Women’s Intuition

“Korach son of Yitzhar son of Kehat son of Levi took, with Datan and Aviram, sons of Eliav, and On ben Pelet, the offspring of Reuven”

(Bamidbar 16:1)

Rashi expounds on this pasuk: “Korach took himself off to one side, to be separate from the assembly of Israel by raising objections regarding the priesthood.” Rashi points out that the tribe of Reuven, including Datan, Aviram, and On ben Pelet, participated in this dispute.

The Gemara (Sanhedrin 109b) describes the incident with On ben Pelet. He followed Korach in his rebellion against Moshe, decrying the appointment of Elitzafon ben Uziel. On the day of the uprising, On came home to rest a bit. He asked his wife to wake him up when Korach’s men came to call on him to participate in the revolt. But On’s wife was a righteous woman. She tried her best to convince him to desist from this dangerous quarrel. She used tactical statements like, “What personal profit will you gain from this fight?” After seeing that he would not break his promise to follow Korach, she decided to take matters into her own hands. She sat at the doorway to her tent, with her hair loose. When Korach’s men came to call for On ben Pelet, they found his wife sitting at the entrance with her hair uncovered. They immediately turned away from such an unseemly sight, and never approached On.

In the merit of her quick thinking, this tzaddeket saved her husband’s life, both spiritual as well as physical. When On ben Pelet finally awakened, his wife relayed the news of the gruesome death of Korach’s band and how she had managed to save him from this fate. This righteous woman brought shame upon herself and lowered her dignity in order to save her husband from involvement in dissention, and, as a result, the accompanying punishment.

Similarly, the Gemara (Sotah 11b) relates that it was in the merit of the righteous women that our nation was released from Egypt, and in their merit, we will be redeemed in the future. How was this? During their years of bondage in Egypt, the men lost all interest in life, certainly the desire to bring more children into the world. What did their wives do? They adorned themselves by using copper mirrors to check their appearance. They would thereby arouse their husbands’ desires, ensuring the continuation of our nation. In the merit of these women’s dedication, the Washbasin in the Mishkan was formed from their mirrors (Tanchuma, Pekudei 9). Their use in fashioning a holy vessel reflected Hashem’s satisfaction with the deeds of these great women.

Additionally, Chazal (see Tanchuma, Pinchas 7) relate that after hearing the report of the spies, the nation complained to Moshe, blaming him for releasing them from Egypt in order to die in the Desert. They went so far as to say (Bamidbar 14:2), “If only we had died in the land of Egypt, or if only we had died in this Wilderness!” They preferred a life of suffering over the fear of the unknown in the Wilderness. But they failed to remember the torture and tribulations which were their daily fare in Egypt. Here, too, the righteous women came to the rescue. Not only did they not take part in the grievances of their menfolk, but they tried to dissuade them from their complaints. The women praised the Promised Land. For their strength of spirit, these women were rewarded and did not perish in the plague that struck the nation in the wake of their complaints.

Scriptures are replete with instances of noble women. Yael defended Hashem’s honor by killing Sisera, bringing salvation to our nation (Shoftim 4:17-22).

The Torah tells us that Avraham would convert the men to Judaism, whereas Sarah converted the women, bringing them under the wings of the Shechinah (Bereishit 12:5, Rashi ibid.). Sarah was so righteous that Rashi states (ibid. 23:1) that at her death at 127 years old, she was as pure and free of sin as a woman of twenty, who is free of Heavenly retribution.

In light of the above, how is it that women are absolved from the mitzvah of Torah study (Kiddushin 34a) and all time-related mitzvot in general (ibid. 29:1)? This seems to imply that women are inferior to men, who were chosen by Hashem to be the transmitters of His Torah, and in that way, uphold the entire world.

Hashem originally created man in His image. Afterward, He put him to sleep and created a wife for him from his rib (Bereishit 2:21-22). Had Hashem created both Adam and Chava at the same time, this equality would have led to discord, for two kings cannot wear the same crown (see Chulin 60b).

When we look at nature, we realize that nothing is created equal to anything else. This is in order to maintain balance in the world. For instance, some countries are blessed with oil and coal resources. Other countries lack these resources, but are rich in water reserves. This allows for mutual give-and-take between nations, as they conduct international business deals. Each fulfills the needs of the other, with each benefiting.

If every country would be exactly equal, this would disturb the world equilibrium, and would lead to a constant battle of survival. Let us take another example. There are nations, such as the United States, which are world powers. On the other hand, there are weaker countries that depend on the protection of these world powers for their very survival. In return, they obey the directives of the world powers and support their policies, in order to maintain a level of order and obedience in the world. It is blatant that were all nations equal in status, one nation would simply consume the next, and normal living could not exist.

Furthermore, within each society, there are wealthy individuals as well as paupers. There are white-collar workers and blue-collar workers. In this manner, the country can operate successfully. Each stratum of society contributes to the success of the country in its unique way. If each person was in the upper class of society, it would be beneath anyone’s dignity to pave the roads or collect the garbage. Everyone gains by living in a society of different ranks, as each member carries out his own task.

This is how Hashem created man. He was made in the Divine image, and as such, is superior to woman, who was created from one of his parts. This is in order for the woman to recognize her place and appreciate the supremacy of her husband. This understanding ensures a well-balanced household. Had Hashem created the two exactly equal, the wife would constantly complain about the difficulty in her role. But when she recognizes her position in Creation, she accepts her lot with love and fulfills her mission with diligence and goodwill. Torah study is demanded only of a man. This helps the wife recognize his elevated status, as well as freeing her up for the demands of her children and the upkeep of her home.

