Rebbetzin Heshelis' Responses

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Now for the responses to Ariella and Chaim B.

Ariella wrote:  

“There are further reasons not to get hung up on Chava’s sin. At mattan Torah, Chazal say Paska zehumatan for the Jews, meaning they transcended the sin of Adam and had reattained the lofty spiritual state with which he had first been created. But that was lost with the cheyt Haegel. Chazal also say that the women did not participate in cheyt haegel, nor did they fall for the cheyt hameraglim. So, it would seem to me, that as a collective group, the Jewish woman had effectively redeemed herself from the original sin.” 

DH: This is an interesting point. Note 101 of The Moon’s Lost Light discusses this.  

Ariella continued: “While they were still subject to mortality and other physical shortcomings, they did not fail as their male counterparts did.”. 

DH: But why were women still subject to mortality and other physical shortcomings, if the sin of Chava no longer affected women, as Ariella is claiming? For instance, why do women continue to have pain in childbirth, which the Torah says explicitly is coming from cheyt Chava? Obviously, then, despite the fact that the women did not sin in the cheyt ha’egel, and cheyt hamraglim, the sin of Chava does still affect women. I will try to answer here in short why this should be so. 

It is true that the sins of Adam and Chava had been expiated and that before mattan Torah paska zuhamatan (their spiritual infection which came from the snake was stopped). Not only that, but the Tiferes Shlomo on parshas Shmos says that the Jewish women in Egypt did not suffer in childbirth because they returned to the level of Chava before the sin. So what happened? If the women didn’t sin with the golden calf, why did these curses return? 

The Shlah (in Shnei Luchos HaBris 74a) explains that woman brought the evil inclination into the world and man kept it going. In other words, had the women not brought the evil inclination into the world in the first place, the men would not have sinned with the golden calf (cheyt ha’egel). Hashem takes into account “grama” that is, causes.  If one’s actions caused someone else to sin, then that sin affects the one who caused it as well. Chava’s sin was the cause of the men’s later sin with the golden calf, and so both men and women must rectify this sin. However, because the women did not themselves participate in the sin of the golden calf, they were given the festival of the new moon - Rosh Chodesh - as a special holiday for women (i.e., they celebrate it even more than men) to signify that in the merit of their not sinning with the golden calf, women, like the moon, will be renewed to their original greatness. (The sources for all this are brought in the book- see note 101 with the quote from the Shlah.) So this is exactly what I was teaching in the book.

Ariella continued:  “It was women’s exposure to secular education that gave rise to a need to grant girls Torah education as well.  

DH: This is also discussed in the book, but I will explain it again for the readers of the post. 

Hashem orchestrates events and history to carry out His plans. Females studying  Torah was part of Hashem’s plan for the redemption as predicted by his prophet Yirmiyahu thousands of years earlier. This isn’t my idea, it is in the commentary of Rabbi Yonoson ben Uziel on Yirmiyahu 31:21. What I am saying is that if a situation arose which caused girls to learn Torah - exactly in the period where this had been predicted to occur - this is not coincidence. According to kabbalah we are now in the period before Moshiach when the world is changing in preparation for the redemption. (Sources for this are in the book.) Therefore Hashem designed that events would force Jews in this period to start teaching their daughters Torah.  

Furthermore, the very fact that the world at large was now giving girls formal education - even secular education- was a major change in historical patterns. The Greeks admired learning, but it was only for men. The English set up colleges, but only for men. To the best of my knowledge, no society had institutions of formal learning for girls or women before the modern era. The sudden change in the historical pattern which now equated women with men shows that the power of nekevah tisovev gever was influencing the world. (This is no way justifies either secularism or feminism. It simply illustrates the rule that when a power comes into the world it can be used in either direction - either for holiness or for the opposite.)

There follow a number of comments from Ariella who thought I was saying that she must accept the kabbilistic view on cheyt Chava. In response: 

1. I said that the kabbalistic view is true and it is coming from Hashem, because I didn’t want the hundreds of readers of the post to doubt the credibility of what I was teaching, or to think that it was nothing more than my own personal view. But taking a different view is not heretical. One is not required to accept kabbalah to be a believing Jew.   

I see now from Ariella’s reaction that I should have worded my response more gently, so I ask her forgiveness.  

2. Before it was printed, The Moon’s Lost Light was reviewed by a talmid chacham who is an expert in kabbalah. (He was the teacher of Rav Itche Meir Morgenstern.) It was also read by a leading chassidic rebbe in America and by many other talmidie chacahmim who are familiar with kabbalah or chassidus.  

3. I used a pen name because I didn’t want personal publicity. Anyone who wants to be in touch with me can do so through Targum Press, or at heshelis @ actcom.net.il. However,  I am willing to reveal my identity when there is a practical benefit involved, such as when people ask me to speak. 

4. The book brings 192 citations.  

5. The holocaust is discussed at the end of the post. 

Ariella: If you go back to basics such as Tanach you could find an entire book devoted to the point that suffering cannot always be pinned down on a particular sin. Its called Iyov - Job in English - and our sages say that it was authored by none other than Moshe Rabeinu.  

DH: Iyov was an individual. The Torah says many times that if the generation as a whole will keep the Torah all will go well, but if they sin they will be terribly punished. This, however, is not said about individuals in this world. Regarding individuals we see reward and punishment in the next world.  

Actually, there is a machlokes in Chazal if suffering is always connected to sin. One opinion says that it is - ain yesurim b’lo avon - “There is no suffering without sin”. Another opinion, however, says that there is suffering that is unrelated to sin.  Since the first opinion also knew about the book of Iyov, how could he say that there is no suffering without sin? Furthermore there is a rule that all opinions in Chazal have truth in them. So how do we reconcile the two opinions?  

The Vilna Gaon, in his perush on Yonah (perek 4:1,2 ) says that the sin which caused the a person’s suffering may not have been performed in this lifetime. He brings examples to show this. According to kabbalah (sha’ar hapsukim Shmos, 29a, seen in Toras Noson P.69b) Iyov was a reincarnation of Terach, the father of Avraham Avinu, who sold idols, and who nearly caused the death of Avraham at the hands of the cruel king Nimrod. Terach eventually did tshuva but he still needed to be tested with great suffering to completely expiate the wrongs of his past. (This also explains why Hashem “listened to the Satan” to test Iyov with such suffering.)   

Ariella wrote to Dixie Yid, protesting his refusal to send me her and her husband’s comments. Dixie Yid explained his stance but I would like to add to it. 

Both Ariella and her husband never went through the book. As such they really have no right to comment at all. In  fact, a good friend of mine who has authored three books originally told me not to  respond at all to someone who has not read the book. She was very right. Many of their questions were superfluous as they are either misconceptions or they are answered in the book. I was very pressed for time, and Dixie Yid knew this. It was unfair to me to expect me to maintain a long, ongoing correspondence with people who had not even read my book. You can see from the length of these answers that responding is a very time consuming affair. I thank Dixie Yid for his stance, and I’m sorry for any unpleasantness caused him. 

Tsippora brought quotes from the Lubatcher Rebbe regarding the holocaust. Since this is not directly related to the book, my response to this appears at the end. 

Now I wish to answer Chaim B.’s comments.   

On December 30, Chaim B. quoted part of my argument to Ariella which was meant to show that Chava was not created less than Adam from the beginning, because being an ezer kinegdo (a helpmate opposite man) does not necessarily mean having a lower position than man. To prove the point I brought an opinion that Devorah did not actually do the judging but rather taught and advised the judges. In that case she was a helper to them but she was higher because they were learning from her. I wrote: “In fact he (or in this case she) is higher and therefore can help someone else for she has something that he didn’t have.” 

Chaim B. comments on this: Which only begs the question of why a woman who is more qualified than a man should be disqualified from serving as a judge. If she is “higher” (I do not like the term - can we agree to simply say she is more qualified?), than why limit her function to simply helping?  

DH: Since the subject I was dealing with was Chava’s having been created as a helper, and Devorah was mentioned only to  illustrate a point, it wouldn’t have made sense in that  context to say “more qualified”. I wasn’t trying to show that Chava was more qualified. (At what was she more qualified?)   

But yes, I agree that this could raise his question and in that context it does make sense to say more qualified. We will soon deal with this IY”H. 

He continues; 

“Before we get to your response let me add two points in anticipation: 1) this is a halacha lidoros, not a function of Chava’s sin, and therefore no reason to assume that it will ever be overturned. 2) There are opinions which do hold that Devorah was a true judge. Your answers need to define the nekudas hamachlokes in a way that satisfies both perspectives.” 

DH: The fact that something is a halacha lidoros does not contradict it being a function of Chava’s sin. The gemmara in Erechin 100b states that certain halachos lidoros are specifically a result of Chava’s sin.  As far as it being overturned, he is assuming that halachos d’orayso cannot change in the future, but kabbalah says otherwise. The medrash quotes Hashem as saying “Torah chadasha me’iti testse” - a new Torah will come forth from me (Vayikra Rabba 13:3). This is not a contradiction to the Rambam’s 13 principles of faith which say that there will never be a different Torah and this Torah will never be changed, because it will be the same Torah, meaning it will have the exact same letters in it, but according to kabbalah this means that Hashem will show us new meanings in the same words (see Notes 161 and 163 which quote the Tiferes Shlomo and the Sfas Emes on this subject).   

