In this week’s edition of Letter & Spirit, we present an enlightening letter from the Rebbe on the important role of the woman in the miracle of Chanukah. It begins with her self-sacrifice for tznius at a time of Greek influence and trends which large segments of the Jewish population, Hellenists, fell prey to during those difficult times.
The Rebbe writes that Tznius is more than the length of the dress; it is 1. Resisting non-Jewish trends; 2. Affects the entire Jewish people, not only the individual; 3. Not to be discouraged by overwhelming numbers and forces of darkness around us. The few and the weak facing off against the many and the powerful is, after all, the story of Chanukah!
The letter was written through the Rebbe’s trusted secretary Rabbi Nissan Mindel, and was made available by the latter’s son-in-law, Rabbi Sholom Ber Shapiro.
By the Grace of G-d
21st of Kislev, 5730
New York, N.Y.
Blessing and Greeting:
I duly received your letter with the enclosed tzedakah contributed by your group of girls. Enclosed are the receipts.
May G-d grant that the zechus of the tzedakah should stand each and every one of you individually and all together in good stead for the fulfillment of your heart’s desires for good in all your needs.
I hope you will have an inspiring Chanukah, especially in light of the fact that Jewish women had a significant role in the miracle of Chanukah, as you surely know. The women’s contribution began with their self-sacrificing determination to observe the laws of tznius and extended to the whole area of Torah and mitzvos. Be it remembered that in these days they were confronted with a trend which had swept not only non-Jewish nations, but unfortunately also a substantial part of the Jewish people – who called themselves “Hellenists,” faithfully following the customs and fashions of the day as set by the Greek culture prevailing at that time.
An event in Jewish history, particularly one that has been eternalized by a mitzvah, especially for eight consecutive days, surely must provide food for thought, not only as an important historic event, but also and especially, as one that has a pertinent and timely significance for our own day and age. This should also make it easier to overcome whatever difficulties there may be, whether real or imaginary, to do so with confidence, joy and gladness of heart.
The message of Chanukah for Jewish girls and women is that they should not allow themselves to be influence by the environment, even though they are “few” and “weak” (as mentioned in Al Hanissim). Victory will be theirs if they assume a strong and determined posture, the benefit of it will be not only for them but for the entire Jewish people, indeed for all future generations, as was the case with Chanukah.
Surely it is unnecessary to elaborate to you at length as to the cult of the ancient Greeks, which was to worship physical strength and beauty, discarding all modesty. So shameless they became in their conduct, that they ascribed the same obscenities and vulgarity to their pagan gods, as is well known from their mythology.
In light of the above, the issue insofar as Jewish girls are concerned, is not merely the length of a dress, whether it be longer or shorter, but the fact that following the trend of the non-Jewish cult means subservience to it all along the line.
Secondly, this is not a personal matter where a Jewish girl can think it is a matter of her own to so as she pleases, but it has far-reaching implications involving other girls and is indeed a matter of concern for all our Jewish people.
Thirdly, there is no basis to think that what can a girl do in the face of such a majority and a trend, etc. The message of Chanukah provides the answer in regard to all three mentioned points.
I hope and pray that those girls who have shown strength and independence in the matter of tznius, will continue to do so even with greater strength while those who have not seen the matter in the true light of the Torah until now, will begin to do so from now on and will continue in the right direction, going from strength to strength in accordance with the teachings of the Chanukah lights, which are kindled in growing numbers from day to day.
Although this letter has been addressed to you in reply to your letter, both your letter as well as the reply are, of course, intended in behalf of the entire group. I hope, therefore, that you will bring it to the attention of each and every one of the group and that it will help you and them in your determination to show a living example to other girls and groups as to what the proper thinking and conduct of a Jewish girl should be. In this way we may be certain in the eventual victory of light over darkness and the realization of Al Hanissim in our own time, to its very conclusion, “to give thanks and praise to Your great Name.”
Wishing you and all your friends a happy and inspiring Chanukah,
The above letter is from a forthcoming volume of The Letter and the Spirit Series, two volumes of which have been published to date, with volume three coming out shortly, IYH. The letters are from the archives of Rabbi Dr. Nissan Mindel, a personal secretary to the Previous Rebbe and The Rebbe, whose responsibilities included the Rebbe’s correspondence in English.
We thank Rabbi Sholom Ber Shapiro, director of Nissan Mindel Publications and the one entrusted by Rabbi Mindel, his father-in-law, with his archives, for making these letters available to the wider public. May the merit of the many stand him in good stead.