Did you know that women were the first to contribute to the building of the Tabernacle? Did you know that not a single woman worshipped the golden calf? Did you know that Jewish women did not believe the negative report, brought by the spies, about the land of Israel? Did you know that only the women kept faith and did not despair, despite the terrible travails of the Egyptian exile?

Women are the vanguard of our people. What is their secret?

Sun and Moon

The secret of the Jewish woman is bound up with the secret of our survival. The Jews have survived for more than thirty-three hundred years. During this time powerful nations and great civilizations came and went, yet we are still here, practicing the same religion and perpetuating the same legacy.

We have weathered the storms of history better than others, because of our moon-like character. The Jewish calendar is set to the moon. The sun is a steady source of light; its full orb appears every day in mid-sky. The moon, on the other hand, waxes and wanes. One day it is full, the next day it shrinks. As the month wears on, the moon diminishes until it is a sliver of its former self.

Yet, despite its growing weakness, the moon never goes away. The next month it returns, albeit as a tiny sliver of light—but at least it returns. And, with time, it recovers its original flare.

The same is true of our people. Ancient nations were concerned with growing their power base and with expansion. They sought fame, wealth and dominion, whereas the Jew was satisfied with survival.1 Human nature is such that we cannot maintain directed focus for sustained periods of time. We can succeed and flourish for a while, but then the wheel of fortune turns and we slide to the bottom.

If we are not prepared for the fall, it can overwhelm and even drown us. The Jew always understood that life, like the moon, waxes and wanes. At times we are at the top, and at times we slide to the bottom. If at times our nation was exiled and impoverished, we learned to adjust and emerge with a fresh focus and renewed energy.

History proved us right. Time and again our star has risen, only to fall. But time and time again our star has fallen, only to rise and shine again.

The Woman

This enduring mentality is synonymous with the woman’s feminine character. Whereas the masculine aspect of a person is powerful and aggressive, the feminine aspect—most dominant in women—is patient and enduring. For all his unyielding strength, the man is often shattered by failure, whereas the woman calmly picks up the pieces and, unperturbed, starts over again.

This is reflected not only in the female character, but also in her biology. The human female menstruates: at the beginning of the month her womb is lined with blood, capable of generating and hosting life. But, if at the end of the month she has not conceived, she sheds the blood that failed to generate life, takes a few days to re-energize, and emerges renewed, with a fresh supply, prepared to start over again.

This is true of every woman, but the Jewish woman underscores this strength through the rhythm of her family life. The Jewish woman celebrates this time as an opportunity to regroup not only biologically but also emotionally. A Jewish couple avoids physical contact during this time, forcing them to explore the alternative dimensions of their relationship. During part of the month they enjoy the physical side of their relationship, but during this time they explore the soulful, emotional and spiritual dimensions that further cement their bond. Thus, when the physical relationship resumes, it is enhanced by a deeper spiritual bond.

Upbeat Outlook

This incredibly powerful outlook synthesizes the reality of our present with our constant dream of growth. Rather than deny the fact of occasional downturns, the woman learns to embrace them as opportunities. Rather than sitting back to lick the wounds of failure, it is her nature to grow from them and adapt to her reality. She thus emerges much strengthened and better positioned to improve.

With such a healthy mentality, it is easy to see why the Jewish woman refused to despair during difficult times in Egypt. She is not built to shy away from challenge only because it might lead to failure; on the contrary, she fully anticipates regular periods of failure. Only she is not afraid of them. Instead, she welcomes them as opportunities to redirect her patterns of growth.

This is also why the woman was not prepared to accept the golden calf and the negative report from the spies about Israel. She is not in the business of taking “no” for an answer, or of surrendering to failure. She knows that G‑d struck a covenant with the Jew, and if the articles of the covenant seem to have become obscure, she is willing to be patient and allow it to re-emerge.

This holds true also in our present. The woman is the glue of today’s family nucleus. It is the mother’s constant nurture and the wife’s unceasing support that inspire the family to move forward into the next generation. Progress is made by absorbing the challenges and learning from them. More than the man, it is the woman who helps to show us the way. More than the man, it is the woman who grows the Jewish family. More than the man, it is the woman who builds the house of G‑d.

This is why women were the first to contribute to the building of G‑d’s Tabernacle.2