Tuesday, September 19, 2017

How can you Justify Living in Occupied Palestinian Territory?

Ask the Rebbetzin - Parasha Ha’azinu
Printable Version

Dear Rebbetzin Chana Bracha,
Although I connect with your Torah and spiritual views from a woman’s perspective, I cannot condone that you live on Palestinian occupied territory on the West Bank.
What gives you and your fellow settlers the right to grab land that belongs to the Palestinian people who have deep roots in their treasured homeland? Just because the Jews were persecuted during the holocaust, why do innocent Palestinians have to be driven from their home in order to provide a Jewish homeland?
Anna Small (name changed)

Dear Anna,
Getting into a political discussion is always a touchy topic, with the risk of losing supporters. People seem to be set in their ways when it comes to politics, especially Middle Eastern politics. The world is greatly influenced by biased propaganda that has taken over the media, making it very difficult to view a different perspective.  Emotions often take over and make it hard to really hear the facts. Therefore, I generally stay out of public political discussions, but I will nevertheless make an exception and do my best to answer your questions. 

The ‘West Bank’ Invention
Let us start with discussing the expression, ‘West Bank’ where, according to your perspective, I live. This expression is a major linguistic error. The ‘West Bank’ refers to the Western bank of the Jordan River. According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, the definition of a riverbank is “The ground at the edge of a river.” Therefore, where I live, in Bat Ayin, Gush Etzion is not a  riverbank, since the Jordan River is at least 60 Km away (over 32 miles). It would take more than 10 hours to walk from my home to the Jordan River. Gush Etzion is about in the middle of the Land of Israel with a similar distance to the Jordan River as to the Mediterranean Sea. So, we may as well be called the ‘East Bank’ of the Mediterranean Sea! Moreover, a riverbank is typographically on the lowland, whereas my region – the Judean hills – is about 950 meters above sea level. “Because the historical hills of Judea and Samaria never had any meaning to Arabs, they never had a name for them. The term ‘West Bank’ only came into significant use after the Six-Day War of 1967” (Sha’i ben Tekoa, Phantom Nation p. 8). It is sad that even Jews the world over, including Israelis, are influenced by the media to use the erroneous term: ‘West Bank’ rather than the proper Biblical names, Judea and Samaria, when referring to the areas of the Land of Israel that were liberated during the Six-Day War.

Provoked by a Non-People
I would also like to address the term ‘Palestinian’ which you use to describe certain Arabs that live in Israel or who fled Israel in the wake of the formation of the Jewish state. As Golda Meir states, “There were no such thing as Palestinians. When was there an independent Palestinian people with a Palestinian state? It was not as though there was a Palestinian people in Palestine considering itself as a Palestinian people and we came and threw them out and took their country away from them. They did not exist” (Sunday Times,15 June 1969). No Arabs claimed to be ‘Palestinian’ until the sixties. In 1947, the Arab Higher Committee wrote, “Politically, the Arabs of Palestine [were] not independent in the sense of forming a separate political identity.” This is only one example of the numerous examples Sha’i Ben Tekoa brings in his very informational book, Phantom Nation. Traditionally, the Arabs in Israel called themselves Arabs! Actually, it was the anti-religious Zionists who called themselves ‘Palestinians.’ For example, in Leon Uris’ The Exodus, the Sabra hero is routinely called a ‘Palestinian.’ The Arabs who lived in Israel, prior to 1948, were not a people with a separate identity from the rest of the Arab world, but rather a society of clans and tribes. Israel is constantly on the defense, targeted by a “non-people,” as Moshe prophesied in Parashat Ha’azinu:

 ספר דברים פרק לב (כא) הֵם קִנְאוּנִי בְלֹא אֵל כִּעֲסוּנִי בְּהַבְלֵיהֶם וַאֲנִי אַקְנִיאֵם בְּלֹא עָם בְּגוֹי נָבָל אַכְעִיסֵם:
“They provoked Me with a non-god, angered Me with their vanities. Thus, I will provoke them with a non-people, with a foolish nation shall I anger them” (Devarim 32:21).

The Palestinian Refugee Myth
The so called ‘Palestinian refugees’ is a phenomenon invented by the Arab world. The media paints a picture of the poor, indigenous Palestinians, who have tilled their beloved homeland from time immemorial, being ousted by aggressive Western Zionist imperialists. Such apparent oppression is compared to what the British did to the colonies and the USA to the American Indians. This is what I believed as a high-school student in Denmark! Since I have an affinity for all native peoples, who have an inherent connection with their land, and who live in harmony with it, I naturally sided with the “poor” Palestinians who were treated so brutally by my own people. It didn’t occur to me that the Arabs in Israel chose with their own free will to desert the land that they had only recently learned to call their own. In  1947-1948 thousands of wealthy Arabs left in anticipation of a war, thousands more responded to Arab leaders’ calls to get out of the way of the advancing armies, a handful were expelled, but most simply fled to avoid being caught in the cross fire of a battle. “The Arab civilians panicked and fled ignominiously. Villages were frequently abandoned before they were threatened by the progress of war” (General John Glubb, The British commander-in-chief of the Jordanian Army, London August 12, 1948). Had the Arabs accepted the 1947 UN resolution, not a single Palestinian would have become a refugee and an independent Arab state would now exist beside Israel. The leaders of the nascent Jewish state asked the Arabs in Palestine to stay and live as citizens in Israel. Instead, they chose to leave, either because they were unwilling to live with the Jews, or because they expected an Arab military victory, which would annihilate the Zionists. They thought they could leave temporarily and return at their leisure. Later, it was claimed that the Palestinians were ordered to leave, with radio broadcasts instructing them to quit their homes (Steven Glazer, 1980, The Palestinian Exodus in 1948, J. Palestine Studies 9(4), pp. 96–118). The Arabs themselves testify that their brethren deserted Palestine with the following admonishment: “Those who abandon their houses and businesses and go to live elsewhere… At the first sign of trouble they take to their heels to escape sharing the burden of struggle” (As –Shaab, Arab newspaper, January 30, 1948). The first to leave were roughly 30,000 wealthy Arabs who anticipated the upcoming war and fled to neighboring Arab countries where they had family. Less affluent Arabs from the mixed cities of Palestine moved to all-Arab towns to stay with relatives or friends. By the end of January 1948, the exodus was so alarming, the Palestine Arab Higher Committee asked neighboring Arab countries to refuse visas to these refugees and to seal the borders against them. Meanwhile, Jewish leaders urged the Arabs to remain in Palestine and become citizens of Israel. The Assembly of Palestine Jewry issued this appeal on October 2, 1947: “We will do everything in our power to maintain peace, and establish a cooperation gainful to both [Jews and Arabs]. It is now, here and now, from Jerusalem itself that a call must go out to the Arab nations to join forces with Jewry and the destined Jewish State and work shoulder to shoulder for our common good, for the peace and progress of sovereign equals.”

