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What I learned from my wife's convention.

Thursday, 23 January, 2014 - 11:31 am

The Jewish People are called the "People of the Book".  That is because in this weeks Torah portion, the Torah's story of our forefathers comes to a halt and during the next 3 ½ books we will cover a mere 40 years of history while until this point we covered close to 2500.  The rest of the Torah although sharing numerous stories of our ancestors in the desert, primarily tells us the laws that make up our observance. In this weeks Portion we begin that journey with Misphatim -Laws.

Many people see the laws of the Torah as restricting and demanding and perhaps even sexist.  But in reality the Torah is compassionate and sensitive.  The Torah gives us a structure of behavior that creates a true sense of freedom and meaning in life. 

I have always believed this and preached this but this comes to life for me each year on this weekend.

The weekend coincides with the 22 of the Hebrew month of Shevat the anniversary of the passing of the Rebbe's wife, Rebbetzin Chaya Mushkah Schneerson.  Each year over 3000 Chabad Shluchos (Emissaries) unite in Brooklyn for their annual convention.  Every year in November the men have their convention and in January the women have theirs. The convention is a time for inspiration and sharing ideas.  But for the men we get to practice being mothers as well as fathers for this loooooong weekend.

Changing diapers, preparing dinner, taking the kids to and from school, entertaining them all Shabbos afternoon is a unique experience for a single father.  (Not that I don't participate on a regular basis in these duties, but being the one primarily responsible for this is a different story entirely.)

The Torah absolves mothers who are raising children from obligations that are time bound, in order to provide them space and peace of mind to focus on their family.  Just one example is the obligation of prayer.  A mother who is preoccupied with giving love and nurture to her children is absolved of her obligation to pray.  This is in order to allow her to focus on her family and not be "distracted" by an obligation to pray.  To many this is a sign that the Torah is chauvinistic.  Each year I learn the compassion contained within this Mitzvah.  You see, just because my wife is out of town the Torah doesn't absolve me of praying.  So I actually have to do both, be my children's mother and do my duties as a Jewish man.  Difficult? No that is too nice a word.  IMPOSSIBLE!  Besides having a total new respect for the challenges every mother raising children has, I have a new appreciation for the Torah's compassion for women.

May G-d grant me the wisdom to allow this sense of appreciation to linger on until next year's convention when a deeper appreciation will be nurtured inside me.

With blessing,

Rabbi Eliyahu Schusterman

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