Practical halachos will change. The pig will become kosher in the future (Chanuka with Rabbi Nachman of Breslav P. 65 brings the source for this as “collection of sources, in Reb Chaim Palagi’s Nefesh Chaim”.)  The Ba’al HaTurim on Shmos 19:6 says that in the future every Jew will be a kohen gadol - something which is now strictly forbidden by Torah law (hazar hakarev yumas - Bamidbar 1).  Moshiach will be able to make  mamzerim kosher for marriage, according to the Baal HaTurim on Devorim 23:3 where he says "זה הוא שאחז"ל עתידין ממזירים ליטהר ויתיישבו בארץ." So why should one assume that halachos regarding women cannot change? Just as every Jew will become a kohen gadol because the sin(s) that prevented this will no longer exist (see Ba’al HaTurim ibid), so women will become equal with men because the sin that prevented  this will no longer exist. Since kabbalah says that women will become equal with men, (see the sources in The Moon’s Lost Light) it makes perfect sense that part of the Torah chadasha will be new laws regarding women. (The Moon’s Lost Light discusses the subject of Torah Chadasha on Pp. 54-56, explaining it at greater length.) 

And yes, I know that there are opinions that hold that Devorah was a true judge. I said that according to the Kesef Mishana Devorah might not have been an actual judge. The Kesef Mishna himself brings another opinion saying that she was an actual judge but that this was a horo’as sha’ah (temporarily permitted act) of a prophet. And now to the point:.  

When speaking about Devorah I said that she was higher because to advise the judges one must be either more knowledgeable or more righteous or both, which gives one a higher status, but that does not mean that one is necessarily more qualified. To be a judge knowledge and righteousness is not enough. A judge hears stories that arouse great emotional stress but must rule only according to logic, not allowing emotions to interfere. This is much harder for women than for men. One must also be able to stand up to situations of conflict  since people will get antagonistic towards the judge when things don’t go their way. Men can generally deal with this opposition better than women because men are cut out for warfare while women are not. Even if a woman stands up to the pressures because of her great righteousness, if she is a gentle person by nature, this could adversely affect her health. On the other hand, she could get used to being in a position of power, and this could adversely affect her finer feminine characteristics. In fact the Gemmara points out that this really happened to both Devorah and Chulda who both had positions of power (“lo ya’eh yuhara linoshai”, Megillah 14b).  One could bring more reasons why it is not good for a woman to be a judge, but I think this is enough to make the point that being righteous and knowledgeable does not necessarily mean being more qualified. 

But like other positions where women are disqualified, this also connects to cheyt Chava.   

Chava put herself into a position of control over Adam when she told him to eat from the etz hada’as. By doing so she led him astray from Hashem and caused his death. Since the souls of all women were in Chava, women can no longer be in positions of control over males. There is, however, one exception to this rule. A mother has control over her son. Perhaps this is because the mother does just the opposite of what Chava did; Chava caused the male to die, the mother gives him life. Devorah described herself as “a mother in Yisrael”. She related to the whole nation of Israel as a mother, guiding them, protecting them, teaching them, saving them, leading them, and when necessary probably also imposing punishments on those who needed it. How did she get to that position?  

Chazal say: “ ‘And Devorah was a prophetess woman’ : What is the nature of Devorah that she prophecied over Yisrael and judged them, even though Pinchas ben Elazar was standing? I bring witness over me from the heaven and the earth, whether a gentile, whether a Yisrael, whether a man or a woman, whether a slave man or slave woman, all according to the deeds of a person does Ru’ach HaKodesh rest upon him’. Tana Divei Eliyahu, they said Devorah’s husband was an ignoramous. She said to him, ‘Come and I will make for you wicks and go to the Bais HaMikdosh which is in Shiloh (i.e. the mishkan). Then your portion will be amongst the worthy ones amongst them and you will come to the life of the world to come. And she was making (the wicks) and he was bringing (them) to the Bais Hamikdosh. And he has three names, Barak, and Michael and Lapidos...and she thought into it and made thick wicks so that their light would be plentiful, and HaKadosh Baruch Hu who knows  the kidneys and the heart said to her, ‘Devorah, you meant to make My light plentiful, I will make your light plentiful in Yehudah and Yerusholyim parallel to 12 tribes. Who gave Lapidos the merit that his place would be with the worthy ones and he would come to the life of olam haba? One must say, it was Devorah his wife” (Yalkut Shimoni 42:4). 

Devorah did the opposite of what Chava did. Chava brought death upon Adam, Devorah brought her husband to eternal life. Chava extinguished the candle of the world (kovso nero shel olam) while Devorah made wicks to light up the world with a holy light. In my opinion this is why Devorah became the example of nekevah tisovev gever. She was a woman in a role otherwise given only to males, because she did the opposite of what Chava did that caused women to lose this status. 

(The Jewish women who left Egypt did not sin with the golden calf or the sin of the spies, so they were promised a very great light in the future, when ‘the light of the moon (which represents the feminine) will be like the light of the sun (which represents the masculine)(Yeshayahu 30:26). The pasuk says that this will happen on the day that Hashem will heal the breaking of His nation, which Rabbi Yonoson ben Uziel explains to mean the day when Hashem will return the Jewish People from the exile. But they did not stop the men from sinning. They did not bring the men to the life of the world to come, as Devorah did. Therefore, the sin of Chava returned to affect them, but Devorah was released from it). 

Then Chaim B. quotes me; “...how can one decide whether something is credible or not until one has read it and gone through the sources it is based on?” He answers: 

Your point is irrelevant. The question is once one has gone through the sources and discovers a multiplicity of view, how does one choose which one to espouse? Your answer seems to be that one is bound to accept the Zohar. The Rambam in many places writes that there is no hachra’a in areas of hashkafa. I prefer the Rambam’s view to yours, which you have yet to substantiate with sources. 

Looking forward to your response. 

DH: I was totally unaware of his comment which was why I didn’t respond. I’ll be happy to respond now. 

I never said that one is bound to accept the view of the Zohar. I said that the view of the Zohar is true.  Ariella must have thought that what I wrote about cheyt Chava was my own idea, or the idea of some other not very qualified person. I wanted the hundreds of readers of the post to know where this was coming from so they would know it is credible. I was not trying to make her accept it if she prefers a different view.

Chaim B. said: There have been many dates pre- 1740 which were predicted as heralding ge’ulah, one of the earliest being R’ Akiva’s opinion (as recorded in the Yerushalmi) that Bar Kochba was Moshiach. Considering that these dates were not associated with a rise in feminism, one is forced to reject any necessary linkage between the two ideas.  

Chaim B. assumes that if nekevah tisovev gever is linked to the ge’ula it must be present before the arrival of Moshiach. That, however,  is true only in the modern era. Therefore I answered:

There are two ways for the ge’ula to come. Be’ita (in the appointed time) or Achishena (before the appointed time). When the geula comes before the appointed time, it is not a gradual process and therefore the powers of the ge’ula do not first slowly affect the world. The Vilna Gaon explained that this happens only when the ge’ula is be’ita - at the end of time. 

Chaim B. replied:  

Sorry, you have not answered the question. Whether it is “b’ita” or “achishenua” is a matter of WHEN  the geulah will occur. If feminism, or nekeiva tesoveiv gevar” is part of WHAT the

process of ge’ulah entails, then why should this aspect of the CONTENT of the geula be limited to a geulah which gradually unfolds? 

DH: It isn’t limited to a ge’ula which gradually unfolds. Had the ge’ula come before the modern era (achisheno) then the powers of  the ge’ula, including nekevah tisovev gever, would have affected the world after Moshiach came rather than before, and swiftly rather than gradually.   And this is true for all the other powers of the ge’ula as well, not just women’s equality.  Since none of the other powers of the ge’ula were present at those dates either, why should nekevah tisovev gever be any different? (Please don’t use the term feminism. It has negative connotations.) 

Chaim B. continues: If the rectification of Chava’s sin is a necessary ingredient of geulah then would not it have been evident to Rabbi Akiva as part of his apprecition of Bar Kochba as Moshiach (to use that example?) 

DH: Lets use the same logic with the other aspects of the geula so we can see if it works. If kibbutz galuyos is a necessary ingredient of geulah, then why did Rabbi Akiva think that Bar Kochba was Moshiach, even though kibbutz galuyos had not taken place? The same is true for all the other powers of the ge’ula mentioned by the nevi’im and Chazal. Had there been tshuva? Had there been tchiyas hameisim? Had there been great wealth, world peace, mass prophecy, and all the other wonderful aspects of the ge’ula mentioned by the nevi’im? No.  Would you therefore conclude that kibbutz galuyos, tchiyas hameisim, tshuva, world peace, mass prophecy etc. are not necessary parts of the ge’ula? 

Had Bar Kochba really been Moshaich, then kibbutz galuyos, tchiyas hameisim, etc. would have come afterwards - and nekevah tisovev gever would have also come about afterwards.  

I would also like to reiterate that it is not my own idea that nekevah tisovev gever is part of the ge’ula.

As I wrote on the post, there are 192 sources brought in the book to show why I wrote what I did. Let’s look at some of them. 

