26.03.2022 | Redaktor

12. Jewish women

For religious Jews, the equality of men and women begins in God as both man and woman were created in the image of God. In traditional Judaism, women’s obligations and responsibilities are different from those of men but no less important.

Jews believe that women are endowed with a greater degree of “binah” (intuition, understanding) than men. Some traditional sources suggest that women are closer to God’s ideal than men. Women have held positions of respect in Judaism since biblical times. Miriam is considered one of the liberators of the Children of Israel, along with her brothers Moses and Aaron. One of the Judges, Deborah, was a woman. Seven of the 55 prophets of the Bible were women. Over the centuries, there were learned women who were very much respected. However, in traditional Judaism, women are first of all seen as wives, mothers and caretakers of the home. Judaism has great respect for the importance of that role and the spiritual influence that the woman has in the family.

On women’s tombstones, one can often find such epithets as ‘righteous’, ‘perfect’, ‘modest’, and ‘respected’. Using phrases drawn from the Hebrew Bible, Brzesko women were also often praised for their generosity towards the needy, their piety, and their dedication to raising God-fearing children.

Matzevas of Mindel Lipschitz, Freida Lipschitz, Cirla (Tsirele) Schiff and Sussel Lea Landau

Four matzevas standing in this row belong to women from important rabbinic families, hence the elaborate inscriptions and the images of lions (a symbol of strength, power, liberation, and redemption) and a crown (symbolizing the Torah, wisdom, and piety). The candlabrum seen on the matzeva of Cirla (Tsirele) Schiff relate to one of the divine commandments reserved in the Jewish tradition for women: the privilege of lighting candles to mark the beginning of the Shabbat, a sacred time especially in the home.

Here is the translation of the fragments of the inscriptions on these four matzevas.

Mindel Lipschitz nee Baron (1830-1885) came from a rabbinic family and was the wife of the rabbi Tobias (Tuvie) Lipschitz from the lineage of Brzesko tzaddiks.

Matzeva of Mindel Lipschitz

The crown of good name

Here lies

The righteous and pious Rebbetzin

A few commandments she took with her

She is more precious than rubies in all her ways

Her soul will sleep well in its rest

The poor and needy were in her mind

We will repay them with all her strength Mrs Mindel

Daughter of the Holy Rabbi Mr Israel Yitzchak…

The wife of the Rabbi of here ascended to heaven

9 Elul 5648 and she shall stand

to her destiny at the end of the days 

May her soul be bound in the bundle of life

Freida Lipschitz nee Horowitz (1805-1887) was the wife of the rabbi and the head of the Brzesko rabbinical court Meshulam Yehonatan Zalman Lipschitz, son of tzaddik Arie Leibush. She also came from a rabbinic family, was the daughter of Avraham Chaim Hiorowitz, rabbi in Lesko.

Matzeva of Freida Lipschitz

Here lies

The crown of good name

A God fearing lady the Rabbanit

The righteous and devout Mrs Freida

Daughter of the holy Rabbi Mr Avraham Chaim…

In her old age

She was taken unto her people on 16 Cheshvan

5648 May her soul be bound in the bundle of life

Cirla (Tsirele) Schiff nee Lipschitz (1846-1935) was the daughter of the rabbi Tobias (Tuvie) Lipschitz from the lineage of Brzesko tzaddiks and the descendant of the rabbi Moshe Teitelabum known as the Yismach Moshe. She was married to the respected merchant Noach Schiff.

Matzeva of Cirla (Tsirele) Schiff

Here lies

An important woman from a holy lineage

Her arm was stretched out to the poor and her hands supported women giving birth

The poor of our people she nursed and supported

The important righteous woman, God fearing Mrs Tsirel…

Her soul left her body on the day of the holy Sabbath, 2 day of Hanukah 5696

89 years old

May her soul be bound in the bundle of life

Sussla Lea Landau (1844-1919) was the daughter of the rabbi Rafael Ziegler from Krościenko and the wife of the Brzesko merchant Berisch Landau.

Matzeva of Sussla Lea Landau

Here lies

The important, modest and dear woman,

She was suddenly taken in old age,

The support of her house, the poor she always supported..

She never missed saying psalms on the Holy Shabbat,

Woe! May the sons and daughters lament for Mrs. Sussel

Leah, daughter of the deceased hasid rabbi Meir Rafael

Of blessed memory. Died on  

The evening of the Holy Shabbat 26 Adar 2 (5)679

May her soul be bound in the bundle of life

(Inscriptions translated into English by Idan Livne, Yossi Elran and Noa Shashar)

© Anna Brzyska, 2022