Weekly Letter: The Three Mitzvos of the Woman

In honor of the Chof Bais Sh’vat Shluchos Convention – this week, P’ Yisro, we are sharing a sicha which the Rebbe spoke to the women at the Neshei u’Bnos Chabad Convention – 17th of Sivan, 5740.

In this powerful sicha, the Rebbe encourages the three mitzvos of the woman – with emphasis on taharas ha’mishpaha and the mitzvah of “be fruitful and multiply.”

The first document, from the Archives of Nissan Mindel, is the English translation of the sicha with the handwritten notations of the Rebbe and the second document is the final draft with the Rebbe’s notations included.


(the Rebbe’s handwritten notations on the students’ unedited translation are included in this final copy)

  1. We have gathered in connection with the annual convention of Neshei uBnos Chabad (the Lubavitch Women’s Organization). The aim of our gathering is to enhance the lives of every Jewish woman and girl and thus enhance the lives of their husbands, sons and brothers. Our Rabbeim  would frequently say that when one meets another Jew, he must try to see that their meeting produces a benefit also for a third individual. Surely, today’s meeting, at which many women are assembled, is intended to benefit every Jew that we can possibly reach. 

The above is true at all times, for “Love your fellowman as yourself” is a great principle of the Torah. A general principle includes within it many particular facets. “Love your fellowman as yourself” is a basic principle of the Torah, including within it a great amount of details. In fact, Hillel calls it the entire Torah, (the rest being explanation). Thus, when a Jew fulfills the Mitzvah of Ahavas Yisroel, he fulfills an entire Torah (A). 

Torah is called “our life” – for just as life must be continuous, never ceasing, not even for a moment, similarly, our connection with Torah must be constant. Thus it follows that our love for our fellowman – a great principle n the Torah – must be present at every moment of our lives (B). 

From the above, it is obvious that the resolutions taken up by the convention must be permeated with Ahavas Yisoel. May the resolutions taken be good – good for those who make them and good – for the entire Jewish people. May all those who have come here take with them  goodness, light and holiness.

  1. The resolutions accepted at the convention must call for activities that reach and influence every Jewish woman. Even though a special committee was chosen to supervise this – and they have a greater merit and obligation – nevertheless, everyone who has participated in the convention has the responsibility and mission to fulfill the resolutions, reach and explain them to every Jewish woman in a pleasant manner which they can understand and relate to. Since the resolutions are based on the Torah, to which the heart of every Jew naturally responds, they will surely be accepted. All that is necessary is that they be explained in a proper manner.

May these resolutions be accepted with joy and may they permeate every aspect of our personalities. Thus, they will bring great success and immediately. 

The above shares a special connection to the time when the convention is held on this weekend shortly following the holiday of Shavuos, a holiday which makes us more conscious of Torah, Mitzvos and Yiddishkeit in general.

It is also significant that this gathering is being held in a holy place, a place in which we study and pray and particularly since according to the programs, this gathering was preceded by prayer and study. Surely, we shall also all fulfill (or have already fulfilled) the Mitzvah of Tzedakah (in greater degree than usual) thus adding the third pillar on which the world stands and bringing about increased blessings throughout the world. 

  1. The above is connected to the Torah reading from the coming week, that we started reading at Minchah and will be completing Shabbos of the convention– which contains a clear lesson concerning the mission and responsibility of every Jewish woman. This week’s portion, Shelach, speaks of the Mitzvah of Challah. This mitzvah has been given over to every Jewish woman. “The first of your dough” – the beginning of any food or drink served in the house must be connected with “you shall set apart a portion unto G-d.” First, a portion of the food is given to G-d and only afterwards does a Jew consider how he and his family can benefit from it. In this manner, the entire house and every member of the household becomes connected with G-d. G-d “dwells within” the heart of every Jew and in every Jewish home. The fulfillment of this mitzvah has been given over to the Jewish woman. She does so with a blessing and by doing so, brings blessing to her home.

The convention is also connected with the Torah portion read on this previous Shabbos, Parshas Bahaalosecho, which describes the kindling of the Menorah in the Mishkan (and later the Temple) by Aharon and his descendants. Every Jewish home is a sanctuary and a Temple for G-d. Just as the lighting of the Menorah in the sanctuary was given over to Aharon, similarly, the responsibility for bringing “the candle of Mitzvah and light of the Torah” into every Jewish home has been given over specifically to every Jewish woman. Although, in a larger sense, every Mitzvah is a candle (C), the Mitzvah of lighting candles in honor of Shabbos and Yom Tov particularly emphasizes this quality, bringing about light that can actually be seen and can light up the darkness of the world. This Mitzvah has been given over to Jewish women and our Sages tell us that through lighting Shabbos candles we will merit to see the “candles of Zion.” 

