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Weekly Story: The Greatness of Women

by Rabbi Sholom DovBer Avtzon

Being that the convention of Shluchos she’tichyu is taking place this week, I thought it appropriate to present this thought, with an introduction that I heard from my father Reb Meir a”h.

When I was a youngster, he once said to me, Sholom, why do you think the Rebbe made an organization, for Nshei u’bnos Chabad (the women and daughters of Chabad) and why does he say a sicha especially for women a few times a year, when by the previous Rebbeim, it was quite difficult, if not impossible for them to have a yechidus?

Obviously, I just shrugged my shoulders as if to say, how should I know.

So he answered, The Rebbe is the 7th generation of the Rebbeim from the Alter Rebbe. In sefiros, seven represents the sefira of malchus. Chassidus explains in great length various aspects of the sefira of Malchus, and one of the points is that Malchus receives from the sefiros that precede it and gives over that illumination which it receives, to the worlds below it.

This is compared to the moon that doesn’t give off its own glow, but rather, it reflects the light it receives from the sun to us in this world.

Chassidus explains that this concept applies to women also. As everyone knows kol kevudah bas melech pinimah – the glory of a Jewish women is in the house, representing the tribute of modesty. However, Chassidus also stresses the concept of eishes chayil ateres bailah – a woman of valor is the crown of her husband, which indicates that a woman is higher than a man. Just that, that quality will only be revealed in the days of Moshiach, as we say in the sheva brochos, then we will hear kol chosson v’kol kallah – the voice of the groom and bride. Until then her influence is expressed in a quiet way.

Being that the Rebbe is dor hashivii which symbolizes malchus and when Moshiach comes the greatness of malchus and the women will be revealed, therefore as a foretaste of the days of Moshiach, the Rebbe began revealing their true intrinsic greatness.

With that said, I will now share with you another segment of my correspondence with Malka about the role of women, as she heard it from the Rebbe.

Please note, being that some of the readers may not be fluent in Loshon Hakodesh, with her permission I took the liberty of translating them and placing the translations in parenthesis.  In some places, I also added a few short words of explanation in brackets.

Quite often the role of a Jewish woman comes up in our correspondence. So last year, I mentioned to her in an email, to look at the last explanation of the kli Yukor in the beginning of parshas Shelach.

A moment later her reply was: [The reason I note that her reply was instantaneous is to counter the sceptics who think someone is conjuring these thoughts, and they are not from the Rebbe. Please tell me which individual can figure this out in a moment. On a one on one, I can reveal more details, but in a public forum I remain cautious].

Yes, I know that kli yakar! Hashem wanted to send women [to spy out the land], but agreed to Moshe’s request of sending shlach lecha ledatcha, ANOSHIM (men). 

The Kli yakar explains the reason why Hashem wanted to send noshim (women) – is because of their historic love and dedication for Eretz Yisroel [as can be seen from the daughters of Tzelafchad in Parshas Pinchos, etc.]. But what was Moshe’s motivation to insist on sending men???

Additionally, we see that Moshe added to Hosheya’s name a Yud [which was removed when Hashem changed Sarai’s name] to Sarah. I was taught the reason was for Yehoshua to have this feminine koach (strength and quality). 

Sarah was the first person to reject the concept of a two state solution, by evicting Hagar and Yishmael, and announcing that this one will not inherit Eretz Yisroel with my son Yitzchok. 

Midrash says on the fourth possuk of Aishes Chayil: dorsha tzemer u’pishtim – that is Sarah.

Tzemer and pishtim: wool and linen is shatnez [which the Torah forbade to wear together in one garment] – what does the Aishes Chayil do with shatnez material? 

She keeps them apart! Sarah was the one to keep Yishmael away from Yitzchok and his inheritance. Wool and linen must be kept apart 

Moshe implanted part of Sarah’s name into Yehoshua’s name to have this mandate.

Interesting that Yehoshua was at that time a bochur (a single man) – he much later married Rochov from Yericho. Kolev was married to Miriam. I assume Yehoshua was the only bochur among all the meraglim (spies). A bochur is given a feminine attribute part of Sarah’s name!

