Sunday, January 31, 2010

Parshah Yitro (Exodus 18:1-20:23)

Moshe went up to G-d, and Hashem called to him out of the mountain saying, Thus shall you say (tomar) to the house of Ya’acov, and tell (tagid ) the sons of Israel ” (Shemot 19:3).
Chief of Her Home
Rashi explains that “the house of Ya’acov” refers to the women – to them you shall speak in gentle language, as the Hebrew word tomar (say) indicates. “To the sons of Israel” – the men, Moshe is instructed to communicate the punishments and details of the commandments in words “as hard as wormwood,” implied by the Hebrew word, tagid (tell). According to Sha’arei Aharon, “the house of Ya’acov” refers to the woman, because she is the chief of her home (akeret habayit). The Hebrew term akeret habayit has been translated as “housewife.” However, a preferred translation might be “homemaker,” an appellation more congruent with the original Hebrew term that is intended as a title of honor. Western culture misleads us into believing that a woman obtains her primary fulfillment outside the home, and needs only to take care of domestic chores on the side.The following anecdote serves to demonstrate the absurdity of this outlook: A certain executive once asked his fellow associate what his wife does. The associate responded, “She is in charge of a home for unwanted children.” This sounded like a position of prestige, until it became clear that the children that she was in charge of were her own!
We need to reeducate ourselves to appreciate the importance of the title: akeret habayit. What could be more important than setting the tone in the home for all future generations?

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