The conclusion of Parshas Bahaalosecho also alludes to the third Mitzvah given over to women, the Mitzvah of Taharas Hamishpacha. The Torah relates how the Jewish people, Moshe, Aharon and even the ark and the Shechina, Divine Presence, waited an entire week without journeying further in order that Miriam should rejoin them. The merit of each of the three: Moshe, Aharon and Miriam cause a specific benefit to the Jewish people in the desert. In Moshe’s merit, the manna was given, in Aharon’s, the clouds of glory and in Miriam’s, the well. The well traveled together with the Jews through their 42 journeys in the desert. In addition to providing water, Miriam’s well also made it possible for the mitzvah of Taharas Hamishpacha to be fulfilled. There was no other source of water in the desert, except oasis. Thus it was Miriam’s well that was in each one and consistently, that served as a mikvah and allowed for the birth of children in the 40 years. This Mitzvah is also connected with the redemption when G-d will purify the Jewish people. In fact, the Prophet Yirmiyahu (17:13) refers to G-d as the “Mikvah of Israel.”

  1. This convention marks the conclusion of the first 25 years of Neshei uBnos Chabad’s activities. We must “always proceed higher in holy things.” Regardless of the achievements of the first 25 years, we must add more good, light and holiness, for good is boundless. Furthermore, the experience gained in the first 25 years will surely enhance the success of the years to come (D), when, with the conclusion of the second 25 years, Neshei Chabad will have completed a Yovel, a time period that the Torah calls olam – “forever.”

  In general, anniversaries of this nature, particularly those related to Yiddishkeit, Torah and Mitzvos, are associated with special resolutions to proceed further, thus also showing that Yiddishkeit has no end. Just as G-d is infinite, so too is Yiddishkeit and it is therefore necessary to continue to grow. 

  1. The above is connected with a matter which for strange reasons is ignored. It is not spoken about and no special efforts are made to correct the situation.

All of the Mitzvos mentioned above have a direct effect on a Jew’s general behavior. Through Challah, which includes in a larger sense the entire realm of Kashrus, the body becomes a kosher body with kosher thoughts, speech and deeds. Also, the lighting of the Shabbos candles influences the household for the entire week until the candles are lit again (E). Similarly, the practice of Taharas Hamishpacha – and even more so – that has an affect on the entire life of the husband and wife and all the descendants that result from the union. 

Despite its importance, the mitzvah of Taharas Hamishpacha is rarely given public mention. At one time, it was possible to argue that people were embarrassed to speak about the topic. However, today male and female relationships are openly discussed in many circles. Furthermore, due to the fact that some observant children attend schools where they come in contact with children from other homes, this matter, even though it is entirely not desirable, but in actuality has been introduced in observant circles as well.

Nevertheless, a Rabbi will not mention Taharas Hamishpaha in his sermon, a Torah lecturer will shy away from the subject and an educator who teaches grown up girls will not tell them the topic even if she will be getting married in the very near future.

In previous generations, these individuals did not have to discuss this matter, for every parent would share this information with their children. However, “times have changed.” Today, the parents are incapable of transmitting this information in all its details. Even those who are willing cannot communicate all the various laws.

There is therefore no alternative but for women to demand from Rabbis and lecturers to speak about this topic. Although they may have other important topics to speak about, this subject is of greatest importance. It is necessary to mention it at every possible opportunity. Even though it is impossible to discuss the particular laws in shul, the general topic must be mentioned with emphasis, so that families will know that the existence of the Jewish people and their redemption from golus is dependent on Taharas Hamishpacha. Furthermore, the topic cannot be merely spoke about and left at that. After the speech, a time and place when a class about Taharas Hamishpacha will be held must be announced.

Needless to say the subject must be dealt with in a discreet and pleasant manner. However, the topic can no longer be ignored. 

The Jewish women are charged with the responsibility for motivating Rabbis to speak about this question. In this country, that responsibility can be easily discharged. The sisterhoods and ladies’ auxiliaries play a large role in the congregation and in the schools because of the functions they carry out and the money they raise. They can influence the Rabbis, lecturers and teachers to deal with this question. They should not rest until they have organized classes about the subject in every synagogue and in every school grade for girls, of shiduchim age.

