Women & Judaism

The Main Aspect of the Home – Rabbi Zamir Cohen

Here are the words of the Zohar:[1]

Come and see, when a person is in his home, the main aspect of the household is his wife. The holy divine Presence dwells in his home and stays there in the merit of his wife as she is the source of holiness and abundance in the home and is rooted in the Sphere of Malchut.

From here we can understand that since the root of the female lies in the Sphere of Malchut and corresponds to the divine Presence, she is known as the Akeret HaBayit (loosely translated as homemaker, literally translated as the main aspect of the home, Ikar means main aspect) therefore, the woman is naturally connected to the inner aspect of the home even if she works outside of it. She is more prominent in the home than the man who connects more with his external pursuits and affairs.

The Zohar goes on to explain what a man must learn from the following verse:[2]

This shall be called a woman[3], meaning, theres no one else like her, she is the dignity of my home. Compared to her, all the other women are like monkeys in comparison to  humans, but this one is called a woman she is the ultimate one, her and none other. These are words of love and affection that must be expressed by the man in order to increase the love between him and his wife – as its says:[4]Many women have amassed achievement, but you surpassed them all.

These words said by Adam HaRishon, teach us how each man is supposed to treat his wife. A man must understand that even though there are many other women in the world with all kinds of virtues, once he has chosen this particular one to be his wife, he must treat her as if she is the only one and everyone else is inferior to her. Furthermore, the Zohar reveals that in the merit of his wife, a married man has an added measure of protection when he travels. And when he observes the laws of family purity and applies all of the necessary protective barriers, he will receive a unique kind of holy spiritual inspiration that will correct his deficiency. Refer to the full Zohar on this topic and to the section entitled “The Status of a Woman According to Kabbalah” found at the end of this chapter.

After all, when the kids are home, their main interaction is with their mother. And since educating and raising kids involves a great deal of communication in various forms such as, explaining, pointing out, persuading, encouraging, praising etc. therefore the woman received this special ability. And thus, a man who understands why this quality was given to the woman and appreciates the fact that it is there for the benefit of his household, not only does he not get tired of her talking, but on the contrary, he listens to it intently with love and curiosity.

Anyone who examines this great principle with all its implications expressed through the laws of the Torah that relate to women, as well as the teachings of the sages with regard to them, will be able to understand the rest of the laws and teachings that were not included here. As we’ve said in the beginning, the Torah is a Torah of truth and it accurately describes each part of the two components of the human being – the female and male parts, without worrying about deficiencies or ranking.

In light of this, we can understand why the man recites the blessing of: “He Who has not made me a woman” – it is because he is obligated to build his spirituality on his own by studying Torah continuously, and by observing the mitzvoth. Therefore, by reciting this blessing he is merely stating that he is different from his soft-natured counterpart who does not carry the same obligation as he does.

While the female half blesses her Creator for making her the way she is and exempting her from the daily study of Torah and from the performance of some of the mitzvoth. She understands that her half is more refined than that of her male counterpart and that it matures earlier and is more flexible by nature – that it was created this way by the Will of G-d and is therefore freed from the spiritual burden required by its other half.

This arrangement gives her the freedom and ability to shape the members of the future generation by taking care of them in the proper way and in the right state of mind. After all, the obligation to study Torah in depth at all times, and the obligation of observing all the mitzvoth as a man, may make it very difficult for her to fulfill this exalted role in the proper way.

However, as we’ve said, in order for the woman to be able to attain spiritual completeness, she received a spiritual set of tools that exempt her from keeping the mitzvoth designated for the man so she can achieve the ultimate perfection as stated above. While the man is simply grateful for having received the ability to shape his own spirituality.

This is the reason for the differences in the wording of the blessings. The wording of the woman’s blessing is positive (blessed is He for having created me…), while the man’s is negative (blessed is He for not creating me…).

This is analogous to two kings who were inaugurated in one day, each one in his own town. One was born as a prince in the royal palace, while the other worked hard to attain his position. During the inaugural ceremony, the first king said: “I thank G-d for making me a prince and for giving me the honor to arrive at this momentous occasion”, whereas the other one said: “I thank G-d that despite Him not making me a prince I have still reached this rank as a result of my hard work”. This is how the woman expresses her gratitude to G-d and justifies the given situation: “Blessed is He for having made me according to His will”, while the man, who was born into a state involving more difficult spiritual work, thanks G-d for not exempting him from the spiritual work the way He exempted the woman.

 

Notes and Sources

[1] Zohar Bereishit 50a

[2] Zohar Bereishit 49b

[3] Bereishit 2:23

[4] Mishlei 31:29

Adapted from “The Keys to Life” by Rabbi Zamir Cohen

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