WOMEN IN JEWISH HISTORY

    What makes a true Jewish woman? It is much more than just being a girl born to a Jewish mother. A real Jewish woman is one whose life is not a reflection of the times in which she lives. A Jewish woman is one whose life is a reflection of the Torah. Her beauty is in her piety and modesty. She has the courage to live a life of Torah no matter what the situation. A true Jewish woman carries within her the lessons of generations. She learns from our mothers Sara, Rivkah and Leah the attributes it takes to make it into history - kindness, piety, selflessness.

What makes a true Jewish woman? It is much more than just being a girl born to a Jewish mother. A real Jewish woman is one whose life is not a reflection of the times in which she lives. A Jewish woman is one whose life is a reflection of the Torah. Her beauty is in her piety and modesty. She has the courage to live a life of Torah no matter what the situation. A true Jewish woman carries within her the lessons of generations. She learns from our mothers Sara, Rivkah and Leah the attributes it takes to make it into history - kindness, piety, selflessness.

    The purpose of this section is to bring the various women in our history, who lived so long ago, just a little bit closer to us. We can learn a lot from them by studying their actions and deeds. Women in Jewish history - whether leaders of Israel or leaders of their home - were never simple. They were proud, strong and courageous women who worked tirelessly to guide their families and the nation in the path of Torah.

    We will begin with Chava -the first woman, and will continue with some of the most distinguished and fascinating women in Jewish history. Of course, we won’t be able to include all the great women in our history, but if there are any specific personalities you’d like to learn more about, please let us know by writing to us.

 

CHAVA - THE FIRST WOMAN

    On the 6th day of Creation, G-d brought all the animals before Adam - the first Man. Adam examined each one but could not find a mate amongst them. So G-d created a mate specially for Adam- Chava (Eve). Our Rabbis ask, why didn’t G-d create Chava right away? G-d knew that in the future Adam would complain about Chava, so he waited until Adam specifically asked for a mate before creating her.

 

CHAVA’S CREATION

    G-d caused Adam to fall into a deep sleep and then created the woman. G-d wanted the woman to be as perfect as possible. So he created her from the rib, which is inside the body, on the side, and could not effect her personality. Rav Hirsch, a noted commentator on the Torah explains that Chava was created from Adam’s rib to show their equality.

    Both man and woman are necessary for life to exist, neither one is more important then the other.

 

   Rav Hirsch says that their complete equality was irrefutable demonstrated. A man without a wife is not a man -Adam was not whole until Chava was created.

    G-d created Chava to be “Ezer Kenegdo”, meaning that when he is worthy - his wife will be his helpmate, but if he is not worthy - she will become his adversary.

 

CHAVA NOT STANDING THE TEST

    Adam and Chava were married in Gan Eden. Soon after they were married, Chava is approached by the snake. At this time the snake stood on two feet and walked. He began conversing with her, asking her questions about Gan Eden and what she and Adam were allowed to do. Chava told him that they were allowed to eat from all the trees in the garden but one. That tree, the Etz Hadaat, they were forbidden even to touch. If they would eat or even touch this tree, they would die on that day. The snake then pushed Chava up against the tree. When nothing happened to her, he convinced her to eat from it.  Chava did and then went to give some to Adam.

     Chava’s punishments for both eating from the tree and giving some to Adam were many. Amongst them are: the discomfort of nine months of pregnancy, the anguish of a miscarriage, the pangs of childbirth, the anguish of raising children, and the curse of death. All of these would not be so had Chava not sinned.

 

THE SPECIAL COMMANDMENTS

    Our Rabbis teach that a woman is obligated to fulfill three special commandments - lighting candles for Shabbat and holidays, separating the dough when Challah is made, and immersing in the Mikvah. Each of these three mitzvahs has a direct connection to Chava’s sins. A woman must immerse after Niddah because Chava spilled the blood of man - Adam was cursed with death after eating from the Etz Hadaat. Until that time man was destined to live forever. A woman must separate dough when making Challah because she is causing Adam to be separated from the world. A woman must light candles because she extinguished the light of Adam’s soul.

 

KING AND QUEEN

     Another part of Chava’s punishment was that a woman should want her husband. The Rambam, a famous Torah commentator, explains that a woman is supposed to treat her husband as if he were her King. She should subjugate her will to his. This is the way of a Bat Israel.

    And yet the Rambam explains that it is incumbent upon a man to treat his wife as if she were his queen and honor her and love her more than himself. A true Jewish marriage is one where the husband knows how he should treat his wife. A wife knows how to treat her husband, and neither one is concerned with what the other knows. Each should learn only the part that applies to them.

 

THE NEXT GENERATION

    Adam and Chava had three sons - Cain, Hevel, and Sheth, and three daughters - Kal-mana, Balbira, and one other. Chava was burried next to Adam in Me’arat HaMachpela.

 

LESSONS LEARNT FROM CHAVA

    There are many things to learn from Chava. One of the things we can learn is that all of our actions have consequences. In Chava’s case they were long term consequences, which will continue to affect women until the time of Mashiach. A most fitting lesson to learn from the mother of all mankind, - that children very often suffer for their parents’ sins. Another lesson is in the way a wife is expected to treat her husband, the responsibility she carries in helping her family walk in the way of Torah, and the obligations of following Halacha. As mothers and future mothers of the Jewish nation it is incumbent upon us to teach our families the obligations that come with the legacy of Torah.

© 2017 by Shalom Magazine