Before Yehoshua brought Beni Yisroel into Eretz Yisroel he established the tefilla (prayer of) Oleinu (it is incumbent upon us to thank Hashem) – where the theme of “shelo sum chelkeinu kahem v’goroleinu kechole ha’moinam – He has not assigned us to a portion like theirs, nor a lot like that of all their multitudes”  – emphasizing that we are different than them, out goral (lot), yerusha (inheritance) and chelek (portion) is not like theirs is stressed.

Hashem consistently prioritizes women over men. Giving the Torah was first – l’bais Yaakov – to the women – and only later tagid l’bnei yisroel – was it told to the men. 

The women never sinned at chet haegel (by the golden calf). 

The shira (song) of the women at kriyat yam suf (splitting and crossing the sea) was more glorious then the men’s shira – it had dance and musical instruments.

Yet women are excluded from all leadership roles, judicial positions (except Deborah the Shofetes (judge)), and even delving into Talmud – even though their connection to Torah preceded men’s connection! And even though Torah study requires “l’hovin u’l’haskil‘ (to discern and comprehend) (as we ask in morning brochos of shema) and women have this quality of l’havin because our sages inform us that they have bina yeseira (an extra dose of discernment)!

This is a paradox!

More so, later when Yehoshua himself sends meraglim (spies) (as per haftora) – he also sends men – why did HE also send men after knowing the Hashem wanted women (per Kli Yakar)?

Yet if Moshe would have sent women, we wouldn’t know that an Eida (a quorum) for a minyan is 10 men -” eida harah“!!!!!AND

From all the sins of bnei yisroel in the midbar (wilderness), only this one drew the harshest punishment – that they ALL die.

In no earlier transgression including chet haegel (the creation and bowing down to the golden calf) were ALL the people of that generation killed.  So that shows that in a certain point, this sin was worse than chet haegel

Chet haegel was a rebellion against Hashem like an unfaithful bride at her wedding. There was no worse sin than that. It caused the first Luchos (tablets) to be broken, yet not everyone was killed but this was worse with a harsher punishment, that everyone of that generation got killed, why????

I then replied to her whatever I did, and then concluded, I am positive that this question is not new to your way of thinking and you definitely mentioned it to the Rebbe. So what was his explanation?

This is what she replied.

Based on my recollection (as I did not jot it down then): 

One point the Rebbe answered by saying it was a consequence of loshon hara (evil gossip) that kills three people, the one who spoke, the one who hears and the one who is spoken about. Eretz Yisroel was spoken badly about so it was “killed” for this generation – they couldn’t enter the land. This couldn’t be forgiven like the other transgressions, even those that were worse, because Hashem wasn’t the “victim” to be mochel (forgive).

Another point was answered by his explanation that LEMAALAH (according to their true essence and the way Heaven sees it), a woman can go out and even serve as spies – Hashem approaches it as it is LEMAALAH, but Moshe deals with the LEMATTAH (the way it is down here in this physical earth), and LEMAATAH there are issues of tznius (modesty), Kol Kevuda Bas Melech Pnima (the honor of a Jewish woman is in her house) etc. making it inappropriate to send NOSHIM (women), both by Moshe or by Yehoshua.

At an earlier stage Moshe dealt with Bnei Yisroel in a derech (manner) of LEMAALAH, by personally dealing with all their issues, until his father-in-law Yisro came and taught him that LO TOV HADAVAR (this is not the proper way down here in this world), there is a TACHTON (a physical world) and one cannot deal with a TACHTON in a manner that ignores teva (human nature). Yisro continued NOVOL TIBOL (you and the people will become fatigued from waiting on line), the people need Sorei Alofim, Sorei Mayos (judges for groups of a thousand people and for smaller groups of even a hundred people)  etc. because of the LO TOV (the bad) that is LEMAATAH (in this materialistic world).

That is why in the future when Moshiach comes and the LO TOV is removed, a woman will be on a higher level than a man…

Something like that… [meaning this is how I recall and understood the Rebbe’s response, but I may have omitted some points that he mentioned].

That was her reply to me.

