It was customary for the Rebbe to speak to a gathering of women and girls this time of year in 770 – on the occasion of the Neshei Chabad Women’s convention as well as for the end of year graduation and preparation for the summer. We share with you during these weeks letters to and about women. In this week’s letter the Rebbe addresses the question of the women’s role in disseminating Yiddishkeit and of women learning – as well as of the Frierdiker Rebbe’s efforts in promoting this. The letter, written originally in English, is from the archives of the Rebbe’s trusted secretary Rabbi Nissan Mindel.
By the Grace of G-d
2nd of Tammuz, 5730
New South Wales, Australia
Greeting and Blessing:
After a long interval, I was pleased to receive your letter of last week with the enclosures.
For various reasons, I am replying in English, one of them being that you may wish to show the letter to some of the friends of Chabad in your community, for whom a Hebrew text may not be easy.
Referring to the main topic of you letter, namely the dissemination of YIddishkeit among the Jewish women, I can hardly overemphasize that this activity is one of the most basic and vital efforts for the general strengthening and spreading of Yiddishkeit. The role of Jewish women in Jewish life goes back to the time of mattan Torah, as is well known from the commentary of our Sages on the verse, “Thus shall you say to the House of Jacob and tell the children of Israel – the “House of Jacob” – meaning the women.” (Mechilta on Yisro 19:3, quoted in Rashi on this verse). In other words, before giving the Torah to the whole people of Israel, G-d told Moshe Rabbeinu to first approach the women and then the men. This emphasizes the primary role of the Jewish wife and mother in preserving the Torah. Ever since, and throughout the ages, Jewish women have had a crucial role in the destiny of our people, as is well known. Moreover, the Jewish housewife is called Akeres Habayis – the “foundation of the house.” In addition to the plain meaning of this term, namely that she is the foundation of her own home, the term may be extended to include the whole “House of Israel,” which is made up of many individual homes and families for, indeed, this has been the historic role of Jewish womanhood.
Being acutely aware of this role of Jewish women in Jewish life, especially In the most recent generations, my father-in-law of saintly memory frequently emphasized this, so much so that immediately after his liberation from soviet Russia in 1927, when it became possible for him to publish his teachings, he published a number of discourses, talks and addresses in Yiddish, in order to make them more easily accessible to Jewish women and daughters. There is no need to further elaborate on the obvious.