And specifically now, you should not think that since the summer vacation is coming soon, the whole question can be held in abeyance until the fall. Each Jewish woman and girl is a whole world (see Sanhedrin 37a) and must be cared for. As is the case with a business that does not close in the summer, even more so here-  these efforts to reach out to Jewish women must continue. Furthermore, there are a number of courses for women, in the city and in the country, that can be arranged. These mediums should be used to spread the Mitzvah of Taharas Hamishpacha.

Furthermore, a great effort must be made to spread Yiddishkeit through stressing Taharas Hamishpacha. Taharas Hamishpacha is perhaps the most necessary factor in raising a generation of Jews who will follow the path of Torah and Mitzvos. In fact, according to our Sages, the reason for the decline in ethics and moral behavior that can be seen in many homes stems form a failure to keep Taharas Hamishpacha.

In view of the above, it is fitting that this be one of the main projects of this convention of Neshei Chabad. May they speak with Ahavas Yisroel to Rabbis, lecturers and principals of girls’ schools about the importance of Taharas Hamishpacha and with true modesty publicize its fundamental position in Jewish life. 

  1. There is another matter which is also ignored though it constitutes the greatest task of the Jewish woman. The greatest blessing G-d gives a person is children. Therefore, the blessing to have children “Be fruitful and multiply, fill the earth and subdue it,” is the first mitzvah, blessing given in the Torah. By having children “we fill up the world and subdue it,” making the world a world of humanity and ethics. 

When G-d blesses a Jewish home, the greatest blessing He gives is sons and daughters whom the parents will raise in the ways of our ancestors, Avraham and Sarah, “following the way of G-d, doing justice and righteousness.” The true blessings and health, in both a physical and spiritual sense, with which G-d blesses a Jewish family are connected with keeping Taharas Hamishpacha and having children. They will prevent us from being affected by the disturbing influences that have been brought into the world by not keeping Taharas Hamishpacha. Every child who is born into the home represents a greatest blessing for his parents and grandparents. 

Furthermore, when a child is born G-d gives the means to sustain it. A child is surely not  a burden to the parents, it is their son or daughter for whom G-d has provided. They need not worry about making an extra living, G-d “sustains and provides for all.” He carries the burden of providing for the father and the mother, the son and the daughter. For a time, He sustains the children through the medium of the parents. Later on, their sustenance is given to them directly. Even when the parents help their children out at an advanced age, the means to do so is given by G-d. The greatest blessing, priviledge and source of satisfaction a family can have is the opportunity to raise and educate children.

This applies to every Jewish home, even one n which the relationship between the husband and wife is in need of improvement. The Torah teaches that even in a home where there is no shalom bayis, where a sotah, a woman whose immodest behavior caused her to be forced to undergo the testing process described in the Torah – if she is found to be innocent of the charges against her, a great reward is given, with a blessing to be fertile and beget children.

There are those who argue that it is necessary to wait for the relationship between a husband and wife to reach the highest level possible and hold oneself back from having children until the atmosphere in the home is the most refined. The Torah teaches, as stated above, that even in such cases, children are a blessing for a couple.

All the arguments for preventing the birth of children: that the family relationship is not good enough, that there is a possibility they will not receive a proper education, that the funds to raise them must be secured – have the same source, the yetzer horah.

However, the yetzer is clever. If it would present itself openly, no Jew would even listen to it. Therefore, it puts on “Jewish clothes” and tries to persuade the Jew that it is a mitzvah not to have children. This way he will have more time to devote to valuable projects, etc. However, we must realize that despite this process of concealment, the arguments are those of the Yetzer; and there is nothing that the yetzer horah wants that is good for a Jew. And only in the most exceptional cases may this be permitted, and only an expert Rav is able to clarify and determine, to rule when these cases exist.

If someone has any difficulty about this matter, they can resolve this by looking at what happened to those couples who limited the number of their children. The process was called by a very diplomatic name, “family planning.” Its proponents maintained that since every aspect of a person’s life should be planned out before hand, a plan must also and especially be developed concerning if and how many children to have and at which stage of life to have them. However, that “attractive” phraseology covers up a very serious danger, the nature of which can easily be appreciated by examining the effects that have been brought about by family planning. It has strained the relationship, caused emotional hardships between husband and wife and affected their health.  

