Chazal dedicate many discourses to the superpower traits of the Matriarchs and prophetesses. “Bezchut nashim tzadkaniyot nigalu Yisrael memitzrayim”- “In the merit of the righteous women, the Jewish people were redeemed from Egypt.” (Midrash Shmot Raba- Alef) “Nashim zerizot bemitzvot yoter meanashim.” Women are quicker to do mitzvoth than men” (Midrash Raba). “Isha kesheyra osa ratzon baalah.” ” A good and kosher woman performs her husband’s will- by creating it in the first place or rectifying it-“. What better Mashpiah (a person that motivates others) comes to mind than our first matriarch Sarah. Isha kesheyra is also read as Isha KeSarah- the woman, the motivating Sarah.
Sarah and Abraham are 2 equal heavyweights that place themselves on the bedrock of the Holy Land. They are seekers and movers. The blessings, promises and later dreams experienced by Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Yosef were all brought to fruition by their partners, their wives. In these parshiyot we perceive Abraham as the personification of righteousness, inc., but Sarah his hidden right hand (“where is Sarah?” “In the tent…”) had the last word. She set out to an unknown Land, setting up shop in the land of G-d’s word. She was promised a multitude of children but was tested in patience until her womb actually opened up and actualized this. Hashem says to Abraham, “All that Sarah tells you, you must listen to her voice.” She settled all the scores. The union of Abraham and Sarah is likened to when Hashem created mercy and judgment and brought them together. Sarah is considered the rectification of Chava “the mother of all life”. Our Rabbis tell us that her will to initiate and lead the way, a new way of belief in one G-d were in the merits of her extraordinary intellectual skills and sensitivity to that special moment of emotion that could only convey strong faith in also those who turned to her and joined her in the mission. She welcomed people but also knew how to put down the line if she had to and was the mother of all converts to belief in Hashem.
The rituals Sarah performed were blessed abundantly. Her dough won fortunes favor and provided for multitudes. The cloud of Glory rested on her tent and she had the ability to arouse the upper worlds as she kindled the lights of Sabbath, rectifying the lights that were put out after the first sin in the Garden of Eden. The candles actually burned from one Shabbat to the next. In kabbalah it is explained that the sphere of Malchut (kingship) reflects the feminine dimension. On the human body it is represented by the mouth which is why Sarah’s voice must be heard. During the long exile that the Bnei Yisrael experienced out of their Land, Malchut could not receive direct influence from the other spheres, likened to a husband and wife separated. But in these days that the redemptive process is revving up and falling into play, the verse from Jeremiah 31:21, regarding the redemption, “A woman of valor will be the crown of her husband”- describes how Malchut, the woman of valor- and the Land of Israel ,the lost bride- comes back, and is returned to her husband. This describes a time of awakening when the Land shakes off the dust and cobwebs and gives forth her fruit again (because she remained for the most part barren for two thousand years) – igniting malchut, kingship. The final phase is the crown placed on the head of mashiach- this is when all the spheres come into Malchut and rise into Keter (the crown).
Sarah, as “Ezer kenegdo”, the perfect example of the support her husband needed in order to complete their mission serves as a perpetual illustration to the new trailblazing settlers that arrived after the long exile, even after the State of Israel was formed. The biblical areas, the most sacred and revered by the Jewish people were the places most under dispute because the nations of the world, for the most part, do not want the crown placed on Mashiach’s head. They object to the reunion of the “husband- the Jewish people” returning to the wife- the Land of Israel”. Even the governments of Israel who have not received the direct influence of Malchut still hold secular views, not fully valuing the treasures of the historical legacy returned to us. Even after the 1967 wars of the Arabs against Israel and the miraculous returning of these precious lands to us, the consensus was “leave it alone”. The readiness of the settler woman to sit in tents, in flimsy makeshift structures in order to establish new yishuvim (communities, settlements) forced the governments of Shimon Peres, Yitzchak Rabin, Menachem Begin and others to move families into more durable dwellings, whether it was into nearby army bases or administrative buildings. The willingness of mothers to stay with their young children in conditions that excluded even running water and electricity prompted the bargaining with government officials that eventually led to the establishment of permanent buildings, and permanent communities revived on the very ancestral sites of the Patriarchs and Matriarchs. In fact, most of the advances that came about in settlement activity were a result of “her” selflessness. Putting all other goals of professionalism and academics on the back burner, fulfilling the idealistic dream was “her” immediate self fulfillment. She called the shots. In “her” merit, the ranks swelled from a handful of women and children holding chanukah candles in the pouring night rain at Sebastia, and the sleeping bags and bottled water on the floors of the Park Hotel in Chevron, to close to 300,000 in a span of three decades. Dressing up as archeologists at Tel Shilo or being bulldozed eight times from Rujeb (now Itamar)- there were plenty of stories of simple beautiful Mashpiahs that brought mother earth to life. There should be libraries full of them.
Dear Readers, Two great movements sprouted around the time I was born, Zionism and Feminism. I don’t know about burning bras, but I do agree with Opra Winfrey when she said, “Rejoice in your womanhood!” I say also, “Rejoice in your Land”. It’s one and the same. Rabbi Yitzchak Ginzberg touched upon the subject and said, “If one would like to strike a modern chord, one would say that the possibility of a rectified feminism is one of the signs of the approaching redemption of our present level of existence.”- RECTIFIED feminism in the sense of being satisfied in who you are, in your feminine identity and not aspiring to negate it. And not trying to negate who you are in your inner core connection to your Land, to your voice. Ladies and Gentlemen, the Shechinah is coming home!
Shabbat Shalom, Leah Goldsmith