It would be superficial to say that the message of the present essay1 is simply the role of a Jewish woman within her own home. Opening our eyes to a richer perception of this subject as seen from the perspective of Chassidus, the Rebbe Shlita enables us here to appreciate that this seemingly mundane role echoes a parallel dynamic that is inherent in the entire cosmos. For just as the ultimate function of humanity is to transform the entire created universe into a dwelling place for the Divine Presence,2 so too the keen intuition and the informed mind with which a woman fashions the environment within her home transforms it too into a sanctuary in microcosm.3

Moreover, as this essay outlines briefly, it is specifically the feminine role — corresponding, in Kabbalistic terms, to the Sefirah of Malchus — that elicits a downflow of Divine blessings into a particular home and, simultaneously, into that larger dwelling place, the universe at large, which all of humanity is building together. This role thus not only echoes, but moreover activates the ongoing creative process that animates the universe.

Seen from this perspective, homemaking for a Jewish woman casts off any outmoded connotations of mindless and soul-destroying drudgery; at long last, it proudly claims its birthright. For whether she is judiciously guiding the growth of her children, or discreetly lending strength to her husband; whether she is tactfully reminding her peers of their sacred tasks, or warmly sharing her heart and her home and her learning with a lone stranger in whom she instinctively sees a longlost sister; — it is the Jewish woman who every day of her life brings spiritual harmony into her home and into the universe at large.

The Feminine Dimension

Our Sages teach that Shir HaShirim should not be taken at face value. 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. In Kabbalistic terms,4 it is explained that the Sefirah of Malchus (“sovereignty”) reflects the feminine dimension. During the periods of exile, Malchus is in a state of descent and does not receive direct influence from the other Sefiros. Metaphorically, this condition is described as a woman in an enforced state of separation from her husband. Conversely, in the Era of the Redemption, “a woman of valor [will be] the crown of her husband”;5 the higher source of Malchus will be revealed. The direct bond between Malchus and the other Sefiros will be reestablished6 and Malchus will become a source of vital influence, renewing the totality of existence.

These concepts have been reflected throughout Jewish history. Our Sages7 relate that “In the merit of righteous women, the Jews were redeemed from Egypt.” Similarly, the Sages associated subsequent redemptions with the merit of Jewish women.8 We have been promised,9 “As in the days of your exodus from Egypt, I will show you wonders.” The AriZal10 emphasizes that the Future Redemption will follow the pattern of the exodus, and thus will also come as a result of the merit of the righteous women of that generation.11

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 Sages12 teach that G‑d created the world so that He would have a dwelling place among mortals. This ideal will be realized in the Era of the Redemption.13

To develop this analogy: A person desires not merely to possess a dwelling, but that his dwelling be attractive and tastefully furnished. Generally, 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 Jewish women who make 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 into “a sanctuary in microcosm,”14 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 influences which a woman instills within the home, but also in the manner in which she structures its interior design, for example, making sure that every member of the household possesses a Siddur, a Chumash, a Tanya, and a tzedakah pushka (charity box) which is proudly displayed.15 Even the rooms of infants should be decorated with Jewish symbols, e.g., a shir hamaalos.16 These efforts 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 as a “microcosm of the world to come17 and conversely, the Era of the Redemption is referred to as “the Day which is entirely Shabbos, and rest for life everlasting.”18 It is the woman of the house who introduces the atmosphere of Shabbos by lighting its Shabbos candles.19 Thus, to recall the analogy of the world as G‑d’s dwelling, it is the women who must usher the light of Redemption into the world.

The very same 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 performs, such as a friendly word or an act of kindness, increases the G‑dly light within the world.20

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 communicated the prophecy that a redeemer would emerge.21 Even when the leaders of the generation could not foresee an end to servitude and oppression, she spread hope and trust among her people.22

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 and “stood at a distance to see what would happen to him.”23 Our Sages explain that, in addition to her apprehension for her brother’s future, she was also 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 Jews remain in exile?24

Celebrating in Advance

The anxious anticipation for the redemption felt by Miriam — and by all of the Jewish women — was paralleled in its intensity by their exuberant celebration when, after the miracles of the Red Sea, the redemption was consummated. After the men joined Moshe Rabbeinu in song, the women broke out in song and dance,25 giving thanks to G‑d with spirited rejoicing which surpassed that of the men.

In the very near future, our people will celebrate the coming of the Redemption, and “The Holy One, blessed be He, will make a dance for the righteous.”26 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,27 the table has already been set for the feast of the Redemption, everything has already been served, and we are sitting together with Mashiach. All that is necessary is that we open our eyes.28

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, “crowned with eternal happiness,”29 we will proceed together “with our youth and our elders..., with our sons and with our daughters,”30 singing “a new song for our Redemption and the deliverance of our souls.”31