1. A gathering of Jews is not only good but also holy. It is good, even from a purely human perspective, for the world can exist only when there is no strife or war between people — when, indeed, there is a closeness amongst them. It is a holy matter, from a Torah perspective, for “The whole Torah was given to make peace in the world”: peace within oneself, between one’s good and bad inclinations — and as a result, the possibility to introduce peace into one’s environment and into the whole world. A Jew is able to do this for he conducts himself according to Torah — and Torah has dominion over the world. Also, when Jews gather together they thereby express their unity, which follows the Torah’s command, “Love your fellow as yourself.”

The above holds true even when Jews gather together for no special purpose; it certainly applies when the purpose of the assembly is to strengthen and increase in all matters of Judaism, Torah and mitzvos.

This is the goal of every gathering of Jews — ”an assembly for the sake of Heaven.” Every Jew has been entrusted with the mission of making this corporeal world a fit abode for G‑d, starting with one’s own home and leading to the whole world. This goal is achieved by living according to Torah, the “Torah of light” and “Torah of life,” which gives clear and illuminating directives for every aspect of man’s everyday life. Further, one should endeavor to ensure that other Jews also follow Torah’s directives, consonant to the command, “Love your fellow as yourself” which is a “great principle in Torah.”

It is also a Jew’s task to be a “light for the nations,” to convince them to keep the Seven Noachide Laws. Although these laws are explicitly recorded in Torah, the nations of the world need Jews to teach them how to observe these laws properly, and how to overcome any difficulties. A Jew does so by setting a living example of how one joyfully observes Torah and mitzvos notwithstanding any difficulties, and by speaking to non-Jews sincerely and earnestly about the Seven Noachide Laws.

To strengthen and increase in the fulfillment of these goals, Jews assembly together from different places and backgrounds. These differences among Jews exist not just in worldly matters, but also in Torah matters and service to G‑d. We find, for example, that the twelve tribes, although all sons of Ya’akov and all have the same goal of fulfilling G‑d’s will, has each a different path in service to G‑d.

Yet, when assembled, Jews together discuss and adopt resolutions to increase in Torah and mitzvos, including resolutions concerning the necessity to influence other Jews. And since such resolutions are adopted in the presence of everyone, they have a special firmness and strength — especially since each person contributes his own particular mode of service to the common goal.

Particular significance is attached to a gathering of Jewish women and girls. A women is the “mainstay” of her home, for it is she who sets the tone of the home and the family. She has the mission to build a home upon which G‑d can say, “I shall dwell within it,” a home full of sanctity and which radiates sanctity to its surrounding and to the whole world: A “miniature sanctuary,” similar to the Sanctuary of the whole Jewish people.

Since G‑d does not request anything of a Jew that he is not capable of doing, it follows that G‑d has granted Jewish women lofty powers to fulfill this special mission placed upon them. G‑d has granted powers to the Jewish people as a whole to carry out their task; and within the Jewish people itself, G‑d has granted women the powers necessary to fulfill their unique mission.

To carry out its task fully, the Jewish people need special wisdom and understanding. G‑d therefore gave Jews the Torah, which is G‑d’s will and wisdom. Since within the Jewish people itself women have been given a special mission, G‑d has granted them an extra measure of understanding, as our Sages have said (Niddah 45b), “the Holy One, blessed be He, gave women more understanding than men.” Through a deep understanding of the Torah’s directives, with the purpose of translating them into action, women can properly carry out their mission.

Interestingly, the Rebbe Maharash connects the idea of the extra measure of understanding given to women with the verse (Mishlei 31:30), “A G‑dfearing woman is the one to be praised.” In other words, every Jewish woman, because she has extra understanding, is called “G‑d-fearing.”

The Talmud derives the fact that “the Holy One, blessed be He, gave women more understanding than men,” from the verse (Bereishis 2:22), “The L‑rd G‑d built (‘Vayiven’) the rib ... into a woman.” “Understanding” in Hebrew is “binah,” which is from a root analogous to that of “Vayiven.” “Vayiven” is thus interpreted as “He gave understanding,” and the verse therefore reads, “The L‑rd G‑d gave understanding ... into a woman.”