When the normal process – of body and soul – of marital life as decreed by G-d in the Torah is tampered with and disrupted, altered radically, the peace of the household is bound to be disturbed. “Family planning” is opposite not only to a Torah approach to married life, but according to psychoanalysis, to a normal human approach to life. It has caused couples to seek psychoanalysis, psychotherapy, marriage counselors, etc. instead of bringing planned order into their lives, family planning has disturbed the normal order, order established by G-d in the Torah. The Torah shows how to live a normal life, a true life. The greatest mitzvah called for by this lifestyle is to have children, as many as G-d wants, without trying to make His accounts for Him.

This course of behavior brings about blessings in all matters of abundance of children, life and wealth: children – healthy children, happy children, true Jewish children. Life – a life free of complications, for as can be seen from common examples, those homes that practice family planning are filled with disturbances and complications. Wealth – for G-d will bless the couple with sustenance. Furthermore, they will not have to worry about paying extra doctor bills for treating frustration with psychotherapy etc. for the father, mother and the children will all be healthy. The lifestyle they practice is healthy and it will affect all the others around them, making their environment a healthy one. 

Every Jewish woman must appreciate that her behavior is affecting her environment and can affect the entire world, as the Rambam states – with one thought, deed or action, every Jew can bring “help and salvation” to the entire world. This is particularly important now that Neshei Chabad is beginning a new era of activity. It is necessary to spread the above to all Jewish women. Particularly at conventions when Jewish men or women gather together to discuss topics of importance, the above should be mentioned. We should no longer be ashamed to speak about these issues for they constitute one of the fundamental principles of Judaism and of humanity in general.

In the past, certain programs of Neshei Chabad at first were met with opposition from certain circles. However, within a short time, the opposition reversed their approach and agreed that these matters were essential and necessary, and they also joined in these efforts. The same pattern will take place in regard to the present matter. But Neshei Chabad must issue the call to action, publishing it in every country and language (in a modest and proper manner) proclaiming that the world and all its particular aspects is controlled by G-d. He gave every Jew the candle of Mitzvah and the light of Torah, a Torah of life which illuminates our daily life. By following G-d’s mitzvos as explained in the Shulchan Aruch, we follow a path of light and life. In doing so, plans are G-d’s plans. In contrast, the human “family planning” in its present form, destroys marital relationship, threatens the future of the Jewish (and other) nation and delays the coming of Moshiach. May it be G-d”s will that every one of you make a resolution to speak to all Jewish women about this matter, asking them to have mercy on the husbands and children who want another brother or sister. When they speak from the heart, their words will also enter the heart. 

When the Jews were exiled in Egypt, there were those who did not want to have children because of Pharaoh’s decree and because of the harsh labor the Jews were forced to undergo. Nevertheless, despite those difficulties, the Jewish women ignored Pharaoh and his decree to throw their sons into the river and raised “the hosts of G-d” boys and girls who became G-d’s soldiers and received the Torah on Mt. Sinai. Furthermore, the children became guarantors, the surety, in whose merit Moshe, Aharon and the entire Jewish people and all the world received the Torah.

The Prophet Michah (7:15) declared “As in the days of your exodus from Egypt, I will show you wonders.” We are the last generation in galut, the last years, the last months, the last weeks before Moshiach’s coming. Just as then it was the merit of the righteous women that caused the Jews to be redeemed, so too the future redemption will come through the merit of the women. And it is necessary that a storm of excitement and activity be generated and every one be given a push. 

One should not be shaken from their resolve if someone says their approach is not modern or is against culture. To which culture is it opposed? The culture that brought about Hitler and the destruction which he wrought against the Jewish people? 

There are some Jews who have been caught by this “planning.” However, the Jewish people are a “wise and understanding people.” Their wisdom is not their own but comes from G-d and the Torah. By following the Torah, we will be successful and the Jewish women will raise G-d’s hosts, Jewish children, who follow the Jewish way even in the present golus. Then the parents, grandparents and children will all follow G-d’s light, the light of Torah and mitzvos and proceed to greet Moshiach in the true and complete redemption., speedily in our days.

May you have a happy and healthy summer, a real Jewish summer with healthy children and grandchildren. And may we soon go together to Israel where we will find a complete land, a Jewish land, with complete Jewish people for the Torah will be followed in a complete manner.

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