“In the merit of the righteous woman of that generation, were our fathers redeemed from Mitzrayim” -(Masechet Sukkah, 11b)
Every year as Pesach-season approaches I am reminded of this Chazal. We are taught that the women’s merit brought about the salvation from Egypt.
I find this intriguing: what was the significance of the female role in the redemption? What was so unique about these women’s thoughts, actions and presence that lends them such prominence in the miraculous narrative of Yetzias Mitzrayim? What made them tzidkoniyos—righteous?
It’s common knowledge that the men were banished to slavery in the fields, leaving the women alone and vulnerable. But the eye-opener here was that the women were suffering just as much as the men.
Their dedication to their families, looking beyond themselves, being able to SEE a significant other was a greatness requiring deep trust and faith. These ordinary women transcended a life-threatening situation and turned it into an opportunity for renewal.
With food and water in tow, these loyal, forward-thinking women trekked to the fields, to greet their enslaved husbands.
The women washed their husband’s beaten bodies and messaged their tired bones. Wining and dining them with nourishing delicacies, they soothed their weary souls and healed their hopeless hearts. When the pots were drained, the women propped up copper mirrors. The wife would gaze into her mirror, reflecting her husband’s despair, and she would exclaim,
“Dear husband, look how beautiful I am. It is all because of YOU. You give me the strength to persevere, you give me the will to go on. All my accomplishments are yours!”
And the husband would gaze into the mirror and exclaim, in turn,
“My special, special wife, everything that I am and everything that I ever was, is because of YOU! Your trust and your dedication and your love is my strength!”
And thus the righteous woman would encourage her husband, build his spirit, gladden his heart and set the stage for the rebirth of Klal Yisroel.
Though Pharoh tried to destroy Jewish life, the womens’ emunah and bitachon could not be dampened. With super-human faith, they refused to take the present, awful-looking circumstances at face value. They became trail-blazers – they snubbed Pharoh’s decrees and snuffed out despondency. They were aware of the promise of a brilliant future for Klal Yisroel, so they single-handedly rose to the challenge and let their convictions dictate their actions.
In the merit of these nashim tzidkonios we were redeemed from Mitzrayim.
And in the merit of all the modern-day “righteous women” may we soon be redeemed from this long and bitter galus.
Shemos 38, Pesachim 8, Rashi
Yalkut Shimoni Parshas Shemos
Dr. Ze’ev Friedman, quoting Rabbi Alexander S. Gross, zt”l