Twisted Truth
There are so many more omissions and distortions of facts regarding the struggle between the Jews and Arabs for the Land of Israel. Why does no one mention the hundreds of thousands of Jews who were forced to flee from Arab states before and after the creation of Israel? What about the demonization of the Israeli army who risk their lives to do anything it can to avoid killing civilians, whereas the Arab terrorists hide behind human shields- often women and children?  Why does world opinion seem to be so ignorant of the historical facts of the Middle East conflict? “Rabbi Yehuda said: In the generation when the son of David comes… truth will be entirely lacking, as it is written, ‘Truth is lacking, and he who turns away from evil is considered mad’ (Yesha’yahu 59:15). What is meant by ‘truth is lacking ne’ederet ]’? – The Scholars of the School of Rav said: This teaches that it will split up into separate groups and depart” (Babylonian Talmud, Sanhedrin 97a). The fact that the truth is twisted is part of the redemption process predicted by our Talmud. May we live to see Mashiach unravel the twisted media strips and set the world straight!

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

How can I Make Up for having Spoken Lashon Hara (Evil speech)?

Ask the Rebbetzin - Parasha Nitzavim-Va’yelecheh

Dear Rebbetzin Chana Bracha,
I live out of town in a very small Jewish community, and they don’t offer many Torah classes for women. I always look forward receiving your weekly writing, which is my lifeline and connection to Torah and the Land of Israel. Thank you so much for making the effort to keep sharing your unique Torah of the Land. I hope you are well, and that Hashem gives you the strength and insight to keep inspiring many more women! I’ve been having some challenging relationships with a family member, and I feel really badly about having spoken negatively about her to others. I am wondering what to do if I spoke lashon hara and then feel badly about it later.
How do I deal with it?  Is there a specific way to repent? Thank you so much!
Devorah Silverman (name changed)

Dear Devorah,
It’s good that you are contemplating doing teshuva (repentance) at this time, just prior to Rosh Hashana. When we remember our imperfections and shortcomings, then G-d will overlook them on the Day of Judgement. Teshuva is the greatest gift, because “Teshuva preceded the world” (Babylonian Talmud, Pesachim 54a). Therefore, nothing stands in the way of teshuva (Jerusalem Talmud, Peah 5a). When we express regret, do teshuva and sincerely cry out, we draw down towards ourselves pardon and forgiveness from the upper world. Since teshuva preceded the world, it causes us to become a new person, with our slate totally wiped clean like before creation (Ohr L’Smamayim, Parashat Bo). Even more so today, when there is no altar of atonement, there remains nothing but teshuva to atone for sins. Even a person who was wicked his entire life but repented in his final moments, will not be punished for any aspect of his wickedness as, “the wickedness of the evil one will not cause him to stumble on the day he repents his wickedness” (Yechezkiel 33:12); (Rambam, Hilchot Teshuva 1:1). Then, how do we repent in general and more specifically from speaking lashon hara?

The Teshuva Process Involves Our Heart, Speech and Action
The meaning of Teshuva is “return.”  It is about returning to our true selves – the Divine spark within us – beneath the layers of murky ‘soul-fog.’ When we do teshuva, we assess our ways, recognize our shadow sides, and return to our own original state of spiritual purity – our divine selves. We essentially return to our direct bond with Hashem.

The process of teshuva involves the following four steps:
1. Regret – Realizing the extent of damage and feeling sincere regret.
2. Cessation – Immediately discontinuing the harmful action.
3. Confession – Confessing the sin before Hashem and asking for forgiveness.
4. Resolution – Making a firm commitment to change for the future.

You need to apply your entire heart and soul in the teshuva process, as we learn from the first verse of the teshuva section in Parashat Nitzavim:

ספר דברים פרק ל פרק ב וְשַׁבְתָּ עַד הָשֵׁם אֱלֹהֶיךָ וְשָׁמַעְתָּ בְקֹלוֹ כְּכֹל אֲשֶׁר אָנֹכִי מְצַוְּךָ הַיּוֹם אַתָּה וּבָנֶיךָ בְּכָל לְבָבְךָ וּבְכָל נַפְשֶׁךָ:
“Return to Hashem your G-d and listen to His voice, according to everything I command you today, you and your children, with all your heart and with all your soul” (Devarim 30:2).

Feeling badly about doing what we shouldn’t have done is actually the first step of teshuva – regret. When you move through the process of teshuva, the bad feeling goes away and is replaced with a feeling of relief. Not only must our hearts be involved in doing teshuva, we also need to apply our faculty of speech and change our actions. We must confess to ensure that we will make a real effort to change. When we express with our lips the feelings of our hearts, we are more likely to live up to it and carry it into action.

Asking Forgiveness for Speaking Lashon Hara
Confession can be just moving your lips quietly to ourselves and Hashem, but if we wronged anyone, we also need to ask forgiveness from that person. If we have caused a person emotional, physical, or financial harm through our lashon hara, we must ask him or her for forgiveness. While it is relatively easy to apologize to the peoplewith whom we spoke loshon hara, it is not so, regarding the person we disparaged. It wouldn’t go off well, to approach him or her saying, “I’m sorry I spoke lashon hara against you, please forgive me!” We have a Danish expression that translates something like, “What you do not know can’t hurt you.” If the person was unaware of your lashon hara, your request for forgiveness will only cause unnecessary pain. However, we can only obtain Divine forgiveness after we have tried everything to received forgiveness from our victim. Therefore, the solution is to ask general forgiveness from the person without specifying for what.

Creating the Highest Light Imaginable by Refraining from Negative Speech
Doing teshuva for negative speech is to become aware of the effect of our words. Before speaking, we must ask ourselves, “Can it damage someone?” Not only derogatory words, but even words that are seemingly neutral could cause harm. Before speaking about someone, we can visualize that person overhearing our words. Would the person that I am speaking about be embarrassed if she was present? We can also train ourselves to ask before speaking whether our words may cause anyone to look down at the person about whom we are speaking? This way we can learn to elevate our speech. The words of holiness we speak in this world create upper worlds and holy angels, who become advocates for our soul. Even if we have already spoken lashon hara and we feel that everything is lost, it is never too late to stop. For every single extra word that we refrained from expressing, we create a light so great that even the highest angels are unable to imagine it (The Vilna Gaon).

