seitzei

Shabbos Parshas Ki Savo

N'shei uBnos Chabad

Shabbos Parshas Nitzavim-Vayeilech

The Blessing Delivered by the Rebbe Shlita upon Receiving the Pan Klali

Sichos In English
Volume 45

The Address to the International Convention of N'shei uBnos Chabad
25th of Iyar, 5750
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  24th Day of Iyar, 57502nd Day of Sivan, 5750  

1

A gathering of Jews is always a source of happiness. The Previous Rebbe explains that G-d Himself takes pleasure in such a gathering as a parent takes pleasure when his children join together in unity.

We are all G-d's children, as it were. The Baal Shem Tov explains that G-d loves each Jew like parents love an only son who was born to them in their old age. Indeed, this metaphor is restrictive, for G-d's love for a Jew is infinite as He, Himself, is infinite, and cannot be appreciated by a limited human being.

Accordingly, a gathering of Jews brings pleasure to G-d. He rewards those who brought Him this pleasure by granting abundant blessings of both a spiritual and physical nature. Because of our limitations, we cannot appreciate the infinite nature of these blessings. Although we may see them as limited, they will continue to have effects in the future, influencing our children and grandchildren forever.

This surely applies regarding a gathering of Jewish women, who are each individually described as akeres habayis, a term which can be interpreted as "the essence of the house." This concept is given greater emphasis tonight when in the counting of the Omer, we counted the sefirah, yesod sheb'yesod. That term is literally translated, "the foundation of the foundation," a term appropriate for Jewish women for they are each the foundation of their homes. Though this is a great responsibility, G-d grants each women the potential to serve in this capacity in her own home and to influence the homes of the other Jews living around her.

In particular, a mother's behavior will influence her own daughters who will understand that a Torah home is a source of blessing, and accordingly, structure their own homes in this manner. They, in turn, will be blessed with children and grandchildren occupied in Torah and mitzvos.

The blessings generated by the Torah are emphasized by the blessings recited in the evening service which describes Torah as "the length of our days." This implies, not only that we will be blessed with long life, but that our lives will be "long," filled with true content and thus, filled with Torah and mitzvos.

These positive qualities will be increased from day to day. This is emphasized in the manner in which we count the Omer. Rather than say, "Today is the second day...," "Today is the third day..." and the like, we say, "Today is two days of the Omer," "Today is three days...," indicating that each day includes within it the service of all the previous days and then, contributes a further dimension of growth itself.

2

It is customary to connect these gatherings with a lesson from this week's Torah portion. Indeed, the portion read last Shabbos provides us with a lesson particularly appropriate to a women's role within her home. That portion begins: "When you enter the land... the land will rest as a Shabbos unto G-d. You shall sow your fields for six years... and in the seventh year, you shall rest."

Even though the resting of the land, the Shemittah year, is not observed until six years have past, the Torah mentions it first, indicating that this should be the goal and purpose of settling the land. The six years of agricultural work should be dedicated to preparing for the seventh year when there will be a greater potential to devote oneself to the education of one's family, to the study of Torah, and to the fulfillment of mitzvos.

This is particularly relevant to young couples who are first setting up their homes. They must realize the importance of establishing "a Shabbos unto G-d" as the purpose around which their home revolves, trusting that He "in His goodness, sustains the entire world with grace, kindness, and mercy." Thus, they will not be troubled by financial worries and will live their entire lives in a Shabbos-like manner, proceeding from strength to strength in positive activities.

Primary among these activities should be tzedakah, charity. To emphasize the importance of this mitzvah, a woman should permanently affix a tzedakah pushka in the kitchen where she prepares food for her family. Giving tzedakah will not cause the family any lack. On the contrary, our Sages taught: "Tithe so that you will become rich." Surely, this applies to those who give more than a tenth, increasing their donations to one fifth of their income. [Particularly, at present, when women also earn a livelihood, it is appropriate that they give generously to tzedakah.]