The prophecy of nekevah tisovev gever comes from Yirmiyahu 31:21. This entire perek is speaking about what will happen in the  ge’ula. Rabbi Yonoson ben Uziel, whose commentary Chazal say revealed secrets, translates these words as “the nation of the house of Israel will study Torah”. The term “house of Israel” is a reference to women (Ruth Zuta 4:4).  The Kli Yokor on Shmos 15:20 cites nekevah tisovev gever as showing that in the future women will have equal spiritual perception with men. The Me’or Vishemesh, based on the teachings of the Ari, z”l also says that nekevah tisovev gever means that all those who served Hashem will be equal (Shomos 15:20) and he connects this to Miriam the prophetess who together with all the women brought down the power of nekevah tisovev gever. The siddur of the Ba’al HaTanya on sheva brachos also speaks of nekevah tisovev gever as being part of the geula, saying that it means that the kallah will actually go up higher than the choson as it says, the eishes chayil is the crown (on top) of her husband.,  He says this will happen after the geula. Likutey Halachos on Rosh Chodesh (Breslav) connects nekevah tisovev gever with women being able to support themselves.  There are probably many more commentaries that speak about nekevah tisovev gever meaning equality after the ge’ula, since this is coming from the Ari z”l.  

Chaim B.: I mentioned that I read metaphorically the aspects of “nukva” and Shechina” which you seem to take very literally. 

DH: I answered this point on the post of  Dec. 31, 2007 1:12 P.M. but it had not yet appeared when he wrote this. My reply brought numerous kabbalistic and chassidic sources which show that women parallel the Shchina and are closely connected to it. To repeat one of these sources: “...and this is true for each and everyone that his wife is the aspect of the Shechina”. (Chasdei Avos 1:5 based Life of Moharan P. 563). More sources and explanations about this appear in The Moon’s Lost Light. The Zohar says that the moon represents real, actual women. I already brought the sources for this above. Women also are the sfira of malchus (Zohar Chadash 40a) which is also the Shchina, and the moon. The siddur of the Ba’al HaTanya, commenting on the sheva brachos of a chasan and kallah puts the human kallah and the Schchina together in one category, saying that what will happen to one will happen to the other. The Lubavitcher Rebbe held that one should teach girls and women Torah because the malchus (the nukva of which he spoke, which is also the Shchina) is rising, and this affects actual girls and women.  

I would also like to point out that before printing this book it was read by a very learned talmid chacaham and mekubal, (He was the teacher of Rav Itche Meir Morgenstern) and also by a very prominent chassidishe rebbe in America. I did not simply rely on my own understanding.  

Chaim B. continues: I would add that upon further reflection your entire thesis strikes me as very Chrisian in its terms - you speak of women damned by an original sin of Chava to spend their lives as second fiddle until some future redemption. 

The Chrisian terms here are coming from him, not me. I never said anything about anyone being damned.  The Moon’s Lost Light contains an entire section explaining  that women were very important and beloved to Hashem  even in the period when they were not socially or intellectually equal. I wrote in the book “Did these changes (i.e. resulting from cheyt Chava) cause women to become less important? That depends how one defines importance. They did not cause women to have less value in G-d’s eyes, because one’s value is not determined by one’s gifts or one’s status, but rather by how well one uses his or her abilities. 

Then I brought two medrashim to illustrate this point: 

“ ‘And Devorah was a prophetess woman’ : What is the nature of Devorah that she prophecied over Yisrael and judged them, even though Pinchas ben Elazar was standing? I bring witness over me from the heaven and the earth, whether a gentile, whether a Yisrael, whether a man or a woman, whether a slave man or slave woman, all according to the deeds of a person does Ru’ach HaKodesh rest upon him’.

And, indeed, the Sages tell us, that just as there were 600,000 prophets in Israel, so there were 600,000 prophetesses. 

And then:

“Shomei tefillah - He hears prayer”: Rabbi Yehudah ben Shlom said in the name of Rabbi Elazar: (The nature of) flesh and blood is that if a poor person comes to tell hi something, he does not listen; if a righ person comes to say something, he immediately listens and accepts it. Butthe Holy One, blessed is He, is not like that; rather all are equal before Him - women, slaves, poor people, and rich people...The same language is used regarding Moshe, master of all the prophets, as is used regarding a poor person...to inform you that all are equal in prayer before G-d.” 

The book goes on to explain that we are all equal as Hashem’s children, it is only in the level of service that there is hierarchy. I brought citations from the Sfas Emes to show this.

The book also explains how women parallel the Shchinah. Because the Shchina’s true greatness is presently hidden, so is women’s and when there will be the revelation of the Shchina so there will be the revelation of women’s true greatness. The book brings sources to show this. 

Does this sound like women being damned to anything? 

Furthermore, Chaim B. is ignoring the fact that women’s return to equality has already begun. Women as a group are no longer lacking in abstract intelligence. Women as a group are no longer incapable of supporting themselves in comfort. Modern society treats women more or less as equals, which also affects how one relates at home to a wife. In westernized countries, women have equal legal rights.   All this is part of Hashem’s plan, and it means that the effects of Chava’s sin are lessening. Even on the physical level we see that women as a group are not dying nearly as often in childbirth, and for most women in modern countries childbirth is not as painful as it once was, due to anesthetic pain fighters. Obviously something has changed. As I explain in the book, this is because nekevah tisovev gever is already affecting the world. 

I know from the reactions I got  B”H, that many people have found this book extremely encouraging and supportive to women. Since Chaim B. doesn’t think so, I’d like to bring here part of a letter from a young woman who read the book. She was studying at that time in a seminary for ba’alos tshuva. The following is an excerpt from her letter: 

“...None of the books really acknowledged this anomaly (women’s secondary position), and none of my teachers could provide a satisfying explanation for it. I was beginning to wonder if there even was an answer. I am therefore extremely grateful to have been shown Mrs. Heshelis’ eloquent and extensively researched essay, which addresses the apparent inequality between the sexes and explains the reasons behind it, using traditional Jewish sources. Through an elucidation of the concept of nekevah tesovev gever, Mrs. Heshelis offers a fascinating glimpse into the future which I found to be very positive and inspiring. The Moon’s Lost Light helped me tremendously, and left me encouraged and excited to be leading the life as a Jewish woman. 

B”H there are many more women who told me how much they benefited from this book. Here is another letter to illustrate the point. This letter agrees with Ariella that the idea of cheyt Chava having caused women’s secondary position is not “candy” (or in Ariella’s words, not  “palatable”). Nevertheless, the author of this letter was davka very grateful for The Moon’s Lost Light, for reasons she explains in her letter: 

I first encountered Judaism at age 22. Coming from a secular, western background, the most difficult thing I had to contend with was the “women’s issue”. I was a truth-seeker and didn’t want “feel-good” answers, so I fought long and hard. After much external battle and internal struggle, I was finally sold on the value of the woman’s role and female spirituality, and became religious. I even became a popular spokeswoman for the cause, teaching in various kiruv programs. Nevertheless, I was always bothered by a tension between theory and reality in Jewish life. If I was supposedly equal, why didn’t I feel equal? And what about certain uncomfortable aspects of Jewish law that were avoided or glossed over? 

At one point my internal confusion and unhappiness left me depressed for a couple of days. I wondered how I could continue speaking on this issue. I called up the teacher whose influence on me had been strongest, and told her I could deal with anything as long as it was true, so could she just please tell me: Are women in Judaism equal or not? Her answer was a kind of “yes and no” that helped a little, but didn’t really get to the core of the matter. 

My discomfort grew and culminated in a crisis. Unsure if I was merely parroting apologetics, I felt I could no longer teach about women In Judaism, and completely stopped. A very intelligent friend of mine picked up the slack, but before long she encountered the same doubts I had, and she too stopped. At that point a certain rabbi involved with a kiruv institution for which we both worked - a talmid chacham and posek - agreed to meet with a group of us women who were struggling with this issue and deal with our questions. The group met for many months and helped a lot. But there was still a fundamental “something” that gnawed at me and gave me no peace, to the point where I concluded that I must have some deep-rooted psychological problem that required therapy, if after all this time and all these answers, I was still discontent. 

Then one day a brilliant friend of mine called, and in great excitement, read me over the phone a long article written by a Chassidic woman who, I was to discover, had no contact whatsoever with the women’s movement, and was deeply learned in Torah. Instead of taking the “separate but equal” line I had heard for so long, she was the first person to state, unapologetically and unequivocally, that  although women are equal before G-d, women do not have a totally equal position in this world. She explained that this situation was caused by cheyt Chava, that it is reversed in the redemption, and that we are now in a transition period called ikvesa demeshicha which is what is causing all the turbulence. 

I can’t begin to describe the effect this had on me. It was as if the clouds had parted and finally the light of truth was shining through. It wasn’t the truth I would have wanted - it wasn’t candy - but thank G-d at least it was truth!  

These writings were the first to accurately describe my experience as a Jewish woman, explain its origin, and give it solid backing in Torah sources. From that day, I feel like a changed person religiously. Finally things made sense. Finally I felt at peace. 

