Latest update: June 17th, 2013
Rav Yosef Shalom Elyashiv zt”l, who passed away on 28 Tammuz, (July18) this year at age 102, spent all of his days and most of his nights learning Torah. He was the paramount leader of our generation, and inspired tremendous awe and reverence in everyone who knew him. Now, every woman has the stunning opportunity to do something in his memory. A Sefer Torah is being written in his memory and women around the world have the chance to dedicate a letter.
The Beginning of a Holy Venture
It all began close to forty years ago when Rebbetzin Tehilla Abramov started teaching brides and married women the laws of taharas hamishpacha, family purity. Since there were several books and differing opinions on the subject, Rebbetzin Abramov’s husband, Rabbi Yirmiyohu Abramov (a graduate of the Ponovitch Yeshiva), suggested that she take all her questions to the top—to Rav Elyashiv who was considered the foremost halachic authority of our generation. Determined to teach correctly and seriously, Rebbetzin Abramov did exactly that: “I’d take my young children with me and go to ask Rav Elyashiv about the questions that arose,” she says. Following Rav Elyashiv’s directives, Rebbetzin Abramov taught brides for fifteen years. Subsequently, she was asked to train teachers who would in turn teach brides themselves.
When Rebbetzin Abramov began developing a manual for this training course, Rav Elyashiv directed her to Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach zt”l, the head of the Israel Center for Family Purity for guidance. Thus this manual has the approval of both Rav Elyashiv and Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, the leading authorities of our generation. Shortly after, the Abramovs began work on The Secret of Jewish Femininity, a book which gives insights into the practice of taharas hamishpacha and is used by both teachers and students. “The original manuscript with Rav Shlomo Zalman’s handwritten comments in the margins is very dear to me,” says Rebbetzin Abramov. In 1988, the English edition of the book was printed for the first time.
While raising her family, Rebbetzin Abramov, studied by correspondence and earned a medical Bachelor of Science degree, a Post Graduate degree in Marriage Guidance and Counseling and a diploma in childbirth education and lactation consulting. In 1984, the Abramov’s, with the encouragement and guidance of Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach and Rav Elyashiv, established Jewish Marriage Education (JME), an international voluntary organization that promotes awareness and a deeper understanding of Jewish marriage and family life. In the ensuing years, the Abramovs wrote several additional books that address many areas of Jewish family life: Two Halves of a Whole which gives Torah guidance for marriage; Straight from the Heart, a Torah perspective on mothering through nursing; Our Family Our Strength, which gives insights into creating a Jewish Home. Their latest book, The Unique Princess, addresses the topic of tznius, modesty. “All of these books were checked by Rav Yitzchak Zilberstein shlita, Rav Elyashiv’s son-in-law, and given approbation by Rav Elyashiv,” says Rebbetzin Abramov.
At a convention held in April this year in Jerusalem, Rebbetzin Yocheved Elyashiv, daughter-in-law of Rav Elyashiv and principal of Bais Yaakov Givat Shaul, recalled that Rav Elyashiv had instructed his family to allow Rebbetzin Abramov access at any time. Rebbetzin Elyashiv quoted her father-in-law’s exact words to explain why this privilege was awarded. Rav Elyashiv said, “Her teachings are true and correct. I went over them and so did my son-in-law. It is all two hundred percent correct and you can trust her.”
Through JME, Jewish couples have access to material that covers all the cornerstones of a Jewish home. “The issue of modesty is simply the next logical step,” explains Rebbetzin Abramov. “It’s a sensitive subject because women are defensive when it comes to discussing their appearance and conduct. It’s a topic that no one likes to talk about, but it’s time to put it on the table,” says Rebbetzin Abramov firmly. “There is simply a lack of understanding of this delicate subject. The Vilna Gaon explains that the mitzvah of modesty for women is parallel to the mitzvah of learning Torah for men.”
“The Unique Princess was a difficult book to write and it took several years to complete,” says Rebbetzin Abramov candidly. “I knew the Rav felt strongly that improvement was necessary in this area, so I asked him for a blessing to be able to write it as he wanted.” Last year, Rav Zilberstein went over the book and Rav Elyashiv gave his approbation. It was one of the last approbations he was to give. “The day Rav Elyashiv left for the hospital in February last year, the Hebrew edition was released. The day he passed away, the English edition was shipped off to the USA,” recalls Rebbetzin Abramov. Following Rav Elyashiv’s directive, The Unique Princess, like the Abramov’s other books, is being translated into other languages because Rav Elyashiv wanted the book’s message to be available to Jews all over the world.
About the Author: Rhona Lewis made aliyah more than 20 years ago from Kenya and is now in Beit Shemesh. A writer and journalist who contributes frequently to The Jewish Press’s Olam Yehudi magazine, she divides her time between her family and her work.
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