So on that note, I take the opportunity to wish the shluchos tremendous success in their shlichus of preparing the world for the coming of Moshiach, in the refined mannerism of a woman, may it be speedily in our days.

Rabbi Avtzon is a veteran mechanech and the author of numerous books on the Rebbeim and their chassidim. He is available to farbreng in your community and can be contacted at avtzonbooks@gmail.com

This week’s story is in zechus and anticipated speedy recovery of Chaim Schneur Zalman ben Miriam.

36 Comments

  • 1. Blown Away wrote:

    1. This is like an entire sicha!
    2. Malka presents as – a. very intelligent with deep understanding; b. very learned in Torah thoughts; c. appreciating chassidic insights and nuances.
    3. There are so many incredible gems thrown in here – too numerous to list, like the advantage of shiras Miriam over shiras Moshe (a point made in a sicha).
    4. Correction to #1, not a sicha but like an entire farbrengen.

    Reply
  • 2. Did Rebbe once tell her that Keli Yaaker?? wrote:

    It is illogical that she knows EVERY single Keli Yaaker. Was it pointed out to her in an earlier conversation with Rabbi Avtzon? Did the Rebbe point it out to her?

    I checked that one and this is one of several thoughts in that commentary which is long and not a quick easy read.

    How could she have known that pirush unless it was once pointed out to her! Like, does she know all the classic meforshim on chumash (Ramban, Or Hachayim, Baalei Tosfos, Baal Haturim, Sefornu, Rabbeinu Bachayyay…)????

    Reply
    • 3. Rabbi Sholom Avtzon wrote:

      That was the first time I mentioned to her the Keli Yukor and yes she knew it immediately.
      And if she knows all of the meforshim on the Torah which you noted, I don’t know but she did mention to me that her father did teach her one of them in its entirety.

      No the Rebbe did not mention it to her.

    • 4. Curious wrote:

      Please share which meforshim her father taught her in its entirety? (That is an unbelievable accomplishment!)

    • 5. Bochur wrote:

      If she learned chumesh with all of Rashi, that’s chitas ,no big deal, even for a girl not uncommon.

    • 6. BR Graduate wrote:

      I graduated BR, went to CHitrik and I don’t know the Keli Yuker! There is NO WAY she could know it! Where did she get such knowledge from? Her father? That is implausible. Either she is a super-woman or it doesn’t make sense.

    • 8. Kop Doktar wrote:

      She is no “young lady”. By my rough calculation based on all the various stories shared about her, she is in her late 70’s or early 80’s.

  • 9. Mashpia wrote:

    There must be a maamor that explains tzemer u’pishtim or shatnez (Yidden vs Yishmoel or chai vs tzomeach). I never knew this insight although I suspect has been explained in maamorim. Checking Derech Mitzvosecha…

    Reply
  • 11. Shulcha wrote:

    Thank you for this important and timely lesson. It has so much inspiration, education and gives me motivi\ation to continue my shlichus and to seek personal growth in Torah learning. If Malka knows commentaries on chumash – then I, a “rebbitzen” must also. I have a lot of catching up to do to get to her level.

    Reply
    • 12. She is a special person wrote:

      There is a good reason that she merited this relationship. She is a special person. I have learned long ago that there is no catching up to a special person.

  • 13. Rabbi K from BMG wrote:

    I need to absorb all the points and see how it fits with knows explanation such as wool and linen represent Kayin (linen) and Hevel (wool), and other explanations of why Moshe davened for Yehoshua…I will be repeating this explanation over shabbos to my family and talmidim.

    Reply
    • 15. My take wrote:

      I think that after her traumas she started to question everything we take for granted in the status quo. Not just the role of women, but even the role of humans with Hashem.

  • 17. Clarification Needed wrote:

    Is the entire thing: all the many questions and several answers attributed to the Rebbe or only parts (with added personal insights by Malka or Rabbi Avtzon)?

    Reply
  • 18. "Two State Solution" wrote:

    Around what year was this encounter?

    Did this encounter take place around 1978 – Camp David Accords, or later around 1993 – Oslo Accords?

