With an active household and a busy lifestyle, my day, as for most people, is full of many mundane chores that need to be taken care of as part of the routine schedule.

One afternoon, after having just completed one such chore and in the rush to head out to begin the next, I called to my four-year-old son, “Bundle up in your coat! We need to pick up a few things from the grocery store!” I scribbled a quick shopping list, while my mind composed a mental to-do list.

Opening the car door for my son, I waited while he straddled the entrance to the car. He pointed to the clear blue sky and slowly observed, “Look, Ma. We can see the moon even though it is day time.”

“Yes, dear,” I nodded absentmindedly, and I motioned for him to climb in.

During the short drive to the grocery story, my son’s gaze was fixated out his window as he continued to watch the celestial display in the daytime skies. When we arrived at our destination several blocks away, my son was still transfixed with the moon.

“Look, Ma,” this time, he exclaimed in wonder. “The moon keeps on following me wherever I go!”

I chuckled as I explained to him, “No, honey. The moon seems like it is moving and following you wherever you are. Really, it is not moving along with you. It is just that it is so large, that even though it is far away, you can see it wherever you are. So, it feels like it is accompanying you everywhere.”

As I went with my son up and down the rows of the supermarket aisles, I thought about the moon and its presence.

I thought about how we sometimes get so caught up in the rush of mundane activities and chores that we may forget to allow the “big” things or the “big” picture to accompany us on our way. At times, we may feel seemingly far away from the big and important issues of life – like the purpose of why we are here and what we are meant to achieve. We get carried away with coping with the “small” mundane activities and chores of everyday existence. But, even then, we must not lose sight of the big raison d’etre. Like my son’s wise observation about the moon, we too,
need to allow it to accompany and follow us wherever we go.

So, I slowed down somewhat as I walked up and down those aisles, and listened a little more carefully to my son’s chatter. And when we exited the store’s doors, I took the extra minute, together with my son, to gaze in wonder at how the large moon in the sky was still following us wherever we went on our trek.

* * *

I’ve since used up all those groceries that I purchased at the supermarket that afternoon. But I hope that I will continue to keep in good supply, the bigger purchases that I discovered in the aisles that afternoon.

Question From A Reader:

Dear Mrs. Weisberg,

How can I explain to others about the concept of “kol isha” – that a woman’s singing may not be heard by men? We often have guests at our Shabbat table who are on the way to becoming observant, and this is a question that is raised. I need a concise and understandable approach.

Sara B.

Dear Sara,

I think it is important to explain that this issue, just like all other issues in Judaism, has to be looked at within a context.

Singularly, almost every Halacha (Jewish law) can seem outdated, severe or too extreme. Take Shabbat, for example. A modern person can understand the need to spend some time with family and rest, but why the need for all the intricate, hair-splitting Halachot of what can and cannot be done, ad infinitum?

But the point is, the Torah is providing us with a concept of “rest,” and teaches us an entire framework of how to achieve it, with hair splitting details of what is and what is not part of that definition. On its own, saying that you cannot touch a pencil or turn on a light switch on Shabbat seems tedious – but it is a system that puts us within a framework that works and that framework has worked for centuries. Not using the system risks a total loss of this elusive concept, especially when surrounded by a society that is completely ignorant of it.

Every discipline has this and works this way to some extent. A doctor will go to school for years. An athlete will train for years. Take each particular point of what he studies/trains, and you may not see its relevance or importance, but within the framework of his education, each part is essential.

Kol isha is within the framework of all the Halachot that make a division between the genders. Why can’t the genders shake hands? Why a mechitzah (shul partition)? Why tzniyut (modesty) – does an inch, one way or the other make such a difference? But the Torah is establishing parameters, a dignity, lifestyle and sensitivity that has been entirely lost, to the point that we are desensitized to the very concept of dignity, separation, and modesty.

Nowadays, people lament the promiscuity of American culture and society, the breakdown of family life, the lack of morals among our teens, but only the Torah provides a full framework and solution to it.

Maybe Torah wants us to come to appreciate how a simple handshake can be a romantic gesture. How a woman’s voice can be seductive.

Sounds extreme? It is. In a time when we are inundated with all types of immorality screaming from billboards, newspapers and all kinds of mediums, Torah is creating an entirely different atmosphere and sensitivity. “Kol Isha” is just an extension of that dignity that Torah is preserving in a woman – where not all talents and capabilities need to be on open display.

Chana Weisberg is the author of “The Crown of Creation” and “The
Feminine Soul”. She is Dean of the Institute of Jewish Studies in
Toronto, and a scholar in residence for www.askmoses.com. She is also a
columnist for www.chabad.org’s  Weekly Magazine. Weisberg lectures
regularly on issues relating to women, relationships and mysticism and
welcomes your comments or inquiries at: weisberg@sympatico.ca.