The Torah places much emphasis on the responsibility that each Jew has for the spiritual welfare of his or her fellows. A Jew is charged to foster a closeness to Torah in his fellow Jews, and to instill in them a love for Yiddishkeit so that they should eagerly and cheerfully abide by its precepts and practices.

While this task is incumbent upon both men and women, it is the woman who possesses the greater capacity — and thus carries the greater share of the responsibility — to achieve it. Generally speaking, there are two methods that might be employed when seeking to influence human behavior: stern rebuke, or gentle, kind words. The way of Torah is the way of shalom, peace, and kiruv, drawing close; G‑d is good, and it is His desire that those who do His work apply themselves with kindness and love. Because the woman has been blessed with an innately tender and sympathetic nature, her character is akin to, and expressive of, the Torah ideal of drawing one close through compassion; thus, she possesses a greater capacity to influence her fellow Jews to perfect their behavior in accordance with the way of Torah.

The human being possesses both a body and a soul. The Jew sees the body and the soul as interrelated, indeed bound together. Thus, by examining the way things are in their physical state, we gain insight into the spiritual counterpart.

When a person is ill, he consults a doctor. The doctor, who understands the physical workings of the body, diagnoses the nature of the illness and prescribes treatment. If the case warrants, hospital care is recommended. But the organization of the hospital is such that, while the doctor prescribes the treatment, the nurse is the one who usually administers it. Regarding this, it may be noted that nursing is predominantly a woman’s profession — a fact readily discernible in hospitals, where, with only rare exception, the nurses are women. This reflects the fact that women are inherently suited to nursing. With their natural tenderness and patience, they can sweeten a bitter-tasting medicine and make a most difficult medical procedure more tolerable.

The same is true regarding the care of the soul. If a Jew suffers from a deficiency in his spiritual health, it becomes necessary to treat him so that he may be cured. To procure a remedy for his spiritual ills, one must consult the authority who, like the doctor who is the expert for the body’s needs, knows and understands the needs of the soul. For the Jew, these needs are embodied by the Torah and its mitzvos. But the expert who diagnoses and prescribes the treatment is not necessarily the one who is best suited to administer it. Thus we come to the role of the spiritual “nurse” — an individual with the compassion, sensitivity and patience that the task requires.

As is the case regarding physical medicine, the woman has been blessed with a character that makes her optimally suited to serve as a spiritual “nurse” — one who draws one’s fellow Jews closer to Torah with kindness, benevolence, gentleness and love. A woman’s strength is such that she can prevail upon others to fulfill the mitzvos — including those mitzvos that might, on the surface, seem difficult or “bitter-tasting” — with willing acceptance and joy.

A woman’s first responsibility is to the spiritual care of her family. But, as the Baal Shem Tov would say, all Jews are brothers and sisters. Thus, her “nursing” efforts should extend beyond the confines of her immediate family to encompass any and all of her fellow Jews.

Private audience with the Rebbe in his study in 1953
Translation taken from, Rabbi Simon Jacobson