Permission to Speak
Sometimes speaking negatively about others is not lashon hara, because it is for a beneficial purpose. It could, for example, be for the purpose of getting advice for how to deal with a delicate situation. There are other reasons, too where it is permitted to speak negatively. For example, to help prevent others from getting involved with a certain person which could be harmful for them. When a person is going through great hardships, due to a negative encounter with someone, it is permitted to vent to a good friend, in order to gain relief from the inner turmoil. However, we must carefully select the friend with whom we share our feelings. Venting to every person we meet is no longer for a beneficial purpose. I heard an old tape by Rabbi Kessing where he said, “Although it is allowed to vent, who said we can be an air conditioner?”

The Mirror of Noticing Your Fellow’s Flaws 

The Ba’al Shem Tov explained that the person, who is completely pure and holy, never notices anything negative in others. The reason we notice when someone does something wrong is because that person is a mirror to our own shortcomings. Even if we may not engage in the misbehavior to the same degree, we have a tinge of it ourselves. Hashem made us see or hear this imperfection in someone else, in order to make us aware of our own similar shortcoming, so that we can repent and repair the flaw in ourselves. Therefore, rather than speaking lashon hara, we need to look inwardly and mend our own ways. This way, we also rectify the imperfection in the other person. This concept is a deeper way of reading the well-known injunction against speaking lashon hara: “Guard your tongue from evil …turn away from evil and do good” (Tehillim 34:14). “Guard your tongue from evil” – do not despise and speak about the evil of others. Rather, “turn away from evil” – and rectify the evil in yourself. By means of this, you will “do good” – by causing the person whom you noticed to also become good and repent from his evil (Arvei Nachal, Parashat Lech Lecha). 

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Which Kind of Fertility Treatment is Permitted in the Torah?

Ask the Rebbetzin - Parasha Ki Tavo
Printable Version

Dear Rebbetzin Chana Bracha,
I am a convert and married late in life, when I was 47. I’m very happy with my husband who also was never married beforehand. Since none of us have any children, we both really want to do everything possible to be able to build our Jewish family, and we are aware that because of my age we need to move fast. According to the doctors, the only way we will be able to have a baby of our own is through in vitro fertilization (IVF) and egg donation. We want to make sure to do everything right according to Jewish law, and we are aware that there are delicate issues involved. Therefore, before moving ahead I’d like your Torah perspective on these various fertility treatments. We are also concerned how to be able to afford fertility treatments and wonder if you may have any advice for us. Please share with us anything else that you believe we need to know before proceeding with the fertility procedure.
Miriam Gutkind (name changed)

Dear Miriam,
First of all mazal tov! I’m happy for you that you are happily married. What a great blessing. I completely identify with your yearning to bear children and raise your own Jewish family. This is not only your personal desire, but also the very first mitzvah in the Torah, “Be fruitful and multiply” (Bereishit 2:22 and 28). We live in very exciting times, when so many new fertility treatments are available to help us fulfill this important mitzvah. I believe that the new research and technology related to infertility, pregnancy, birthing and pre- and postnatal care, is all part of repairing the curse on Chava involving not only difficulties in pregnancy, birth and childrearing, but also includes the pain of the period, as well as the pain of infertility.

Fertility Treatments Need Rabbinic Supervision
I commend you on your wish to undergo fertility treatment according to Halacha (Jewish law). Many intricacies are involved in fertility treatments that need Rabbinic supervision. Halachic supervision is required in all fertility treatments, in order to verify the halachic identity of both the sperm and eggs involved. If it is a third party donation, it is necessary to ensure that the correct donor’s eggs are used as well as the husband’s sperm. We are fortunate in Israel to have PUAH Institute, under the guidance of Rabbi Menachem Burstein, which certifies the genetic integrity of fertility treatments worldwide. It furthermore provides counseling, referrals and support, free-of-charge, to all those seeking professional help, by halachic counselors trained in modern reproductive medicine. I recommend that you and your husband get in touch with PUAH institute, and speak with some of their Rabbis who will explain why IVF is okay according to Jewish law, and the different halachic opinions regarding ovum donation. I personally believe, that the revelation of new discoveries and technology, which help us fulfill the mitzvah of being fruitful and multiply are G-d sent. I’m sure that there is great reward for those who make the extra effort and take on the extra expense for the sake of bringing children into this world.

How Can We Afford Fertility Treatments?
Regarding the finances, this is a tough question. Without the money to finance the costly fertility treatments, it is not easy to undertake the procedures. PUAH Institute advises that a couple considering fertility treatment should review their finances and identify all anticipated costs in advance. The cost of IVF is expensive, and egg donation includes the additional cost of the donor. The procedure furthermore, in many countries might not be covered by insurance. In Israel, socialized medicine (Kupat Cholim) covers the major expenses of IVF and egg-donation for couples who do not yet have any children or have only one child, up until age 54 for the woman. All Rights, a non-profit, collaborative project, has an extensive list of resources about rights and entitlements in Israel, including the financial coverage of fertility treatments. It is good to know that IVF treatments are included in the healthcare basket for first and second children. You will need to complete your Aliyah process and subscribe to a Kupat Cholim in order to qualify for the financial subsidies from the State of Israel.

Who is the Halachic Mother?
There are different opinions regarding the halachic permissibility of egg donation. An increasing numbers of rabbis permit this procedure, when other fertility treatments have been exhausted, and it is clear that the woman doesn’t produce her own eggs or that they are no longer viable. In this case, egg donation is the last resort to enable her to have her own baby. It is vital that you consult either with your personal Rabbi or a PUAH counselor to determine if ovum donation is permitted in your case. There are three different rabbinic opinions regarding who is the halachic mother of the child born through ovum donation: the birth-mother, the donor or both. According to the opinion that the birth-mother is the halachic mother, the child is Jewish even if the egg donor is not. According to the opining that the donor is the halachic mother, the child’s Jewishness depends on the donor. Since the halachic definition of the mother is questionable, most hold by the third opinion, that it is good to be strict in all cases. According to this view, the child is only considered Jewish if both the birth mother and the donor are Jewish. If only one of them is Jewish, the child must undergo conversion to eliminate any doubt regarding his or her Jewish identity. PUAH institute concludes: “In order to satisfy all opinions, the optimum donor is a single Jewish woman. However, such a donor is not always available. Each couple should consult their Rabbi or a PUAH counselor to determine the best option for their specific circumstances.”

