Men and women are obligated to fulfill G-d's commandments. Whereas a man must perform all 613 commandments, women are exempt from some positive commandments (there are negative and positive commandments in Judaism) - the kind that are restricted to specific time periods (in Hebrew Mitzvot Aseh She-HaZman Grama).
There are three precepts that are the specific prerogative of the Jewish woman and the initial letters of these three commandments form the acronym ChaNaH (the Hebrew name that is translated as Hannah).
- Challah- this is the separation of the dough that is being prepared for bread baking. Every time the woman prepares bread she must set aside a small portion of the dough, recite a blessing over it and later burn it. Challah, in the days of the Temple, would be given to the Priests and since we don't have the Temple today we simply burn this dough.
By setting aside Challah, a woman demonstrates her appreciation to G-d for His giving her food and also shows her willingness to use it for whatever G-d desires. After acknowledging G-d and sharing with her fellow (in the times of the Temple) she then tends to her own needs.
- Shabbat Candles- In the time of the Temple, the High Priest was in charge of lighting the Menorah. The purpose of lighting the Menorah was not in order to provide light; the Temple was not in need of physical light. Rather, the Menorah served as a testimony of G-d's Presence, the Shechinah that dwelled among the people. The Menorah's light was a spiritual light that was visible to the physical eye.
Each Jewish home is a miniature Temple and the woman is like the High Priest, illuminating her miniature Temple. The Jewish woman is charged with lighting the Shabbat candles that serve as a testimony for G-d's presence in the home.
- Family Purity- Society's view of physical intimacy wavers between the ascetic view that ties it with sin and is embarrassed by and the hedonistic view that sees pleasure as the ideal and thereby condoning almost any activity between consenting adults. Judaism rejects both of these extremes and the laws relating to physical intimacy teaches that it is neither a weakness or pleasure but a holy activity and way of serving G-d.
The three commandments that are entrusted to Jewish women are central in ensuring Jewish continuity. The three commandments turn ordinary food, shelter and family into Jewish sustenance, homes and communities.
An article written by Rivakh Abrahams from Ajudaica.com
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