Parashas Shemos

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How Did the Jewish Women Bring about Redemption?

Taste of Talmud

The guidelines for a healthy marriage are delineated in tractate Kesuvos.  On 72a the Talmud breaks down the laws of marriage into two categories.  The first set of laws is called “Das Moshe”, laws of Moshe, laws delineated in the Torah. The second category is referred to as “Das Yehudis”, the laws of Yehudis; laws of dress speech and conduct, as stipulated by the sages.  Both are completely binding with the exception that Das Yehudis may vary depending on the sages of any given locale.  Examples of Das Yehudis are laws of women’s hair covering, laws of modesty and laws of speech.  The Gemarah questions the inclusion of the laws of women’s hair covering in the category of Das Yehudis.  These laws are found explicitly in the Torah in the Parasha that deals with the Sota, the promiscuous wife. The Torah tells us that her hair is uncovered, contrary to the usual mode of dress for a proper, faithful wife. Therefore, this law should be an example of Das Moshe, laws prohibited by the Torah.  The Gemorah answers, that according to the Torah, any hair covering would do.   What the Talmud was referring to as being Das Yehudis is a complete hair covering as per the accepted norms of that particular locale.  With the important difference being that this level of complete hair covering will vary from place to place.

Taste of Halacha

In the Halachos of shema, the Shulchan Aruch writes that it is prohibited for a man to recite the shema in a place where he could see uncovered hair of a woman, which is usually covered.  This is in keeping with the dictum that one must concentrate while reciting the shema,   which is not possible when one is distracted by beauty.  However, hair which is not usually covered is not distracting because one is accustomed to seeing it.  For example, in some communities the custom is to allow a certain amount of hair to show from under the hair covering. In these places that amount of hair does not draw undo attention and is not distracting.  However, this same amount of hair, in a place where hair is never uncovered, is distracting and it is prohibited to say the shema in front of it.  The Biur Halacha brings up an interesting Halachic Dilemma.  Is it permitted for a woman who just moved to an area that is lenient as to the amount of hair allowed to be uncovered, to begin to uncover the same amount of hair as her neighbors?  The answer is that it depends on whether or not she is planning to move back.  As long as she is planning on moving back she must observe the restrictions of the place that she came from.  Otherwise, she may dress like other religious women in her new locale.

Taste of Parasha

Sefer Shemos is given the moniker “Exodus”, but it is much more than that.  It is the book of our geula, redemption. In sefer Shemos we become the nation of G-d, worthy of His presence in our midst. The Medrash cites a number of merits through which our forefathers merited to be redeemed fromEgypt.  The Yalkut Shimoni says that they had the merits of keeping their Jewish names, Jewish language and Jewish way of dress. The Medrash Rabba says the redemption came in the merit of their high moral standards in contrast to those of the debased Egyptians. On one level, we can understand that protecting their Jewish identity, through keeping their unique names, language and dress code; guarded them from immorality. On another level we could say that through their adherence to the ways of their forefathers they showed great trust that Hashem would redeem them.  By maintaining the refined manner of communication and modesty of attire prevalent in the holy place which they came from, they demonstrated their faith that they would be redeemed.  In the merit of this great trust in the Almighty they indeed merited to see the complete redemption, and eventual return to their original locale!  By adhering to a code of modesty that our forefathers would be proud of, may we too merit to see the final redemption, speedily and in our days.

About tasteofyeshiva

RABBI YAIR FRIEDMAN teaches at The Torah School of Greater Washington, and Yeshiva L' Baalei Batim. He is the owner and director of Camp Gevaldig LLC.
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