Friday, May 16, 2008

Satisfaction from Child Raising and Housekeeping - Part 3

Part 3
Rabbi Chaim Morgenstern

(You can see Part 1 here)

The Jewish Home

The Zohar writes "When the Jewish nation was building the Mishkan, the craftsmen verbally dedicated each item saying, 'This is for the Mishkan, this is for the Paroches,' etc. This was done in order to sanctify their labor. Similarly, when a person builds his home, he should say ‘this is (being built) for avodas Hashem’ (meaning that the home will be utilized for serving Hashem to attain spiritual growth). He will then merit Divine assistance, and sanctity and peace will enter his home." (Parshas Tazria with translation of Hasulam pp. 146, 150)
The Zohar is conveying a very important message: The sanctity of our homes can echo the holiness of the Mishkan.

Moreover, we can actually merit having the Shechina (Divine Presence) in our homes. Chazal write that the Shechina resided in the tent of Avraham Avinu and was indicated by the presence of a cloud above his tent (Midrash Rabba Bereishis 60:16, Rashi 24:67). After our forefathers passed away, the Shechina no longer had a place to reside until the Mishkan was erected when our nation reached the spiritual level of our forefathers (Ramban, end of Bereishis).
Rav Avigdor Miller notes that their tent had no ceiling, floor or beams and was small enough to fold together and transport on the back of camels (Awake My Glory, p. 339).

Thus, by creating the proper atmosphere in the home, a family can transform their plain and simple home into a Sanctuary with the presence of the Shechina in it. (This is similar to the concept that the shechina dwells in a home where there is shalom bayis – family harmony, Sotah 17a and commentary of Eyun Yaakov ad. loc.).

An additional factor which personifies the sanctity of the Jewish Home is the custom of placing salt on the table when eating. The Rama explains that this is because the table is like the mizbayach (altar) and the food is compared to the korbanos (sacrifices). The Mishna Brura, quoting chazal, explains that during the time of the Bais HaMikdash, the sacrifices atoned for our sins. Today, our table atones for them (either in the merit of serving food to the poor or the Torah discussed at the table.)

Thus, the Jewish Women’s workplace, which is her home, is unique because it has the potential of being a miniature sanctuary and merit the presence of the Shechina with the table and food as substitutes for the mizbayach and korbanos.

The Eishes Chayil

An accomplished woman is referred to as an eishes chayil, a term taken from the well known chapter in Mishlei (31:10-31). The commentary of the Metzudos translates chayil as zriza ve’yeshara, which perhaps can be loosely translated as conscientious, skilled, and honest – traits that certainly befit the title. (The standard translation of "woman of valor" appears to be incorrect. Valor is defined as "strength of mind in braving danger," which more befits a soldier and is totally out of context in how the above chapter describes her.)

By perusing through Shlomo Hamelech's description of an eishes chayil, we discover that she is portrayed and characterized as an efficient housewife.

The following explanation is based on the commentary of the Metzudos:

"Batach bo lev baala" etc. – her husband relies upon her – she efficiently manages the home so that there is nothing lacking.

"Dorsha tzemer u’fishtim" etc. – she seeks wool and flax etc., she tends to her family's clothing needs.

"Ha’yisa ke’a'niyos sochair" etc. – she travels like a merchant's ship to bring sustenance to her family.

"Vatakom be'od layla" etc. – She arises during the night to feed her household.

"Yodeh'ha shilcha bachishor" etc. – Her hands work with sewing and weaving utensils, etc. Even though she travels to earn a livelihood, nevertheless, she doesn't remove herself from her household duties.

"Tzofia halichos baiso" etc. Rashi explains that she keeps a watchful eye over the activities in her home, meaning that she is the mashgiach of her home.

Thus, it is quite evident that even though the Eishes chayil assists with earning a livelihood for her family, nevertheless, she does not neglect her maternal and household duties and obligations.

The Jewish woman's career is tending to the needs of her family as a loyal wife, mother and homemaker; and, if she must go to work, the purpose is to help support the family, and not to look for a career outside her home.

(Picture courtesy of karjo)

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Stories on the Parsha said...

אִם-בְּחֻקֹּתַי תֵּלֵכוּ וְאֶת-מִצְו‍ֹתַי תִּשְׁמְרוּ וַעֲשִׂיתֶם אֹתָם
One time someone came to the Chofetz Chaim and complained "Rebbi, I learn and struggle and yet I don’t understand my learning". The Chofetz Chaim answered him look in Parshas Bechukosai in the first Posuk. There it says אִם-בְּחֻקֹּתַי תֵּלֵכוּ and Rashi says on the Posuk שתהיו עמלים בתורה meaning to struggle in the torah so apparently you are reaching your goal!!!
וַאֲבַדְתֶּם בַּגּוֹיִם וְאָכְלָה אֶתְכֶם אֶרֶץ אֹיְבֵיכֶם
When arriving in Israel the Yemenite children where taken on a tour of Ponevitch. Much to the dismay of the adults the children started to make fun of the new immigrant children and there Peyos, which they call Simanim. Rav Yitzchok Zilberstein came over to remedy the situation .He told them it said in this week's Parsha it says וַאֲבַדְתֶּם בַּגּוֹיִם you will be lost among the nations. The Medrash on the Posuk says that the Jews are like a lost object. Therefore said Rav Zilberstein you call them Simanim, because a lost object with Simanim in the context of lost objects meaning distinct demarcation are not considered lost as they can always be identified. The children where consoled, and they learnt a Jew with Peyos can not be lost.