Since the one word “Vayiven” has both meanings — the literal one, “He built,” and that of our Sages, “He gave understanding,” there must be a connection between them. G‑d’s purpose in endowing a woman with more understanding than a man is that it be utilized for the right purpose. That purpose is alluded to in the very word from which we derive that a woman was given extra understanding — the word “Vayiven” — “He built.” It is the woman’s task to build the Jewish home, a home in which the Divine Presence will dwell, an everlasting edifice based on Torah and mitzvos, and in which children will be raised in the spirit of Judaism.

The above applies also to Jewish girls before they are married, for a Jew inherits the entire Torah at birth, as written, “The Torah which Moshe commanded us is the heritage of the congregation of Ya’akov.” As the child grows physically, so the soul. Thus, as soon as a child begins to speak, he is taught the verse, “The Torah which Moshe commanded us is the heritage of the congregation of Ya’akov.” When a girl reaches the age that she can understand the difference between light and darkness, and understands that kindling a candle adds light to the house, she is educated to kindle the Shabbos and Yom Tov lights. And so her education continues in all aspects of Judaism, particularly in preparing her to carry out her sacred mission of being the mainstay of her home when the time comes.

The above explanation of the importance of Jewish women and girls lends understanding to the unique distinction of a gathering of Jewish women and girls. They assemble to undertake resolutions, and to inspire one another, concerning the fulfillment of their mission, using fully the special powers (“extra understanding”) granted them. And G‑d has assured us that the proper effort will bring results; indeed, G‑d Himself helps every Jew to fulfill his or her mission.

Thus, although “darkness covers the earth,” and not every place has been permeated with the knowledge of G‑d, Jews remain staunch in carrying out their mission and in joyfully observing Torah and mitzvos — and eventually the whole world will be filled with sanctity, making it a fit abode for the Al-mighty.

All of the above has special significance since this gathering is taking place in the preparatory days to Shavuos, the “Season of the Giving of our Torah.” Shavuos is the time when G‑d chose the Jews from all other nations, as written (Shemos 19:5), “You will be My beloved treasure from among all the nations, for all the earth is Mine.” G‑d chose them to give them the Torah and mitzvos, wherewith they fulfill their special mission. And the Torah is given anew to Jews every year at the “Season of the Giving of our Torah.”

Women play a special role in this, for women preceded the men when it came to giving Jews the Torah. When G‑d told Moshe Rabbeinu to inform the Jews of their special status, He told him, “Thus shall you say to the house of Ya’akov and tell the sons of Israel ... You have seen what I did to the Egyptians and how ... I brought you to Me ... You will be My beloved treasure from among all the nations.” And, our Sages say (Rashi, Shemos 19:3), “‘Thus shall you say to the house of Ya’akov’ — these are the women”; only afterwards did Moshe speak to the men (“tell the sons of Israel”).

2. We have said recently that all Jews should every day learn Mishneh Torah, authored by Rambam, which is a compilation of all the Torah’s laws addressing every facet of a Jew’s life. We further suggested that those who find it difficult to study Mishneh Torah should learn Rambam’s Sefer HaMitzvos, which, detailing all the mitzvos of the Torah, serves as a brief version of Mishneh Torah.

Since many of you doubtlessly participate in learning either of these works of Rambam, it is fitting that we discuss a topic found in today’s portion of Rambam. Because everything happens by Divine Providence, today’s portion of Rambam has a connection to the gathering held today.

Today’s portion of Rambam concerns the mitzvah to write a Sefer Torah. The obligation to write a Sefer Torah, however, devolves only upon men, not upon women. What connection, then, is there between this mitzvah and women?

We shall resolve this difficulty by first explaining why in general there are certain mitzvos which women are not obligated to carry out. It is not because women are inferior to men. It is because G‑d has given each Jew a mission uniquely suited to the individual: A task for men and a separate task for women — and a mission common to both men and women.

The relationship between men and women may be compared to the workings of a person’s body. All of a person’s limbs are part of the one body; yet each limb has a different function: the head — intellect, the heart — emotions, etc. Thus the body has two separate — but simultaneous — dimensions. On the one hand, all its limbs share the same life-force: the blood circulates to all its limbs, and only when circulation in all limbs is proper is the body healthy. Simultaneously, each limb has its own distinct character and function.

