Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

1 Sivan 5765 - June 8, 2005 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly










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Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Shema Yisrael Torah Network











Home and Family

by Batya Jacobs

I first met Ruth when I was a student, in the fervently ideological sixties. Ruth was the wife of a young shochet who had smicha. She wasn't quite a rebbetzin yet — her husband had no flock and they were both so young. There was a crowd of us, `identified' though not necessarily religious Jewish students, who kind of gravitated towards Ruth's house on Shabbos, Purim, on and on.

Ruth's door was always open for us. Ruth's larder could always feed another guest. Ruth's smile was ever-present and nothing seemed to faze her.

In those far-off days, I used to almost pity Ruth. She was `tied down' to her house. She produced baby after baby and what a fuss was made when she finally had a boy! She didn't seem to question her lot. All she had was the pots and pans, the diapers, the washing, the housework, the care of the children. What was she doing to expand her mind? How could she stand to be so subservient?

"What do you want to do all this studying for; it's not going to help you change a dirty diaper!" she would remark.

I couldn't understand it. My idealism, my home thought-out version of women's lib, my inability to accept anything unquestioningly — were all challenged by this simple Jewish mother.

Ruth radiated contentment. She was so happy with her lot. She adored her husband, a jolly, outgoing, outreaching and brilliant man. She used to give lessons in Kitzur Shulchon Oruch to some girls.

"What about gemora?"

"What do you want to learn that for?" she said with her smiley, contented but dumbfounded voice.

I couldn't possibly understand then that Ruth was a true product of her upbringing. A Stamford Hill girl who had reached her ultimate role, her tachlis.

I spent Shabbos after Shabbos by her. I would babysit in the afternoon so that Abba and Imma could have their Shabbos rest. In those days, I couldn't really understand why they needed to sleep. I helped make the salads and things for the unknowable influx of visitors for seuda shlishis. And all the while I was changing, growing in my Yiddishkeit from a "United Synagogue" (a step under Mizrachi) shul-goer into a "I'm not quite sure how you would put it."

I was after consistency; I was after understanding; I was after doing things correctly. BUT! I was battling with logic. I was fumbling with fairness, and my status as a woman just had me floored.

I visited Ruth several times, after I was married. I brought my little three-boy brood to be inspected by the "mother of all mothers." I drank in that non-stop inner contentment that only Ruth could radiate. Though at first, a bit bemused by the numbers, soon my boys just blended with Ruth's household and they, like me, wanted to stay.

Now, several of my own boys later, and in a different country, I can only contact Ruth on the telephone. Yes, her voice on the phone still transmits that radiant, contented smile, and my poor tainted mind still cannot let that contentment just flow over and become a permanent part of me.

I wonder what the answer is with our own precious children. I think of Ruth and I wish that I could be like her. I will that my questions and discomforts would leave me in peace. I long to be able to ignore those feelings in the pit of my stomach that come every time I think my `rights' are being ignored. I wonder how I could ever get back to the Yiddishe Mama who reacts with her emotions, her instincts and not with her intellect.

Can we really stop our girls from being infiltrated by today's imperatives? Do we know how to package and sell the real Jewish Woman of Valor to our precious progeny?

I saw in England, some time ago, that the Chief Rabbinate was trying to set up a committee whose aim was to find a more acceptable Jewish Woman image to put over in this day-and- age. I shuddered. The `real thing' is such a beautiful image, if only people wouldn't buy `this day-and-age' as an immutable package.

My brain screams at me that girls have a right to know, that a girl should be allowed to think for herself, that she should be allowed to use the brain that Hashem gave her. Yet I know that on that slippery path, there are infiltrators; there are foreign value systems; there is discontent and confusion.

Ruth wasn't told that things should be different. She is doing what she wants to do. I wonder. Oh, how I wonder: how can we bring up a generation of `Ruths' in THIS DAY AND AGE?


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