The Fruit of our Womb Depends of Hashem’s Blessing
With all the advanced technology, let us not forget that everything is up to Hashem. It all depends on His blessing. By interacting with nature through modern technology, the complex miracle of creating an infant becomes even clearer, making us tremble in hope and pray for the success of each stage. We need to be aware that the fruits of our womb are a blessing from G-d alone. It is included in this week’s parasha among the blessings:

ספר דברים פרק כח פסוק ד בָּרוּךְ פְּרִי בִטְנְךָ וּפְרִי אַדְמָתְךָ וּפְרִי בְהֶמְתֶּךָ שְׁגַר אֲלָפֶיךָ וְעַשְׁתְּרוֹת צֹאנֶךָ:
“Blessed be the fruit of your womb, the produce of your soil and the offspring of your cattle, the calving of your heard and the lambing of your flock” (Devarim 28:4). 

Prayer can make all the difference. While it is important to get your family and friends to pray for you, your own prayer is most important. You need to storm the gates of heaven with your heartfelt supplications, like Chana, the mother of our prayer, who poured out her soul to Hashem (I Shemuel 1:9-15). It is not surprising that it is a segula (spiritual remedy) to recite Pirkei Chana (I Shemuel 1-2:10) every Friday night, which is the Haftorah for the first day of Rosh Hashana. Rabbi Nachman also has special prayers for bearing children (Likutei Tefilot part 1, prayer 21 and prayer 60). Furthermore, in the prayer book for women called תפילת חנה השלם/Tefilat Chana HaShalem – Chana’s Complete Prayer, you will find a beautiful prayer on pp.191-209.

Lastly, here is a prayer I composed when I went through fertility treatments 21 years ago:
“Oh G-d, please answer my prayers. Please grant me fruits of the womb.  I can no longer bear being a barren tree who yields no fruit, year after year after year. Until when? I only want to fulfill my purpose as a woman. If it is Your will that I be blessed after having voiced my prayer, please Hashem help my prayers reach Your inner sanctuary to pull down a new soul into the world!”

I bless you success in each of the stages of your fertility treatments. May Hashem accept your heartfelt prayer to enable you to fulfill His will by bringing children into the world!

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

I Need Deep Torah about the Mitzvah of Making a Fence!

Ask the Rebbetzin - Parasha Ki Tetze
Printable Version
Dear Rebbetzin Chana Bracha,
I’m so excited!!! We have made Aliyah and have just completed building our true home in Ma’aleh Adumim. We are planning a huge Chanukat HaBayit (More than a house warming party), and I’m looking forward to making it very meaningful. We have waited, planned and prepared for this special milestone for years. Now it is finally happening! During the celebration with family and friends, I would like to share some deep Torah about the mitzvah of making a fence around our roof. Its simple understanding is quite obvious. We don't need Hashem to tell us to ensure that our roof is safe so no one falls down from it. There must be more to it. I can’t wait to hear your inner Torah about this important mitzvah!
Simcha Houseman (name changed)

Dear Simcha,
Mazal tov on your Aliyah and the completion of your permanent home in Eretz Yisrael! This is indeed a great achievement. We made Aliyah in 1980 but we didn’t build our permanent home until 18 years later. Actually, our Chanukat HaBayit was also during Parashat Ki Tetze, which happens to be my birthday parasha as well. Therefore, my husband let me say the special blessing, before hammering in the last nail of theמַעֲקֶה /ma’akeh – fence on our raised porch. This was a very meaningful moment for me. Needless to say, I was extremely moved when I recited the following beracha: Baruch ata Hashem Elokeinu melech ha’olam, asher kideshanu bemitzvotav vetzivanu la’asot ma’akeh. (Blessed are You, Hashem our G‑d, King of the Universe, who has sanctified us with His commandments, and commanded us to construct a fence). What makes it so special is that this is a mitzvah you usually get to do only once in a lifetime (if ever). I was fortunate to find a fascinating article by Rav Yitzchak Ginsburgh, “The Electrifying Fence,” that explains multilayered, symbolic meanings of this mitzvah. I have woven some of his teachings into other commentaries on the topic.

The Parameters of the Mitzvah of Making a Fence
The mitzvah of constructing a fence around the roof follows the war and subsequent conquest of the Land of Israel, when the Israelites settle and deal with the mitzvot of building a house (Ibn Ezra).

ספר דברים פרק כב פסוק ח כִּי תִבְנֶה בַּיִת חָדָשׁ וְעָשִׂיתָ מַעֲקֶה לְגַגֶּךָ וְלֹא תָשִׂים דָּמִים בְּבֵיתֶךָ כִּי יִפֹּל הַנֹּפֵל מִמֶּנּוּ:
“When you build a new house, then you shall make a fence for your roof, so that you do not bring blood on your house, if anyone should fall from it” (Devarim 22:8).

Any flat roof, even one that people only occasionally walk on, requires aמַעֲקֶה /ma’akeh – fence, which is a three-foot wall to keep people from falling off (Shut Rivevot Ephraim 1:35). A roof that is never used does not need a fence (Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 190:1). The fence on the roof must strong enough to prevent someone from falling (Shulchan Aruch, Choshen Mishpat 427:5). This mitzvah is part of the general directive to do what we can to prevent hazards particularly in our own homes. The image of the fence around the roof epitomizes the value of life.

The Connection between Sending Away the Mother-Bird and Constructing a Fence
The mitzvah to send away the mother-bird begins a new Torah section, which includes 35 subsections, the first of which is the mitzvah of constructing a fence on the roof. All of these mitzvot concern תקונו של עולם/repairing the world (Eliyahu Kitov). If you have fulfilled the commandment of שלוח הקן/Shiluach HaKen – (letting the mother-bird go when taking the eggs or baby-birds), then you will be privileged to build a new house and fulfill the commandment to “make a fence.” One good deed brings another good deed in its train. Then you will attain a vineyard (v.9), fields (v.10) and fine garments (vv. 10-11). For this reason, these sections are juxtaposed (Rashi, Devarim 22:8). The mitzvah of respecting the mother by sending away the mother-bird leads you to believe in the creation of the world and that G-d builds and renews. Therefore, measure for measure, you will also merit to build a new house. This is the foundation of emunah, as it states, “The righteous one lives by his faith” (Chabakuk 2:4); (Kli Yakar, Devarim 22:7). What a special privilege to emulate the Creator by creating your own home in the Holy Land. By adding the fence on your roof, you participate in repairing the world, and merit additional opportunities for world repair by attaining a vineyard and fields.

Mashiach & the Eternal Bird of the Soul
The bird and roof images are furthermore tied together in King David’s psalms, “I have been diligent, and I have become like a lone bird on the roof” (Tehillim 102:8). According to Rav Yitzchak Ginsburg, they both allude to Mashiach, who is compared to a bird sitting in a nest in the Garden of Eden, waiting to redeem the world. Similarly, Mashiach stands on the roof of the holy Temple in Jerusalem and turns to the Jewish People saying, “Humble ones, the time of your redemption has come” (Yalkut Shimoni, Yesha’yahu 60:499). The mitzvah to construct a fence on a roof only relates to people, as birds do not need it. The reason for making the fence is “so that you do not bring blood on your house.” Rav Ginsburgh explains that the Hebrew word for blood דָּם/dam contains the last letters of אָדָם/Adam – man. Only the dalet and mem need a fence to protect from falling off the roof. The alef, is never affected. It is the inner, eternal “bird of the soul.”