And I soon found that I was not the only one to have experienced the conflict I had or the relief of having it resolved. A chareidi woman who is the daughter of a well known talmid chacham and is active in kiruv told me that she had always been bothered by the women’s issue. Her father acknowledged the problem and hadn’t tried to apologize it away, but apparently couldn’t offer a satisfying explanation. Then she read these writings. She told me simply, “This book saved my life”. 

So I agree that not everything in this book is easy to digest. It can be very hard for modern people to accept that women cannot become totally equal until the redemption. But why does Chaim B. think that believing in sin and punishment is Chrisian? The idea of sin and punishment, which is now taboo in western society, does not originate with Chrisianity; it is a Jewish idea. Chrisianity distorted it and gave it bad associations, which Chaim B. is now projecting onto this issue. 

Why does he think that being limited by cheyt Chava is different than death, which also came from cheyt eitz hada’as? Or why is this a greater problem than the fact the Jewish People have suffered in exile for so many, many years?  All of these stem from the sin. 

Chaim B.: The way I have always understood the concept based on sifrei chassidus is that sin is always spoken of as a means to greater height - yeridah l’tzoreh aliya - and redemption is in mankinds’s hands to bring about. 

DH: There is no contradiction between  yeridah (descent) coming from sins, and the idea of yeridah litsorech aliyah, (a descent for the purpose of reaching greater height). Both are true at the same time. This would be more easily understood by people who have seriously gone through The Moon’s Lost Light, but I will try to explain it here in short. 

The Zohar says that the sun and the moon represent the masculine and the feminine (sources are in the book.) Hashem originally created the sun and the moon equal, but after the moon said that there cannot be two kings with one crown, Hashem diminished the moon (Chulin 60a).  Although the Mishna Brura on the laws of kiddush levana says that the diminution of the moon was caused by Chava’s sin, the gemmara makes no mention of this. In fact, the moon asks “Since I said something proper before You, I should diminish myself?” and then Hashem tries to pacify the moon. This implies that the moon was actually right, and was not deserving of punishment. 

The answer is that kabbalistic sources (see the book for the exact citations) say that the diminution of the moon was part of Hashem’s plan even before Chava’s sin. But Hashem, who is totally just, does not bring suffering on a person without sin. He therefore combined the two, waiting for Chava to sin before diminishing her light, and consequently her status. The pshat then, is, that women’s lowered status comes from chet Chava, while the deeper reason is that women parallel the Shchina, which is represented by the moon.  Medrash Tanchuma on VaYeshev says the same idea regarding Adam and death. It was part of Hashem’s original plan, but He waited for Adam to sin before implementing it. Therefore, both reasons are true at the same time.  

But why was it necessary to first diminish the moon? The Tiferes Shlomo on Shabbos Nachamu (P.233) says that the secret of the diminishment of the moon,  is that whatever will become very great must first be diminished. The moon represents malchus - royalty. Since women are connected to the sfira of malchus (Zohar chadash 40a) they, like everything connected to malchus, first had to be diminished. Therefore women had to first go down before they go up, which is also true for the Shchina. The Tiferes Shlomo speaks about this again in his perush on megillas Esther, saying that Esther HaMalka represents the Shchina in exile. (He doesn’t mention this, but Esther, which is Istahar in Persian, means “moon”.)   

All this however, does not change the fact that women’s descent came about through Chava’s sin, just as am Yisrael’s galus came through its sins. Am Yisrael are also connected to malchus, and our descent is for the purpose of ascent. Am Yisroel will rise very, very high after the galus is over. Yet we say in our tfilos, “mipnei chato’eino galinu me’artzeinu” - because of our sins we were exiled from our land. Both are true at the same time. 

And of course we can bring about the ge’ulah (redemption) through our actions. Halivai!!! But if chas vishalom we don’t, there is a final date by which the redemption must come. This date is before the year 6,000 of the Jewish calendar. (We are now in the year 5768.) In any case, whether we bring the redemption ourselves, or whether we must wait for Hashem to bring it because we failed to bring it ourselves, there will be full equality for women after the ge’ula.

And now for Chaim B.’s last question, which actually contains many parts. He first asked a question which I answered, but he wasn’t satisfied and asked again. The second time he added on more points. My response to all these points is quite long, but, I think also important. Here is his original question: 

Chaim B. quotes from my post the words “why the Sages descriptions didn’t always suit our reality. We were living in a different reality.” He then asks: So what are we to make of halachos that include assumptions like tav limeisav...”that women prefer marriage of any sort to remaining single? Following the writer’s assumption that Chazal dealt with a different reality, one is forced to conclude that we are bound to follow empty norma that have no correspondence with reality (I asssume the writer is not advocating abolishing these halachos in toto). Such an appproach emasculates halacha of any inherent meaning.” 

I answered: P. 70 of The Moon’s Lost Light explains that we are now in a process of transition. Chava’s tikun (correction) and therefore the transition is not yet complete. When it becomes complete our rulings corresponding to the chazaka of tav l’meisav will change. Of course, we cannot do this ourselves. At that time there will be a Sanhedrin that will make the necessary adjustments. 

Chaim B. commented on this: Once again you have not addressed the issue. Until Chazal make those changes, what you are in effect saying is that the words of Torah conflict with reality. Until we have a Sanhedrin (which may be today IY”H or may be in 1000 years) women in your view are essentially bound by laws which bear no semblance to the facts on the ground. Is this what you suggest is to give women comfort when they approach a difficult statement in Chazal? 

R’ Soloveitchik took the view that Chazal had insight into ontological reality, into basic truth of human psyche which are unchanging. Without getting into a debate of how in that light to understand “tav l’meisav”, one at least avoids the philosophical pitfall of a legal system at odds with the world it governs. Your approach glosses over this difficulty. 

Stripped of esoterics, all you are in effect saying is wait until Moshiach comes and we will straighten everything out. Aside from the fact that Moshiach cannot overturn dinim d’oraysa that some find troubling (e.g. a woman may be the recipient of a get but may not give one), we are living in the here and now and need answers that work in today’s world.  

and then he added: Aside from the philosophical problem above, I am curious whether you have a source which explicitly says the Sanhedrin will reverse itself on these type issues (I am not aware of sources that predict legislation of a future Sanhedrin) or is this speculation on your part based on your own reasoning? 

Before answering I’d like to give a short introduction. Chaim B. seems to be very perturbed over this issue, and I sympathize with this, because it truly is a very upsetting matter. However, the quote Chaim B. brought from the post was speaking about the change in women’s spiritual perception and not about tav limeisav.  I therefore should not really have to reply on this point at all, since this was not directly connected to what I said. However, I will do my best IY”H to explain this issue. 

So let’s start at the beginning and take the many points one by one.

Chaim B. wrote: Following the writer’s assumption that Chazal dealt with a different reality, one is forced to conclude that we are bound to follow empty norma (I assume the writer is not advocating (abolishing) these halachos in toto.) Such an approach emasculates halacha of any inherent meaning. 

What Chaim B. is asking here is not a question on my book per se but a question on the halachic system in general, for we find many cases where the situation now is different than it was in Chazal’s times and yet we keep the same halachos. For example, we keep two days Yom Tov outside of Eretz Yisroel despite the fact that we now have a calendar and know when the proper day for Yom Tov should be. Chazal forbade taking medicines when only slightly uncomfortable, because in those days people made their own medicines by grinding plants and Chazal were afraid that they might be led to grind on Shabbos which is forbidden. But nowadays we don’t grind our own medicines, we buy them at the pharmacy. So are we following empty norma?  

The kabbalistic view is that the reasons Chazal gave for these halachos were true reasons but they were not the only reasons. Therefore even when these reasons no longer apply these are not empty norma. I saw in the Sfas Emes that Jews outside of Eretz Yisrael need more holiness in time to compensate for their having less holiness in place (i.e. they don’t have the holiness which comes from living in Eretz Yisroel). There are also deeper reasons why it is not good to take medicines on Shabbos (which are overrun when the necessity becomes strong). The same is true for the other halachos we need to follow despite the fact that things have changed.  

On the other hand, I don’t mean to say that things never need to be changed. There are definitely times and situations where change is necessary. For example, in Chazal’s times a baby born in the eighth month could not live, and so it was forbidden to violate the Shabbos to help the baby. Nowadays a baby born in the eighth month can live, so we do violate Shabbos to save it. What I am saying is that I am not the person who can determine what situation demands what response. 

But how did people without kabbalah deal with keeping halachos whose original reasons no longer applied? After all, they didn’t know that there were other reasons behind these halachos. So what did they think? 

They said that even if the original reason for the halahos don’t apply, there is another extremely compelling reason to keep them. If we would start changing things on our own, there would soon no longer be any halachic system at all. It would fall apart. Therefore, anyone keeping the laws is keeping Judaism alive, which is an even greater issue than keeping those laws for the particular reason for which they were instituted. Hashem has commanded us to keep the laws instituted by the chachamim and He rewards us for our faithfulness to halacha even if the original reasons no longer apply.  

The point is, that even if you don’t see the purpose behind the halacha, you keep it because Hashem wants us to keep halacha.  

I think it might be in order here to say some more about this.  Halacha, including the rabbinical laws, are all coming from Hashem, since Hashem specifically commanded us to follow the ordinances of the sages.  The Torah says, “Do not stray from them  (the judges or sages’ words) to the right or to the left”.  On this Rashi comments, “even if they tell you right is left and left is right”.   