Within the body of Jewry, the same two dimensions are operative. There are some aspects of Torah which men and women share equally. For example, the mitzvah, “Love your fellow as yourself.” Since this mitzvah is most important for the continuing health of Jewry — it is Jewry’s “life-force” — it devolves upon men and women equally. Similarly, the mitzvah, “to know that there is a First Being” — knowledge, not just faith — is obligatory upon women as upon men.

Simultaneously, there are aspects of Judaism in which men and women differ, with special missions given to a man and others to a woman. So that each can carry out his or her task fully, he or she is freed from other obligations. Although these other obligations are holy matters, the full and proper accomplishment of one’s special tasks demands that one be freed of these other obligations.

For men to carry out their tasks, for example, they are freed of duties such as rearing children from birth. To this end, G‑d created the world such that a child, in his early years, needs and is dependent on his mother specifically.

In similar fashion, women were freed of certain obligations so that they can devote themselves fully to their unique task. A child’s education in his early years, for example, is the mother’s responsibility, and to this end, women are freed from the obligation to fulfill certain mitzvos which men are duty-bound to do. Women are thus able to devote all their energies to their unique mission.

In the above described relationship between men and women — that each is freed of certain duties so that they can properly carry out their primary mission — a wonderful element is introduced. Because G‑d is whole and perfect, He implanted the trait of wholeness and perfection also in Torah and mitzvos. Thus, although women are not obligated to perform certain mitzvos, they can still attain the state of wholeness and perfection effected through fulfilling these mitzvos — although they do not actually perform them! Howl

Women are freed from performing mitzvos which are obligatory only at a specific time (e.g., tzitzis, which is obligatory only during the day). The AriZal writes concerning such mitzvos: “When the male performs the mitzvah, it is unnecessary that the woman should also do them separately, for she has already been included with him at the time when he does the mitzvah... This is the meaning of our Sages’ statement, ‘One’s wife is as one’s body.’” Similarly, the Zohar says that a man (or woman) alone is “half a body.”

In other words, when Torah frees a women from certain mitzvos, it frees her only from doing them — so that she can devote her time and energies to her unique mission. The state of wholeness and perfection that is attained, and the reward that accrues, from these mitzvos, does pertain to women also — through her husband performing them.

This applies even to a girl before she is married, through the fact that her destined partner in marriage performs the mitzvos she is not obligated to do. For just as a man and a woman are but “half a body” before marriage, and are whole only when married, so too their soul is whole only when they are together: that is, a man and wife have a single soul.

However, although destined partners in marriage have one soul (as the soul is in the heavenly spheres), G‑d’s desire is that when that soul descends to earth it should, for a time (before marriage), be divided into two: half the soul in the boy and half in the girl. Each fulfills its mission separately until the right time comes when G‑d joins them, and they fulfill their tasks together, fortified by the special Divine blessing (Bereishis 1:27-28), “He created them male and female; and He blessed them.”

The joining of two halves of one soul, which for years were separated from each other, sometimes even in different lands, is the reason for the intense joy at a marriage, infinitely greater than the joy at any other event. It is the greatest joy imaginable when G‑d, Who “sits and makes matches, assigning this man to that woman and this woman to that man,” brings the halves of the soul together to make them again one soul.

G‑d, of course, knows even before marriage to whom each half of a single soul belongs. Thus, when a boy performs a mitzvah devolving on men only, his fulfillment of it counts also for the other half of the soul which resides in his destined wife. He may not know of it, but G‑d does.

In the light of the above, we can now understand that the mitzvah of writing a Sefer Torah applies to women and girls, too.

3. The conclusion of today’s portion of Rambam — which serves as the “sum total” of the concept discussed today (every gathering, after discussion and debate, must conclude with a “sum total” — resolutions concerning future action) — discusses laws of a Sefer Torah which apply also to women themselves. These laws concern the reverence due to a Sefer Torah: “It is a mitzvah to assign a fixed place for a Sefer Torah, and to show it extreme reverence and respect” (Laws of a Sefer Torah 10:10). The concluding words of this passage are: “The early Sages said, ‘Whoever treats the Torah contemptuously, will be treated contemptuously by creatures; whoever honors the Torah, his body will be honored by creatures.”

