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Do Orthodox Jews still say a blessing every morning thanking G-d for not making them a woman?

Do Orthodox Jews still say a blessing every morning thanking G-d for not making them a woman?

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Answer:

Along with you, I yearn for a time to come when this blessing will no longer be said.

A woman of valor is the crown of her husband, wrote King Solomon, and the chassidic masters give their interpretation: There will be a time when the feminine in this world will rise above the masculine, as a crown is placed above the head.

Of the very great tzaddikim, many had wives greater than themselves and daughters greater than their sons. So it was with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. So it was with Rabbi Akiva and Rabbi Meir. So it was with many great chassidic masters. This is because these righteous persons, in their personal lives, were already tasting of the World to Come.

In the world the rest of us live in, however, women continue to get the short end of the stick. Whatever women's emancipation gains on one hand seems to get taken away from the other. There are currently about four million female slaves worldwide -- 400,000 were sold last year in the U.S. One of the largest sectors of American society living beneath the poverty line is single mothers and their families. Working mothers almost always do more work at home than their working husbands. And when was the last time you heard a man ask someone to accompany him home at night for protection? It goes on and on.

This perception extends itself to our understanding of male and female roles in mitzvahs: Masculine performance is oriented to action and public performance, whereas the feminine role in Torah is an inner and pervasive one. Again, the highly tangible and visible male role is more valued in the current consciousness.

Why is our world this way? This is not just another injustice. It is a stage in humanity's development, a reflection of the state of the general human consciousness: We -- both men and women -- are stuck within the perception of the masculine role as superior and the feminine as inferior. Our behavior only reflects our perception.

What are the male and female roles? As with any concept, the best way for us to understand this is to examine it at its roots, as a cosmic principle.

G-d is neither male nor female. For the sake of creating a world, however, two complimentary forces were conceived and brought into play. The Torah gives them many names: In Genesis, "Heaven" and "Earth." In the Talmud, "The Holy One, blessed be He" and the "Divine Presence". In the Zohar, "The King" and "The Queen". In the language of Chabad Chassidism, "Transcendent" and "Immanent". Or: The power to create ad infinitum and the power to constrict that creative power to the limitations of a real world.

And so we have two modalities for G-d, of two genders: As the Creator who stands beyond, directing a world, G-d is He. As the Divine Presence (Shechinah) found within each thing, G-d is She. Two manifestations of a single essence. Just as your power to think and your power to articulate your thoughts are both equally expressions of your single mind.

When the world was first brought into being, a goal was set: That it will begin as a duality, where G-d and His world appear distinctly apart from each other -- and then eventually achieve a higher union. Gradually, the true nature of the creation would become clear and the Divinity within it would be revealed. Heaven and Earth, the King and the Queen, the transcendent light and the immanent, would unite.

All things begin in Torah, since Torah contains the inner soul of creation, and Torah is the dynamo behind this transition in the world. In Torah, too, there is a male and a female voice: The Written Torah (the Bible) and the Oral Tradition (Talmud and all classic Torah teachings). The Written Torah speaks with the voice of transcendence and authority -- a voice that cannot be challenged or altered. Not even a single letter can be added, nor taken away. The Oral Tradition is quite the opposite: Constant dialog and growth, rethinking and re-application of ideas according to the situations that arise at each point in time.

The written Torah and the oral tradition are both Torah. Both G-d's voice. One voice speaking from Above. One speaking through us. Both work in tandem to create the Judaism we know -- a Judaism that adapts to every situation without inherent change, renews itself with ever-fresh vigor while remaining constant and eternal, a stunning balance of the heavenly and the earthly, the temporal and the timeless. Only that the second aspect of Torah, the female, emerges incrementally with time until it finally attains dominance with the Torah that Moshiach will teach. As the Midrash says, "The Torah we learn now is hevel (vanity, hot air) compared to the Torah of Moshiach."

Every aspect of the creation reflects this duet -- in every thing there is both male and female. Including humankind. Only that in our world, a world where all things integrate with one another, blending and sharing and balancing one another, there are no absolutes. In everything that is male, there is at least a small bit of female. In everything female, there is some of it that is male. When it comes to human beings, we seem 90% the same stuff -- two arms, two legs, most of our mind and heart the same, some more, some less. In fact, the first human being was originally created as a single whole -- only later to be divided. But the difference is something to celebrate, something Divine.

As with the general scheme of the cosmos, so with man and woman and the human consciousness. The history of humankind can be seen this way: A transition from male to female values, from authority to dialogue, from dominance to persuasion, from control to nurture.

But we're not there yet. And the best evidence is that we do not have the power, according to Halachah, to change this blessing. It was accepted by the ancient Jewish Parliament (the Sanhedrin) as a way for the Jewish male to express his thankfulness for having been given the more assertive, aggressive role in the fulfillment of mitzvot -- a role which, at that point in the spiritual history of Creation, was perceived even by women as greater than the more intimate and nurturing feminine role. According to Torah law, that blessing cannot be changed until another such Sanhedrin arises that is greater in wisdom and in number (see Maimonides, Book of Judges, Laws of Mumrim, Chapter 1). If it was time to change it, we would have the power to do so. My personal speculation is that when the world will have changed enough to warrant it, a Sanhedrin will arise that can change this blessing. The signs of the times show we are on our way. Women are studying Torah today as never before and values of power and control are waning before the feminine qualities of compassion and nurture. May the ultimate step for which Jews have always prayed be very soon.

