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"CHANAH" - The Woman's Three Mitzvahs



Library » Women & Judaism » Women's Mitzvot » Candle Lighting | Subscribe | What is RSS?


Both man and woman are obliged to fulfill G-d's mitzvahs (precepts). The man is obligated to perform all 613 commandments. The woman, on the other hand, is excused from the performance of a few positive mitzvahs which are restricted to specific time periods, in recognition of her primary obligation to family and home duties.

However, there are three precepts which are the specific prerogative of the Jewish woman. The initial letters of these three mitzvahs form the acronym HaCHayN (grace) or CHaNaH (the popular female name Channa or Hannah).

1. Challah - separation of the dough being prepared for bread baking. A small portion of the dough is not kneaded into the loaf, but is put aside, a blessing is recited and the dough is later burned.

2. Niddah - laws relating to Family Purity

3. HADLOKAS NEIROT - lighting the Shabbos and Holiday candles.

The sequence here is significant: Before there can be birth, there must be parents. The health of mother and father is dependant upon their eating: it is bread (symbolic of food in general) which holds body and soul together. But Challah must first be taken - man must dedicate a portion to G-d before satisfying his own needs.  (Challah also underlines and symbolizes the woman's responsibility with regard to maintaining the Kashrut of the food).

The health of mother and father is dependant upon their eating: it is bread which holds body and soul together. But Challah must first be taken - man must dedicate a portion to G-d before satisfying his own needs
Then follows the second Mitzvah indicated by the word Niddah - Family Purity, leading to the birth of healthy children.

Finally, comes the mitzvah of lighting the Shabbat candles, which accomplishes Shalom Bayit, peace and good relations between mother and father, son and daughter.

Of these three mitzvahs, two of them - separation of Challah and lighting the candles - may also be performed by the man, although they are woman's special privilege, but the one mitzvah which is entirely dependant upon her is Taharat Hamishpachah, Family Purity.

A Jewish marriage is called a Binyan Adei Ad - an "everlasting edifice". In order that the edifice of marriage should indeed be strong and lasting, everything connected with the wedding, as well as the establishment of the couple's home, should be in full compliance with the instructions of the Torah. Our Torah is called the "Torah of Life". It is the source of everlasting life in the Hereafter as well as the true guide to life on earth.

The analogy of a marriage to an "everlasting edifice" is not merely a figure of speech, but contains also an important idea and moral. In the case of any structure, the first and most important step is to ensure the quality and durability of the foundation. Without such a  foundation all the efforts put into the walls, roof, decor and so on would be of no avail.

This is even more true of the structure of marriage. If its foundation should be unstable, what tragedy would result! This is why a Jewish marriage must, first of all, be based on the rock-solid foundation of Torah and mitzvahs, then follows the blessings of joy and happiness for the rest of the beloved couple's lives.

Adapted from the works of Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, the Lubavitcher Rebbe. Reprinted from The Chabad Times.

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Shabbat » Candle Lighting
Women & Judaism » Women's Mitzvot » Obligations/ Exemptions
Life Cycle » Marriage » Family Purity » The Benefits

(pl. Mitzvot). A commandment from G-d. Mitzvah also means a connection, for a Jew connects with G–d through fulfilling His commandments.
(pl: Shabbatot). Hebrew word meaning "rest." It is a Biblical commandment to sanctify and rest on Saturday, the seventh day of the week. This commemorates the fact that after creating the world in six days, G-d rested on the seventh.
Torah is G–d’s teaching to man. In general terms, we refer to the Five Books of Moses as “The Torah.” But in truth, all Jewish beliefs and laws are part of the Torah.
Chabad, an acronym for Wisdom, Knowledge, and Understanding, is the name of a Chassidic Group founded in the 1770s. Two of the most fundamental teachings of Chabad are the intellectual pursuit of understanding the divine and the willingness to help every Jew who has a spiritual or material need.
Laws of Kosher (Jewish dietary laws).
A Chassidic master. A saintly person who inspires followers to increase their spiritual awareness.
One who follows the teachings of the Chassidic group which was formerly based in the Belarus village of Lubavitch. Today, the movement is based in Brooklyn, New York with branches worldwide. The Lubavitch movement is also widely known as "Chabad."
A loaf of bread. Usually refers to: 1) The section of dough separated and given to the priest (today that section is burnt). 2) The sweetened, soft bread customarily consumed at the Sabbath meals.
A menstruating woman. A niddah may not have intimate relations with her husband until she immerses in a ritual pool of water.
It is forbidden to erase or deface the name of G-d. It is therefore customary to insert a dash in middle of G-d's name, allowing us to erase or discard the paper it is written on if necessary.
Family Purity
Laws relating to intimacy between husband and wife. The primary point of Family Purity is the woman's purifying immersion in a ritual bath which allows the couple to resume intimate relations after the woman's menstrual period.