Woman: A Pillar of Faith
The Jewish faith regards the home and synagogue as both equally important in our lives. We should not neglect one over the other, but serve both to the best of our ability for the betterment of our community and our household. Within this, the woman, therefore, acts as the foundational pillar (nurturer) of her family, while the man, acts as its provider, spiritual leader, and protector.
Because men and women were created to balance each other, HaShem has allowed the woman to be the spiritual energy within the home while the man is the physical energy. When the man and woman are catering to each other and to the needs of the household, we get the sweet recipe for Shalom Bayit (Peace in the Home).
Women are given the privilege to do certain mitzvot that men cannot do. For example, women recite prayers to “Welcome the Angels” and usher in “The Queen of Shabbat” every Erev Shabbat. We also light the Shabbat candles and make sure that the environment is ready for HaShem’s presence. Women are also privileged to show our children the Torah through our actions and lifestyle so we can set them up for fruitful growth within their own faith. Our examples, allow them to trust in HaShem without the tainted eyes of discouragement and disbelief.
On the reverse side of things, heaven forbid if we nag or bring negative energy and emotions into our home, we will be the cause of our family’s destruction. This is why it is said that “it is better for a man to live on top of the roof than dwell inside the house of a contentious wife” (Mishlei 21:9). So, when the woman thinks and reacts upon her day with spiritual eyes, she is then able to project G-dliness upon her environment and upon her own soul. This act of nurturing is what the Torah encourages us to fully embrace with pride and honor. Through us, our family will come to know the kindness, grace, mercy, and love of HaShem or they will suffer from confusion and chaos if we do not nurture them within the confines of HaShem’s instruction.
Because of this encouragement to nurture, the Torah has released women from the obligations of certain time-bound mitzvot. This is not because we are lower than men or need to have equal rights in doing the same things. Rather, these exemptions allow women to fulfill the commandment to be spiritually fruitful and teach our children HaShem’s ways. It also gives us the ability to be totally devoted to our family without the constraints of having to fulfill each and every mitzvah at the correct time as men must do. Not being confined to time is a privilege and a blessing, allowing us to say, “Thank you HaShem for making me a Woman and not a Man.”
I personally would like to encourage women everywhere to view our different role from men as a blessing and not something to moan about. We should be happy that we are not allowed to wear kippot, tefillin or tallit. We should be happy that we have our own mitzvot like lighting candles, making challah and blessing the home on behalf of our family. It is a wonderful thing to be a woman and a great thing to be a g-dly woman of prayer.
A Special Note on Praying
Traditionally, a Jewish woman should always have prayers and blessings upon her lips. She should be praying to HaShem for waking her up, for giving her household food to eat and for blessing her with children, if she has any. As the woman tidies the house, she should praise HaShem for giving her a home and items to make the home nice. When taking her husband to work, she should praise HaShem for allowing her to have transportation, good health, a job for her husband, etc. Psalms should be sung as she prepares meals and blesses her house through the work of her hands. This is what distinguishes us as “Eishet Chayil” (Woman of Valor). All of these “prayers and blessings” need no formalities. They should be a part of our daily routine anyway.
However, regarding praying from a siddur, women are generally exempted from obligations that must be performed at a certain time of the day. The Talmud states that women, at the very least, are only required to recite one of the three daily prayers each day. If a woman can pray at least once a day, she has fulfilled her obligation to pray. Most often, women should pray the morning prayers of Shacharit if able to do so. A woman should then try her best to also recite the Shema and the Amidah. If she can do more, then Baruch HaShem!
Mussaf, the extra, fourth prayer, of Shabbat and holidays, a woman has no obligation at all. However, on Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur, women may recite it according to tradition. Additionally, women should always keep in mind that they are obligated in berachot (blessings), before and after eating because we should always give praise to HaShem for sustaining us.
The Eishet Chayil Women’s Edition Siddur
Jewish women are known to speak from the heart and have been praised throughout the years for the ability to reach HaShem’s ears. This is why many blessings and prayers in our Siddurs are derived from women. There is something special about a woman who prays. The light that is within her instantly shines and she is able to move mountains with her faith and bring joy where none was before. This is the source and inspiration for The Eishet Chayil Women’s Edition of the Siddur Shaar HaShamayim. This Siddur contains special prayers and blessings for different times in a woman’s life as well as prayers and blessings that are meant to be recited daily outside of the public prayers that are in The CMY Siddur Shaar HaShamayim. I pray that all women using this Siddur will be blessed beyond measure, causing you to draw closer to HaShem in ways that you have not done so before. May a little piece of Heaven be with you each and every time you pray.
– Rebbetzin K. & Rabbi Yehezqel,
on behalf of Nishmati & CMY