by Sarale Benshimon
MyLife Essay Contest 2015
What is the role of a Jewish woman today? Is she meant to stay at home; barefoot and pregnant? Or is her role in the synagogue with the men? Chassidus explains that it is neither. The role of a woman is to express G-d’s essence within herself, within creation, within her husband and children. What gives her the ability to do so is that her soul comes from Malchut while men stem from Z”a. Men and women are different; each meant to complete a unique role given specifically to each. Through understanding the soul source of a woman one gains insight into the woman and her role, as well.
The feminist movement is on the rise challenging the status quo. Questions abound. Is a woman different than a man? What is the role of a woman? What is her place? In the olden days it was clear. The woman’s place was within the walls of the home. There she was raised by her mother and grandmother. She learned all the skills necessary; cooking, cleaning, washing laundry, and sewing. Once she married she carried out her role as mother and housewife.
Times have changed, however, and the question remains. Is that all women are capable of? Being a cleaning lady and babysitter?
John Gray is the author of Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus. He uses this analogy to explain the essential difference between men and women. He writes, “Imagine that men are from Mars and women are from Venus. One day long ago the Martians, looking through their telescopes, discovered the Venusians… They delighted in being together, doing things together, and sharing together… Then they decided to fly to Earth. In the beginning everything was wonderful and beautiful. But the effects of Earth’s atmosphere took hold… Both the Martians and Venusians forgot that they were from different planets and were supposed to be different.”
Kabbalah concurs with this idea, except instead of using the analogous Mars and Venus, supplies the correct terminology. Men are from Z”a, women are from Malchut. The fifth Chabad Rebbe, Rabbi Shalom Dov Ber, in the discourse of Yom Tov Shel Rosh Hashanah (Tav Resh Nun Tes), elaborates using the analogy of speech. Speech is the vehicle of expression and does not contain anything in its own right. It receives and then expresses what was previously within the mind or heart. A person has many original thoughts, ideas and opinions in his mind. When one would like to share these thoughts, one then speaks. One cannot speak about something he or she has no knowledge of. It goes as well for emotions. One can only verbalize a pre-existing emotion.
Additionally the idea (or emotion) is most potent and clear in the mind (or heart). That is where it is fully developed. The intellectual idea originates in the mind. From there it must descend into the letters and language of speech. Therefore the idea is at its strongest is in the mind. It becomes lessened when spoken. One would assume, then, that nothing new can be added while speaking. Speech is merely a receptacle to receive what is above it; the intellectual idea.
However we encounter something baffling. When the idea comes down into speech suddenly new ideas present itself. Greater, deeper, and more detailed than before while within the mind itself. The teacher, while elaborating, suddenly thinks of a story or example that perfectly correlates and enhances the concept being taught. A business person, while speaking at a meeting, is suddenly struck with a novel way to present the business proposal. A parent may not know how to simplify a concept for a child. But suddenly, while actually speaking, the ability is demonstrated. The parent is indeed able to reduce the intellectual idea until the young child can grasp it. Similarly with emotion; when a person tells their spouse, I love you, that verbalization adds depth to the feeling of love. Or to the contrary, when one is angry and begins to voice the anger that only intensifies the emotion.
Why is it like that? Why is it that speech has the ability to increase a thought or emotion? Rabbi Shalom Dov Ber continues to explain that the source of speech transcends intellect. When a person thinks it is revealed within the realm of intellect. In Hebrew it is called gillium, revelations. When a person speaks it comes from the essence of the soul, Etzem. Therefore speech has the ability to surpass intellect because it awakens the essence. The essence, then, forces the power of intellect to reveal itself and new ideas form.
This has all been an analogy to help better understand the feminine and masculine qualities of Malchut and Z”a respectively. The Lubavitcher Rebbe, in a discourse titled Lecha Dodi from the year 1954, discusses this concept at length. G-d set it up the creation of the world in the form of the ten Sefirot. Z”a refers to the six emotive Sefirot. Z”a, like the intellectual idea, is the giver, the revelation. Malchut is the last of the Sefirot. Malchut, like speech, doesn’t have anything on its own. Rather it is a receptacle open to receiving from Z”a. Just like speech, the source of Malchut is higher than Z”a; Malchut comes from Atzmut, G-d’s essence, thereby transcending Z”a.
Malchut is the source of women’s soul. The soul is derived from Malchut and therefore contains all the qualities therein. Women contain Etzem; women have within them G-d’s essence. Whenever Essence is needed it comes from women. For example only women can give birth; only women can create something new that hadn’t been there before. This is the role of a woman. Women have the power of bring out the Essence within their children. The Jewishness of a child is dependent on the mother. If he mother is Jewish so is the child. Upon birth, it is the mother that instills the soul within the child. She is the one, therefore, that has the ability to infuse it with Essence. It is up to the woman to nurture and bring to the fore the essence of Judaism within her children. She is the one that raises and passes on the beauty, warmth, and love for Judaism to her children.
It isn’t about being barefoot and pregnant; no. A woman’s role is to create the foundation and establish the next generation, transferring on the essence of Judaism. Only a woman can do this. Because she is Malchut. Because she contains Essence. Through understanding where the soul of a woman comes from, this can give the woman the clarity and perspective necessary. Women are not like men. Men and women are different. They come from different worlds, different planets. God expects different things from them. There is no need to imitate men’s relationship with God. It is time for women to embrace their uniqueness; their specific relationship with God. God empowered and entrusted women with His essence. Use it well.