Wednesday, August 5, 2009

keepers of the home

"...That they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children, to be discreet, chaste, keepers at home..." Titus 2:4-5

I actually enjoy housework. In fact, I find myself being jealous of women who can spend a few hours cleaning their homes with both hands because they don't have a baby at home. Now, I have to get very creative and resourceful. I like to clean and to see and savor the results of my efforts around the house, even though it always seems that the whole house is never clean at the same time! In my studies, one of the most profound (and convicting) subjects has been on women as "keepers at home." As I have found, being a keeper of the home is so much more than cooking and cleaning. The responsibilities are so much deeper and more significant. As we have seen with women in general, the importance of the outer beauty of the home pales in comparison to the inner beauty that should be present there.

In orthodox Judaism (and indeed in Biblical Judaism) today, the woman's responsibilities often revolve around the home and what goes on inside it. I recently read an article on entitled "I am Woman" where the author, Sara Esther Crispe, writes about the mitzvot, or commandments, for men and women. In orthodox Judaism, men are said to be required to keep all of the "time-bound commandments" (i.e. praying with a minyan in a synagogue three times a day, etc.) and for women, many of these mitzvot are optional because it is understood that a woman (especially with small children) needs to be at home for the majority of the time in order to fulfill her responsibilities. Crispe also mentions that many commandments given to men are physical and external (i.e. wearing the tallit, tefillin, and tzitzit or the tradition of wearing a kippah) while a woman's commandments are more internal and private. She says "In almost every case, they are done within the home and in some cases no one other than she is aware as to whether or not she is doing them." Examples would include her private times of prayer, preparing kosher food, and teaching her children. Also, in the Artscroll Women's Siddur, which we pray from on Shabbat morning at our congregation, it gives an explanation as to why women pray "Blessed are You, HaShem, our G-d, King of the universe, for having made me according to His will" (while men pray "...for not making me a woman..."). It explains that "it is a woman's unique opportunity to offer thanksgiving to G-d for her special role as a transmitter of our illustrious tradition. Commentators explain that women are naturally more spiritually inclined than men. For that reason G-d exempted them from certain obligations that He imposed upon Jewish men. Instead, He entrusted women with building the Jewish home and introducing His mitzvot to Jewish children at the very start of their lives..." Well, I don't know if all woman are more spiritually inclined than all men, but it would definitely seem that they are the primary caretakers for children and that they pass on more traditions than their male counterparts. I suspect that many congregations (like ours) have more women filling the seats than men.

In addition to a woman's mitzvot at home, she has many responsibilities. In the words of Debi Pearl (Created to be His Helpmeet"), "keeping the home is more than staying at home; it is having a heart that is fixed on the home. A help meet will be engaged in creative enterprises that challenge and inspire the children. She will guard the home against outside influences, and she will always be on watch to protect the children from their own inventions of evil. She will not be idle and neither will her children. She will ease her husband's load by painting the hall and cutting the grass. She will be frugal in all her endeavors, and she will teach the children to love serving Daddy. She will keep the home so that when Daddy comes home, it is to a sanctuary of peace, love, and order. A real help meet will make herself useful to her man instead of wasting her time."

Whew... what do I say after that quote (that 40 hour a week job is sounding easier now, huh?). I am surely guilty of doing the opposite of everything she just said at one time or another. Keeping a home and raising a family is no easy job description. So if this is truly what G-d wants for us, women, then I am blown away by how He must view us... if He didn't think we could handle it, then He wouldn't have made us who we are. He has equipped up with an unmatchable inner strength and passion to be keepers of the home, godly wives, and mothers who will create and pass on beautiful memories and traditions to our children. When something challenges me (like being a keeper at home), I always marvel at the strength G-d must think that I have. After all, why would a loving G-d who knows everything about us set us up for failure? He wouldn't...

Don't misunderstand me and think that I am saying that women are responsible for doing everything around the home by themselves. No, we are not superhumans... we are women. Even the Biblical matriarchs had servants! If you need a house cleaning service or hired workers to paint your home or cut your grass (thank G-d I don't have to cut my grass), you are not less of a woman. If you need to work outside the home, you are not less of a woman. The most important aspect of being a keeper at home is not the home itself, but the people who live there... your husband and your children. You need to be their home. G-d knows that you can do it because if you are a believer in Yeshua, then you are already home to G-d's Holy Spirit, are you not? As He has sanctified us by His indwelling Spirit, let us sanctify our homes and our families in His strength...

Comment:*He provides help for His helpmeets when we need it! After I posted this, I received a call from my mom saying that my nephew and brother are willing to come tomorrow and help me paint my bedroom, which I was going to do a little at a time because I know my husband doesn't have time to help. Now it will get done much faster! Baruch Hashem!

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