CHANA The Grace of Woman

CHANA The Grace of Woman

Dedicated to my wonderful mother obm, Chana bas Nochum Eliyah a"h. The Rebbe told her in yechidus many years ago to encourage women to bake challah. She did this diligently throughout her life. May she be a maylitzas yosher for all Klal Yisroel.

I sit on a small bench on the main street of the holy city of Tzfat, and watch the women walking past me; tall ones, short ones, thin ones, round ones, married and unmarried. I see women wearing shaitels, wearing teichels and wearing hats. Some with long hair and short hair, those with children and without children, young women and old women. Sitting on my bench I see women in all shapes and sizes, in all stages of life and all levels of observance.

Take away the external differences, the outer shell as it were, and you will find that we are all the same. Ask any woman what she wants out of life and you will hear varying degrees of the same desires: good health, peace, happiness – for themselves, their families, their spouses, their children – if blessed with any - and for the world.

Truthfully, these are universal wishes on the most fundamental level, and they transcend all differences of country, culture and custom.

Life tends to sidetrack us, move us forward with a momentum that sometimes forces us to go in directions we did not think we were going to take. It is important to slow down, reassess and evaluate, to be certain we are going in the right direction.

The secular world tells us that there are no differences between men and women  - it is strictly nurture, not nature that says otherwise. We can do the same work, should get the same pay, and so on. You have heard it all before. What much of the world does not wish to understand is that differences are not necessarily a bad thing. Differences are what make each of us unique individuals, created by Hashem to fulfill different functions in this world.

Oranges are oranges, apples are apples, is one better than the other? Both are delicious, both are healthy and beautifully colored, both make sweet and tasty juice, yet each is unique and different. No matter what you do, the orange will remain an orange, the apple will remain an apple. That is as it should be.

Hashem created this great universe. He then created man. He then created woman. He created them to be partners, to work together to raise a family, to give purpose to all that He created, that indeed He continues to create and sustain every moment of every day.

The relationship between Hashem and the world is compared to a marriage, Bnai Yisroel given the role of the wife, to build and enhance Hashem’s abode – the material world we live in. The entire secular world we live in exists for one purpose and one purpose only – to bring the glory of Hashem and His Torah to this world, to elevate every single physical aspect of this world to a higher, holier realm.

To accomplish this sacred mission, we each have our purpose in life. Man has his function and woman has hers. Each is an equal and vital component of our world and its existence. One is no less important to the world than the other.

Hashem gave woman a beautiful gift. He gave her three very special mitzvot characterized by the acronym CHANA – Challah, Nidah and Hadlakat Neirot.  Rearrange the letters and the word forms HACHEN– meaning grace, a state achieved by the woman who takes upon herself the performance of these three beautiful and crucial mitzvot.

Challah – Taking a portion of the challah dough, reciting the blessing and putting it aside for the Kohen, and by extension keeping the home kosher in every sense of the word, is a critical task of every Jewish woman. Taking the very physical, most basic human requirement of food, and elevating it with this mitzvah is exactly the reason the world was created.

The world has grown, technology growing with it, bringing us ever-easier methods of baking challah and keeping kosher. Earlier generations had to grind wheat into flour, mix the dough and bring it to the communal oven to bake, for who could afford ovens years ago, in poor villages? Today, there are dozens of flours to choose from, ready made on our grocer’s shelves, mixers, ovens that clean themselves and so much more to simplify the performance of this mitzvah.

Kosher food is readily available around the world and household utensils are relatively inexpensive, making keeping a kosher home easier now than ever before.  Food feeds the physical body. Done right - the Torah way, it feeds and nourishes the soul as well, building families with good character traits, healthy bodies and souls to serve Hashem and bring great Yiddishe nachat to the world. 

Nidah - Practice of the vital laws of Taharat Hamishpacha, laws that bring spirituality to the very physical fiber of married life. Keeping the laws of Taharat Hamishpacha is our future, the eternity of the Jewish people, allowing us to bring sacred souls down to this world in the purest way possible.

For past generations, there were many challenges to keep Taharat Hamishpacha. Couples persevered, women sacrificed and generations were brought into this world amid great hardship and suffering. The ancient mikvaos of Masada and other archeological finds of mikvaos round the world attest to that fact.

Today, spa-like mikvaos in far reaching corners of the world change the burden into a treat! Choson and Kallah teachers prepare young couples, clearly and carefully, teaching and explaining the details of these often complex laws. An abundance of literature in every language enables couples around the globe to learn, study and review the laws so vital to our heritage and continuity. Online calendars, such as the calendar program at , make keeping the cheshbon required for Taharat Hamishpacha observance, easier than ever before - the use of technology enhancing our observance and performance with text and email reminders of all relevant dates and times currently available in both English, Hebrew and Spanish programs – a perfect example of how the material advancements of the universe are utilized to bring Torah practice closer to the world at large. Never has keeping Taharat Hamishpacha been easier or more pleasurable than it is today, allowing so many neshomos to be brought down in the tahor way to fulfill their destiny and bring Moshiach ever closer.

Hadlokat Neirot – Lighting of the Shabbat and Yom Tov candles is something that most of us have done since childhood, certainly since marriage. We may take this mitzvah for granted and it is important to recall the many times the Rebbe stressed the importance for even young girls, old enough to understand and make the bracha, to participate in this mitzvah. The Rebbe explained that the world is in a state of spiritual darkness and that every candle is needed to bring spiritual light to dispel that darkness and bring the bright light of G-dliness into the world. The candles lit on Shabbat and Yom Tov emit a spiritual light that permeates the home and indeed the world, not only on Shabbat and Yom Tov, but for the entire week. As we learn from our Matriarch Sara, of whom it is said, the light of her Shabbat candles burned the entire week!

Again, today’s technology has brought knowledge of candle lighting to the entire secular world. Campaigns and slogans on the Internet in every language remind Jewish women everywhere to light candles for Shabbat. Correct times can be found for every location across the globe, reminders can be sent, making the mitzvah an even easier mivtzah to do than ever before! Now, not only can you distribute candles for Shabbat, but technology allows you to give those, not in the know, the ways and means to continue to perform this mitzvah on their own.

These three mitzvot are ours. Not only do they fill the world with spirituality and blessing, but they are also significant moments when the gates of the very heavens are open to our prayers. Each time challah is taken and the bracha made, each time a mikvah immersion takes place and each time a candle is lit for Shabbat or Yom Tov, is a unique and opportune time to pray to Hashem. Hashem is listening; He is hearing every request, every prayer that comes from the heart.

Think of all we have to thank Hashem for; think of all we have to ask Hashem for – all those dreams and wishes of peace, good health, parnassah, happiness, shidduchim, children and more, the universal dreams of womanhood since time began – and pray! This is our time; we cannot waste it worrying about all we have to do or where we have to be. Consider this our private audience with the King – nothing should intrude or interfere as we focus with all our being on this private conversation. Hashem is listening; He is hearing every request, every prayer that comes from the heart. When we are performing His mitzvot, fulfilling our purpose, we are full of grace – the true grace of an Ayshis Chayil, a Bas Yisroel, a grace and a beauty that is beyond compare!

YOU are woman, fill your life with grace and be blessed!

Reprinted from Nshei Journal

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