Over the last few months the headline news that has greeted us each & every morning has been about another famous personality that has been toppled from being at the top of his field to becoming an outcast & maybe even a criminal in some cases, following revelations of denigrating & abusing women in his orbit. We’ve watched the most powerful people in Hollywood, TV personalities, leaders in the world of sports & politics & heads of fortune 500 companies , many after decades in their positions & they are today house held names familiar to all of us, all come crashing down after being ousted & accused of devastating & despicable actions towards women.
While these revelations may not be surprising to us, as the society all around us has denigrated to such a level of immorality that it is filled with an attitude that anything & everything is acceptable & there are no longer any boundaries that cannot be crossed. Still, the sheer volume of these accusations that literally are happening in front of us on a daily basis are both overwhelming, as well as undermining whatever faith we had left in the morals of the world that we live in.
It is crucial at such a time to reinforce for ourselves our Torah values, not only as a moral people, but as a nation that emphasizes the dignity & Kedusha of a Bas Yisroel. We not only are mandated to treasure & value the Kedusha & the Tzniyus of every woman in Klal Yisroel, the Torah itself refers to a Jewish woman in the endearing terms of Kol Kevodah Bas Melech Pnimah”. The description of a Bas Yisroel as a “princess”, a bas Melech is not just a metaphor, but an actual description of her greatness.
Our Chazal spared no effort in teaching us the proper way to treat a bas Yisroel. The Tur in his introduction to Even Haezer(the section dealing with marriage )asks, why was Adam harishon created alone. All the animals, even the smallest insect were created zochor & nekeivah(male & female), why not Adam harishon? And he answers that since the requirement for a wife is ‘hamechavdo yoser megufo”, one has to honor her even more then one’s own body, it would be impossible to adhere to, if they were two separate people, so they had to be created as one, in order to be able to be as one guf & treat each other as such.
Our Gedolim were the greatest examples for us as to how to respect & value our wives & appreciate all that they contribute to our physical & spiritual well being. I once read an article from a lifelong Jewish secular feminist that provided me with great entertainment. She was railing against the Torah community that is dominated by men, with no regard to the valued contribution that their wives make to their lives. I think I actually laughed out loud reading that fiction. I don’t know which Torah leaders she observed or consulted with, but every single one that I was blessed to know, not only appreciated the women in their lives, they revered them.
Case in point, was the relationship that the leader of the Torah world, the Gadol Hador Rav Ahron Leib Shteinman zt”l, who just passed away a few weeks ago had with his late Rebbetzin zt”l. Among so many incredible stories of the depth of their relationship & appreciation of each other, Rav Shteinman named his many seforim that he wrote “Ayeles Hashachar”. The reason that he chose this particular name, because the 4 letters in the word “Ayeles”, encompasses the 3 initials of his name Ahron Yehudah Leib, with the forth letter “Tes”, the initial of his dear & dedicated wife, Tamar, who he felt was a true partner in everything that he had accomplished in his life, including the ability to write these amazing seforim. Does that sound like someone who had no regard for his wife’s contribution to his success & accomplishments?
When the late Rosh yeshiva Rav Simcha Wasserman zt”l was preparing his will, which he entrusted to a few students, as he & his wife were never zoche to have children. The relationship between them was legendary & inspired anyone who ever had the zechus to be in their home. He was a very humble man & wanted no hespedim made for him. However he instructed them, that if I should die first & my wife will be present at my Levaya, then have only one speaker give a hesped & he should say that I had a share in helping others bring people closer to Hashem, this so my wife would get a little comfort from that. And then he added at the end, that I have purchased 2 plots in Beit Shemesh for us, however if I die first, please bury me in Har Hamenuchos, so it would be easier for my Rebbetzin to visit me when she would want to come. This is how a Yid who lived his whole life with guidelines that the Torah set before him treated & respected his beloved wife. It is light years away from the type of treatment & disrespect for women that we have become so accustomed to see daily from America’s heroes across the entire spectrum of society.
