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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. FaceBook @RabbiTzviFreeman Periscope @Tzvi_Freeman .
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Deborah Great Britain June 21, 2017

When I first heard this prayer many years ago, I was not happy. An Orthodox Jewish man was being interviewed on TV on why he didn't shake hands with women and why he said this blessing every morning. I thought he was a chauvinistic relic from the Middle Ages, to put it bluntly.

Ironically, many years later, I am now in the process of converting to Orthodox Judaism-- and I'm a woman. What changed? Reading, I suppose. As I understand it, men have to obey more commandments, and thus have a higher responsibility under Jewish Law. Furthermore, they must teach the law to their offspring, as is commanded by God. The more laws you obey, the more privilege one receives-- therefore Jewish men receive more privilege in following the law. Does this mean women are deficient? I do not believe so. Women are noted for their higher levels of "binah" (intuition/wisdom), which many scholars consider as being closer to God's ideal. The message is satisfaction in one's own role and gender. Reply

Anonymous July 4, 2016

A different perspective. Hello. I'm a woman, and while it's easy to say this prayer implies a negative view of women, could it not also be interpreted as an acknowledgement that women face hardships that men don't? After all, women have to deal with menstruation and pregnancy and child birth. Women have more parts to get cancer in (this is particularly prevalent in Ashkenazi women, please have your female relatives tested for the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes!), and women often face disproportionate hardships in obtaining divorces and being divorced than men. It's nice that some men recognize that women have to put up with these things. I would much rather a man acknowledge that women have these hardships than a man who thinks life is a breeze for women. Reply

Anonymous Texas March 30, 2016

Additional Enlightenments (that may need verifying) 1. Since every action has an equal opposite reaction, it is befitting to point out that if women are seen as the quote unquote underling of men in *this* world, then it is only logical to conclude the equal opposite will be true in the *world to come.*

2. If we were to consider the fact that every Jewish soul is sent to this earth in multiple subsequent incarnations to fulfill every single mitzvah, then either one of the following is true: a soul will incarnate as many times as necessary in the form of a man, as well as in the form of a woman, in order to eventually fulfill every mitzvah, feminine and masculine alike. Or, the husband and wife indeed do share a soul, and are encouraged to fulfill his or her respective mitzvahs with the sage understanding that every little thing in his or her life comes directly from HaShem, is in his or her soul's absolute best interest, and is always for a very specific soul-correcting reason.

Accept your roles in this lifetime with emuna, y'all! Reply

Hope January 22, 2016

Yes I read them with my stepfather years ago...and we began to talk about it. Sadly he passed away many years ago. I agree with you that this subject merits deep discussion and I hope to have the opportunity soon Reply

yehudit Jerusalem January 20, 2016

Hope. I understand for logic. This prayer is read in conext of the all the morNing blessings. It can't be taken out of context the way modern people like to do. Have you read the morning prayers? This might help. But it's a deep discussion. So if you find a chabad rabbi or rebbetzin they can help with the bigger picture. Reply

Arno Gorgels January 20, 2016

Dear Hope, I believe that you are free to pray more than is written. Feel free to do so. Reply

Hope June 23, 2017
in response to Arno Gorgels:

Indeed I do! We're all free to pray as we like, speak to Hashem directly. For me that's the essence of Judaism. Reply

Hope January 19, 2016

If it really was an instruction to be happy with your gender, then men and women would both say 'thank you for making me as I am"...or perhaps men would say thank you for making me a man and women would say thank you for making me a woman. Or, if we want to go all the way with the negative approach - ie thank you for not making me a woman - then women would say a parallel prayer, thank you for not making me a man. Reply

Arno Gorgels Potsdam January 18, 2016

I read it as an instruction to be happy with your gender. Reply

Daniel Jerusalem January 15, 2016

Hi Hope,
If this construct was solely human made, then both male and female would have been made a-sexual and completely the same like other animals. The fact is that we are physically different so having roles that promote those differences has nothing to do suppression. Am I being suppressed because I am not in the NBA due to my height? There are realities with differences.
On another note, it is hard to say that woman are "less than" men in our religion. I work 16 hours a day (for not a lot of money), my wife works very part time and takes care of our children. I would trade with her in a second to spend that amount of time with my kids.
On a more spiritual level women are more akin to the high priest, even more so than other men. Either way, I do not see what this has to do with the blessing, but thought you might be interested in my 2 cents. Reply

Hope June 23, 2017
in response to Daniel:

Whoa! Really don't agree. First, the asexuality argument has no relevance to what I said - for males to have a prayer of thanks for not being made females while females are thankful for being made as they are seems just plain sad to me. We'd all be better off being thankful for just being who we are rather than thankful for not being the other - who is by implication in an inferior position.

