Rabbi Yirmi Cohen
This Shabbat we read about the giving of the Torah. The women at the time of the giving of the Torah played a special role. Our sages, commenting on the verse, “You shall say to the house of Jacob,” explain that it refers to women. Women were approached first, before the men, when the Torah was given. This emphasizes the women’s primary role in preserving the Torah and mitzvot in their homes and for the Jewish People. The Jewish woman fulfils her role of “spiritual decorator” through the three mitzvot God gave her: maintaining a kosher kitchen, keeping family purity, and lighting candles on Shabbat and Yom Tov.
Women have greater faith than men. It was the women who sang and prepared tambourines, expecting big miracles. After Pharaoh’s decree to throw all Jewish males into the Nile, Moses’ father divorced his wife, so that no more children would be born and killed. But it was Miriam, a child of six, who persuaded her father not to fear and to remarry her mother and have Moses.
This Shabbat is the yahrzeit of Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka Schneerson, the wife of the Rebbe. She was a true queen. She was sensitive to others. It was she who convinced her husband to become Rebbe after he had refused.
Once she was being driven through a Jewish neighbourhood in New York and saw a family being evicted from their home. She asked the driver to stop and ask how much they owed. When she heard the sum, she wrote a cheque for the entire amount on the spot. She explained: “I don’t usually pass through this area. If I did and I saw such a sight, it was obviously a directive for me to act.”
I’m proud that my daughter Chaya carries her name and also attends the Beis Chaya Mushka School in Toronto. May we be reunited with her and all our loved ones with the coming of the Mashiach, now!
Rabbi Yirmi Cohen is spiritual leader at Ohalei Yoseph Yitzchak Congregation in Toronto. yirmicohen@ sympatico.ca