    Did the Rebbe use the expression “Two State Solution”?

    Reply
    • 19. Anonymous wrote:

      I don’t believe that was the Rebbe’s saying. She was asking the questions to Rabbi Avtzon
      He wrote he answered and then inquired if she poised them to the Rebbe.
      She replied in general yes and relayed the Rebbe’s insight.
      Thank you

    • 20. "Two State Solution" wrote:

      Around what year was this?

      Camp David late 1970’s?

      Oslo mid-1970’s?

      Shleimus HaAretz days?

  • 21. Rabbi Sholom Avtzon wrote:

    Clarification

    Reading the comments it appears that some of the readers are thinking that her questions are also from the Rebbe.
    That is not so.
    As was stated in previous articles after her adopted parents passed away she was shaken and later became broken.
    So yes these were her questions then and the Rebbe answered two general points.
    A. Cheit hameraglim why such a severe punishment.
    B. The role of Women. He then connected it to a point in this week’s parsha about Yisro’s advice to Moshe Raibeinu.

    Somebody pointed out to me the sicha in likkutei sichos vol. 16 page 203 – 210 where he discusses this point.
    Interesting to note in footnote 31 he mentions the point that he writes in Hayom Yom for the first day of Menachem Av that Moshiach will teach the entire nation just as Moshe was doing then. Perhaps the reason is as noted in the article. So the person asked me to convey a thank you for the binah yiserah in the sicha.

    Another point unless it is because many thought everything is from the Rebbe.
    The point of this article was to bring out and publicize a concept and thought of the Rebbe that was unknown and I have the zechus of publicizing it.

    These articles are not and never was about her scholarship and tremendous knowledge and understanding.
    Unless it inspires others to learn then I hope she doesn’t mind. So please what difference does it make how many meforshim besides Rashi is she knowledgeable.

    Reply
    • 22. Sara Kaila Ginzberg wrote:

      Rabbi Avtzon, From your conversations with Malka, can you comment on her level of scholarship? (I don’t think that is prying into her personal life, I only ask your impression).

    • 23. Anonymous wrote:

      She had questions then, but does she still have questions? She is such a mystery to all of us. I respect her privacy but that leaves me even more curious about her. Her life story was tragic, facinating, inspiring, sad, dramatic, mysterious, unusual, insightful…

    • 24. Anonymous wrote:

      In a previous article Rabbi Avtzon noted that she discussed hilchos Eiruvin with Dayan Raskin in order to build an eiruv around her property.
      So evidently she is quite knowledgeable

    • 25. Anonymous wrote:

      I remember reading that she went to Gateshead, which was an elite educational institute for wowen (I was it told the place made the ladies worthy of becoming rosh yeshhivas!). So no surprise there!

  • 26. chabad not chagas wrote:

    I expected a story. Instead I got a lesson. Reminds me that we were taught how in LUBAVITCH miracles were rolling around on the floor and no one bothered to pick them up – the real value was the maamor, not the mofes. This “story” taught more than any story. Thank you.

    Reply
  • 27. Leah from Miami wrote:

    Does Malka own a collection of seforim – like a mikraos gedolos Chumash?

    Does she speak Yiddish? Was the conversation in Yiddish?

    Reply
    • 28. To Leah, From Malka wrote:

      To Leah,

      In reply:

      I have a shelf of seforim that I frequently use on shabbos. They include a well used set of Chumashim and Nach, a Kitzur Shulchan Oruch and several other treasured seforim.

      During the weekdays I can access practically any sefer through various on-line data bases which allow me to research in-depth any topic of interest.

      Yiddish was the language of my youth, my first language.

      The conversations referred to were in Yiddish, although sometime an English, Hebrew or French word would be used, and on occasion, even a Latin expression.

      You call yourself “Leah from Miami”, surely the place does not define the person, rather the person impacts her place and creates her surroundings.

      Hashem is called “HaMokom, because He creates the place rather than the place defining Him.

      The exception is when the place or location strengthens the person’s service to Hashem, as certain Talmudic sages were titled based on their location such as Noson HaBavli – influenced by the Torah of Bavel.