Yet we also find that the Torah says not to add on or take away any mitzvohs of the Torah. How then, could Chazal have added mitzvohs? The answer is that the mitzvohs dirabonon (rabbinical mitzvohs) are in a different category. They are not considered as mitzvohs of the Torah. We make a clear distinction between them and the laws d’orayso (directly from the Torah). This is probably what Chaim B. was referring to when he cited the Sha’arei Yashar 1:7 earlier in the post. Rabbanical decrees have a different halachic status, which in emergency situations has practical ramifications. This, however, in no way changes the fact that the rabbinical laws are also Hashem’s will.  

How much rabbinical laws are considered Hashem’s doing, we see from the words of the blessing “asher kidishanu bimitzvosav vitsivanu”  (that He sanctified us with his mitzvohs and commanded us) when performing ordinances instituted by the sages. Examples of this are netilas yadayim, lighting the Shabbos candles, reading the megillah, lighting the chanuka lights, etc. All of these are rabbinical mitzvohs, and yet we say that Hashem commanded us to do them.  Fulfilling these mitzvohs sanctifies us, as we say “asher kidishanu” - that Hashem sanctified us - through these rabbinically instituted mitzvohs. 

Actually, the future ordinances of the sages were told beforehand to Moshe Rabeinu at Mt. Sinai, as it says, “kol mah shetalmid vatik asid lichadesh ne’emar liMoshe biSinai” - everything that a future sage would introduce and discover on his own was already told to Moshe Rabeinu at Mt. Sinai. (See Zohar II P. 137b for a fuller explanation of this.)

So getting back to our issue, we must keep halacha, even though we are, in certain respects, living in a different reality. Chaim B. sees everything in black and white; either there is no change or things have changed completely.  But transition is a process. Cheyt Chava is not yet over. If it were, there would no longer be pain in childbirth. Therefore, all those halachos that reflect cheyt Chava are still in effect (i.e. women not being able to form a minyan, women not serving as witnesses, etc.) because the process of change is not yet complete. 

The following teaching of the Ba’al HaTanya might help to understand this better. The siddur of theBa’al HaTanya on sheva brachos explains that we do not hear the voice of the human bride now at her wedding because we also do not hear the voice of the Shchina now.  But after the ge’ula when we will hear the voice of the Shchina, we will also hear the voice of the human bride. That is what it means “az yishama b’orei Yehuda uviYerushalayim kol sason vikol simcha, kol chassan vikol kallah” - then will be heard in the cities of Yehudah and in Yerushalayim the voice of happiness and the voice of joy, the voice of chassan and the voice of kallah. Now we do not hear the voice of the kallah. Throughout the ceremony she remains silent. This, says the Ba’al HaTanya, is because the Shchina who is also called “bride” is silent.  

The Ba’al HaTanya then goes on to explain that this is why we pray shmone esrai silently. Shmone esrai is recited before the Shchina whose voice we cannot hear, so our voices also cannot be heard, but in the future this will change. Women will become equal with men as it originally was in gan Eden, which is why one of the sheva brachos says, “make glad the beloved friends as You made glad Your creations in gan Eden. This, says the Ba’al HaTanya, is a reference to Adam and Chava as they were originally created - equal. This will return again when the Shchina rises. 

So to get back to our point, our changes are just preparations for the ge’ula. At this point these halachos still must remain, because the Shchina has still not been redeemed from its exile, caused by our sins. 

And so, although women’s lack of total equality is not in keeping with the spirit of the society we live in, because the power of women’s equality is already in the world, these halachos are not at odds with reality, because reality is that until the redemption the Shchina is hidden and limited and therefore so are women. Cheyt Chava (which caused this) still needs a last tikun. (All this, by the way, is explained in The Moon’s Lost Light.) 

Now let’s discuss the question of tav limeisav.  I did not discuss this subject specifically in my book, because it is a very complicated halachic issue of which I know very little. As I made clear in my introduction, my book does not deal with determining halachos. Only a person who truly understands all the halachic ramifications, and who is enough of a tsadik to get siyata dishmaya, can render an opinion on a subject like this. My book deals with answering the three questions that I ask in the beginning of the book, and tav limeisav was not one of them. As I wrote very clearly both in the introduction and in the epilogue, I am not telling people how to relate to the practical problems of ikvesa demishicha. Therefore, to expect me to deal with tav limeisav is something like going into a hat store and expecting to buy a shirt. It is not in the realm of my book. 

I do, however, want to address his question in a general sense.  

There are definitely changes taking place, which is obvious from simple observation. The question is, how many women do they affect, in which ways, and how strongly? What halachic ramifications do these changes have? I cannot answer these questions, as explained above. But one thing is obvious. We are in a transition period which is why things are so unclear and difficult. What I wrote on the post was “We were living a different reality  the reality of ikvesa demeshicha, the turbulent period before the coming of Moshiach and in this reality things were different”.  Anyone who has read how Chazal describe the period of ikvesa demeshicha knows that this is a very difficult period where things are very out of kilter. It is far, far, from the ideal situation. It is something that we must sort of “hold our breath” and go through until Moshiach comes. I do not know whether or not we can or should change rulings connected to the chazaka of tav limeisav. But I do know that when the tikun of Chava is over than Hashem will change things accordingly.   

Even before the arrival of Moshiach, Hashem can change things if He knows they need to be changed. For example the book of Ezra once included the book of Nehemia. Nowadays, we have two separate books, Ezra and Nehemia. How did this change take place? The goyishe printer (I think it was Guttenberg) printed them as two separate books, and surprisingly the whole world, including the Jewish world accepted this. What I read about this in the name of one of the great tsadikim was that Nehemiah had made a mistake which, according to the ruling of the heavenly court, disqualified him from having a sefer in the Tanach called on his name. Many hundreds of years passed and Nehemia’s soul was so purified that he now deserved to have a book called on his name. By this time there was no prophecy so the change had to be made in a roundabout way. And so Hashem designed that the printer make the change and the Jews for some reason accepted it. It was all Hashem’s doing. 

Something similar happened with girls studying Torah as I already explained in my comment to Ariella. 

What I want to bring out is that Hashem runs the world.  That’s the whole point. 

Chaim B. wrote: “...I am curious if you have sources which explicitly say that the Sanhedrin will reverse itself on these type issues. (I am not aware of sources that predict legislation of a future Sanhedrin) or is this speculation on your part based on your own reasoning?” 

My source is the tfila that am Yisrael says three times a day - “Return our judges as it was in the beginning...and remove from us despondency and sighing.” Being married to an abusive spouse most certainly causes despondency and sighing. Therefore it is self evident that our judges - the Sanhedrin - will remove this problem, for otherwise they would not be removing the despondency and sighing.  

On the other hand, if one does not accept that the sanhedrin (our judges) will correct any injustice or suffering caused by this situation, then one does not accept that this prayer will be fulfilled. I therefore find it a logical imperative that the Sanhedrin will solve this problem. 

However, divorce will probably not last for long. The ge’ula comes in stages. At some point divorce will probably disappear, since there will no longer be a yetzer hara and people will no longer misbehave.

   

Chaim B. wrote: “...women in your view are essentially bound by laws which have no semblance to the facts on the ground. Is this what you suggest to give women comfort when they approach a difficult statement in chazal?” 

He also wrote: “Your approach glosses over this difficulty.  

Actually it stresses it. There is a section subtitled “The difficulties of Transition,” which says that the powers of Moshiach ben Yosef came into the world without Moshiach ben Yosef thus causing frustration and confusion. This is explained at greater length in the book.  I advise reading it carefully, as it explains a lot. 

Now Let’s examine the situation of a woman reading my book. She sees that Chazal and later rabbinic writers say that women are not intellectual, but she also sees that the universities are full of women who are succeeding in intellectual pursuits. She sees that Chazal say that women prefer even an unhappy marriage to no marriage (by the way, this isn’t very accurate - Chazal recognized that under certain circumstances divorce is preferable) but she also sees that there are many women around who are still single, not because they were never offered a shidduch but because they turned down the offers they felt were not suitable for them. Does this show that they prefer even a bad marriage to remaining single? They also see that whereas in ancient times most divorces were at the man’s initiative, today they are usually either wanted by both sides or davka the woman wants the divorce.  That is how “tav limeisav” became an issue. 

So what is the woman of today going to think without my book?  Is she going to think that there are no philosophical difficulties? Of course not. She sees the problem immediately. It isn’t that “in my view women are essentially bound by laws which have no semblance to the facts on the ground”, its that this is how the situation appears - with or without my view.  

So lets compare how the potential reader reacts without my book and with my book. Without my book she has a real problem in emunah. Why were Chazal or later rabbinic authorities saying things that anyone today can see are not reality? Were they prejudiced against women, cholia (which is what some conclude)? Were they simply mistaken, confusing socially caused situations with the essential nature of women? These are very disturbing questions which challenge basic emunas chachamim. 

My book says that Chazal were telling the truth. But in ikvesa demishicha things are different, and this was already predicted in kabbalah. I bring many respected Torah sources to show all this. The book even shows that Chazal knew there would be a change, and hinted at it in the bracha vi’ha’arev no.  

