The heart woke up crying one morning and complained to the brain.

“It’s so unfair!” the heart said tearfully. “Why do I have to pump all this blood all day? I mean, I know weWhy can’t I be the brain? belong to the same body and all, but why can’t I be the brain? How important is it anyway to keep beating? I want to be like the cerebrum that solves math problems or like the cerebellum that controls balance. Can’t the body just have two brains, even steven, and then we’ll all be happy?”

The brain responded very seriously.

“Dear Heart, Don’t let anyone convince you that your only value is to be another brain. The body has one already! You’re not less important. Ever see a live human walking around without a heart pumping? The most offensive thing you can do to yourself is deny your own hearthood! Come on heart, stand proud, and do your thing like only you know how!”1

This was the Rebbe’s response and view towards the role of women in Judaism. He was unapologetic about the woman’s unique role and campaigned for women to be true to their “womanhood,” as established by Torah. There was no need for women to be clones of men; in fact, that was an offense to women.

At the same time, he was revolutionary in his approach. His teachings were grounded in Torah, yet they were unconventional; the outlook so old, yet so new.

Here is but a sampling of a few such examples in how the Rebbe revolutionized our approach towards women:


In the past, girls learned what they needed to know. They were lovingly instructed by their mothers and taught the practical laws that applied to women. They knew the intricate laws of Shabbat, running a kosher kitchen and the laws of family purity.

The Rebbe taught that that was far from enough. Women have an obligation to keep the intangible and constant mitzvot, like Knowing G‑d, Loving G‑d and Fearing G‑d. How would they do so if they were not well-versed in esoteric teachings and did not have a wealth of spiritual knowledge? How could a person have a relationship with G‑d if she didn’t have a thorough understanding of the inner dimension of Torah, which sheds light on how one goes about having that relationship?

In light of the fact that women were learning secular subjects in high school and universities, the Rebbe encouraged them to learn Jewish subjects on advanced levels of sophistication as well. For this reason, he famously directed girls’ schools to include Talmud, hitherto a “male-only” subject, in their curriculum.

Historically, there were a number of women well-versed in Torah, but that was the exception, not the norm. The Rebbe’s view was that learning was not only for “Rebbetzins,” but for every Jewish woman. This was imperative for the continuity of the Jewish people, and in fact, Torah learning for women even preceded Torah learning for men.

When G‑d told Moses to prepare the Jews to receive the Torah, He commanded him: “This is what you shall say to the House of Yaakov and speak to the Children of Israel.” Our sages teach us that the “House of Yaakov” refers to women, and that it was a priority for the women to be prepared for the giving of the Torah.

Women apply the spirit of Torah to practical life and as such their involvement preceded the men because without their commitment, the men’s Torah study would not be sustained and would not be translated to real life.

With such a clear precedent, it is no wonder that the Rebbe encouraged women to learn, teach and grow in their understanding of all levels of Torah.


Creating a child is literally creatingOnly she is able to bear children from nothing, a Divine energy that is unreplicated in any other endeavor. A woman’s soul stems from a very high source, and that is why only she is able to bear children. A child, in addition to being a gift from G‑d and the greatest blessing, also brings the world that much closer to redemption.

The Rebbe taught that in the merit of Jewish women having children in Egypt, the Jewish people were freed from Egypt. It is not enough to have children as an afterthought or something to “fit into our lives” once one’s career is stable. Having children has deep spiritual significance, and is a central part of a woman's role, as she assures the continuity of the population at large and of the Jewish people in specific.

Almost everyone is familiar with King Solomon’s “Woman of Valor.” The Rebbe staunchly believed that every Jewish woman is a woman of valor.2 Even while Jewish women go out into the world professionally, teach or run a business (“She seeks out wool and flax and cheerfully does the work of her hands”), it’s not at the expense of her primary obligation of taking care of her children (“She gets up while it is still night to provide food for her household”).


Traditionally, mothers stayed home with their young ones. When Chana the Prophetess had her son, Samuel, after so many years of infertility, she did not join her husband in traveling to Shiloh during the High Holidays. For two full years, she nurtured him, nursed him and did not compromise her devotion to him.

The Rebbe was a fiery advocate for mothers making their family a priority (like Chana) and put motherhood on a pedestal, but that was far from enough.3 Women have an obligation to reach out to others and share the wealth of knowledge that they have. Just like our Matriarch Sara breastfed her own baby, Isaac, as well as the babies of those who doubted that she in fact gave birth, women are obligated to nurture their own families as well as Jews that are lonely, disenchanted or who through no fault of their own did not receive a wholesome Jewish education. The Rebbe often spoke of his own mother, whose home provided a haven for thousands of refugees in the early 1900s.

There is another precedent in the Torah: the mother-daughter pair of Dina and her mother, the matriarch Leah. Rashi comments that the Torah specifically mentions that Dina was the daughter of Leah for she carried the same characteristics as her mother. Though Dina’s outgoing nature brought about undesirable consequences, the fact that her nature was rooted in the nature of her righteous mother, Leah, is because when channeled correctly an outgoing nature could be used to influence others and inspire growth and change.

The Rebbe encouraged women to reach out to women and teach them about Shabbat candles, holidays—and everything and anything about Judaism.

And even though motherhood was to be a woman’s priority, at the same time, the Rebbe did not feel women should stifle their talents on the altar of martyrdom. The Rebbe encouraged women to develop their passions and creativity, such as art,4 and express them in a manner that would enhance their outreach. The Rebbe taught that women are obligated in spreading the knowledge of Torah and its inner dimension since women are more effective in impacting the lives of other women and their families.5

The Rebbe empowered women. They could be teachers and role models without compromising on their personal standards of modesty while still focusing on their family.


Generally, a woman is referred to as aThe Rebbe empowered women “receiver” and a man is a “giver.” A great woman is one who fulfills the will of her husband, as in the Proverb, “Who is a good (‘kosher’) woman? She who does (‘osah’) her husband’s will.” The woman brings her husband’s insight and learning into the practical realm; she makes it real.

The Rebbe gave new meaning to this proverb.

It is not enough for a woman to fulfill her husband’s will; if she observes that he needs to change, she must create it!

The word osah can mean “do” (as in she “does” what her husband wants her to), but it can also mean “create” (in that she literally “creates” her husband’s desires). In a wise manner, a woman can motivate her husband and cause him to get gratification from spiritual pursuits. People like to receive positive affirmations, and when a man sees how much joy a woman has in matters of holiness, it can impact his own desires to grow.

There’s a reason G‑d told Abraham: “Whatever Sarah tells you, heed her voice ... .” Women are the ultimate influencers.


Feminism got some things fundamentally wrong. Women are not the “new men.” Women were created by G‑d with their own energies and missions; there is no need to compete with our male counterparts.

At the same time, feminism got something fundamentally right. In an era right before the redemption, women sense a shift. They are tapping into the idea that during the messianic era, nekeivah tesovev gever“the feminine will supersede the masculine.

And in the merit of righteous Jewish women, we will soon experience that shift in all its feminine glory.