Monday, November 10, 2014

I Say That The Women Today Are Smarter Than The Men In Every ( Norm Span-"The Women are Smarter")

           As a father of three daughters, I have always been conscious of positive role models for my daughters. Certainly their mom is a positive role model as are the other adult women in our families. Frequently we will watch female athletes on television.  We don’t limit their watching female athletes to the stereotypical female sports such as figure skating and gymnastics. Quite often we will watch the WNBA (Women’s National Basketball Association), women’s golf, and women’s soccer. If the United States Supreme court happens to be in the news, we make sure that our daughters are aware of the Supreme Court Justices who are women. The fact that women won recent elections in the United States has also demonstrated to our daughters that women are just as capable of governing as men. However the other day, our eldest daughter was on the national news for her work during the recent elections in the United States. Our younger daughters saw this and were awe struck. It might have been one of the most special feelings I have ever had as a father. Our daughter was a positive role model for her younger sisters. Besides being proud, both her mother and I felt as if we had actually done something right in terms of raising h. Our younger daughters could finally appreciate the way that they are being raised because they see the finished product in their oldest sister.

            This week's Parsha is Chayei Sarah. The Parsha begins with the recounting the years of Sarah's life, Avraham's mourning for his wife, purchasing the land for Sarah's burial and then burying her. Avraham then tells his servant that he does not want his son, Yitzchak, marrying a Canaanite woman. Instead, the servant must return to Avraham's hometown and look for a woman from Avraham's family/ tribe. Avraham explains that the girl that returns with the servant is the right girl. Armed with treasures, camels and plenty of wealth for a dowry the servant sets off and decides that the best place to find a girl is by the local well. There the servant decides that the "right" girl is the girl who would offer him water, as well as offer water to his camels. Sure enough, Rebecca arrives at the well and fulfills the servant's standard. The servant returns with Rebecca to her family, convinces the family to let her go, and Rebecca is asked if she wants to return with the servant. Rebecca unhesitatingly responds with a yes. Now Rebecca has fulfilled the servant's requirement as well as Avraham's requirement. Upon her arrival at her new home, she sees her betrothed, and, not knowing who he was, asked the servant. The servant told her and she covered herself. Rebecca and Yitzchak are married. The Parsha concludes with Yitzchak and Ishmael burying their father, and the genealogy of Ishmael's family.

            Rivkah embodied this notion of life and legacy. These qualities are inherent to her character, as is evident in her name as well as in two subtle but strong actions. First, Rivkah offered water, a symbol of both life and Torah, to Eliezer. Then she offered water to Eliezer’s camels thereby demonstrating her menschlekite. Rivkah also possessed the ability to sustain life. She sustained Eliezer’s life by allowing him to accomplish his mission and return to Avraham with a wife for Yitzchak. Second, she sustained her own life by having the wherewithal and the strength to leave her family, a family which our sages suggest were cutthroats and cheats (Genesis Rabbah 63:4), and join a family that had received a covenant from God.

           Rivkah’s name is indicative of her character. She possesses an inherent ability to join seemingly disparate events or ideas such as life and death and make meaning from it. The Hebrew root of her name (RVK) means “join”, or “yoked together”, e.g. two oxen are joined together to pull a plow. The team must be of equal strength or the plow won’t go straight. Therefore Rivkah must be equally as strong and independent as her future husband Yitzchak. Rivkah must be strong enough to take the memory and legacy of Sarah and make it her own. This requires a very strong sense of self.             

            Rivkah also fills the spiritual vacuum, created by Sarah’s death, and this family’s future spiritual holiness. “And Yitzchak brought her into the tent of his mother; he married Rivkah, she became his wife, and he loved her; and thus was Yitzchak consoled after his mother.” (Gen 24:67)  The Rabbis explain that while Sarah lived a cloud of glory hung over her tent, her tent was known for hospitality, and a lamp remained alit from Shabbat to Shabbat. When Sarah died all these qualities died with her. However, when Rivkah was brought into the tent of his mother, all these qualities returned (Genesis Rabbah 60:16). In a sense, her soul and her mother in law’s soul, Sarah (whom she never met) joined souls and returned Sarah’s tent to the spiritual status it once knew.  Besides perpetuating life, she perpetuated the spiritual holiness necessary for joining Yitzchak in God’s covenant. Only Rivkah was able to fill the powerful memory of Sarah and still prevent herself from being overwhelmed by such a memory. Only Rivkah was able to join the generation of Avraham and Sarah with the next generation.

           Rivkah’s character offers us a model in our struggle to bridge the previous generations to the future generations. Rivkah’s character offers us a model in our struggle to join with our partners in equal respectful relationships without submerging our own identity. Rivkah’s character offers us a model as in our struggle to incorporate memory without being swallowed up by it. Finally Rivkah offers us a model of menschlekite and consideration. For our daughters, Rivkah offers a role model of a strong, independent woman who can still be part of something bigger than just herself; she can be part of a family and she can be part of a covenant.

Rav Yitz

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