As for the way you and your wife divide work and childcare roles, that's your choice and not some sort of template for other people's lives. It depends on your interests and abilities as well as practical realities, which are different for every person regardless of biological gender. Apart from the basic biological functions, a person's gender does not have to determine what they do in life. My work has always demanded huge commitment beyond family and now that my children are self-reliant adults I am grateful to be able to put almost all of my time and energy into it. Reply

yehudit Jerusalem January 15, 2016

ms. hope There are no accidents. That is a part modern notion. Reply

yehudit Jerusalem January 15, 2016

Post modern sexuality throws or the obvious: we are different, we have different needs, we learn differvently, we socialize differently, our brains are wired differently and post modern Western people don't like to acknowledge differences for fear they will be thrown back to the dark ages. Judaism however acknowledges inherent differences while supporting respect and dignity of each gender. Reply

Hope June 23, 2017
in response to yehudit:

'Brains wired differently' is a gross generalisation that doesn't take account of individual differences. That's the core of the problem. Reply

Hope January 15, 2016

Controversy should be welcomed Judaism is all about questioning and grappling with issues and controversy should be welcomed. I would love to get a satisfactory answer tocthis but so far no one is grappling with it in any depth. Reply

Mary Hachita, NM January 14, 2016

Topic at hand Ms Hope. Perhaps this is not your forum. Reply

Hope January 13, 2016

'Separate but equal' is not equal at all Perhaps I was not sufficiently direct - I am objecting to the entire notion of categorizing and dividing people based on their physiological gender...yes, there are different biological functions around reproduction etc., but to generalize about the differences between women and men and to assign roles based on gender rather than ability and interest is in my view unjust and a human-made construct designed to enforce social order and suppress individuality. It's why I'm never going to embrace Orthodoxy. Reply

Anonymous Jerusalem January 13, 2016

has nothing to do with woman This question is affirming to the man that he- as a male- had specific responsibilities that he must be attentive to and also this includes his sexual proclivities. It is stayed several times in tanach that man must not lie with another man as though he were a woman. Sexuality has a mind of its own and must be guided and directed. A man has a sexual role. A woman has a sexual role. History and human behavior tells us that men must be guided to cultivate sexual behaviors that promote heterosexuality. Reply

Hope June 23, 2017
in response to Anonymous:

This actually makes a lot of sense in terms of why the prayer was written. But logically, if that's so then why don't women have a parallel prayer (grateful for not being a man) in order to encourage them to be heterosexual as well? Reply

Hope December 21, 2015

I understand, but... In reality, gender is fluid and people's abilities and gifts transcend gender - people's participation in the world ought not to be constrained by the accident of birth that is the physical body they inhabit.
I understand what you are saying about the male-female dichotomy in the context of religious practice and spiritual thought. But I have come to believe that the male-female spirits (which ias you say are expressed in G-d) exist to differing degrees in each person.
So in a purely symbolic way, I kind of agree with the concept of what you're saying. However, in terms of the way people are permitted or constrained from leading their lives, this kind of assignment of roles based purely on physical gender has no place. Reply

Amber Whitmire Columbia, SC via chabadofsc.com December 1, 2015

Thank You for not making me a _______ I don't think the actual words matter as much as the *intention* behind those words. If you were to ask each man to define what it means to them when they say the words "Thank You for not making me a woman", then listen to the varied responses, you may be surprised to find that most men hold women in the highest regard and esteem and are truly grateful to not have to endure being a woman - or possibly the other ideal that they are thanking G-d for more opportunities for discipline and wisdom - which is akin to saying "Thank you Sir, may I have another?" Just my honest opinion. Reply

Anonymous May 17, 2015

"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." - Please speak for yourself.

Alex Reply

Yirmiah March 19, 2015

I think it's that man should be thankful that he does not have to go through the months physical pain of a period and the mental anguish it brings. Also I think it is to be thankful for the fact that men do not have to go through the physical pain of going through child birth, and the mental sea saw that probably causes a women as she grew something within her and then has it leave. Men have got their pain no question, we have a need to ejaculate and to impregnate women, plus it takes more to keep our animal spirits from taking over, but a man can use that animal and turn it towards the mitzvahs so that's good. But in terms of physical pain, the actual labor of birthing a child is a woman's job, and that is a pain man will never know, and when she is not birthing a child she will have her period which will cause struggle, so there is really no way out for a woman. It's not a matter of a bad or good thing, I think it's a giving thanks for not having that type of pain sort of a prayer. Reply

Arno Gorgels Potsdam December 31, 2014

Accept with your gender as it's given to you I thought that the meaning of this blessing is: be happy with your role and don't try to occupy the role of the other gender in any ways. Reply

Hope June 23, 2017
in response to Arno Gorgels:

Wow! Hard to understand your viewpoint. Why do genders have to have specific roles in family or work apart from the basic biological ones (like childbirth)? People need to do what they love and are good at regardless of their gender. Reply