Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

9 Tammuz 5766 - July 5, 2006 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly










Produced and housed by
Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Shema Yisrael Torah Network

Opinion & Comment
The Task of a Jewish Mother

A letter from HaRav Shimshon Pincus, zt'l

A letter from HaRav Shimshon Pincus, zt'l written in response to a series of articles in which parents complained about the difficulty of hosting married children who visited them.

Dear Parent,

I am writing with regard to the articles that appeared in the paper, on the topic of hosting married children in their parents' home for Shabbos, chagim, and the like. I wish to bring our readers' attention to a very important point and explain what I understand to be a basic problem, and even a fundamental error in hashkofoh. I am not referring to any specific personal incidents. Rather my remarks are meant to address the Torah's perspective.

In principle, what is the Jewish woman's role? It is well known that husband and wife are partners and each one has a defined role in the partnership. It is written: "A man was born to toil," and our Sages interpreted this to teach that man was born for toil in the Torah. There is a posuk that defines this toil clearly: "And you shall meditate in it day and night" (Yehoshua 1:8).

The man's central role is to learn Torah and he needs to devote his life to this end. This is expressed in the long hours and endless nights of learning and toil in Torah, even in our impoverished generation. And even if there is a weakening in the implementation of the goal, the aspiration for it still remains.

What is the women's share in this? If we continue the same line of thinking we come to the conclusion that the same principle applies to her role. The woman's role and her share in the partnership is to raise the children. Consequently, we must apply the principle: "A man was born to toil," and the idea of: "And you shall meditate in it day and night" — to her role as well.

This means the Jewish woman devotes her entire life to raising the children and creating the Jewish home. In actual practice this means long hours and endless nights. It is sad that society recognizes this principle by the men and they are expected to fulfill their role. Whereas concerning women this hashkofoh is being resisted.

I was given an article to read written by a chareidi mother, with Torah values, in which she discusses the "painful" problem a young mother is confronted with when she wants to leave the home at night and hire a baby-sitter. What is she to do when the children protest vehemently with tears and screams? She wrote very convincing advice and guidance about how to deal with the problem

Her main point was, in her words: "The children have to know that the mother is not a slave in subjugation to her children. She is not a maidservant and she has the right to her own private life!"

It is difficult for me to say what daas Torah is in this matter, because everyone speaks their point of view in the Torah's name. My impression is, though, that in the past women did feel they were subjugated to their children.

In the past, a mother was proud of this and she saw this as her role in life. She felt that just as her husband was in the world for the sake of fulfilling his role and not physical enjoyments and the `good life,' and this was expressed in unending devotion to Torah study, so too she is no different than he!

If someone's son grew up and became, boruch Hashem, a maggid shiur or rosh yeshiva, would his role in life change? Should his aspirations change? His role remains the same! He is always a "talmid" chochom. He continues to devote all his moments to learning Torah with complete self- sacrifice.

Why should there be any difference with the daughter? Why should she feel that because she has matured and her children have grown up and gotten married she no longer has the role of a Jewish mother?

Is it right to say that now she deserves the right to devote herself entirely to the pleasure of being a grandmother, to enjoy nachas from her children and grandchildren without the unending toil of a mother?

A Jewish father blesses his sons with the brochoh: "Yesimcho Elokim ke'Ephraim vechiMenashe" — he blesses them that they should be good children. He hopes that even when they grow up and become fathers, grandfathers, or even the godol hador, they will continue to be `good children' with a fresh desire to toil in Torah every day.

In the same way, he blesses his daughters that they should be like the Matriarchs of Yisroel: "Yesimeich Elokim keSoroh, Rivkoh, Rochel, veLeah." Is it possible to say this is only until they become grandmothers, with all the rights that accompany this important attainment?

On the contrary, the children should come for Pesach and she should toil for them night and day, thanking HaKodosh Boruch Hu that she still has the strength. Then, six months later she can wholeheartedly say to HaKodosh Boruch Hu: "Zochreinu lechayim Melech Chofetz bachaim . . . lema'ancho Elokim Chaim! Remember us for life, O King Who desires life . . . for Your sake O Living G-d."

"For Your sake" — meaning, for the sake of the purpose for which we were created and for which we received the gift of life.

We must internalize the proper Torah hashkofoh that every child is an only child in G-d's eyes, as beloved as Dovid Hamelech. Then we can understand that we must dedicate our lives for this most important role.

If a young mother is privileged to participate in that unending "marathon" of laundry, cooking, and making peace between feuding siblings, then why should her mother not have the chance to fulfill the woman's special task [the counterpart] of "and you shall meditate in them day and night" for a week — and become a mother again?

Eventually this Kallah will also be a mother of her own home, and of her own daughter-in-law and grandchildren when the time comes, and the unbroken chain will continue.

In truth, the generation we live in and our entire surroundings cry out the opposite of what we have written. However, just as we labor to educate our sons to the holy ambition of dedicating their lives to Hashem and His Torah, and to reject the enticements of modernization, which teaches morning and night that we are here only for the "good life," so too, the women need to be partners in this battle for the sake of holiness and restoring the crown of Yisroel to its glory. We must remind all our grandmothers to return the crown to their heads.

The custom of the bnei yeshivos is to keep a "mishmar" on Thursday night, to learn the entire night with special application. I once heard in the name of a godol that there is a special sod why Thursday night, of all nights, was chosen.

However, perhaps the custom originates from the impression made by the Jewish mother as well. Naturally, she is up all Thursday night with her own "mishmar," and when her son sees her long Shabbos preparations that take the entire night, he sits with the gemora all night as well.

No, the Jewish mother is not the "maidservant" of her children. But she is the maidservant of HaKodosh Boruch Hu. This was the praise of Moshe Rabbenu — eved Hashem, G-d's servant. The way of a maidservant in her employer's home is to faithfully care for the homeowner's children.

Sometimes, a baby-sitter is a necessity in our generation's situation. However, we must at least know the basic principles: The nursery maid in the king's palace never brings a baby-sitter in her place: she knows she is caring for the crown prince. Fortunate is the one that is privileged to continue this role, until the last day, even at the age of 120!

This is a selection from, Nefesh Chaya, a new collection of essays by HaRav Shimshon Pincus about women.

All material on this site is copyrighted and its use is restricted.
Click here for conditions of use.