Ki Setzei: A Chassidic Perspective on Women’s Rights

September 3, 2022

Women’s rights became a prominent issue in the 20th century. The revolution that the Rebbe spearheaded in this regard may come as a surprise to many.

A. The Jewish woman in the Rebbe’s teachings

The mitzvah of marriage in this week’s Torah portion (source 1). In 1952 the Rebbe founded the organization for “Women and girls of Chabad”, and instilled within the women a unique and inspiring sense of mission in this world. The unique view of the Rebbe with regards to a woman’s role, is that her role is just as important as that of a man, if not more so.

B. Theory or practice?

There are two types of G-dly service. Torah study – “theory”, and “know Him (G-d) in all of your ways” – “practice” wherein even in the day-to-day tasks one is in service of his or her Creator. These two modes of service are required from both man and woman. However, while with the former, the man carries most of the responsibility, in the latter it is the woman (source 2). Which of the two is more important? Our world is one of practice (action) – mitzvot (source 3). In building a Jewish home, and raising the next generation, the woman is better equipped and bears the greater brunt of the responsibility.

C. Why do they deserve more?

Who reigns supreme? The Rebbe shows from the sources, how in the Messianic era, women will stand taller than men (source 4). It is therefore incumbent upon man to honor his wife more than his own self (source 5), since this is indeed how things are in the spiritual realm, and so it was also in the generation of the Exodus (source 6). So too in our generation, the souls of which are reincarnations of the souls of the generation of the Exodus, where the women did not sin and stood taller than their male counterparts (source 7).

In our generation, a woman’s role is equal to and even surpasses that of a man. The Rebbe empowered women to succeed in fulfilling their unique mission in this world. Who sets they ways of the household? Without a doubt – it is the woman of the house. The Jewish mother. This is a lesson on the woman’s role in Judaism and the true Jewish meaning of equality.

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