Our Heroines

When you think of the Geula (final redemption), do you think of a mighty hero who comes to make radical, sudden changes in the world? Our Sages give us a surprisingly different picture...

6 min

Rabbi Shalom Arush

Posted on 11.12.22

Translated from Rabbi Arush’s feature article in the weekly Chut shel Chessed newsletter. The articles focus on his main message: “Loving others as yourself”.  


There are two types of heroes in the world. There is the hero who performs an amazing military maneuver and saves thousands of lives and is therefore much glorified – and that can be, of course, in any realm of life. There are heroes who are hugely successful on a one-time basis, and they earn a place in history for great deeds or great accomplishments.  


But there are also heroes of an entirely different kind. Quiet heroes who act far away from the spotlight. Parents who get up every morning and work hard to feed their family and take care of all their needs. Day after day, without vacations and without rest. Teachers, educators and rabbis who work, day after day, in jobs that are difficult and wearing, way behind the scenes, and build people and families in the thousands. 


Perhaps their deeds are not particularly exciting, and seem simple and mundane, gray and graceless. But they are the true heroes. Their long-term, quiet perseverance builds the lives of the souls they are entrusted with, and those of their descendants as well. The heroism of tackling every day anew and giving their entire hearts every time anew, of responding to every situation reasonably and sensitively – that is a heroism of another kind. Not to mention the many decisions that have to be made at every step; and they must shoulder the responsibility and make difficult decisions, ones that will have effects on generations of their children and their students.  


When you think of the Geula – the final redemption – you probably think of a hero of the first kind, who will come and bring about radical and impressive changes in the world and will be glorified thanks to these amazing and overwhelming successes.  


But Chazal teach us that it was in the merit of nashim tzidkaniot (pious women) that we were redeemed in the past, and it will be in the merit of pious women that we will be redeemed in the future. Hiding in here is a very deep message with a huge practical instruction for all of us. The message Chazal give us is that the complete Redemption is a very long and deep process, not a one-time act. “For not in haste will you go out, and nor you will go in flight.”  If we wish to see a deep change in the Jewish people and in the entire world, we need heroes of persistence, heroes of quiet and deep doing. 


The righteous mothers of the Jewish People build Beit Yisrael. How do they build? Slowly, slowly, and with endless patience.  


Nine months of pregnancy, day after day, raising children for years, changing them from limited, small-minded creatures to people who have values and spiritual aspirations, and equipping them with a toolbox of physical and emotional means, belief in Hashem and belief in themselves – for success in life. and all that, while maintaining a lookout for any physical or spiritual dangers and protecting them and keeping them away from foreign influences. 


There is no way to describe such strength and such heroism. This is the real, deep heroism, and this is what will bring about the Redemption. Every mother should relate to her son as if the entire future of the Jewish People depends on him. Because that is really so. That is our future. That is our redemption. 


Let us look at those women in whose merit we were redeemed. We’ll start with the first redeemers of the Jewish People. Righteous and merciful Sarah Immeinu, who all her life brought thousands of women to believe in Hashem, to the point that the king of Egypt preferred that his own daughter be Sarah’s maidservant, rather than she be a queen somewhere else! Believe me, she was merciful and did tremendous amounts of chesed


And yet, she understood that with all of Yitzchak’s holiness, he will not be able to be an av, a father of all Jews, if he will grow up in association with the wild and evil Yishmael. She made a hard decision, which even caused her to confront her great husband – and had Yishmael sent away. And Hashem yitbarach Himself concurred with her decision! 


After her came Rivka Immeinu, who in spite of waiting twenty years to bear children, and in spite of her tremendous love for Yaakov, saw the top priority as being the needs of the future generations. She understood that for the sake of the Jewish People Yaakov must receive the blessings. Here she was not relinquishing the son of another woman, but Esav, her own son, for the future of the Jewish People. 


And she wasn’t relinquishing only Esav, but Yaakov as well. For the most natural thing would be that Esav would want revenge, and in her decision, Rivka Immeinu was actually agreeing to do without her beloved son, Yaakov, and to send him far, far away for years. In the end, she did not attend his wedding, nor see her grandchildren; indeed, she did not see Yaakov himself anymore in her lifetime. She parted from him forever, because she died before he returned to the land. This is unparalleled heroism, and this is what brought about the Jewish People’s redemption, because woe to us if the blessings would have been given to Esav! 


In our parasha we learn about the holy Immahot, the Matriarchs, Rachel and Leah, about their tremendous desire to bear more and more tribes in spite of the great difficulty involved – a real danger to life, and it indeed cost Rachel her life. 


And the crown undoubtedly goes to Rachel Immeinu, who is willing to do without her future with Yaakov. She gives up her husband for the sake of her sister, and so, she basically sacrifices herself for the future Jewish People, for it is from Leah that come the priesthood and the Levites and the kingship and Mashiach and Redemption! 


The message is first of all for the dear mothers: You should know that even if you will not be glorified, and no one will applaud you for the countless troubles of raising children, and you will not get a front-page article in the newspapers – you are those who are engaged in the redemption of the Jewish people, and of the entire world.  


Every meal you cook, every batch of laundry you deal with, every bit of love and warmth that you generate, every story you tell, every letter you teach, every bit of emuna that you instill in the children, every good trait, modesty and fear of Heaven that you embed in them, and, of course, every prayer and every tear that you invest in them – with all these things you are not just doing one mitzvah; rather, you are engaged in bringing the Geula to the world, realizing the purpose of Creation! 


Hashem sees every little effort of yours. Holy Chazal point at you proudly and tell you that it is in your merit that we are being redeemed. 


Your son will, be’ezrat Hashem, have teachers and rabbis who will teach him many things, and even if he will know thousands of times more Torah than you – in spite of everything, all his Torah will always bear your name: “Do not desert the Torah of your mother”, “Praiseworthy is his mother”. Everything belongs to the Imma, the mother. 


Therefore, the dear mothers should recognize the extent of the merit and the extent of the task. You have bina yeteira (extra understanding) to recognize guests and your son’s friends, his subtle tendencies. Watch over him and keep your eyes open and identify every threat, be it from friends, be it from the street, and be it from the temptations of the generation and its technological devices – and protect him.  


How will you do this? You have the bina yeteira not only to identify the bad, but also to care for and attract his heart, detaching him from the bad and instilling in him good aspirations and wants. Shlomo Hamelech, the wisest of all, achieved what he achieved due to his righteous mother who rebuked him, in other words, led him and supervised him so that he would always walk in the straight path.  


And the message to the men is, first of all, to appreciate the holy redeemers endlessly, whether these are our Immahot and whether they are the nashim tzidkaniot


And of course, you too are full partners in raising the children, and you must be staunch in face of the weary routine of raising children.  


But beyond that we can see here the need for dissemination – dissemination of Torah and bringing distant Jews close to Judaism is our redemption. We have no shortcuts. Dissemination is not heroism of the type that gets momentary glory. In dissemination one doesn’t see results instantly. But whoever persists in it for years certainly is making extremely great changes in the entire world and is preparing the world for the Geula and indeed bringing that Geula closer. 


Don’t stop empowering yourself regarding the greatness of your holy work, even if it is somewhat dreary-looking, and even if you are experiencing failures and even belittling and shaming, and even if it seems there are no results. These are precisely the real actions needed to bring about the Geula and an in-depth change in the Jewish People. Work on! 

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