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Sefer Ohel Rochel, Week 2

In this week’s shiur, we aimed to begin to answer the question, who are women? Who did Hashem create us to be? And what unique strengths did He give us in order to achieve this divine vision?

There are a number of kochot (strengths) that are feminine by definition.

Our story begins when, at our wedding ceremony to G-d at Har Sinai, the women aka Beis Yaakov, were separated from the men, Bnei Yisroal, in order to receive the Torah, aka our marriage contract. Hashem tells Moshe, “ותגד לבני ישראל .… ”. Rashi teaches that we learn from the use of the word taga’ad that this is a loshon kashah, a harsh language, and loshon gidin, a language of “sinews” which are tough fibrous tissue and the muscle that binds and gives strength. This is all indicative of the fact that when the men were given the Torah, Moshe used a harsher tone, speaking of punishment, details and deliberate messages.

While, when Moshe turned towards the women, Hashem tells him, “כה תאמר לבית יאקב”, using a loshon rakah, a soft voice. Here, we are separated from the harsh tones and associations of detail and punishments. Though the content was not different, our manner of experiencing it is. The Torah inheritance of women is soft, permeable and intuition based.

We see this in how the classical religious man’s Torah life organizes itself. Classical religious man goes to the beis medresh to “fight” to understand many conflicting ideas, in addition to being part of conflict himself when trying to truly learn. Classical religious man wakes up early to pray, often actively searching for a minyan and then repeats the activity twice more throughout the day, all with specific time constraints. The overcoming of obstacles in order to access Torah is what gives Classical Religious Man a sense of fulfillment when he does it. This is his connection from his spiritual self to G-d.

This is not like the women’s connection. We have a natural connection that is deeply integrated with who we are. Classical Religious Woman’s task is to have her Torah come from a place of noticing it inside herself, hearing our intuition even around the most profoundly divine concepts. While man’s journey is directed outward, our journey is directed inward.

The Ohel Rochel goes on to list several unique traits given to women to assist us in achieving this experience of Torah.

The First Koach: Shaaninut - tranquility and stability. This is within us. As we open up to our shaaninut, this is where we will find the deepest connection to HaKadosh Barchu. Similar to ruach (wind), it is impossible to know whether there is wind or not simply by looking out a window. We have to see it interfacing with something like trees or other items to realize there is wind. Similar to our own internal strengths, we often don’t know certain things exist inside us until we have some reason to express that part of ourselves. Something to interface with. Often we limit ourselves to the bounds of the personality we know we have inside. But sometimes, it’s useful to push ourselves outside of that to discover new parts of ourselves, like wind.

Hashem gave the women a greater promise of shaaninut than to the men. And the nature of a promise is that if we don’t find it, we can approach G-d and say, you promised us! Please, help me find it, because I know it’s there. This is a spiritual “fact” about ourselves that we can rely on. And we can make use of things like tefilah and emunah to find these facts again.

According to the Alei Shor, Hashem created women as His “friends”. What does this mean? We are a team with G-d to get everyone on board to build a beautiful world. We have special traits to make us His ideal partners and to become capable supporters for this goal.

Words with the shoresh etzev, meaning stress, are used many times in the story of eitz hadaas with regards to both men and women which can serve as a metaphor for our lives in general. When we have a baby, it’s bigger than the space it has to emerge from. This is a theme, similar to the earth, which sometimes seems to block us from growing things. This is a frustration of intention. We are trying to do something good and there are all these blockers. There will always be a counterforce by design. Urgency comes up most in the world of etzavon and shaaninut. The whole world of destruction lies in etzavon. But from a place of shaaninut, we can see this as what the world and the journey looks like. There are always obstacles, but similar to the wind, sometimes we need those obstacles to show us who we are, that we exist. We can better access this sense of calm from shaaninut.

Small side note: Letting go of urgency in relationships is a necessary step in order to find and practice shaaninut. Relationships are not the place for urgency, despite being useful in other contexts.

This ability to learn about this stable place, our shaaninut, we learn from Chava. The shoresh of the name Chava is the experience of chai, life. There are in fact halachic implications in this name - we were given over to chaim and not to tzaar. To life and pleasure, and not to pain. A husband is not allowed to ask anything of his wife that might cause her pain, etc. Not only a husband is asked of this but Hashem Himself won’t ask anything of us that will make our lives too hard given our global goal. Therefore, Hashem chooses to prioritize our ability to access shaaninut over the performance of the mitzos b’zman grama (time related mitzvos). G-d removed this huge body of law that we don’t have to do. Why? So we don’t get confused, overwhelmed, anxious, concerning things that are not our primary way of self actualization.

We are looking to set our lives up in not stressful ways. Because THIS is where we access our shaaniyut. When we are able to access this, we can then start to affect others to bring everyone to a place of shaaniyut. In this way, we are like a bridge to our environment and Hashem named us accordingly - aim kol chai.

To being bridges! 🤓

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