Another very clear manifestation of the level of respect, dignity & appreciation of the sanctity & kedusha of every Bas Yisroel in our community is the building of an absolutely magnificent state of the art Mikvah recently opened in our community. Several years of herculean efforts from a few dedicated Yidden, who spent literally millions of dollars that was raised from like minded people in the community that has elevated the Mikveh experience for the Women in our community to a brand new level. I invite every person in the community to call & make an appointment to come & see for yourself what kind of Kiddush Hashem can be built in our midst, which is a manifestation of “Zeh Keli Vanveihu”.
Some people had expressed reservations as to why make it so beautiful, so inviting for the Nashim Tzidkaniyos in our community , when it could have been made simpler & cheaper & still be functional. The answer is simple, would anyone question as to why the palace for the Princess is being built with so much detail & beauty. Of course not, because she is after all the Princess, the daughter of the King & that would answer all our questions. A Bas Yisroel is a Bas Melech, she is a Princess, even more so she is a Queen & should be treated as such. This Mikveh accomplishes this for them & for us.
In addition, we have the famous directive from the saintly Chazon Ish zt”l as to the guidelines for building a new mikvah. A community Rov came to the Chazon Ish zt”l to ask him for a special Brocho that his speeches should be successful as he will be going to each shul in his community trying to raise funds to repair the old antiquated Mikveh in town. The Chazon Ish zt”l told him that instead of giving a thousand derashos about the importance of the Mikveh, it will not accomplish as much as a beautiful spacious Mikveh that they can use. When the Rov told him that he didn’t think he could raise the funds for a new Mikveh, the Chazon Ish replied then go to the pier & get on the next ship leaving to the States & go door to door until you can get the funds needed. He explained that the Mikveh is not just being built for now, but for the future as well & maybe even one woman not yet religious will see a beautiful new Mikveh & just maybe she will then decide to use it. It will be worth all your efforts & all the money for this one woman in the future, because every Bas Yisroel is an entire world.
This beautiful new Mikveh in our community is our response to the world out there who has lost all direction as to the respect & dignity that every women deserves, because for a Torah Yid, every woman is a Bas Melech & must be treated & revered as such. This message of the beautiful new Mikveh is not just for the woman to understand, but for all of the men to internalize as well. This will go a long way to strengthen our own homes & families & allow us to be “mavdil bein yisroel laamim” in such a significant & lasting way. May it bring much Kedusha & Tahara into our community & prepare us for the coming of Moshiach where all of Klal Yisroel will be elevated as in the days of old.
Each & everyone of us owes a great depth of gratitude to all the askanim that put their whole lives on hold for the last few years leaving no stone unturned until their dream of offering such a magnificent Mikveh to the community would be realized. A communal thank you is in order as well to all the financial supports of the Mikveh, who without their support, the project would never have been realized. Leading that effort was my dear friends Mendy & Barbara Silber, two of the most generous & humble people that I have ever been privileged to know, who have dedicated the Mikveh building in the memory of Mrs. Rachela Scheiner a’h, Barbara’s mother who just passed away last month & the building will be named Be’er Rochel in her memory.
And finally, there are no words that my wife & myself & my entire family can possibly find to express the depth of Hakoras Hatov to our dearest friends Shalom & Rena Vegh who have dedicated the name of the Mikveh itself to our beloved daughter Sarala z”l, whose petirah has left such a void in our lives that can never be filled. Having Shalom & Rena dedicate the mikvah to be called Mikveh Sara in her memory has provided so much Nechomo to us & to our entire family. We are forever indebted to them & may the great zechus of this Mikveh be a zechus for Saralas z’l neshomo & a great zechus to the entire Vegh family.
Rabbi Aryeh Z. Ginzberg is the rav of the Chofetz Chaim Torah Center of Cedarhurst and the founding rav of Ohr Moshe Torah Institute in Hillcrest, Queens. He is a published author of several sifrei halachah, and a frequent contributor to many magazines and newspapers, where he writes the Torah hashkafah on timely issues of the day. He is also a sought-after lecturer on Torah hashkafah at a variety of venues around the country.
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