      Therefore, Leah from Miami, ask of yourself, are you drawing strength in your service to Hashem from Miami or are you creating Miami to become a place that reveals Hashem’s presence?

      I wish you success in your journey to your unique destiny for which you are exclusively qualified to accomplish.

      The journey may be difficult but the reward of success is simply divine.

      Souls are all connected,

      Malka

    • 29. Leah from Miami wrote:

      I am so honored that you replied to me!!

      Thank you!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      Each time I read your reply, I notice another message and lesson.

      Like, I have many seforim but I never would be able to write that I “treasured” them!

      I haven’t opened a Novee since school, but your Novee is “well used”!

      While I use the computer for Facebook / Instagram…you use it as a virtual library of seforim!

      I keep reading your reply and keep finding messages…deep and powerful messages you meant for me.

      I agree that you magically connected to me. I am just a nobody and you are…a malka!

    • 30. To Leah, From Malka wrote:

      Your self-perception is “I am just a nobody and you are…a malka”.

      Humility is a wonderful attribute but one must never deny themselves knowledge of their self-worth.

      You are NOT just a nobody.

      You life was chosen for a special purpose that no one else alive can accomplish that particular purpose!

      In fact, you are needed to complete the entire universe, for without you, ll of time and space would be deficient.

      That means that you are not “just a nobody” but in a sense, the MOST important detail of creation: “Bishvili nivra haOlam” (the world was created for me and you and each of us individually).

      Besides the fact, we are all malkas, daughters of the King, Melech Malchei HaMelochim.

      And that is why you are not just a nobody.

  • 31. Further Clarification wrote:

    Thank you for earlier clarification.

    Please clsrify further

    Did she hear from Rebbe the following:

    “Midrash says on the fourth possuk of Aishes Chayil: dorsha tzemer u’pishtim – that is Sarah.
    Tzemer and pishtim: wool and linen is shatnez [which the Torah forbade to wear together in one garment] – what does the Aishes Chayil do with shatnez material?
    She keeps them apart! Sarah was the one to keep Yishmael away from Yitzchok and his inheritance. Wool and linen must be kept apart
    Moshe implanted part of Sarah’s name into Yehoshua’s name to have this mandate.”

    Or were these her own thoughts?

    Reply
    • 32. Rabbi Sholom Avtzon wrote:

      Her own
      The Rebbe’s reply begins from based on my recollection … the Rebbe answered two points

    • 33. Further Clarification wrote:

      What about:
      “The shira (song) of the women at kriyat yam suf (splitting and crossing the sea) was more glorious then the men’s shira – it had dance and musical instruments.”

      THAT is obviously from a sicha (explaining why Haftora is Shiras Devorah)!!

      So what makes you know or assume rest isn’t??

  • 34. Rabbi Sholom Avtzon wrote:

    Simply put she is extremely careful in telling me what is the Rebbe’s and what is her own thoughts.
    I began with the statement that this point of a womans role is ongoing in our correspondence.
    She answered that whole segment to bring out her viewpoint. So it is hers.

    Did the Rebbe ever mention the greatness of the women’s Shira over the men. Yes many times.
    But that doesn’t mean that the Rebbe mentioned it to her, no.

    Also her words she allowed me to edit and explain
    The Rebbe’s words tp her I never edited.

    Reply
    • 35. Rabbi K from BMG wrote:

      The whole first part is HERS?!
      She knows midrash on Shir Hashirim?! (That darsha tzemer upishtim is Sorah??!!)
      SHE said pshat in that midrash (why it means Sorah – because of her approach to Yishmoel)??!!
      That is…wow!

  • 36. Thank YOU!!! wrote:

    As a shlucha, I am so inspired by Malka and her odyssey. I wish I could meet her and just gaze at her while soaking her energy and commitment to her beliefs. Her journey is worthy of a novel. She is loved and cherished by all that have heard of her. She is our sister, mother, friend. Our souls are bound to hers. I thank Rabbi SB A for opening the door of communication from her to us. These comments let us communicate back to her (if she is reading them) and express our love, connection and admiration.

    Reply

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