Balak – Mah Tovu – The Jewish Home

In this week’s Parsha we find that Bilaam sees the homes of Klal Yisroel, and their unique Tzniyus, and has no choice but to give them a Bracha . I would like to use this as an opportunity to discuss the idea of Bayis- House and it connection to the Jewish woman as found in the writings of the Maharal.
There is a Gemarra that R Yosi says that he never called his wife his wife, but his house . The entire Gemarra there is a list of different objects that are called not based on what they seem to be, but what their purpose is. And therefore we see that the function of a wife is to build a house. But what is the Gemarra referring to when it says a house? It is childish to think that it is referring to the physical construction.
In the Torah of the Maharal, words and concepts are defined very clearly, and he defines what a Bayis is . He says, a Bayis is something which is a powerful reality in the world. It is also called a Bayis Ne’eman- a building which is trustworthy, can be counted on, and will remain. The three places that Bayis Ne’eman appears in Tanach, are all in connection with the House of the kingdom of Dovid .
Where do we find the first place a Bayis is built? There are other places where the word Bayis is first used, but in Shemos we find that Yocheved and Miriam are rewarded for their opposition to Pharoah with Batim. As a reward, the Pasuk says they receive “Batim”- Houses, the house of Kehuna and of Dovid . The Maharal says we find that the family of Kohanim, and the Malchus- kingdom of Dovid, are both called a Bayis, since they are something which remains forever and cannot be changed. Even the kingdom of Dovid, since it is designated by HaShem is different than all other kings and royalty and can never end. And that is the definition of a Bayis, something permanent.
We can add to the Maharal the following idea. Since we know that a wife is a Bayis, it is clear that these Batim need to be built by the women of Klal Yisroel. And since part of the definition of a Bayis is that it is Ne’eman, trustworthy, that trait also needs to be in the foundation of the idea of Bayis.
We find in Miriam and also Yocheved this of Ne’eman. Yocheved is one hundred and thirty years old. But her daughter tells her that if she remarries her divorced husband, she will give birth to the savior of Klal Yisroel. She listens and Moshe is born. Miriam herself has tremendous faith. When after Krias Yam Suf she leads the women in song, we are told that she has a Tof- drum. But if you look at the words of the Pasuk it is not just “a drum” but “the drum” . Which drum is this? I saw once, that it was the drum that eighty years earlier she had danced in front of her parents at their remarriage. And then Moshe is born and the house if filled with light. And everyone is sure that the Geulah is approaching. But a few months later, Moshe is put in the Nile, and is then raised by the daughter of Pharaoh. And even when he grows older, he not only does not redeem them, but has to run for his life. One can imagine the disappointment and the dashed hopes of Yocheved. And that drum that celebrated the potential of a Geulah, was put away. But Miriam did not despair, and she kept the drum. And when eighty years later the Geulah happens, she has been faithful to the song of that drum, and dances with it to praise HaShem. That is a Bayis Ne’eman, that builds Klal Yisroel.
And in a different place the Maharal explains, this what the Gemarra means when it is tells us that the woman is created from the bone of Adam . And therefore her trait is not to be swayed. Since the woman is the foundation of the man, and she is the Bayis, therefore she needs to be created from the strongest part of the man, to have those traits of Bayis and Ne’eman.
And in another place the Maharal explains this idea using one of the most basic ideas in his world of concepts. In the Maharal’s lexicon there is Chomer and Tzurah; material and form. Everything in the world is fashioned by taking a Chomer- material and placing onto it a Tzurah- form . The Bayis is the Chomer and the purpose to which is put is the Tzurah. In parallel to this, the woman is the Chomer and the man creates the Tzurah. So the woman is the Bayis which is the foundation for the Tzurah of the man.
The Gemarra explains also that different parts of the human are created from the father, the mother and HaShem . Without going into the whole idea, the Gemarra says that the brain and fingernails are from the father and the hair from the mother. The Maharal explains that both hair and fingernails represent a protection; the hair for the brain and the fingernails for the extremities which interact with the whole world . What is interesting is that the hair which is the “Bayis” for the brain of the man is not from the man himself but it is from the mother.
And this is also what the Gemarra says that if your wife is short, bend over to listen to her, but only in the matters of the world. That is since her function is to create the Bayis, that is her expertise .
This is also what the Beracha of Sheva Brachos means : And he completed from him a building that will last forever. This is the Bayis which is formed by the union of the husband and the wife, which is forever and permanent.
And this can explain a fascinating aspect of the Minhag at a Chupah. The Chupah represents the home. And the Halacha is that the Chasan has to bring the Kallah to his home. But as we learnt here, the wife is the Bayis. So why does he come to the Chupah first? But if you look at a chupah it is a roof with no walls. The walls are made as the Kallah circles the Chasan creating the figurative walls of the new home which is being built. That is the Bayis that is the unique aspect that the woman creates.
And that is what Bilaam saw in the camp of Klal Yisroel and was unable to overcome. And that is our strength throughout history.


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