What are the results of this approach? Emunah. It doesn’t solve the practical problems, because as I explained, that isn’t within my capabilities, but it does give people a framework through which to understand what is happening.  

Is understanding alone, without practical solutions, of any help? Does it give people comfort?  

The book To Vanquish The Dragon by Pearl Beinish tells how Mrs. Orlean, a former Bais Yaakov teacher in Poland, became the head of the concentration camp clinic. A nine year old Jewish boy somehow came to her. He knew nothing about what it meant to be Jewish except that Jews are persecuted.  Mrs. Orleans told him about the past and future of the Jewish People, about the avos and Imahos, about our great purpose and what awaits us in Moshiach’s times. The boy became so flushed with excitement that when an the evil Mengele suddenly entered he thought that something nefarious must be going on. (She told him the truth and was saved.) 

Did Mrs. Orleans change anything practically? Did she get the boy out of his terrible physical predicament? No. But understanding alone made him see everything so differently. And that is the purpose of my book - to give people understanding that will make them feel differently. 
 

After tisha b’av there are seven weeks when we read in the haftara about the wonderful good that will come with the ge’ula (redemption). Those seven weeks are called “shiv’a dinechemasa” the seven weeks of consolation.  

Why is this consolation? Has anything changed on the practical level? We’re still in the same galus (exile). Reading about the redemption doesn’t do away with the problems of the exile. The answer is that just reading and thinking about the eventual ge’ula and all the good that will come with it, gives us the strength and joy we need to go on. Obviously there is comfort just in knowing that Hashem will change things and a great future is awaiting us. Particularly in this area, it helps women’s ahavas Hashem very much to know that Hashem wants women to be equal, and that in His ideal world, that’s how it is.  

On the other hand, taking the view that the curses of Chava will last as long as this world exists, (kiymey hashomayim al ha’aretz) is very depressing. I don’t see how this is going to comfort women.  

At any rate, that view is not in accordance with kabbalah which states that after the redemption everything will return to be as it was before the cheyt. And Kol HaTor states that everything that will be in the full redemption comes into the world little by little in our period (from the year 5500 onwards) growing stronger as time progresses.  As anyone can see, women really are becoming more equal. 

Chaim B. wrote: “...Moshiach cannot overturn dinim d’orayso that some find troubling...”.  

Kabbalah says otherwise. I already wrote about this in the response about Devorah Haneviah, but I’ll repeat it here.  

The medrash quotes Hashem as saying “Torah chadasha me’iti testse” - a new Torah will come forth from me (Vayikra Rabba 13:3). This is not a contradiction to the Rambam’s 13 principles of faith which say that there will never be a different Torah and this Torah will never be changed, because it will be the same Torah, meaning it will have the exact same letters in it, but according to kabbalah this means that Hashem will show us new meanings in the same words (see Notes 161 and 163 which quote the Tiferes Shlomo and the Sfas Emes on this subject).   

Practical halachos will change. The pig will become kosher in the future (Chanuka with Rabbi Nachman of Breslav P. 65 brings the source for this as “collection of sources, in Reb Chaim Palagi’s Nefesh Chaim”.)  The Ba’al HaTurim on Shmos 19:6 says that in the future every Jew will be a kohen gadol - something which is now strictly forbidden by Torah law (hazar hakarev yumas - Bamidbar 1).  I also heard that Moshiach will be able to make  mamzerim kosher for marriage (I’m sorry that I don’t know the source, but I think it’s mentioned in the writings of Breslov.) So why should one assume that halachos regarding women cannot change? Just as every Jew will become a kohen gadol because the sin(s) that prevented this will no longer exist (see Ba’al HaTurim ibid), so women will become equal with men because the sin that prevented  this will no longer exist. Since kabbalah says that women will become equal with men, (see the sources in The Moon’s Lost Light) it makes perfect sense that part of the Torah chadasha will be new laws regarding women. (The Moon’s Lost Light discusses the subject of Torah Chadasha on Pp. 54-56, explaining it at greater length.) 

Chaim B. also wrote that the Sanhedrin “may be today, IY”H or it may be in 1000 years”. Since the world was created for 6000 years and we are now in the years 5768, the Sanhedrin could not possibly be so far off. 

Chaim B. wrote: “Stripped of esoterics all you are in effect saying is ‘Wait until Moshiach comes and we will straighten everything out”.   

Almost, but it is not “we” who will straighten everything out, it is Hashem.

And it’s not necessary to strip esoterics, since I say this in the most forthright manner in the book. In fact, the climax of the book is a tfila for the coming of Moshiach who will return the moon’s lost light (women’s lost greatness).  

Years ago many people believed that by making an independent Jewish state they could save Jews from anti semitism. They didn’t want to hear “wait until Moshiach comes and he will straighten everything out”. They said “We are living here and now and need answers that work in today’s world.” So Hashem let them make a state. Did this solve our problems? Do the goyim hate us any less? Are we in any less danger?  Nearly everyone I know (including myself) knows of someone who was killed by terrorists - aside from the thousands of soldiers who were killed. Every time the government gives concessions for peace, things get even worse. And now we are in danger of nuclear attack by Iran, cholila. I am very, very happy to live in Eretz Yisroel, but the fact is, that there are some problems that can be solved only by the coming of Moshiach. Anti semitism is one of them. So is tikun cheyt Chava. Hashem is running the world, and He decides when the tikunim are up. We can’t do it without Him. 

I am not saying that nothing can be changed. There are some areas where I think that we really can and should devise ways to make things more suited to our reality. For example, there are definitely ways to arrange within halacha that women have equal economic status, and in my opinion, these ways should become better known and more applied. If we can find ways to stop the terrible agunah problem, that would be wonderful, and we should be working on this as much as possible.  What I am saying is that in a case where we definitely cannot change the application of the halacha, then this is a decree from Hashem. 

Interestingly, we find an illusion to this in Tehillim. Perek 97 says that when the ge’ula comes Zion will be glad and the daughters of Yehudah will rejoice for Hashem’s mishpatim (justice, or civil laws). Although Rashi explains “the daughters of Yehudah” as smaller cities in Yehudah, Rabbi Yonoson ben Uziel’s translation, which gemara megillah says contains secrets from the last prophets, translates “bnos Yehudah” as the daughters of the house of Yehudah - real women. 

But why will davka the daughters of Yehudah rejoice for Hashem’s laws? What do Hashem’s mishpatim have to do specifically with women? 

I think that in our times we can see the answer. When the ge’ula comes the mishpatim regarding women will be adjusted in a way that will make the daughters of Judah rejoice.  At that time it will all be totally just in a way that we can appreciate. But that is when Zion rejoices, and not before. There really are some things for which we have to wait for the coming of Moshiach. 

Until here, I have basically answered Chaim B.’s points. There are, however, very deep explanations beyond what I wrote above, which might be helpful for some people to know. Because some of the things spoken about below are very deep, I’m not recommending this part to everyone. It’s sort of “optional” so to speak, for people who are looking for deeper answers. 

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Regarding the Torah it is written,  “Her ways are ways of pleasantness and all her paths are peace. Tikun Cheyt Chava can explain why women cannot make a minyan, but it does not justify mistreating women. On the contrary, Chazal worked very hard to make takanos that would help alleviate the suffering of women. So if there are halachos which cause us to get stuck in bad situations (like a woman not being able to receive a get from an abusive husband) this needs further explanation. 

Chazal said that the second Bais Hamikdosh was destroyed because of people who stood their ground on the law of the Torah. They tell a story to illustrate this. There was once a man who rented a house from its owner. The contract said that the renter must paint the house after one year. After 11 months went by the renter painted the house. One month later the owner came and insisted the renter repaint the house. “But I just painted it”, said the renter. “The contract says you must paint after one year”, said the owner. They took the matter to Bais Din, which decided that indeed he renter must repaint the house, since the contract said that he must paint the house after one year. So he painted it - black.  

This is an example of how people did really rotten things, things which are obviously morally wrong, by using - or rather abusing - the law of the Torah. This was such an awful sin, such a great chilul of Torah that it caused the destruction of the second Bais HaMikdosh. 

We are now in a similar position, or rather in an even worse one. Recalcitrant husbands refuse to give their wives a get when they really should and they can get away with this according to the law of the Torah.  This is a sin of a magnitude to destroy the Bais HaMikdosh.  

Why does Hashem let this happen? The simple answer is that people have free will to do evil. But there are also deeper reasons. Hashem would not let someone suffer from this, if that was not also necessary. And why should the evil be committed davka through the Torah?

In the book of the prophet Yechezkel, Hashem said that after we left Egypt He gave us laws and statutes that we would live by (ibid:11) but that the Jewish People sinned against Him, and did not enter Eretz Yisrael. Then Hashem told the children who did enter Eretz Yisroel to keep His laws but they, too, rebelled against Hashem: “Also I, I raised my hand to them in the desert to spread them amongst the nations, and to distribute them amongst the lands (ibid 23) because my laws they did not do, and my statutes they detested and my Sabbaths they desecrated, and after the idols of their fathers were their eyes (ibid:24) And also I gave them statutes which are not good, and laws they will not live by (ibid 25). 