This should also be accompanied by an increase in Torah study which will allow for the realization of the prophecy -- which serves as the theme of the convention -- "All your children will be students of G-d." This, in turn, will lead to, "great will be the peace of your children," for they will be not be worried by health problems or financial difficulties.

This is particularly appropriate at present in the days preceding the holiday of Shavuos, the "season of the giving of our Torah." May we merit the blessing traditionally given by the Previous Rebbe, to "receive the Torah with happiness and inner feeling."

As is customary, this gathering will be concluded by distributing money to be given to tzedakah. Everyone, even young children, should -- each according to his ability -- add to this amount.

A Woman's Place in Torah

The role of women in society is changing and now, more than ever, women are asking, "What is my place in Torah?", "Are there limits to the Torah subjects I should study?" The Lubavitcher Rebbe Shlita addresses himself to these questions, drawing on eternally relevant Torah principles and applying them within the context of contemporary life.

When G-d told Moshe to prepare the Jews to receive the Torah, He commanded him, "This is what you shall say to the House of Ya'akov and speak to the children of Israel."[12] Our Sages explain that the "House of Ya'akov" refers to Jewish women, and "the children of Israel," to the men;[13] i.e., G-d told Moshe to approach the women first.

This order implies a sense of priority. For Torah to be perpetuated among the Jewish people, precedence must be given to Jewish women. Giving such prominence to women may appear questionable in view of several traditional attitudes. Those attitudes, however, are narrow and restrictive when judged by the objective standard of Torah law and certainly may be considered so within the context of the application of these standards to contemporary society.

Torah law requires a woman to study all the laws and concepts necessary to observe the mitzvos which she is obligated to fulfill.[14] This encompasses a vast scope of knowledge, including the laws of Shabbos, Kashrus, Taharas HaMishpochah, and many other areas of Jewish law. Indeed, many men would be happy if their Torah knowledge would be as complete.

Women must be conscious of the mystic dimension of Judaism

Also, among the subjects which a woman must know is P'nimiyus HaTorah, Torah's mystic dimension. A woman is obligated to fulfill the mitzvos of knowing G-d, loving Him, fearing Him, and the like. Indeed, the obligation to fulfill these mitzvos is constant, incumbent upon us every moment of the day.[15] The fulfillment of these mitzvos is dependent on the knowledge of spiritual concepts as implied by the verse, "Know the G-d of your fathers and serve Him with a full heart."[16] The study of P'nimiyus HaTorah is necessary to achieve this knowledge.

Throughout the generations, we have seen women with immense Torah knowledge. The Talmud mentions Bruriah, the daughter of Rabbi Chaninah ben Tradyon and the wife of Rabbi Meir.[17] Throughout the Middle Ages, we find records of many women who corrected their husbands' Torah texts.[18] In his memoirs, the Previous Rebbe describes how the Alter Rebbe's family put a special emphasis on women's Torah knowledge and the Previous Rebbe educated his own daughters in this spirit.

A change for the better in the present age

The last generations have witnessed an increase in Jewish women's Torah study and special schools and institutions were founded for this purpose. Previously, influenced by the principle, "All the glory of the king's daughter is within,"[19] women would be educated by their parents and grandparents at home. As sociological conditions changed and girls left the home environment, schools were established for them.

A similar concept applies regarding the subject matter studied by women. Initially, on the whole, women were not exposed to those aspects of Torah study which were not related to their actual performance of the mitzvos. At present, however, the sphere of subjects women study has been expanded and includes even abstract concepts that have no immediate application.[20]

This is also a result of sociological influences. Within the context of our society, women are required to function on a more sophisticated level than ever before, occupying professional positions that require higher knowledge.[21] To prepare themselves for such activities, they should develop their thinking processes in Torah, training themselves to think on an advanced level within the framework of Torah. This will set the tone for their behavior in the world at large.

