Weekly Letter: The Role of a Jewish Woman

This week, as we read in the Torah Parshas Chayei Sarah, we present a letter from the Rebbe in which he underlines the highest goal of a Jewish woman, that of akeres ha’bayis,  and discusses this in light of contemporary thinking. The letter, written originally in English, is from the archives of the Rebbe’s trusted secretary Rabbi Nissan Mindel.

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Mr. ________                                                             5737

Brookline, Massachusetts

Greeting and Blessing:

This is to confirm receipt of your latest correspondence, which is acknowledged ahead of its turn, inasmuch as you have requested an urgent reply.

It is rather curious and surprising to see how, in what are quite normal situations, some people will take emergency measures, and vice versa.

The above remark is apropos of what you write about your daughter. As you surely know, the highest goal of a Jewish woman is to be a successful akeret habayit, and in such a way that “all the glory of the king’s daughter is within the home.” In other words, the true akeret habayit takes the greatest possible pride in her home and family. Hence, it is self-evident as to what kind of an education and training a Jewish daughter should receive, and in what areas she should excel.

It also follows from the above that a Jewish girl cannot find true fulfillment in a career or profession, any more than a husband can find true fulfillment by being a good cook al­though, in exceptional cases, there are men who make a career of being a chef.

In light of the above, it would certainly be no reflection on the husband to say that he is not clever or smart at preparing tasty dishes; whereas it would reflect on his achievement to say that he is not a good Rosh Yeshiva or that he is not a good engineer, for it is in the natural order of things that the husband should develop his capacities and qualities in his field to the utmost.

You should not, therefore, belittle the fact that your daughter will be attending a school where emphasis is placed on preparing the girls for a good shidduch, and to be a successful akeret habayit, for it is in this area–in her Jewish home–that a Jewish daughter finds true fulfillment and real pride, as mentioned above.

As for the theoretical question of what should be done in the case of a boy who shows particular interest and enthusi­asm to become a cook, and what in the case of a girl who has special qualities that would make her a good engineer–considering the general principle that all G-d-given capacities have to be utilized fully–a letter is not the medium to discuss such a problem, especially as it is not relevant to your letter.

I hope and pray that you will find the right way to encourage your daughter, along the lines mentioned above, to prepare herself to be a true akeret habayit and to find real fulfillment therein. If it is true, as you write, that she lacks the special qualities required to become a good engineer, or the like, you surely know that there is a body of scientific opinion that maintains that when a person excels in one area, he or she is likely to be mediocre, or even inept, in other areas. As a matter of fact, this is perhaps all to the good because if a person excelled in more than one area, he or she would find himself or herself torn in different directions.

With reference to your assessment of your achievements in the spreading of Yiddishkeit, I believe I have shared with you before something that we often heard from my father-in-law, of saintly memory, namely, that just as one should not speak loshon hara about others, so one should not speak loshon hara about oneself. As a matter of fact, it is often one of the methods of the Yetzer Hara to discourage a person from achieving all that he is capable of, by planting in his mind the idea that he is inadequate and that it is no use trying harder.

As a matter of fact, I can now offer you ten assignments to promote Yiddishkeit, as enumerated in the enclosed general message, in which you can achieve a great deal, without in­fringing upon the duties connected with your job–engineering–and by utilizing your spare time only.

As indicated at the beginning of it, this letter has been sent to you by special delivery.

With blessing,

[Sign.]

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The above letter is from The Letter and the Spirit by Nissan Mindel Publications (NMP).

These letters were written originally in English and were prepared for publication by Rabbi Dr. Nissan Mindel, whose responsibility it was the Rebbe’s correspondence in English and several other languages.

We thank Rabbi Shalom Ber Schapiro, who was entrusted by his father-in-law Rabbi Mindel with his archives and who is Director of the Nissan Mindel Publications (NMP), for making the Rebbe’s letters available to the wider public. May the merit of the many stand him in good stead.

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