This Torah portionis always read close to the 22nd of Shvat, the yahrzeit of the Rebbe’s wife, Rebbetzin Chayah Mushkah. She was a very private woman and few people had the opportunity of knowing her, but those that did were struck by her elegant and noble bearing. I don’t mean with regard to externals. In those areas, her life was characterized by simplicity. It is with regard to internals that she stood out. Her character overwhelmed everyone who knew her.

To give a simple example: Once she was being driven through a Jewish neighborhood in New York and saw a family being evicted from their home. She asked the Rabbi driving her to stop and inquire how much they owed. When she heard the sum, she wrote out a check for the entire amount on the spot.

When asked why she did that, 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.”

From the first anniversary of her passing onward, the Rebbe shifted the emphasis away from the commemoration of her life to the celebration of the unique power of Jewish women and their connection to the Redemption. To emphasize this theme, a convention of Shluchos, Lubavitch women who serve as emissaries of the Rebbe, is always held this Shabbos. The thousands of women who meet together to brainstorm on how to carry out their mission more effectively is a clear statement of her ongoing legacy.

Parshas Beshallach

This Shabbos is given a special name Shabbas Shirah, “the Shabbos of song,” because it includes the songs that the Jewish people sang after the miracle of the splitting of the sea. These songs of praise are very important. For when G‑d works a miracle on our behalf, we should acknowledge His goodness. Indeed, our Sages relate that after the miraculous defeat of Sannecherib, G‑d desired to make Chizkiyahu, the Jewish king at that time, Mashiach. Nevertheless, He decided against doing so, because Chizkiyahu failed to sing a song of thanksgiving and praise.

More particularly, this week’s Torah reading includes two songs: the song in which Moses led the men and the song in which Miriam led the women. Of the two, Miriam’s song was more spirited. Besides singing, she led the women in dance, and they were inspired to accompany the song with tambourine music.

Our Sages ask: Where did they get the tambourines in the desert? And reply that the Jewish women were confident that G‑d would work miracles for them in the desert and so they brought tambourines with them from Egypt in the expectation of celebrating. Even while in Egypt, Jewish women had faith in redemption and miracles. In that vein, our Sages said: “In the merit of righteous women, the Jews were redeemed from Egypt.”

To understand the role of Jewish women in preparing for redemption, we have to begin with a fundamental concept. Men and women are not the same. In our bodies, both the heart and brain are fundamentally necessary for our health, but each organ performs a different function. Similarly, men and women each contribute different elements to the relationship and the home environment they combine to forge. The ultimate fulfillment comes from harmonizing their potentials and building on each other’s strengths.

A woman’s contribution comes in controlling the emotional environment of the home. Women have a greater sensitivity to spiritual truth. A woman arrives at knowledge by establishing a personal bond with the idea she wants to discover. She makes it part of herself instead of treating it as merely an abstract concept.

Because her knowledge is internalized and personally relevant, she can share it with others more easily and in this way, upgrade the moods of her husband, children and the others around her. She looks beyond the immediacies of her present situation and sees a higher and deeper purpose. In this way, she can motivate the people around her to greater growth and development.

That is why the women played — and play — such an important role as catalysts of redemption. When the women in Egypt contemplated their situation; they did not focus on the slavery and hardship. They understood that exile was merely temporary. They had heard Moses’ promise of redemption and did not regard it merely as a promise of the future; it was a real factor in their lives. And because it was real for them, it was real to their husbands and children and ultimately, it became a top to bottom reality within the world.

Looking to the Horizon

Our prophet’s say: “As in the days of your exodus from Egypt, I will show [the people] wonders,” indicating that the future redemption will follow the same paradigm as the exodus from Egypt. Thus in the present age as well, it will be the women who will be the primary catalysts of Redemption, enabling us to see Mashiach’s coming, not as a far-off dream, but as a real element of our lives.

One of the prophecies of the Messianic era is Ezekiel’s promise: “I will remove the heart of stone from their flesh and give them a heart of flesh.” The prophet is telling us that a sensitive heart, one that responds to what the mind knows is the key to the change in our feelings that will take place when Mashiach comes.

We do not have to wait for the coming of Mashiach to begin developing such sensitivity. Indeed, by following “women’s ways of knowing,” we can start removing hardness from our hearts already. Living with the Redemption in this manner — anticipating its effects by sensitizing our lives in the present is the most direct path to making the Redemption actual reality, for such knowledge spreads to others almost effortlessly. Thus throughout the world, people will start thinking about the Redemption in this manner and moreover, applying those insights in life.