What does it mean to be a truly empowered woman?
Empowerment is a buzzword today. It’s the term people use when they want to do as they please, when they please, how they please—but it may not necessarily be pleasant. The emphasis placed on “women’s empowerment” in championing for equal rights may only serve to further distance us women from our unique, feminine selves. What may seem as an admirable movement may only be a glamorous concealment of perceived weakness.
For us Jewish woman, the role model of real empowerment is Yehudis, the heroine of our Chanukah story, who found the incredible strength within to actually slaughter the enemy’s general in order to save her nation. For that gentle, gracious woman, this heroic move was no small feat, but being truly empowered from a healthy sense of self, she pulled it off to perfection.
Here’s what we can learn about real empowerment from the woman who managed to topple the Hellenistic movement with her bare hands, a few slabs of cheese, and a glass of wine (and a sword, of course!).
What’s My Motive?
Yehudis’s planned encounter with Helipornus wasn’t an initiative that stemmed from a desire to be recognized, to be hailed as a heroine. A young widow, Yehudis was a charming, graceful, beautiful woman, but she was particularly respected for her devoutness, modesty, and kindness. Taking the courageous steps toward executing Helipornus wasn’t an outgrowth of her desire to be bold, her way of exclaiming “I’m here!!” to the world. She understood that true greatness didn’t lie in having her name splashed across the headlines. Instead, it was simply a means for her to save our starving, thirsty, dying nation.
Staying Within the Torah Guidelines
Because Yehudis had her motive clear, when she embarked on her courageous mission, she did so only with the approval of her generation’s Torah scholars and leaders, and in strict adherence to Torah guidelines. Being the beautiful woman that she was, when Yehudis approached Helipornus and requested his acquaintance, he was immediately drawn to her charm and grace. However, she did not lose sight of her mission. Despite being lavished upon in the house of the wealthy warrior, she always came to his tent in the company of her maid. Yes, she entered the lion’s den for the sake of her nation, but no, she never stepped out of her Torah-drawn boundaries despite the lure.
Drawing Power from One Source
The one source of Real Power, Yehudis understood, is Hakadosh Baruch Hu. When she stood over Helipornus’s drunken body, the sword in her hand, she uttered a silent prayer. “Strengthen me this once,” she begged Hashem, “so I can bring your salvation to my people whom this cruel man vowed to destroy, and let the nations know that You have not forsaken us…” Yehudis’s clarity was impeccable. She fought for the sanctity of our nation, and yes, she surely made headlines (just imagine the would-be posts!), but she drew her power from the Ultimate Source. And so, her success is eternal.
That’s what I call real power!