Chaim B. said...

>>>if she must go to work, the purpose is to help support the family, and not to look for a career outside her home.

Where from eishes chayil do you see that?

Rabbi Chaim Morgenstern said...

Dear Chaim B.,

Thank you very much for your comment and your point is well taken.

The article that I wrote is condensed from an expanded article which also discusses the issue of women seeking careers outside the home, and is based on the shiur of Rav Y. Frand “Jewish Women I the Workforce.”

However, the concept can also be implied from the theme of Aishes Chayil, because women who seek careers generally do not have sufficient time to be efficient housewives. In the book “Fulfillment in Marriage” by Rav Berel Eisenblatt, he quotes an article from Newsweek magazine regarding how the “Supermom” of today’s generation, i.e. the woman who is trying to manage a home & a career simultaneously, and describes in detail how the two don’t go together & how the career woman cannot be an efficient housewife & mother to her children.


Rabbi Chaim Morgenstern

Chaim B. said...

Of course, a man who pursues his career too vigorously will not have time to be a proper father or to develop into a talmid chacham either. The need to balance career aspirations with home and avodas Hashem applies equally to men and women - there is no need to use gender stereotypes to make this point.

Rabbi Chaim Morgenstern said...

There’s a big difference between the two. A man can peruse a career with a 9-5 job & perhaps occasionally an evening. This is not an option for a woman who is the main caretaker of the home. The husband is a helper and an occasional “pinch hitter” but the wife must be on constant duty, as Chazal say “Ishti zu Baisi”.

See also the JO which ran an article for men about careers vs torah study.


Rabbi Chaim Morgenstern

Chaim B. said...

The assumption that the man is the bread-winner and the women must stay at home is socially constructed, but not manadated by halacha. A stay-at-home dad who takes care of the kids (and raises them to be proper ovdei Hashem) married to a wife with a successful career is fulfilling the ratzon Hashem as much as a couple who lives within the more socially common roles of man as bread-winner and women as homemaker. Let's not confuse what Hashem demands of us with the gender roles that exist in our culture. Let's also not confuse Chazal describing social norma with Chazal as legislators.

DixieYid said...

Reb Chaim, that's not a socially imposed distinction. Halacha obligates the husband to support the wife. In your scenario, halacha requires the wife to be mochel him on his obligation to support her. So you see that that particular setup is the halachic lechatchila.

-Dixie Yid

Chaim B. said...

You are again confusing cause and effect. The kesuba's recognition of the husband as breadwinner is simply a response to the cultural reality that Chazal lived in, which is still prevalant in our times. Given that cultural contect, of course Chazal demanded that the husband live up to his expected role. What is more surprising (especially given the position you are taking) is that Chazal themselves already allowed for the wife to declare "aini nizones v'eini oseh", severing the husband's obligation and allowing her control over her own financial fate. A wife who makes such a declaration is not living in a "b'dieved" state of marriage or observing halacha less ideally than a woman who opts for the usual arrangement. It is a matter of personal decision and taste.

DixieYid said...

Reb Chaim,
I'm surprised that you would call that a confusion of cause in effect. What's your proof that the halacha is a response to culture, rather than the other way around? Merely your a priori assumption that it is so!

It is circular logic to use your position as the proof that your position is correct!

-Dixie Yid

Rabbi Chaim Morgenstern said...

It is quite clear from the kesuba that it’s the man’s obligation to support his wife, & from the mishnayos in mesechta kesubos that a woman’s role in the family is to be an efficient housewife.

There are also many other proofs from Chazal showing that Hashem implanted into human nature this division of roles.

Scientific studies have also proven that men are not emotionally built to carry out the tasks of a full time housewife. Rav Aharon Feldman discusses this in his book “The River, Kettle & Bird.” I have seen this time & time again when counseling couples.

I have yet to see a man staying home as a “housewife” & successfully raising his children to be ovdei Hashem. On the contrary, since children look to the parents as role models, the boys will want to copy their father & also be “housewives.”

I strongly advise you to hear Rav Y. Frand’s Shiur “Women in the Workforce” for a very thorough treatment on this topic.


Rabbi Chaim Morgenstern

Chaim B. said...

>>>What's your proof that the halacha is a response to culture, rather than the other way around?

Huh? You are the one staking the claim that halacha demands a husband be the breadwinner, you provide the proof! All I am doing is showing that alternative possibilities exist and that you haven't proven anything yet.

>>>There are also many other proofs from Chazal showing that Hashem implanted into human nature this division of roles.

Since you haven't shared any of them I guess there is no point in continued discussion.

DixieYid said...

Chaim, I love you but you're missing what's right under your nose. The proof that halacha requires the husband lechatchila to be the bread winner is the fact that halacha requires the husband to be the breadwinner. You've already acknowledged that halacha and the fact that the only way around it is when the wife is mochel. You've tried to argue that despite the fact that halacha requires this, that this is somehow not a proof that halacha requires this (!) by asserting without evidence that the halacha is merely a response to culture. But your conclusory assumption doesn't undo the halacha that the husband is lechatchila required to provide for his wife and not the other way around.

-Dixie Yid