Amazing! Hashem is saying that as a punishment for not keeping His good laws in Eretz Yisroel, He will send us into galus and there we will have laws which are not good and which we will not be able to live by!

How can this be? 

Chazal and the commentaries give various explanations as to what this means, but I would also like to venture one of my own. 

First, however, it must be explained that Hashem would never gives us laws which aren’t good for us.  But before the galus those laws brought happiness even in this world, while in the galus, keeping those laws do not necessarily bring about happiness in this world, and so  it looks as if they are chukim lo tovim. There is a rule that the Torah describes things from the human point of view.  

Why does this happen? Because Hashem knows that we need this to get a tikun - to do tshuva for things that happened earlier. Only by showing loyalty to Hashem in these circumstances can one do complete tshuva. It takes great emunah, love and dedication to Hashem to keep mitzvohs under such circumstances, and this will not only atone for the earlier sins, but will also leave us as great tsadikim with enormous merits. When Hashem knows that the tikun is up, He will make sure that it ends.  

Let me give practical examples of such tikunim (corrections).  When the masses of Jews came to America in the early 1900’s it required immense mesiras nefesh (self sacrifice) to keep Shabbos. People immediately lost their jobs if they didn’t come in on Shabbos, and there was no welfare or other means of support. It was an enormous nisoyon which caused abject poverty to many of those who kept Shabbos. Even if they found some means of support it was minimal. Shabbos observance meant that you were excluded from all the “good” of the “golden” America. 

Why should this have been so? The Torah says that Shabbos observance brings blessing. In fact the Zohar says that all the blessings of the weekdays come from Shabbos. So how could such a thing have happened? Before answering, let’s bring more examples. 

The Torah gives life as it says, “She (the Torah) is a tree of life for those who hold on to her”. But in the U.S.S.R. you could lose your life for learning, teaching, and keeping Torah. Many did. The same happened in Spain and Portugal during the inquisition, in France and Germany during the crusades, and in Eretz Yisroel during the Roman and Greek persecutions. So what happened to the Torah being the Torah of life? 

The answer is that all these blessings are true under normal circumstances but not when there is a tikun going on.  The Jewish People sinned and to purify their souls they needed extreme mesiras nefesh. There is something called tshuvas hamishkal - repentance of equal weight. This means that one needs to do tshuva by doing just the opposite of the sin. Someone who once worshipped idols has to go through suffering and perhaps death not to worship idols. Not only does this expiate the previous sin (which is often from a previous lifetime) but it also makes the person into an awesome tsadik on the highest level.  

A person desecrated the Shabbos. Now, he is born again and by having great self sacrifice to keep Shabbos he expiates the previous sin, and becomes a great tsadik. A person shunned Torah study, or didn’t send his children to study Torah. Now, by doing so under the most trying circumstances he completely wipes out his previous sin and rises to the highest levels. 

I don’t know exactly what is the tikun of a person who cannot get out of a bad marriage, but there surely is one, and Hashem knows the reason for it. There is, however, something that I can say for sure. The merit a woman incurs not only for herself, but also for klall Yisroel, when she faithfully observes all the laws of marriage and divorce even under the most trying circumstances, is unbelievable. 

I would like to propose one possibility as to perhaps why Hashem created this situation in our generation.  

There is a very great need to find an enormous merit for klall Yisroel in the area of marital fidelity and the laws of forbidden relations. This is because we live in a society which has removed all bans from forbidden relations, and unfortunately this has affected Jews as well. Giluy arayos, forbidden sexual relations, are amongst the most severe sins.  There really are punishments for sins. (This is dealt with at greater length in my response on Iyov.) Hashem judges us not only as individuals, He also judges klall Yisroel as a group. When one member of klall Yisroel does an outstandingly good thing, something which is extremely difficult to do and beyond the norm of human behavior, something superhuman, so to speak, then this outweighs the sins of hundreds, sometimes thousands, and sometimes millions of other people in the overall judgment of klall Yisroel.  

When a woman loyally keeps the laws of the Torah despite the fact that she is justified in demanding a divorce which she cannot get, she creates outstanding merit. If not for her merit we would not be able to counteract the debts caused by the sins of so many others. But the merit that woman creates is so great, that she can turn the scales in the overall judgment.  

Who knows what terrible calamities would have already befallen am Yisroel if it weren’t for these women who loyally abide by the Torah under the most trying circumstances? It’s a bit like akeidas Yitzchak, in that it is not only terribly painful, it also doesn’t seem to make sense.  Akeidas Yitzchok keeps am Yisroel alive. So do these women. And so Hashem allows His Torah to look “not good” to people, in order to enable a merit that saves am Yisroel. 

Again, this is in no way saying that changes should not be made when it is possible to make them. I’m only speaking about situations where it is not possible to make them.  

May Moshiach come quickly, “and the daughters of Yehudah will rejoice for Your laws, Hashem” (Tehillim 97:8). 
 
 
 

And now for the tangential points:

I want to apologize to all those followers of the Lubavitcher Rebbe who may have been insulted by my reply about the holocaust.  I had no idea that the Lubavitcher Rebbe said that it is wrong to attribute the holocaust to the sins of the generation. Although the Chofetz Chaim warned of the approaching holocaust before his death, saying specifically that it was being brought on by the sins of the Jewish People, (see Chomas HaDas) it is certainly not my intention to say which Torah authority is right and which one is wrong.  

I would like, however, to explain a few points. Firstly, everyone agrees that those who were killed in the holocaust were martyrs who died al Kiddush Hashem. This is because the reason Hitler killed Jews, as the evil one, yimach shmo, himself explained, was because they gave the world the “curses” of conscience, mercy, and bris milah.  (There is a book called Voice of Destruction by H. Rauschening which brings many such quotes from Hitler.) When a Jew is killed because he represents Hashem on earth (through conscience, mercy and bris milah) then he has died al kiddush Hashem. This is true, even if the Jew was otherwise a sinner. Hashem designed that the holocaust would expiate those Jews of their sins while simultaneously giving them the exalted status of dying al Kiddush Hashem. 

The gemmara says that the Jews who died at the time of the destruction of the Bais HaMikdash are called “avodecho” - Your servants, even if they had not previously kept the mitzvohs. After quoting the words of Tehillim 79, “They gave the dead bodies of Your servants (as) food to the bird of the heavens, the flesh of Your chassidim to the beasts of the earth”  the gemarra asks: “What are Your servants and what are Your chassidim? Rava said, Your chassidim are actual chassidim (very righteous people who do even more than required. Elsewhere it is explained that even the chassidim were killed because they didn’t protest the evil that the others were doing against Hashem.). Your servants are those who were guilty by law and when they were killed they were called ‘Your servants’ for their deaths were an atonement for them” (Sanhedrin 47).  

In other words, the gemmara is saying that even those who were killed because they were guilty of sins, are  called Hashem’s servants after their deaths, for their sins were expiated, and only their good remains. There is therefore no contradiction between saying that Jews were killed because of their sins and saying that they died al kiddush Hashem. 

Secondly, the reason Hashem punishes us is because sin terribly damages our souls. How great that damage is, none of us can even imagine. If not expiated, the impurity that the sins cause us would prevent us from ever being able to reach the purpose for which we were created, which is to cling to Hashem and become one with the Shchina. This unbelievably exalted situation, which is the greatest pleasure there is, far beyond the imagination of any earthly being, cannot be reached until the souls are cleaned and purified. To purify the soul from sins takes terrible suffering, but Hashem knows that it is worth it because the pleasure afterwards will be for eternity.  

Furthermore, our sins actually destroy worlds, cholila, and cause terrible suffering to other spiritual beings who are dependent on us. Those beings demand justice, and they are right, so justice takes place. 

And finally, I would like to add that many of the holocaust survivors themselves said that the holocaust was because of the sins of the generation. I heard this directly from my teacher Rabbi Epstein, z”l, founder of the Hebrew Institute for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing. Rabbi Epstein was a yeshiva bachur when the holocaust struck. He lost his parents, brothers and sisters, and went through the camps. He saw his Rosh Yeshiva burnt to death with a Torah scroll around him. Rabbi Epstein was my navi (prophets) teacher. He was a tsadik and his classes were spell binding. Rabbi Epstein explained the words of the prophets, warning of the impending disaster that would come from the Jews’s sins, as applying to the holocaust (and as what would continue even now, if we don’t change!) 

Likewise, Rebitzen .Ausband who was the dean of the seminary in Telz, Ohio, told her own story to the girls. She was the daughter of the Telzer Rav. When the Germans conquered Telz they told the Jews that in three days they would all be taken out.  They knew what that meant. The Rav gathered all the Jews together in the shuhl and told them that this was happening because they had forsaken the Torah, forsaken Shabbos, taharas hamishpacha, etc. The people agreed to keep the mitzvohs, and lo and behold, suddenly the Germans changed their plans and for some unknown reason they were not taken out to the forest. But as time went on people returned to their former ways, and coinciding with this, deportations started. Rebitzen Ausband was taken to a concentration camp and survived. Her own comment on this was that she didn’t merit to be amongst those who died al Kiddush Hashem.  

