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THE MISTRESS OF THE HOUSE
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It is the woman who is responsible to see that the family remain intact and complete.

Man fulfills his goal by sublimating the material for spiritual purposes. His every act can potentially fulfill this goal. Our forefathers, Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebecca, Jacob and Leah, are buried in Hebron, the city whose very name indicates a combining (hibur) of Heaven and earth. These founders of our nation achieved lives of complete sanctity, in the physical, emotional, and spiritual aspects of their lives, so that they reached the level of human perfection. All of their deeds were dedicated to the purpose for which G-d created them. The Matriarchs attained even greater sanctity than that of their husbands, because only they determined on what level the day-to-day routines of their households would be conducted. It is the mistress of the house who establishes the essential content of the family's life in this world. All acts, even those which at first glance seemed to be intended to meet purely physical needs, can be imbued with immeasurable sanctity.

To avoid any misunderstanding, our Sages warn the bride and groom that neither of them is to regard the other as a lackey to meet his or her needs. If one is to be merely the servant of his or her spouse, neither partner will have the opportunity to attain their mutual goal as a husband and wife and to achieve perfection as a family. In addition, the love between them will not be the inner, pure love which the Creator intended should bond them into one. The underlying value upon which the Jewish home must be based is the mutual respect of each spouse for the other. The Rambam (Maimonides writes: "And Thus commanded the Sages, that a husband should show more respect for his wife than he does for himself… and so did the Sages command upon the wife that she should honor her husband exceedingly" (Rambam, Laws of Marriage, 15:18-19).

Many women make the mistake of thinking that the obligation to honor their husbands diminishes their personal status. This opinion ignores the husband's obligation to honor his wife. Secondly, showing deference for one's spouse creates awareness that he or she has an equal share in the partnership that the couple aspires to attain. In other words, a bond of mutual respect is a step towards success in attaining their mutual goal, and the happiness inherent in accomplishing their joint objective together.

It is the woman who is responsible to see that the family remain intact and complete. The healthy, intact family unit is the basic building block of the Jewish nations, as stressed by the Rambam in his volume, The Guide for the Perplexed, Chapter Three, Paragraph 42. Thus it is the woman who bears the responsibility for fulfilling one of the Torah's greatest values.


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