A Spiritual Fence Surrounding our Higher Consciousness
The rooftop also symbolizes the highest wisdom – chachmah. When we are greatly involved in wisdom, we have to be careful not to allow our mind to stumble in faulty perception, as happened to Elisha ben Abuya, who fell to the other side. Therefore, we need to place a protecting fence, which is the fear of G-d that surrounds our wisdom, as it states, “the beginning of wisdom is fear of G-d” (Tehillim 111:10); (Rabbeinu Bachaya, Devarim 22:8). Similarly, Rav Ginsburgh expounds, “When we ascend in our consciousness to the highest point, the ‘roof’ of an idea or experience, we have reached its climax or epitome. It is precisely here that danger lies.” It is the role of the feminine to infuse the masculine wisdom with fear of G-d. This is reflected in the Oral Torah (the feminine binah) which creates a fence around the Written Torah (the masculine chachmah) to protect it from spiritual danger. Thus, the first teaching of the first mishnah of the Oral Torah is to make a סְיָג/seyag – fence around the Torah.   

The Fence of Humility
We are fortunate to live in the pre-Messianic era, when new consciousness and new dimensions of the Torah are flowing through us. Therefore, more than ever, we need a spiritual fence to insure that when we reach those high points, we won’t fall. Humility is the character trait needed to create such a spiritual fence around the higher chachmah consciousness. This humility leads us to consult rabbis and ensure that our new spiritual consciousness remains within the boundaries of halacha. The new home that our verse instructs us to build also alludes to the new, third Temple. May the mitzvah of constructing a fence around the rooftop of your home be a merit for building the ultimate home – the final Temple that will repair the world!

How Can the Torah Issue the Death Penalty?

Ask the Rebbetzin - Parasha Shoftim
Printable Version

Dear Rebbetzin Chana Bracha,
I can’t believe the backward and barbaric punishments described in the Torah. I understand certain behaviors are prohibited, such as murder, theft, adultery and idol-worship. But, living in the modern civilized world, where corporal punishment is outlawed, I find capital punishment described in Parashat Shoftim abhorrent. How can it be humane to take the lives of other people? Doesn’t the Torah emphasize repentance? Why don’t these sinners get a chance to work on themselves and change? Why must they be publicly stoned in such a cruel and brutal way?
Malka Freeman (name changed)

Dear Malka,
I totally understand how you are feeling, I, too, have a hard time with some of the punishments described in the Torah. I agree that Free Will and Repentance are the main tenants of Judaism, and whenever possible, we should give the sinner a chance to mend his ways. So, how can we come to terms with capital punishment ordained by the Torah? How can we understand it in a way that is not cruel to the sinner and still leaves room for his repentance?

Capital Punishment in the Western World
You mention that capital punishment is outlawed in modern civilized countries. Actually, capital punishment is still a matter of active controversy in various countries and states. The United States is one of the Western nations in which it has not been completely outlawed. Only some states have bans on capital punishment, while others still use it today. Even for Western countries that have abolished the death sentence, this is still a recent phenomenon.. 
Abolition of the death penalty occurred in Canada in 1976 (except for some military offences, with complete abolition in 1998), in France in 1981, and in Australia in 1973 (although the state of Western Australia retained the penalty until 1984). The Nuremberg executions, which took place on October 16, 1946, are well known. Ten prominent members of the political and military leadership of Nazi Germany were executed by hanging. Most Western minded people do not feel that it was inhumane to execute these villains. This is because the moral depravity, wickedness and cruelty of the Nazi murderers is clear to all of us. Most of us do not doubt that murderers certainly forfeit their right to live. The remaining offences for which the death penalty is prescribed in the Torah may not be as clear to us today. However, if we believe that the Torah is Divine, then we must also believe that each requirement of the death penalty in the Torah applies only to people who have similarly forfeited their right to live. Since, we are influenced by  today’s tolerant Western society, it may be hard to connect with the seriousness of certain sins that warrant the death penalty and feel abhorence for Shabbat desecration and idolworship. The popular sentiment today is that as long as people aren’t hurting anyone else, it is no-one’s business to interfere with their prefered lifestyle and way of worship.

Differentiating between Divine and Human Law
Without the Torah directives, I would never agree to capital punishment. Who are we, simple humans, to issue a death sentence on a fellow human being? Who are we to decide which kind of sins are serious enough to deserve the death penalty? Who are we to ensure we didn’t make a mistake, which could have such irreversible consequenses?  It is only because I believe that the Torah is from G-d, that I can trust that whatever is written in it is Eternal, Divine truth, even though some parts are more difficult for me to accept, such as the death penalty described in Parashat Shoftim:

ספר דברים פרק יז (ב) כִּי יִמָּצֵא בְקִרְבְּךָ בְּאַחַד שְׁעָרֶיךָ אֲשֶׁר הָשֵׁם אֱלֹהֶיךָ נֹתֵן לָךְ אִישׁ אוֹ אִשָּׁה אֲשֶׁר יַעֲשֶׂה אֶת הָרַע בְּעֵינֵי הָשֵׁם אֱלֹהֶיךָ לַעֲבֹר בְּרִיתוֹ: (ג) וַיֵּלֶךְ וַיַּעֲבֹד אֱלֹהִים אֲחֵרִים וַיִּשְׁתַּחוּ לָהֶם וְלַשֶּׁמֶשׁ אוֹ לַיָּרֵחַ אוֹ לְכָל צְבָא הַשָּׁמַיִם אֲשֶׁר לֹא צִוִּיתִי: (ד) וְהֻגַּד לְךָ וְשָׁמָעְתָּ וְדָרַשְׁתָּ הֵיטֵב וְהִנֵּה אֱמֶת נָכוֹן הַדָּבָר נֶעֶשְׂתָה הַתּוֹעֵבָה הַזֹּאת בְּיִשְׂרָאֵל: (ה) וְהוֹצֵאתָ אֶת הָאִישׁ הַהוּא אוֹ אֶת הָאִשָּׁה הַהִוא אֲשֶׁר עָשׂוּ אֶת הַדָּבָר הָרָע הַזֶּה אֶל שְׁעָרֶיךָ אֶת הָאִישׁ אוֹ אֶת הָאִשָּׁה וּסְקַלְתָּם בָּאֲבָנִים וָמֵתוּ: (ו) עַל פִּי שְׁנַיִם עֵדִים אוֹ שְׁלשָׁה עֵדִים יוּמַת הַמֵּת לֹא יוּמַת עַל פִּי עֵד אֶחָד:
“If there will be found among you, in one of your cities that Hashem, your G-d is giving you, a man or woman who does evil in the eyes of Hashem, your God, to transgress His covenant –
Going to worship other gods and bowing down to them, or to the sun, the moon, or any of the host of the heavens, which I have not commanded. If you have been informed or have heard of it, then you shall make a thorough inquiry, if it is true, the fact is established; this abomination was perpetrated in Israel. Then you shall take that man or that woman who has committed this evil thing, out to your cities, and you shall stone them man or the woman, to death. A person shall be put to death only on the testimony of two or more witnesses; he must not be put to death on the testimony of a single witness” (Devarim 17:2-6).

