Fathers and Mothers

Our Sages interpret1 the verse:2 “From the top of boulders, I see him. I gaze upon him from the hills,” as an allegory, explaining that “the tops of boulders” refers to the Patriarchs, and “the hills” refer to the Matriarchs.

The significance of this commentary can be understood by comparing the different relationships which a father and a mother share with their child. A father’s connection is general; it does not relate to the child’s body in a specific way.3 For it is through the mother’s nurturing of the fetus for nine months that the limbs and organs that make up a child’s body become defined and develop.4

For this reason, even after the child is born, his mother shares a closer relationship with him than his father, for it is she who has shaped the particulars of his existence. And thus, a child has a greater love for his mother than for his father, and a greater degree of awe for his father.5 For love depends on closeness, and awe comes about through distance.

Similar concepts apply with regard to the Patriarchs and the Matriarchs of the Jewish people. For this reason, when speaking about the Patriarchs, the verse uses the expression “I see him,” which implies gazing from a distance, while with regard to the Matriarchs, it uses the expression, “I gaze upon him” which implies closeness. This is indicated by the Targum for the term “I gaze upon him,” (סכיתה) sichisa, which is also used as the Targum for the word vitabeit.6 Habat, the Hebrew root for the latter term, implies looking closely with intent and concern.7

In the Image of G‑d

The conception of a child on the physical plane, as does every other material entity, stems from its spiritual source. Our emotions are referred to as “offspring,” because they are brought into being by intellect. Deep understanding and meditation on the greatness of G‑d spawns love and fear of G‑d.

More particularly, our conceptual process can be divided into two thrusts: Chochmah and Binah. Chochmah is the seminal core of understanding. Therefore it is described with the analogy of a father. Binah represents the development of a conceptual framework, and therefore it is referred to with the analogy of a mother.8

Our soul powers stem from the supernal Sefiros.9 And thus a similar pattern exists with regard to these Sefiros. They are divided into two fundamental categories which parallel intellect and emotion, it is the supernal intellect, Chochmah and Binah, which spawn the supernal emotions.10 And these emotions bring into being the spiritual worlds.11

More particular, the parallel reflects the workings of Chochmah and Binah. Chochmah serves as “the father,” for itis distant from the emotions and certainly from the worlds which they bring into being. Binah is considered “the mother” for it is closer to the emotions and also to the worlds.

Because Binah is closer to the worlds, the framework of reference which characterizes the worlds is significant for it. Therefore, the influence of Binah in the world, the comprehension of G‑dliness, does not nullify that framework of reference. Instead, it brings about only bittul hayesh, self-nullification that does not entirely banish one’s conception of self. The person devotes himself to a higher purpose, but still retains his individual identity.

Chochmah, by contrast, appreciates that “He alone exists; there is nothing else”;12 all other existence becomes paled in the light of His presence. This level of awareness is indeed reflected in the name Chochmah whose letters can be rearranged to form the words koach mah13 — which reflect complete and utter bittul, bittul bimetzius.

Striving for a Purpose

The Patriarchs and the Matriarchs share a connection with every Jew, endowing every member of people with their spiritual legacy.14 Implied is that every Jew possesses two general spiritual thrusts. The Patriarchs endow him with the quality of Chochmah, the potential for complete and utter self-nullification, reflecting the sublime unity, while the Matriarchs endow him with the quality of Binah, self-nullification that allows a person to retain his identity, reflecting the lower plane of unity.

The ultimate purpose of existence is that the world be transformed into a dwelling for G‑d. Thus our Divine service should not be removed from the world, but should focus on making the world a medium for G‑dliness as it exists within its own context. For this reason, the Matriarchs whose Divine service reflects closer involvement with the world possess an advantage over the Patriarchs (despite the fact that Binah, the quality they personify, merely receives influence from Chochmah, the quality personified by the Patriarchs). And therefore, Avraham was instructed:15 “Listen to everything Sarah tells you.”

Both these thrusts, the striving towards the sublime unity and the lower unity, which come from the Patriarchs and the Matriarchs (the “tops of the boulders” and the “hills”) empower the Jewish people, enabling them to achieve the state described in the continuation of the verse:16 “It is a nation dwelling alone secure, not being counted among the nations.”

Even during exile, this prophecy continues to be fulfilled. For the identity of the Jews has remained intact; they have not assimilated among the nations. Indeed, the exile lifts the Jews to a higher level, as indicated by theinterpretation of this verse by the Targum as foreshadowing the Era of the Redemption when: “in the future, this nation will take possession of the earth,” with the coming of the true and ultimate Redemption, led by Mashiach; may it take place in the immediate future.

A Woman in Her Home

Every Jewish home is a world of its own in which is manifest all the Ten Sefiros.17 Just as within the supernal Sefiros and within the powers of our soul, there is an advantage to Binah over Chochmah (despite the fact that Binah receives influence from Chochmah), so too, within the Jewish home, there is a dimension of supremacy to the woman’s position.

And the woman’s position in the home reflects the functioning of these Sefiros. The Sefirah of Binah receives influence from Chochmah, and conveys that influence to the emotional attributes. So too, a woman receives direction from her husband, as indicated by our Sages’ statement:18 “Who is a proper wife? One that fulfills her husband’s will.” Nevertheless, the actual functioning of the home including the education of the children, hospitality to guests, generous gifts to tzedakah and the like are all the women’s province.

A man is not at home during the major part of the day. He is busy with Torah study and prayer, or earning a livelihood. For his will to be “fulfilled,” manifest in actual life, he must rely on his “proper wife.”

Moreover, the Hebrew word translated as “fulfilled” עושה also means “make.” At times, a “proper wife” “makes her husband’s will.”19 For there are times when the pressures and difficulties he faces drain him, and hinder him from desiring the correct things. At that time, “his proper wife” should in a gentle and pleasant manner mold her husband’s will, coaxing to the surface the desire to fulfill G‑d’s will that lies within the heart of every Jew.20

“When a husband and wife are worthy, the Divine Presence rests among them.”21 When a Jewish home is conducted as “a Sanctuary in microcosm,”22 the Divine Presence rests within. And since the “Divine Presence rests within,” “no evil will dwell among you.”23 On the contrary, He will grant only good, overt and apparent good, as manifest in abundant blessings for children, health, and prosperity.

(Adapted from the maamar and Sichos of Yud-Gimmel Tammuz, 5722)