For further elucidation on this point, please see The Lunar Files"

For further study on the feminine within Torah, see the Lubavitcher Rebbe's Likutei Sichot vol. 30, pages 9-15, and the sources cited there.

Rabbi Tzvi Freeman, a senior editor at Chabad.org, also heads our Ask The Rabbi team. He is the author of Bringing Heaven Down to Earth. To subscribe to regular updates of Rabbi Freeman's writing, visit Freeman Files subscription.
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Discussion (114)
October 3, 2014
Was Adam devious?
Daniel, if "Adam knowingly sinned with the intention of getting closer to The Boss through repentance," this would surely compound the offence. It suggests deviousness on his part. But deviousness is a quality that Genesis attributes only to the serpent.

Adam says simply, "The woman whom thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat." If anything, this might be seen as a little too truthful, to the point of being ungallant. He could have done the decent thing and taken all the blame upon himself. But then, he was talking to the Eternal. He knew that He knew!

There's nothing in the text that I can see to suggest that Adam was anticipating "the fortunate Fall". Milton proclaimed it, but that of course was with the benefit of considerable hindsight.
Paridell
Australia
August 26, 2014
MAN and WoMAN are made in His image
Men aren't better - they're different. Women aren't better - they're different.

G-d is ALL and One. S/He made us all -- 'Man' being the opposite of other animals.

I still like my idea that men know they are not able to do all that women do - and, therefore, are thankful for not being given that difficult blessing.

Seems to me that all else is commentary.
Meira Shana
San Diego
August 26, 2014
Responses
To Hope: What is clear in one generation is rarely clear to the next. This is why Rashi, the Rambam, the Talmud etc. not only exist but are revered in our religion. Taking "an eye for an eye" at face value is morally and ethically against the Torah, yet it is a word for word translation. Without understanding what is written people can very easily be led astray and that is why true Rabbis are held in such high regard.
To Paridell: The biggest lost concept with many Jews, even Torah Jews is the importance of the struggle. This is not a new concept, it is actually the oldest concept in Torah originating with the sin of Adam. Adam knowingly sinned with the intention of getting closer to The Boss through repentance. christianity was formed by people who didn't want to struggle and false prophets like rasputin got lost in the sinning, and only realized the importance of repentance before it was too late.
Daniel
Jerusalem
August 25, 2014
Another aspect of the blessing
This blessing must also be viewed in the context of the two blessings that precede it: "That He has not made me a non-Jew" and "that He has not made me a slave." These are categories of people who have obligations under Noachide or Jewish law, but are restricted in some way from performing certain commandments. The blessing "that He has not made me a woman" is thanking the Creator for allowing him to perform commandments. I also want to add that I remember fondly from my days in Junior Congregation that all the boys would pause so that the girls could answer with their blessing: "that He has made me according to His Will !" (a practice which regrettably is omitted in the "adult" service.) I always considered that a fitting rebuttal.
Marc
NY
June 24, 2014
Self-contradictory
If, as Daniel of Jerusalem says, "A woman, in her essence as a creator, is naturally closer to H- than a man can ever be," why should a man offer thanks that he was NOT made a woman?

As Horatio says, "'Twere to consider too curiously, to consider so."
Paridell
Australia
June 24, 2014
Daniel from Jerusalem, and Rabbi Tzvi, this is your lucky day, because I can tell you why this prayer is so insulting to women! It is this - if this prayer was devised because men genuinely thought they were inferior to women, then men would have said something like this..."Lord, although you have made me a mere man, I thank you for the opportunity to become as close to you spiritually as is a woman." There is clearly no "feminist twisting" going on here - the men are doing all the twisting.
Hope
UK
June 24, 2014
You're right, Mary, each person will make a choice about how to pray, because we have free will, or because we choose to adhere to traditions that are deeply hurtful to many in our community. But to have a set, mandatory prayer that so obviously refers to the severe limitation on women's roles in
Judaism is for me a choice that degrades us all and simply reinforces stereotypes. If you're going to say a blessing for your gender, being thankful that G-d made you as you are is hard to improve upon.
Hope
UK
June 23, 2014
Both blessings are ok with me. Everyone can choose to like or not like, but should we insist on changing everyone?
Mary
Hachita, nm
June 22, 2014
It's just plain insulting, don't try to justify it!
Unfortunately, this "blessing" is an insult to women matter how much you try to justify its use through arcane laws that existed during the time people were still stoned to death. On the other hand, the prayer women say, " thank you for making me as I am", is wonderful and spiritually liberating. That's the one all of us should be saying .... Now, to bring the reality of justice for all people closer.
Hope
UK
January 15, 2014
Before giving the answer there are some basic principles that have to be understood.
1) The ultimate goal of life is to get closer to H-
2) One becomes closer to H- in relation to the amount of effort and struggle one exerts.

With those two principles we can understand why a man says sh'asani lo esha.

A woman, in her essence as a creator, is naturally closer to H- than a man can ever be. The only way for man to even come close is through this extra effort and struggle. Man not only has to go through this, but has to appreciate it! The beracha a man makes is more of a lesson in mussar to appreciate the effort and struggle he has to go through to attain this higher level of relationship with H-. The fact that it has been twisted into this "anti-feminist degradation of women" is beyond me.
Daniel
Jerusalem
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