The Power of a Jewish Woman
By Rabbanith Ruth Menashe
Recently, I came across a newspaper which listed the names and pictures of women who “are making their mark on the corporate front, and wield considerable power within them.” Some of them are running multibillion dollar divisions, or oversee over a hundred thousand employees worldwide, and are responsible for millions of customers. Surely, these women are influential, ambitious and powerful. When we read about our matriarch Sara ‘a”h, we are told: “Hinne Ba-ohel” (Bereshith 18:9), “behold, [she is] in the tent.” She is praised for being inside her tent, seemingly powerless, passive and unimportant. However, we are told by our Rabbis of blessed memory, that Abraham had influenced the men to believe in G-d, while Sara actively converted the women. Undoubtedly, this ability reflects the exact opposite qualities: power, status and accomplishment.
Let us explore the concept of power and its definition. Power is the ability to effect change and exercise control. It seems that everyone will agree that those women, who hold positions of chief executives, presidents and chairmen of large companies, fall into the category of powerful women. What about Sara? What about a six year old child who persuades her father, who happens to be the leader of the generation, to remarry her mother, against his best judgment? Many of us heard about ‘Amram who separated from his wife Yochebed in reaction to Pharaoh’s decree, to kill all the Jewish baby boys. Miriam, their young daughter, objected and insisted that the separation was an even harsher step than Pharaoh’s decree. The separation brought “death” upon all Jewish babies – male and female. As a result of the reunion, a great man was born – Moshe Rabbenu. We see from here, that there are two very different ways of influencing and effecting change, one external and one internal.
To clarify what internal power is, we can go to the very beginning, when it all started: the creation of Eve. Her creation from Adam’s rib gives us an indication of her essence. Just as the rib protects the internal vital organs of the body and gives it structure, so too, a woman has an essential role in forming her family and home and giving it structure. This is the essence of our power: building our homes and influencing the development of character and spiritual growth in our family members.
If you are raising an eyebrow, questioning “is that it”, perhaps we should explore one of the most incredible events of our history: the binding of Yis-haq Abinu, ‘a”h. If we ask ourselves, who brought up such an outstanding person, who at the age of thirty seven went with a happy heart to be sacrificed to the Almighty, the obvious answer would be, his mother. His mother, Sara, was the one who detected the bad influence her son was exposed to from his “brother” Yishmael. She is the one who insisted on sending Yishmael away, guarding the spiritual growth of her beloved son. She is the mother who brought up a son worthy of becoming one of the three patriarchs. She is the powerful mother of a man who stretched out his neck on the altar to fulfill the will of Hashem. King Solomon said in his wisdom, “the wisdom of women builds her home.” (Proverbs 14:1)
We are home builders, not the builders of big companies. It is not for us to manage thousands of employees, financial investments and the like. It is however, within our territory to mold our children’s character, to teach them and create an atmosphere of holiness and joy in our homes. We have the potential to bring up great people in our home. Our pictures deserve to appear not in the newspaper, but rather, in a special book in heaven.
yocheved, sarah immenu, sara imenu, akedat yitzchak, yitshak avinu, shelomo, shlomo hamelech, avot, imahot, rabbanit ruth menashe, rebbetzin ruth menashe, midrash ben ish hai, midrash ben ish chai
- Ruth Menashe: http://www.midrash.org/personalities2/rabbanith-ruth-menashe