The word Torah is associated with the written Torah (5 books of Moses) and with the oral Torah (the Mishnah, Talmud and rabbinic teachings). The phrase that keeps echoing in my mind is Shma bni mussar avicha, v’al titosh Torat emecha – Listen, my child, to the mussar of your father and don’t abandon your mother’s Torah.
Mussar is thought of as harsher lessons. The mussar movement encompasses concrete instructions and guidelines to help one live an ethical life. But it is the Torah that your mother teaches you which ultimately embraces you with warmth and delight. Rav Yosef Ber Solovetchik in his tribute to the Rebbetzin of Talne posits that the father’s tradition is an intellectual-moral one, one of discipline. But the mother’s tradition is a living experience. If a father teaches his children the laws of keeping Shabbos, it is the mother who teaches how to best experience and enjoy the Shabbos. It is our mothers and grandmothers who teach us how to feel, emote, and live Judaism.
I remember my Babbie reading Eicha in the bungalow to the other women. My Zaidie taught us the need to fast, but my Babbie taught us how to cry over what befell Jerusalem. And that is why girls’ education is so important. If you educate a woman, you educate a whole household!