Why CyberSem (www.cybersem.com) and what does our online seminary intent to impart upon the girls and women who engage our new and invigorating learning method for generations of Jewish females who may otherwise have a more difficult time accessing Torah study regularly? The answer is basic enough, and the miracle of Purim helps shed some light.
Women have been recognized as having actively participated in miracles of many Jewish holidays, but their efforts leading up to the events of Purim in old-time Persia are outstanding.
The Talmud tractate of Megillah tells us that women are obliged to hear Megilat Esther because they were also present at the time of the נס פורים. The רשב״ם adds that this is such because גזרת המן was also directed against the women and predominantly the נס happened through Esther’s involvement. Where else do we see that an entire holiday is attributed to the woman who was so pivotal in the success of the miracle? On פסח when we know that in the merit of the righteous women the Jewish people was redeemed from מצרים, the hero of the event is still Moshe. Yehudit did wonderful things on חנוכה, but she is only remembered as one of the many characters of the Chanukah story. When אסתר asked the Sages to allow her story to become one of the books of the Tanach, they agreed, hence the name Megilat Esther.
It is written in the Midrash Esther Rabbah, that Haman’s decree was abolished because Mordechai gathered twenty-two thousand children and taught them Torah. Mordechai was the leader of the generation, but he did not delegate the instruction of the small children to anyone else. He taught them himself. This underlines the critical importance of Chinuch. It is this model of Chinuch that provides the best foundation for a small child to begin his/her life with. Traditionally, as the sages say the Talmud, Brachot, that it is the woman who is trusted with the task of guiding, directing and teaching her children. Whether the father learns, or is a businessman, his time at home to discipline and teach the children is limited. As soon as the child is born, it is the mother who supervises the development of her children and directs them in the right path.
Going deeper yet…Looking at the difference between Chanukah and Purim we discover that the decree of Chanukah was essentially one that attacked the spiritual connection between the Jewish people and G-d, whereas Purim was a physical threat to the Jewish people as a nation. The Rambam puts this into sharp perspective perhaps contrary to what we may think. In his work Hilchot De’ot – The Laws of Personal Development, the Rambam writes that “keeping the body healthy and complete is amongst the ways of serving G-d”. When utilizing the body to do a mitzvah, one reaches to and touches the essence of G-dliness.
Small children possess the same deep connection with Hash-m. In the posuk in פרשת תרומה, G-d commands the Jewish nation to build H-m a tabernacle and H- will dwell in them. This command implies that there is already a nation for ה׳ to dwell amongst. Although the building of the tabernacle/temple is great, interrupting the study of young children is forbidden even for them to help in its construction. Why? Because the temple needs a people, a nation, and the children’s learning generates the perpetuation of that nation. Clearly a priority.
Now we can understand that when המן announced the decree to kill the Jewish people, the remedy was to strengthen the Jewish children and teach them Torah in its purest form. The Shlah Hakadosh emphasizes that the major part of the Chinuch of the children is done by women, as they are the natural nurturers of children to set them on the correct path for a lifetime of Torah observant people.
This is the paradigm of self-regulated learning, the personal internalization of the lesson. At CyberSem women are engaged in learning Torah based subjects with the focus on stimulating their personal bond with the material combined with individual improvement in education and learning in general. It is a modern way of interfacing with our ancient and principal beliefs, and it helps women, arguably our most important assets for furthering Jewish life to our children, access Torah and learn in environments where time and availability is often hard to come by.
Chag Purim Sameach.
Dr. Chavi Goldberg is Founder and Director of CyberSem, an innovative learning platform for women. Dr. Goldberg holds a Bachelor of Jewish Education with honors from Talpiot College and a Master of Science in Graduate Teaching Curriculum Development, and Ed.D. in Instructional Technology and Distance Education from Nova Southeastern University.