Sharing one's knowledge with others

Women are characterized by warmth and a tendency to give. It can be assumed that this will prompt them to share the new knowledge they attain with others, in particular, with the members of their families. The Book of Psalms[22] refers to a woman as akeres habayis, a term which can be interpreted, "the mainstay of the house." The woman determines the nature of the home environment and the encouragement she gives is crucial in motivating her husband and children to study.

One of the most important dimensions of chinuch (education) is the development of a personal connection with the subject matter. This is stimulated by the love and positive feeling generated by the teacher. Women have greater natural gifts for this approach. Thus, though a father makes an important contribution to a child's education, his efforts lie primarily in testing the child's knowledge. In contrast, a mother discusses the subjects her children are learning with them and brings out the dimension which is relevant to their lives. Furthermore, women are at home with a child much more frequently and are more attuned to his day to day feelings. This makes them more capable of communicating the concept in terms which a child can relate to.

When relating the mitzvah to educate our children, our Sages[23] used the expression, l'hazhir, also related to word "shining." Through educating children, one's own knowledge increases to the point where one shines. Thus, the concepts mentioned above should stimulate a cycle of growth. The increase in women's Torah knowledge should bring about an increase in their efforts to educate others which, in turn, will bring about a greater increase in their own knowledge.

A Messianic dimension

The Rabbis explain that just as it is a mitzvah to taste the food to be served on Shabbos on Friday,[24] at present, in the era directly before the coming of the Moshiach, it is a mitzvah to enjoy a foretaste of the revelations of that age. The Messianic age will be characterized by an abundance of knowledge, "The occupation of the entire world will be solely to know G-d. The Jews will be great sages and know hidden matters."[25] Therefore, the present age should also be characterized by increased knowledge.

In practice, women should add to their Torah study. In particular, they should focus their attention on the Aggadic aspects of Torah study as collected in the text Ayn Ya'akov, since our Sages have noted the powerful impact this study has on one's spiritual emotions. Similarly, they should increase their activities to educate others.

These activities will bring about change in the world at large. "Due to the merit of righteous women, our ancestors were redeemed from Egypt."[26] Similarly, the merit of today's women who raise and educate a generation of children prepared to greet Moshiach will prepare the world for the age when, "the world will be filled with the knowledge of G-d as the waters cover the ocean bed."[27]

   

Notes:

  1. (Back to text) Shemos 19:3.

  2. (Back to text) Mechilta, quoted by Rashi in his commentary to the above verse.

  3. (Back to text) Shulchan Aruch HaRav, Hilchos Talmud Torah 1:14.

  4. (Back to text) See the introductory letter to Sefer HaChinuch.

  5. (Back to text) I Chronicles 28:9.

  6. (Back to text) Pesachim 62b.

  7. (Back to text) Letters of the Previous Rebbe, Vol. 5, p. 336.

  8. (Back to text) Psalms 45:14.

  9. (Back to text) Sotah 20a relates that women should not study the oral law. As explained above, however, the change in a woman's place in society necessitates a change in this perspective as well. Women who are exposed to the sophistication of contemporary society should prepare themselves for such involvement by developing their thinking processes within Torah, studying not only the practical application, but also the motivating purposes, for mitzvos.

  10. (Back to text) There is another positive dimension that results from these sociological changes. Since women are earning money themselves, they should also take a greater role in charitable activities, donating a tenth and preferably a fifth of their income to charity and inviting more guests to their homes.

  11. (Back to text) 113:9.

  12. (Back to text) Rashi, Emor 21:1.

  13. (Back to text) Shulchan Aruch HaRav 250:8.

  14. (Back to text) Mishneh Torah, Hilchos Torah 12:5.

  15. (Back to text) Sotah 11b.

  16. (Back to text) Yeshayahu 11:9, See the conclusion of the Mishneh Torah.


  24th Day of Iyar, 57502nd Day of Sivan, 5750  
  
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