Vol 31.14 - Yitro 1 Spanish French Audio Video
|Hebrew Text: Chumash-Shmot
A Matter of “Principle”
In the Torah portion of Yisro, G‑d tells Moshe: “So shall you say to the House of Jacob, and relate to the Children of Israel.” The Mechilta comments: “ ‘The House of Jacob’ refers to women, while ‘the Children of Israel’ refers to men … Relate to the women the highlights of the Torah and its commandments, and the details to the men.”
“Highlights” refers to the general principles from which the details derive. They are therefore similar to the Mishnah, “whose language is terse and encompasses many matters, “ since the many details discussed in the Gemara are hinted at in the Mishnah.
This manner of transmission also characterized the original giving of the Torah: First G‑d gave the Ten Commandments, the general principles of the entire Torah (for “all 613 Commandments are included in a concealed manner within the Ten Commandments).” G‑d then went on to provide specific details.
The reason for His doing so is because this is the general manner of any transmission — first the general rules and principles (the “highlights” that include all the details within them), and then each detail one by one.
Thus, according to the Mechilta , women received the essence and general principles of the Torah, from whence emanated the details that were later transmitted to the men.
This being so, we understand that the Jewish woman relates to and is connected with all the commandments of the Torah, even to those time-bound positive commandments which they are not obligated to perform.
This will be better understood in light of the explanation of R. Yitzchak Luria that “when the male performs a mitzvah it is not necessary for the female to perform it herself, for his performance of the commandment includes her as well. This, then, is the hidden meaning of the saying of our Sages that ‘One’s wife is considered as the person’s very own body.’ And as the Zohar states: ‘man and woman as they exist alone are each but half a body.’ ”
This is also so with unmarried women. For since husband and wife constitute one soul and alone are but “half a person,” even before these two halves come together, that which is done by the male half affects the female half as well.
But why were the “highlights” received only by the women and not by the men; what special quality do women possess that they merited to receive the principles, while the men only received the details?
This may be connected to a general merit that women possess with regard to spiritual service. For we observe that faith, fear and reverence of G‑d is found to a greater extent in women than in men — women have within them the aspect of faith as it emanates from G‑d.
This may also explain why, if the mother is Jewish, then the child is Jewish as well, while the child’s details (i.e. whether he is a Kohen, Levi or Israelite) depend on the lineage of the father.
Since Torah and mitzvos were given to the Jewish people, Jewish women were singled out to receive the general principles — matters that relate to general faith in G‑d and reverence for Him. For it is the mother upon whom rests the overall aspect of Jewish sanctity and personality.
The men, however, upon whom are dependent the detailed and specific levels of the Jew — Kohen, Levite, etc. — were given the detailed laws.
Because women relate more easily to the general aspects of Torah and mitzvos, they are only obligated to perform those mitzvos that are more general in nature, i.e., they are freed from positive commandments that are constrained by time. Especially so, since these are the responsibility of their husbands, or husbands to be.
Based on Likkutei Sichos , Vol. XXXI, pp. 93-98.
As we read in this week's Torah portion, Yitro, when the Jewish people received the Torah from G-d, Moses taught it first to the women and then to the men. The Torah states, "So you shall say to the House of Jacob the women and tell the Children of Israel the men."
Why did the women precede the men in the giving of the Torah?
Our Sages tell us that Moses taught the general principles of the Torah to the Jewish women, after which he learned the minutiae of its laws with the Jewish men. The general principles came first, after which the details and particulars of the Torah's many laws followed.
In fact, this is the prevailing order when it comes to Torah: first come the generalities, then the particulars.
To give an example:
The Jewish people heard the first two of the Ten Commandments directly from G-d - "I am the L-rd your G-d" and "You shall have no other gods" - after which they heard the rest of the Ten Commandments, which were given over by Moses.
Another example: G-d gave the Jews the Ten Commandments - the general principles of the Torah - then He gave them the remainder of the Torah's 613 mitzvot.
Similarly, Moses first taught the general principles of the Torah to the women, after which he went into the details of the laws with the men.
But why were the Torah's principles taught specifically to the Jewish women?
Faith in G-d and fear of G-d are the "general principles" of the Torah, as it states, "And G-d commanded us to keep all these statutes in order to fear G-d." In other words, the totality of Torah and mitzvot is merely a corollary of faith in G-d and awe of Him.
Believing in G-d and fearing Him are the foundations of the entire Torah. Women are particularly distinguished in these two qualities; their faith is much more apparent and expressed more openly than it is by men. Jewish women observe mitzvot with simple faith and with a pure and perfect fear of heaven.
Indeed, it is for this reason that the Jewish women merited to receive the general principles and foundations of Torah ahead of the men.
It was in the merit of the righteous women of that generation that the Jewish people were taken out of Egypt and received the Torah. So too is it in our times: In the merit of our righteous women we will go out of our present exile, and be worthy of learning Torah directly from Moshiach.