I am not trying to disagree with the Lubavitcher Rebbe. As with most disagreements between Torah luminaries, each one has a point of truth. In the first haftara of the nehama (consolation) Hashem says, “Be comforted, be comforted my nation... for she (Yerushalayim) has taken from the hand of Hashem double for all her sins” (Yeshayahu 40:1,2).   Perhaps taking double means that half of the suffering the Jewish People endured was because of their sins, as is clearly written in the pshat of the Torah, and the other half was because of a hidden esoteric reason, as the Lubavitcher Rebbe says. In such a case both the Chofetz Chaim and the Lubavitcher Rebbe would be right, each one concentrating on a different half. 

I would also like to add that Hashem will show a certain tsadik one aspect of the truth and show a different tsadik a different aspect of the truth. He does this because the charges of one tsadik need one approach and the charges of the other tsadik need the other approach.  

Now, to the question I will label “Who Knew That The World Was Round?”  I wrote that the Zohar says that the world is round, and indeed, it does. The Zohar on Vayikra 10:1 says: 

כל ישובא מתגלגלא בעיגולא ככדור. אלין לתתא ואלין לעילא וכל אינון בריין משניין בחזווייהו משנויא דאוירא, כפום כל אתר ואתר, וקיימין בקיומייהו כשאר בני נשא. ועל דא אית אתר בישובא כד נהיר לאלין, חשיך לאלין. לאלין יממא, ולאלין ליליא. ואית אתר דכוליה יממא ולא אישתכח ביה ליליא בר בשעתא חדא זעירא  דהכי כתיב "אודך על כי נוראות נפליתי נפלאים מעשיך (תהלים קל"ט) ורזא דא איתמסר למאריהון דחכמתא.     

“All the dwelling (i.e. the earth and mankind who dwell upon it) turns around in a circle like a ball. There are those who are beneath and those who are on top. And all these people (who live in the different parts of the ball) are different in their appearance because of the difference in air of each and every place, but they stand like other human beings. And therefore there is a place in the world that when it is light for some it is dark for the others, for some it is day and for the others it is night. And there is a place in the world where it is all day and there is no night except for a short time...so it is written “I will give praise to You for awesome things have I differed, amazing are Your deeds” (Tehillim 139)/ And this secret was given to the masters of wisdom” (Zohar Vayikrah P. 10, 1).   

The Zohar says that this was quoted from an earlier book written by Rav Hamnuna Saba. 

Also we find in the Zohar on Breishi 15): “Rabbi Yossi said ‘We have already learned from the heads of the yeshiva that the world is round like a ball.  

(This information was taken from the Hebrew book Hamahapach by Rabbi Zamir Cohen, P. 68 and P. 71.) 

Chaim B. thought I was contradicting a passage of the gemara (Psachim 94b) which speaks about where the sun goes at night. The sages said that it goes up above the sky to a higher sky, and the gentiles said that it goes down under the ground. The Sages then said that it seems that the gentiles were right, since one can see smoke (mist) coming up from the rivers in the morning.  

What I said was not in contradiction to this gemmara. I didn’t say that Chazal knew that the world was round, I said that the Zohar said this. The Zohar is not all of Chazal. And as far as I understand it, this passage does not show that the gentiles knew the world was round. The gemara there says that the nations thought that the sun goes below the ground, i.e. it sinks into the earth, warming up the rivers. This doesn’t show that one knows the world is round.   

However, we are still left with the question of why the Zohar’s teachings were not known to the sages of the gemmara.  

The simple answer is that not everyone read the Zohar. The Zohar predated the gemmara, and when Chrisianity became strong, kabbalah study went underground, and was known only to a very select few. This situation lasted until shortly before the modern era. 

This is the simple answer, but there is also a deeper answer. The Rashash (Rabbi Shalom Sharabi - a great mekubal in Yerushalayim about 200 years ago) commenting on Psachim 94b says that some of what Chazal said was not meant to be understood literally but was actually referring to deeper, hidden meanings. In other words, the Rashash is saying that the sages of the gemmara knew the truth, but that they were covering up their true intentions with allegorical statements. I’d like to explain this idea at greater length. 

Most commentaries say that Chazal’s teachings on halacha, morality, and other spiritual matters is Torah, but not what they said about science. Therefore, their scientific statements can be wrong.  However, the view of the Rashash, the Vilna Gaon, and probably many others , is that there was truth in everything that Chazal said. I have heard that this is also the view of the Maharal. The GRA spoke much about codes in the Torah, saying that they exist not only in the Tanach, but even in the Torah she’bi’al peh (Kol HaTor, Pp. 86-92). In that case, it doesn’t seem possible that these statements could simply be wrong. What the Rashash is saying is that there is a deeper level of truth in these statements.  

To understand his words, we first have to be aware of a basic spiritual rule; everything that exists in the physical world is representing a spiritual counterpart. If it looks like the moon waxes and wanes (grows bigger and smaller) each month, this is because the Jewish nation, who are represented by the moon, grow smaller and then greater again. This is also true for women, who are also represented by the moon (Zohar 1: 338a, 2:153a, and 3:161b). Women, too, started big, became smaller, and will once again grow big. That’s why I called the book, The Moon’s Lost Light. But physically speaking, the moon does not really grow smaller or bigger, it just looks that way to someone standing on earth.  Nevertheless, Hashem made it appear this way to us because He wanted us to learn from this a spiritual rule. 

The same is true for other “erroneous” scientific statements in Chazal. Although they are not physically accurate, there are spiritual truths that are revealed within them, and these were really what Chazal wanted to teach. They could not openly reveal their teachings to everyone, so they encoded them in this way.   

But why did I say “Who in the ancient world knew this” (what the Zohar states) if the Greeks knew it? Actually, this was an oversight. I was very pressed for time and in the rush to finish answering all the comments, I forgot that the book where I saw the quote from the Zohar (Hamahapach) also mentions two pages earlier that some of the Greeks knew that the world was round. Since this was simply a side comment used in a moshol I didn’t pay so much attention to it.    

This also raises another interesting point. How did the ancient Greeks know the world was round? The encyclopedia says that Pythegoras (whom Chaim B. mentioned as espousing the idea of a round world) got his knowledge from the ancient Egyptians. But where did they get their knowledge from?  

The Torah tells us that after Yosef interpreted Paro’s dreams, Paro said to him “after Elokim has made known to you all this, there is no man as understanding and wise as you” (Breishis 41:39). The Torah also tells us that the Egyptians called before Yosef  “avrech” (ibid 41:43)  which means a father in wisdom and tender in years. Was it only because of the dream interpretations? The medrash says that the night before Yosef was taken to Paro the angel Gavriel taught him seventy languages. Kabbalah adds that the angel MT”T also taught Yosef the seven wisdoms, which include science and math (see Kol HaTor P. 125).  So Yosef Hatsadik must have known that the world was round. Tehillim 105:22 says that Paro placed Yosef in the position of giving wisdom to Paro’s elders (wise men). So when Pythegoras came to learn wisdom from the priests of  Egypt it’s not surprising if he found out that the world was round, because they probably had this tradition from Yosef HaTsadik. 

Incidentally, there is also a tradition that Plato, who also studied in Egypt, met with Yirmiyahu the prophet (Toras Ha’Olah 1:11, seen in Chanukah with Rebbe Nachman of Breslav). This probably happened after the murder of Gedaliah ben Achikom when Yirmiyahu was taken to Egypt.  

Also Shlomo Hamelech, who was “chacham mikol adam” - wiser than any man - must have known that the world was round, and this was probably given over to many Jews as a secret tradition. Perhaps this is even where the Zohar had it from, because the Zohar says it came from Rav Hamnuna Saba who lived before Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai. But as time went on, the Jews forgot most of the scientific teachings and remained only with halacha, because this was the most necessary. As Rabbi Moshe Grylack wrote in the kulmus section of Mishpacha magazine (Succos 5767) “Rabbi Yehudah HaLevi emphasizes that vast tracts of Jewish knowledge were lost from the traditional transmission from generation to generation because of the hardships of exile and persecution. Nowadays, we retain only the relevant information needed for codifying halachah in mitzvah observance. In Moreh Nevuchim, the Rambam expresses a similar view.” (In other words, this is why the sages in the time of the gemmara didn’t know what was known earlier.) 

Then, later, “The Tanach relates that in the period of Shlomo HaMelech, Jerusalem became a world wide intellectual center.” Rashi states that gentiles trading with the tribe of Zevulun visited Jerusalem to see what the Jewish religion was all about (Dvarim 33:19). Even though Rashi says that they converted, some of them might have gone back to their countries of origin, as Yisro did, and then taught wisdom to their countrymen. Furthermore, the scriptures state that Shlomo Hamelech was chacham mikol adam, wiser than any other man. He knew many, many secrets of scientific knowledge which he received through ru’ach hakodesh. Possibly, Greek merchants visiting Jerusalem at the time of Shlomo Hamelech, picked up various points of wisdom.  

So even though some Greeks knew that the world was round, it is very likely that they got this indirectly from ru’ach hakodesh. 

I’m sorry that comments cannot be placed on the post, but I can’t go on answering comments and counter comments indefinitely. If after reading the book anyone has questions or comments they can write to me at targum@targum.com. (There is no period in the address after the “il”.)  

Sincerely,

DH