{Rigshei Lev – A Summary}

My heart is bursting. I just finished reading, Rigshei Lev – Women and Tefillah – Perspectives, Laws, and Customs by Menachem Nissel. I highly recommend it! It’s an excellent overview of the role of women in tefillah and the customs of tefillah pertaining to women.

There is simply too much to try and summarize it all! But I do want to share three concepts that jumped off the page to me. 🙂

 1)   Mirrors, Men, and Merit 

“During the slavery in Egypt, the Egyptians devised a scheme to prevent the continuity of the Jewish people. They forced the men to endure long hours of backbreaking work and then sleep in the fields under the pretense that it would increase their hours of slave labor. They succeeded in wearing down the spirits of the Jewish men. Yet the women were undaunted.”

“As Me’am Loez relates:

The women, however were righteous and pious. They took care of their husbands and cooked them warm food. When they brought it to them, they consoled their husbands with gentle words. They said to them, “Do not be pained. We will not be slaves our whole lives to this lowly people. Hashem has given us a promise that He will have mercy on us.”

“Midrash Tanchuma tells us more:

The daughters of Israel had in their possession mirrors before which they adorned themselves; and even these they did not refrain from bringing as a contribution to the mishkan. But Moshe was disgusted with them because they were made for the yeter hara. HaKadosh Baruch Hu (The Holy One, Blessed Be He) said to him, “Accept them, for these are more beloved to Me than anything else! Through these mirrors the women have set up a large population in Egypt.” When their husbands were fatigued from the rigorous labor, they would go and bring them food and drink, and feed them, and then they would take the mirrors and each one would look at herself together with her husband in the mirror, and would entice him with words, saying, “I am more beautiful than you.” In this way they would bring their husbands to desire, and they cohabited with them and conceived.”

“The Talmud related the classic statement of Rabbi Akiva: “In the merit of the righteous women of that generation, the Jewish people were redeemed.”

“Ramban teached us that the culmination of the redemption was the building of the mishkan – a tabernacle that embodies the union of Hashem and Kol Yisrael. On a mystical level, the Exodus from Egypt was our courtship, the revelation at Har Sinai our wedding, and the building of the mishkan our home. It is astonishing to reflect that the home where the Divine Presence unified with Kol Yisrael originated from the yearning and sacrifice of women to perpetuate the Jewish home.”

“{We} must once again tell our husbands, “Do not be pained, we do not have to be enslaved to a modern-day Egyptian culture. Hashem has given us a promise that He will have mercy on us. We must also extend ourselves and go the extra mile to protect our children from the “Egyptian cultures” of each generation and build a Jewish home that is a continuation of the mishkan built by the Avos.”

2) Yishmael and a Call to Prayer…

“Ramban explains that Avraham requested, “May Yishmael’s progeny thrive and be sustained throughout the generations.”

“Three thousand years later we are still paying the price, as we watch in amazement the power of prayer and religious fervor of Yishmael’s descendants. In our tefillos we long for the opportunity to resume the tri-annual pilgrimage to the Beis HaMikdash. We contemplate with sadness and frustration how hard it is to get our less commited brethren to come to shul. We cringe with discomfort at the inability of Jewish secular leaders to give thanksgiving to Hashem when they make a public speech. Yet, millions of Muslim faithful make the annual pilgrimage to Mecca, often through great sacrifice. In Eretz Yisrael, Arab workers at building sites, without a hint of embarrassment, remove their shoes and prostrate themselves toward Mecca. Their leaders cannot finish a sentence without saying, “with the help of Allah!”

“Chazal reveal to us a crucial point about the koach hatefillah (power of prayer) of Yishmel. It thrives only when the tefillos of Kol Yisrael are weak.

“Our gedolim have urged us that in these difficult times we need to strengthen ourselves in all areas of avodas Hashem (love of Hashem). If we do so in the specific area of tefillah (prayer), we are actively diminishing the power of Yishmael! We can help prevent Arab terror in a real way be denying Yishmael the spiritual underpinning that gives him strength.”

3) Esther HaMalkah

“In order to appreciate the events described in Megillas Esther, it is critical to understand that every reference to “the melech” – “the king,” that is, King Achashverosh – conceals a reference to the King of Kings, HaKadosh Baruch Hu.”

“Chazal teach us that Esther HaMalkah was filled with the Shechinah (Divine Presence) as a result of her intensity of prayer. She put all her energy into tefillos as she approached the palace to plea for the fate of every man, woman, and child in Kol Israel. When she entered the palace, disaster struck. The Shechinah, unable to remain inside an impure palace filled with idols, left her.”

Eli, Eli, lemah  shevaktani! My G-d, My G-d! Why have you forsaken me! She burst out crying.

 It was just {too much} when I read the next paragraph…

(…relating back to the concept that Hashem longs for the prayers of the righteous)

“The king arose from his throne of judgement and his face was filled with lovingkindness. He ran towards Esther and supported her frail body. “My dear Queen Esther, why did you go to all this trouble and endanger your life? But have no fear. My laws apply to my people, not my beloved queen. What is your request? I am prepared to grant you even half of my kingdom.”

“And the King of Kings arose from His Throne of Judgment, and He was filled with the attribute of mercy, as if He was saying, “This is the moment of extreme closeness that I have been waiting for.” Know that as you struggled towards Me, at your moments of greatest darkness, I was with you all the time. But I remained hidden, because I wanted your efforts to be yours. My precious Kol Yisrael! Get up from your praying and fasting, your sackcloth and ashes. Wipe away your tears!…

The moment of geulah (redemption) has arrived…”

Hashem, we are undone before you! Thank you for giving us, in your wisdom, the mitzvah of tefillah. Thank you for creating us for the purpose of giving us the greatest pleasure – closeness to you Hashem! Make us as our Imahos (formothers), that through our merit and tefillah we will bring about the final redemption. Help us to guard our homes, husbands, and children from the influence mitzrayim. Help us to strengthen our avodas Hashem (our devotion and love for you). Give us an unquenchable thirst to be close to you and strengthen our tefillah that we might diminish the power of the enemy. We long for the coming of Moshiach and the olam haba, when You will truly wipe away our tears… when the final redemption of Kol Israel will be complete. Soon and in our days! Amen!




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