Man and woman both are obligated to give honor and reverence to the Torah. Indeed, since a woman is the mainstay of her home, it is her efforts that ensure that the home is permeated with reverence for the Torah, which includes reverence for the mitzvos and all aspects of Judaism. Thus, after Rambam elaborates on the laws of writing a Sefer Torah — which apply to men only — he concludes with something that applies also to women.

Rambam’s statement quoted above — that “The early Sages said, ‘Whoever treats the Torah contemptuously, will be treated contemptuously by creatures; whoever honors the Torah, his body will be honored by creatures” — is very perplexing. Before this statement Rambam elaborates on the great honor and reverence due to Torah. Why does he conclude by implying that one should honor the Torah because he will then himself be honored?

Even a non-Jew understands that one should honor the Torah because it is G‑d’s Torah; a Jew certainly doesn’t need a reason. Yet, Rambam gives a reason — and what a reason! That one will thereby himself be honored!

The perplexity increases when we analyze Rambam’s exact words: “his body will be honored by creatures.” Everyone (even a non-Jew) understands that the principal element in a person is the soul, and the body is secondary. Thus, although a person desires honor for his body also, it is more important to a person that his soul be honored. Yet Rambam, when explaining that giving honor to the Torah brings honor to oneself, says that one’s body is thereby honored.

Who will give honor to the body? “Creatures.” “Creatures” means people who have no other qualities — neither intellect nor character — other than the fact that they were created by G‑d. What merit is there in being honored by such people?

Jews indeed do not need a reason to give honor to the Torah, for Torah is G‑d’s wisdom, the most precious gift that was given to them. However, careful attention to giving honor to the Torah can entail difficulties. Jews are a minority in the world, the “smallest of all the nations.” In the time of exile especially, Jews are a lone lamb among seventy wolves, particularly now, when 1900 years of exile, with an evergrowing intensity of spiritual darkness, have passed. In such a situation, special zealousness in honoring the Torah may cause difficulties for bodily life. A non-Jew, for example, because he hates the Jews for being devoted to and honoring the Torah, may cause hardship concerning a Jew’s livelihood.

None can have dominion over a Jew’s soul, for it is “a part of G‑d Above”: Just as none can rule G‑d, so none can rule a Jew’s soul. Concerning his body, however, it is possible that since G‑d has exiled him among the non-Jewish nations, there will be some non-Jews who will make life difficult. This is particularly so when it concerns “creatures,” those who have no worth other than they are creatures of G‑d. They have no cognizance of spiritual matters, and certainly not of G‑dliness. Such people cannot suffer those who do occupy themselves in spiritual matters — for the very presence of spiritually inclined people makes them realize how empty they are!

Hence, “creatures” such as those described above may well harass Jews who honor the Torah, and may well try to interfere with a Jew’s material wellbeing.

Rambam reassures Jews that this will not happen. He rules, halachically, that “his body will be honored by creatures.” Not only will these “creatures” not harass a Jew who honors the Torah, but they will honor him. In other words, Rambam is not giving a reason why a Jew should honor the Torah; that is self-understood. He is telling us that when a Jew stands firm and proud in his Judaism, honoring Torah and following its dictates, all peoples will respect and honor him.

The conclusion of Rambam learned today, then, is that the participants in this convention should carry out their resolutions joyfully, with peace of soul and peace of body, for Rambam has ruled that “whoever honors the Torah, his body will be honored by creatures.”

“Deed is paramount”: In these few days before the “Season of the Giving of our Torah” one should increase in all aspects of Judaism — especially women, who preceded men in the preparations to receiving the Torah (as explained above). Women should particularly increase in those mitzvos for which they are uniquely responsible: Illuminating the home with the Shabbos and Yom tov lights; kashrus; family purity — “be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth.”

Just as “Israel was redeemed from Egypt ... in the merit of the righteous women” (Sotah lib), so too in the future redemption, when “as in the days of your going out from Egypt I will show wonders.” Through Jewish women carrying out their mission in all of the above noted aspects, they raise the “hosts of G‑d” that will go to greet our righteous

Moshiach in the true and complete redemption.