Talmudic Restrictions on Capital Punishment
The Talmud expands upon this Torah section restricting the death penalty greatly and makes it nearly impossible for any crime to meet the standards needed to impose the death penalty. It rules that  two witnesses are required to testify not only that they witnessed the act for which the criminal has been charged but that they also warned him beforehand that if he carried out the act, he would be executed. Then, he had to accept the warning, stating his willingness to commit the act despite his awareness of its consequences. The criminal’s own confession is not accepted as evidence. Circumstantial evidence is also not admitted. Moreover, the death penalty could only be inflicted, after a trial, by a Sanhedrin composed of twenty-three judges (Mishnah, Sanhedrin e punishment. In fact, “A Sanhedrin that puts a man to death once in seven years is called murderous. Rabbi Eliezer ben Azariah says: even once in seventy years. Rabbi Akiva and Rabbi Tarfon say: had we been in the Sanhedrin, none would ever have been put to death... (Mishnah, Makkot 1:10). In any event, it is illegal for a secular Jewish court to impose the death penalty, even for murder, until the re-establishment of the Sanhedrin. Even when this happens (May it be soon!), can you imagine anyone who would commit a murder in the presence of two witnesses, after these had solemnly warned him that if he persists they will testify against him to have him executed for his crime?

Certain Sins for Which Only Death Atones
The Torah indicates that some crimes are worthy of death in order to emphasize their importance. Yet, “G-d loves even sinners, so much that He sees to it that this harsh judgment doesn’t get carried out” (Rabbi Benjamin Blech). Every Torah law, given by a good and loving G-d, is ultimately for the benefit of everyone involved; not only for the society, which needs protection, but even for the perpetrators themselves. In the extremely rare cases where capital punishment was carried out, it would be only with the best interest of the executed person in mind. The Torah always gives a chance for repentance whenever possible. However, there are certain sins for which only death atones. This includes desecration of G-d’s name, idol-worship, murder and adultery. Thus, the death penalty wasn’t intended to exact vengeance. Its function as a deterrent was also not its ultimate purpose. Rather, the person’s death brought atonement for the sin he committed, and – in conjunction with teshuvah (repentance) – guaranteed the soul’s rehabilitation.

Prisoners Request to Exchange Life sentence with Death Sentence
Long term imprisonment can be more cruel and devastating to criminals than the death penalty. It was reported in BBC news, 31 May 2007, that hundreds of prisoners serving life sentences in Italy requested to bring back the death penalty. Italy has almost 1,300 prisoners serving life terms, of whom 200 have served more than 20 years. Some of the country’s longest serving prisoners want the death penalty re-introduced. The letter they sent to President Giorgio Napolitano came from a convicted mobster, Carmelo Musumeci, a 52-year-old who has been in prison for 17 years. It was co-signed by 310 of his fellow lifers. Musumeci said he was tired of dying a little bit every day. We want to die just once, he said, and “we are asking for our life sentence to be changed to a death sentence.” It was a candid letter written by a man who, from within his cell, has tried hard to change his life. He has passed his high school exams and now has a degree in law. But his sentence, he says, has transformed the light into shadows. He told the president his future was the same as his past, killing the present and removing every hope.

This explains why the Torah never imposed imprisonment as a punitive means. It seems that most inmates would prefer corporal and even capital punishment to a life time sentence. Considering the importance of Free Will in the Torah, one must ask, is depriving a person of his fundamental right to the most basic human need and aspiration – freedom – less cruel than capital punishment?

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Can a Woman Wear Talit and Tefillin?

Ask the Rebbetzin - Parasha Re’eh
Printable Version

Dear Rebbetzin Chana Bracha,
I have a question. My daughter made her own tallit for her Bat Mitzvah, and we have my grandfather’s tefillin for her to wear as well. I believe it will be very meaningful for her. I wanted to say something about the meaning of a woman wearing a tallit, but haven’t really found anything. Can you give me some insight into this? 
Doris Tallisman (name changed)

Dear Doris,
First of all, mazal tov on your daughter’s Bat Mitzvah. May she grow into a true Eishet Chail (Woman of Valor)! I understand that your daughter is excited about her tallit, that she made herself. Creativity by the Jewish woman is certainly emphasized in the Torah, especially the crafts of weaving and spinning. I’m sure you could find something nice to say about the importance of weaving for Jewish women and their role in weaving the Temple curtains. King Solomon praises the Woman of Valor for this skill as he writes: “She sets her hands to the distaff, and her palms hold the spindle” (Proverbs 31:19). Your daughter’s Bat Mitzvah Parasha is Parashat Re’eh which instructs women and girls to rejoice in the holidays: “You shall rejoice in your festival, you and your son, your daughter, your servant, your maidservant, the Levite, the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow, that are within your gates” (Devarim 16:14). The Oral Torah explains that women rejoice by wearing new clothing and jewelry (Mishneh Torah, The Laws of Holidays 6:18), so the topic of women’s garments ties in nicely. The reason why you have not found any sources for a Jewish woman wearing a tallit is because there are no sources for this in our tradition.

Time-bound Mitzvot that Women Must Not Perform
Women are exempt from performing time-bound positive commandments (Babylonian Talmud, Kiddushin 29). The Talmud derives this principle from the commandment of tefillin, which are considered ‘time-bound’ since they are not worn on Shabbat or holidays (Ibid. 33b). Nevertheless, women observe many time-bound mitzvot without being obligated, and they even get rewarded for such mitzvot as hearing the Shofar and sitting in the Sukkah. Although women and children are not obligated to sit in a Sukkah, it is still a mitzvah for each Jew to have his wife and children sit in the Sukkah as by sitting in a Sukkah they earn eternal heavenly reward (Shulchan Aruch 640:1; Ran, Rosh HaShana 33a). Women and children who sit in a Sukkah merit the cleansing of their souls and receiving heavenly goodwill (Kaf HaChaim  640:5). However, women do not have the custom of donning tallit and tefillin. Why should these mitzvot be different? The Talmud records that Michal, the daughter of King Saul, donned tefillin and the Rabbis did not object (Eruvin 96a). Also Rashi’s daughters are said to have put on tefillin. However, these are exceptions and there are various reasons why women must refrain from this practice. 

