The Feminine Dimension

Our1 Sages teach that Shir HaShirim, the Song of Songs, should not be taken at face value.2 Rather, it should be understood as an allegory describing the ongoing relationship between G‑d and His bride, the Jewish people. The different phases of closeness and separation described in that sacred text serve as analogies for the states of exile our people have suffered and the redemptions that they have experienced — and will yet experience.

The very concept of redemption is intrinsically related to women. Expressed in terms of the Divine emanations known as Sefiros, the Kabbalah explains3 that the Sefirah of Malchus (lit., “sovereignty”) reflects the feminine dimension. During the periods of exile, Malchus is in a state of descent and does not receive a direct downflow of spiritual energy from the higher Sefiros with which it is normally linked. Metaphorically, this condition is described as a woman in an enforced state of separation from her husband. Conversely, in the Era of the Redemption,4 “A woman of valor [will be] the crown of her husband”; the higher source of Malchus will be revealed. The direct bond between Malchus and the other Sefiros will be re-established,5 and Malchus will become a source of vital influence, renewing the totality of existence.

These concepts have been reflected throughout Jewish history. Our Sages teach that6 “In the merit of righteous women, the Jews were redeemed from Egypt.” The same applies to later redemptions.7 And as to the future, we have been promised,8 “As in the days of your Exodus from Egypt, I will show [the people] wonders.” The AriZal9 writes that the generation of the ultimate Redemption will be a reincarnation of the generation of the Exodus from Egypt. Since the future Redemption will therefore follow the pattern of that archetypal redemption, it will also come as a result of the merit of the righteous women of that generation.10

A Home for a Family: A Sanctuary for G‑d

The role of the Jewish people, G‑d’s bride, and in particular of Jewish women, in preparing the world for the Redemption, is analogous to the role of a woman in her own home. Our Sages11 teach that G‑d created the world so that He would have a dwelling place among mortals. This ideal will be fully realized in the Era of the Redemption.12

To develop this analogy: A person desires not merely to possess a dwelling, but that it be attractive and tastefully furnished. Typically, this task of shaping the home environment is the province of the woman of the house. Similarly, in the mission of making this world a dwelling for G‑d, it is the Jewish woman who makes His dwelling attractive and radiant.

This greater role played by women within the world should also be mirrored in the activity of every woman within her own home. It is largely through the efforts of the woman of the house that every home is transformed into13 “a sanctuary in microcosm ,” a place where G‑dliness is revealed in a way which parallels and leads to the revelation that will permeate the entire world in the Era of the Redemption.

These efforts are reflected, not only in the spiritual influence which a woman instills within the home, but also in the manner in which she designs its interior — for example, making sure that every member of the household possesses a Siddur, a Chumash, a Tanya, and a tzedakah pushke (charity box) which is proudly displayed.14 Even the rooms of infants should be decorated with Jewish symbols, such as a Shir HaMaalos.15 Taken together, these practical endeavors mirror the way in which Judaism permeates even the material environment in which we live.

Lighting Up The Home: Illuminating The Sanctuary

Shabbos is referred to as16 “a microcosm of the World to Come,” and conversely, the Era of the Redemption is referred to as17 “the Day which is entirely Shabbos, and repose for life everlasting.” On the worldly level, it is the woman of the house who introduces the atmosphere of Shabbos by lighting its Shabbos candles.18 In this spirit, to recall the analogy of the world as G‑d’s dwelling, it is the task of women to usher the light of Redemption into the world.

In fact this very mitzvah, the kindling of Shabbos candles, is a powerful medium to accomplish this goal. For the visible light which the candles generate reflects how every mitzvah — and, in a wider sense, every positive activity a Jew initiates, such as a friendly word or a kindly deed — increases the G‑dly light within the world.19

Women as Catalysts of Liberation

The efforts of Jewish women to serve as catalysts for the Redemption have historical precedents. In the Egyptian exile, it was Miriam who relayed the prophecy that a redeemer would emerge.20 Even when the leaders of that generation could not foresee an end to servitude and oppression, she spread hope and trust among her people.21

When her mother was forced to place Moshe, the future redeemer of the Jews, in the Nile, her father Amram approached Miriam and asked her, “What will be the result of your prophecy? How will it be fulfilled?”

Miriam remained at the banks of the Nile and22 “stood at a distance to know what would happen to him.” Our Sages explain that, in addition to her apprehension for her brother’s future, she was concerned about the fate of her prophecy. How indeed would the redemption come about?

In a metaphorical sense, this narrative is relevant to all Jewish women, those living at present and those whose souls are in the spiritual realms. Concerned over the fate of the Jewish people, they anxiously await the Redemption: Ad Masai! How much longer must the Jewish people remain in exile?23

Celebrating in Advance

The anxious anticipation for the redemption felt by Miriam — and by all of the Jewish women in Egypt — was paralleled in its intensity by their exuberant celebration when, after the miracles of the Sea of Reeds, that redemption was consummated. After the men joined Moshe Rabbeinu in song, the women broke out in song and dance,24 giving thanks to G‑d with a spirited rejoicing which surpassed that of the men.

In the very near future, our people will celebrate the coming of the ultimate Redemption, and25 “The Holy One, blessed be He, will make a dance for the righteous.” We can now experience a foretaste of this impending celebration. Although we are still in exile, the confidence that the Redemption is an imminent reality should inspire us with happiness. For the Jewish people have completed all the divine service necessary to bring about the Redemption. To borrow an analogy used by our Sages,26 the table has already been set for the feast celebrating the Redemption, everything has already been served, and we are sitting together with Mashiach. All that is necessary is that we open our eyes.27

The experience of such happiness demonstrates the strength of our trust in the promise of the Redemption, and the expression of this faith will, in turn, hasten its realization. And then,28 “crowned with eternal happiness,” we will proceed together29 “with our youth and our elders..., with our sons and with our daughters,” singing30 “a new song for our Redemption and the deliverance of our souls.”