What is the Torah view of women in the workplace nowadays when supporting a family is often difficult on only one income?
In Mishlei we have a model of an eishes chayil, a woman of valor, and it describes her a as a woman who earns money. She brings money into the home. She takes wool and she spins it, and she makes it into garments, and then she sells it to merchants. And her husband sits all day long among the chachomim, the sages, in the gate of the city. So here’s a case of a kollel woman. For women who wish to work and support their husbands in the kollel, the eishes chayil is a proof, it’s a good proof.
So if a woman is capable of working, and she has a good environment in which to work, very good. But she doesn’t have to work, it’s not necessary that she work. There’s plenty of work raising a family; Ooh Ahh! The seforim say that if you have tza’ar gidul bonim, if you have the stress of raising a family, you don’t see even the doorway of Gehenim. When the time comes to leave this world, you won’t have to visit Gehenim at all. You had Gehenim in this world already!
If you raise a family, you’re going to sit on a golden throne in the Next World like a queen. You’re a queen if you raise a big family. There’s plenty of work at home; a homemaker is a tremendous job. It needs wisdom, and other great abilities. You have to be patient and a wise diplomat in order to be a homemaker.
But in case a woman wants to support her husband while he’s learning, that’s also an ideal. It’s a voluntary ideal; nobody can force you to do it, but if you choose to do it, go ahead, why not?
But there’s another question however. Should a woman be in a place mixed with men? That’s a different story. That’s a very delicate question. This I will say, that you must exercise caution. Now I know this from much experience. People call me up every day. My phone, my two phones, are ringing every day with questions, and I know what happens. It’s very unhealthy when the two genders mix. Just like here, you’re sitting separately, it’s wonderful, you’re an Am Kadosh. And in the workplace too, as much as possible don’t mix. As much as possible! That’s just my private advice, but it’s built on solid experience. Don’t mix. Don’t mix!
TAPE # E-42 (December 1996)