The Risk of Disgracing the Tefillin
There are generally no pitfalls when women take upon themselves various time-bound mitzvot. However, this is not the case with wearing tefillin. Donning tefillin requires a ‘clean body’ – that is – it is forbidden to pass gas while wearing tefillin. Naturally, this does not happen to women any more than to men, but since men are obligated in the mitzvah, they may be more easily excused, as opposed to women who are exempt. Since no-one today is on the level of Michal, Shaul’s daughter, who was in complete control over her body, only a man, who has no choice regarding the mitzvah of donning tefillin is permitted to take the risk of disgracing this mitzvah. This explains why most Torah authorities agree that women should not don tefillin, (Shulchan Aruch, OC 38:3; Aruch Hashulchan 38:6; Beit Yosef 38:3). Donning tefillin is a commandment, which women have not historically practiced, and if women want to take it upon themselves, we object (Rabbi Moshe Isserless, the Rem”a, Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 38:3).

No Cross-Dressing for Men and Women
Neither men nor women are permitted to dress in a way that is customarily associated with the other gender. Since a tallit is typically a male garment, women may transgress a Torah prohibition by wearing it: “A man’s garment shall not be on a woman, nor may a man wear a woman’s garment because whoever does these [things] is an abomination to Hashem, your G-d” (Devarim 22:5). Rabbi Yonatan ben Uziel’s translation of this Torah verse reads:

תרגום יונתן על דברים פרק כב פסוק ה לא יהיה גוליין דציצית ותפילין דהינון תקוני גבר על איתא
“A woman should not wear Tzitzit and Tefilin which are male garments…” (Targum Yonatan, Devarim 22:5).

The Strange Fire of Self-Centered Desire for Divine Service
I’m very proud of my alumna student, Ahuva Gamliel, who wrote a beautiful article on the topic: Why I Don’t Put On Tefillin. She describes how she felt a strong desire to don tefillin when learning about their wonderful mental, emotional, and physical health benefits. She was discouraged from this mitzvah by the various rabbis with whom she consulted, yet, was not satisfied with the reasons given for the prohibition of women donning tefillin. . Here is an excerpt from her very well written article: “The sons of Aaron, the High Priest, Nadav and Avihu, were great men driven by a deep desire for closeness to Gd. They were inspired to serve Gd and made an offering that was not asked for and died. They were consumed by a fire – their passion – because they did what they wanted instead of just doing what Gd asked. This taught me that my great spiritual desire to connect with Gd was in fact egotistical. It was about me, me, me. I wanted to put on tefillin as a way of reaching my potential. I wanted to be closer to Gd, and thought tefillin would take me there. But this is not what Gd asks of me. My spiritual desire was, in fact, self-centered and not Gd centered. I didn’t stop to think what would make Gd happy.” Ahuva’s frank self-awareness is in tune with the general halachic concern to refrain from a particular activity that is deemed ostentatious. This rule applies equally to men and women. It would be an act of religious arrogance (yuhara) for women to wear tallit and tefillin, from which she is exempt, since women do not regularly wear such garments (Rabbi Moshe Isserles, the Rem”a, Shulchan Aruch, OC 17:2).

Male Oriented Antennas
On an inner level, the mitzvot of tallit and tefillin are male oriented and entirely unnecessary for a woman. The superior and inherent spiritual wisdom of women does not require time-bound religious imperatives (Rabbi S.R. Hirsch, Vayikra 23:43). Ahuva Gamliel expands on this concept in such a deep and personal way: “It is clear to see that tefillin are unnecessary for me.  It is as if I already have an instant satellite connection, with the best reception possible while thinking that putting an antenna on will help to beam me up. This thinking is clearly flawed. The antenna in this case is redundant and will not do anything for me. In fact, it may be detrimental, causing avoidable marital problems, G-d forbid.  This redundancy may be a chilul Hashem (G-d forbid) because it is doing an act in vain, even if the intentions are great, like Nadav and Avihu. While it must be greatly satisfying to earn a relationship and close bond through prayer, actions, and pure intentions, I can rejoice and celebrate that I don’t have to work as hard for that reality. I was born with a direct connection and the ability to be G-d like through the creation of children (G-d Willing soon). Just like G-d created a space for humanity to exist and to bestow His love upon them, I, too, have this ability through procreation. I have been gifted with the ability of co-creating with G-d, in a way that men do not experience: My microcosm reflecting His macrocosm.  I can emanate G-d’s ways in a deep way that men cannot- and that is priceless.” Baruch Hashem, in the merit of Ahuva’s humble, sincere quest for truth and embracing her femininity, she is engaged to a wonderful man of her dream. I bless Ahuva to raise a beautiful Jewish family upon the traditional Torah values that she imparts. 

Monday, August 7, 2017

Why are Single Women Undervalued in the Torah?

Ask the Rebbetzin - Parasha Ekev
Printable Version

Dear Rebbetzin Chana Bracha,
I would like to know your thoughts on the following:  We all know that the ideal of “Eishet Chayil” applies to the Jewish wife and mother.  But, what about the Jewish woman who became a ba’alat teshuvah (returnee to Judaism) later in life? What about the Jewish woman who is married, and who does not have children for one reason or another? What is her role in Jewish society, and in which way does she fulfill the role of “Eshet Chayil”?  Perhaps, she has devoted her life to serve in areas other than home and family? What if, for example, she has spent her entire life taking care of the sick, or in improving the lives of others in various ways, but has never been blessed with the joys of her own family life? I’m eager to hear what you have to say on this topic, as I fear it is generally neglected, leaving a whole sub-population of Jewish women who are left out of home-centered observance feeling undervalued and lonely.
Liebe Weizman (name changed)

Dear Liebe,
You are asking a difficult but very important question. The situation of single women in the Torah world is not simple. Unfortunately, in the modern Western world, the phenomenon of older single women is increasing. The Torah world is no different. As you wrote, women often return to the Torah later in life. When one realizes that her biological clock is ticking, she wishes she had been less preoccupied with her career and had put more energy into establishing a family. Many women dedicated to the Torah in the highest degree yearn to realize their potential as wives and mothers. Not only do they feel a natural desire to fulfill themselves in these ways,  the Torah also makes it clear that the greatest contribution and the highest ideal of a Jewish woman is to become an Eishet Chail – described in the Torah as a wife and mother. So, how can we comfort and encourage single women to contribute to Jewish society and find a meaningful way to fulfill their Jewish potential?