Chazal (Sotah 17a) teach us, “Man and woman, if they merit, the Shechinah rests among them. If they do not merit, a fire consumes them.” The letter י' in the name איש (man), coupled with the letter ה' in the name אשה (woman), produce Hashem’s Name ה- י. When a Jewish home functions according to the Torah’s dictates, the Shechinah rests upon it. But when the woman has grievances toward her husband and is not prepared to perform her tasks, or the husband acts condescendingly toward his wife, the Shechinah leaves them, and a fire consumes them. Removing the letters י' and ה' from their names will leave them with the אש (fire) of contention.

Our Chachamim (see Tanna d’vei Eliyahu Rabbah 9) tell us, “Who is a kosher woman? One who does the will of her husband.” Let us try to understand the intention of the word “kosher.” Is a woman who disobeys her husband called “treifah,” chas v’shalom? The word kosher symbolizes wholeness. For example, the cow is a pure animal, but it is not considered kosher until it has been ritually slaughtered according to halachah and is found to be unblemished. Only after it is checked according to the Torah rulings and salted correctly, can it be called kosher. The term kosher indicates a complete process, with special attention to the fine details of the halachah. A woman who fulfills her husband’s wishes without question is entitled to be called kosher.

How does a woman reach the elevated level of honoring her husband sufficiently and fulfilling his will? Through using her womanly intuition (Niddah 45b). This intuition guides her along the correct path. It is this intuition which allows her insight into her husband’s true wishes and enables her to fulfill them to perfection. This brings her to a level of wholeness and completion.

During the years of Egyptian Exile, the women of our nation employed this gift with which they were blessed. They knew exactly how to console their husbands and bring them pleasure, in this manner, preserving the Jewish heritage (see Sotah 11:2). It was the women who recognized Hashem’s miraculous conduct and tried to dissuade their husbands from believing the irrational talk of the spies. They asserted that Hashem’s plan was to bring them to a Land of perfection, a land that flowed with milk and honey. Otherwise, He would not have extricated them from the Egyptian exile with a powerful hand. What, then, was there to complain about? Why should they long for the days of slavery?

Let us repeat what was mentioned above. The added level of wisdom granted to women is a compensation for her husband’s exalted level above her. In the merit of her added intuition, the woman is doubly benefitted. Her husband appreciates her and respects her intuition, and she is capable of fulfilling his wishes due to it. She thereby merits being called kosher. It was this special intuition which stood by the Jewish woman throughout history. In their merit, Bnei Yisrael were redeemed from the Egyptian exile. They kept away from the sin of the Golden Calf. They refused to donate their jewelry toward its fashioning, and the men gave their own jewelry (see Tanchuma, Ki Tisa 19). They were capable of pointing out the nation’s mistake with the spies. And Chazal (Yalkut Shimoni, Rut 606) tell us that in the future, too, our nation will be redeemed in the merit of the righteous women who employ their special intuition to do what is right.

I remember that in Morocco they used to say the following: A woman has the power to build or destroy her home, together with her husband and children. This is due to her intuition. It can steer her on the right track, or, conversely, if used inappropriately, be the cause of her downfall.

Chazal (Sanhedrin 109b) describe at length the incident with the wife of On ben Pelet in order to teach us a lesson. When a woman uses her intuition wisely, she can reach untold heights. But, on the other hand, when her intuition is channeled toward the wrong end, it becomes a tool of destruction in her hands.

Every man should recognize and appreciate the added level of intuition in women. Chazal (Bava Metzia 59a) exhort us, “Show respect for your wives, and in this manner, you will merit many children who are talmidei chachamim and good livelihood.” What is the connection between respecting women and spiritual and physical riches? The answer is that when a woman feels that her husband appreciates her and respects her, she tries to behave even better toward him. She wishes to prove that she is worthy of her husband’s appreciation. The benefits to their marriage are priceless. A woman who is satisfied with her lot and in good cheer will raise her children calmly and guide them along the correct road in life. She sends her husband off to learn, even when it involves self-sacrifice on her part. She takes advice from others and looks for ways and means of running her household efficiently and within her budget.

Woe to the home in which the husband constantly reminds his wife of his superiority due to the Torah knowledge he has, or due to any extra wisdom he may have acquired. When that is the case, the woman uses her intuition in a negative way. The husband should realize that were women commanded to study Torah, it could very well be that his wife would do a better job of it, due to her woman’s intuition. It was due only to Hashem’s fear that the woman would overrule her husband’s sovereignty in the household, were she to have the added mitzvah of Torah study, that He prevented women from learning Torah. [We find that Beruriah, the wife of Rabbi Meir, was erudite in Torah knowledge, and the Sages used to ask her their questions.] A husband should appreciate his wife’s virtues and respect her. He will be the first to gain from this, as his appreciation will be an impetus for her to employ her womanly intuition in a manner most positive to their relationship.

The pasuk (Bereishit 2:18) states, “I will make him a helper corresponding to him.” What type of helper corresponds to (i.e. opposes) a person? Chazal (Yevamot 63a) explain, “If he merits, she will be a helper; if he does not merit, she will oppose him.” A woman who receives respect from her husband is energized to be his helper, doing acts of goodness to him without limit, using her innate intuition to understand what is correct. But if a husband does not have the sense to treat his wife honorably, she will stand opposite him, opposing him at every opportunity.

May we all have the good sense to use the tools with which Hashem has blessed us, to build our houses into kosher, pure, Jewish homes. Love and harmony, as well as peace and brotherliness, will find a dwelling place there. This will contribute to the future redemption, speedily in our days.

In Summary


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