The Role of the Jewish Woman to Build a Torah Family
If I were a single woman, I would feel that the Jewish religious community rubs salt in my wound from yearning for marriage and motherhood, with all its ‘home-centered observance.’ Women are exempt from the positive-time-bound mitzvot, so that they can fulfill their destiny of building the family home. It is the role of the Jewish woman to create and sustain the family, upon which our personal and national future is founded. For this reason, women are also exempt from the mitzvah of Torah study. Although women must learn Torah in order to live by its guidance, they are not obligated to study Torah for the sake of theoretical profundity, and comprehensive knowledge. In order to foster the family, the Torah exempted women from the mitzvah of Torah study and the positive time-bound mitzvot. What about the older single woman, who may never be able to have children of her own? How does all this relate to her? The very law that women are exempt from the mitzvah of Torah study and time-bound positive mitzvot suggests that women, by nature, have less of a need for those mitzvot and that they can achieve personal completion without them. Based on this, we can learn that even a woman who does not bear the burden of family is exempt from these mitzvot (Rabbi Eliezer Melamed).

The Image of G-d Refers to the Union between Man and Woman
The Torah teaches that the human being is only a complete tzelem elokim (image of G-d) when the feminine and the masculine are united to become one complete being (Bereishit 1:27). This seems to imply that an unmarried person, be it man or woman, does not embody a complete image of G-d. In fact, any man who has no wife lives without joy, without blessing, and without goodness (Babylonian Talmud, Yevamot 62b). The Torah refers to the human being as complete and blessed only after G-d made male and female and brought them together, as it states “Male and female He created them and He blessed them and He called their name Adam” (Bereishit 5:2). Only men have the mitzvah to be fruitful and multiply, because women naturally desire the bond of marriage and motherhood. Therefore, the single woman may suffer more and feel a greater lack than the single man, especially in the traditional Jewish world, where so much emphasis is on women to be homemakers. Before Hashem created woman, He put Adam to sleep. It seems like in our time, prior to the final redemption, in the merit of the women that Hashem is creating women anew, while often, men are spiritually dormant. Women are engaged in various self-development movements and aspiring to perfect their character, whereas, many men do not exactly measure up. It has become increasingly difficult to find suitable matches for the accomplished Jewish woman.  Many older single women complain that they are being matched up with weirdos. We must show great empathy and care to women who are in this situation. When I lecture about the Eshet Chail or related Women/Torah topics, I’m keenly aware that it is extremely important to show sensitivity to the older single women, some who may never experience the joy of motherhood.

Upholding the Single Woman
Just as the Torah teaches us the importance of protecting the orphan, convert and the widow, so is it a mitzvah to be kind to the single woman.

ספר דברים פרק י פסוק יח עֹשֶׂה מִשְׁפַּט יָתוֹם וְאַלְמָנָה וְאֹהֵב גֵּר לָתֶת לוֹ לֶחֶם וְשִׂמְלָה:
“G-d upholds the cause of the orphan, the widow, and He loves the convert providing him with food and clothing” (Devarim 10:18).

The Hebrew term for widow is אַלְמָנָה/Almana,’ literally means, “without a portion.” This expression can be extended to include the older single woman, as she has no one to provide for her and protect her. In the past, a woman would remain in her father’s home until the day of her wedding, when her father would hand her over to the protecting hand of her husband. Today, things have changed. Torah observant women can make their own living, and rent an apartment on their own or share it with other women. This phenomenon has made the Jewish woman less desperate to get married. Perhaps in past times, a woman would settle for less, and marry someone – anyone – just to get out of her father’s house. I certainly do not want to blame single women claiming that they are too picky. I realize that there is a surplus of great beautiful religious Jewish women with excellent midot, for whom it’s really hard to find suitable husbands on their level.

The Highlights of Jewish Single Womanhood
We have to acknowledge that being a single Jewish woman is not the ideal. Yet, we need to have emunah that whatever situation we find ourselves in, has a purpose. Even if, objectively speaking, we are not in an ideal situation, such as being an orphan, not having financial means to support ourselves, not living in Eretz Yisrael, going through a difficult divorce, being unmarried etc., we need to believe that Hashem put us in this situation because this specific challenge helps us to rectify our soul. If you are a single Torah-observant woman, there are still many ways that you can fulfill your potential and find purpose in your life. Rather than focus on what you are missing, it is important to engage in lofty activities and look for the positive. Instead of sulking and overeating to dull your loneliness, seize the opportunity to find yourself instead. When you’re single, you can take stock, learn from your mistakes and work out what you want for the future. You are blessed with time at your disposal that marriage and motherhood preclude. This is your time to develop your skills, exercise your body, devote yourself to a meaningful job, engage in Torah study and most importantly engage in mitzvot that come your way. You don’t have to feel like a failure or a second class citizen. One of the female Torah scholars whom I greatly admire is an older single woman who never had any children. Nevertheless, she is highly respected in Jewish communities the world over. She was able to apply the energy that she didn’t need to expend in childrearing to deep Torah research. Through her books and Torah articles, she inspires both women and men, and helps many searching souls embrace the Torah lifestyle.

When is too Late to Find Your Soulmate?
There are various ways that a single Jewish woman can make the most out of her situation and provide valuable service to the community. There is a great need for Jewish female physicians, especially gynecologists, community leaders, therapists and more. While it is important to be happy with your portion, it is never too late to find your true soulmate. I personally know of more than one woman who married late and had her first baby after the age of 50. I also know of women who married later in life to men with children and who now enjoy raising grandchildren together. Before we were created, we were one big soul. Forty days before our conception, G‑d took our “big soul” in His hands and split it into two pieces (Babylonian Talmud Sotah 2a). The work of finding our soul mate and truly becoming one with him is finding our missing half. So, how do we find our other half? We have to begin by perfecting our half. We have to really know ourselves and be the best ‘half’ we can possibly be. Our soulmate is out there, that’s not the question. The question is, are we where we need to be to find him?  We need to realize that we attract what we send out (Bary Lyman, Meet to Marry). While being happily engaged in various meaningful activities, we must not forget to put enough effort into meeting suitable matches for marriage. For those of us who are married, let us work on treating older single women with the utmost respect. If you are still single, I bless you to find self-value in your life while never giving up on finding your true soulmate! Perhaps, he is waiting for you to complete just one more rectification in your soul’s journey to be your very best ‘half,’ ready to find your other half and embrace family life.