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The Wonder That Is Woman

The Wonder That Is Woman


G‑d spoke to Moses, saying: “A woman who shall conceive and give birth . . .” (Leviticus 12:1–2)

It happens 250 times a minute, almost 15,000 times every hour. It happens after years of effort and anticipation, or “by accident.” It occurs on every socioeconomic level, in every country and village in the world. But no matter how frequently it transpires, no matter how commonplace an event it is, we always stand back in awe and say: a miracle.

That one being should give birth to, should create, another. If there is any area in which a creature emulates its Creator—if there is any act by which we express the spark of divinity at our core—it is the miracle of birth.It is the woman, according to Torah law, who exclusively determines the spiritual identity of her child

Yet it is in this, the most G‑dly of our achievements, that we also most reveal the limitations of our individuality. Feeding, sleeping, thinking, producing a work of art or building a house—virtually everything we do, we can do on our own. But giving birth to a child is something we can do only together with another person. To give birth, we must cease to be an entity unto ourselves and become a part, a component, of a community of two.

Because if we are only what we are, we are most decidedly not divine. As beings unto ourselves, we are finite and self-absorbed things, manufacturers rather than creators. To create, we must rise above our individuality. To actualize our divine essence, we must transcend the bounds of self.

It is the woman, not the man, who gives birth. It is the woman who is most fulfilled in parenthood, and who most acutely feels the lack when parenthood is denied her. It is the woman who continues to mother her child long after the man has fathered it. It is the woman, according to Torah law, who exclusively determines the spiritual identity of her child.

Because it is the woman who most surrenders her selfhood to create life. She is the passive and receptive element in the procreation process. For nine months, her very body ceases to be hers alone as it bears and nurtures another life. So it is the woman, rather than the man, who “conceives and gives birth,” and to whom motherhood is a state of being, rather than an “achievement” or “experience.”

Yet everyone can become a “mother.” What comes naturally to the female half of creation can be learned and assimilated by all, and not only in giving birth to children but in every one of life’s endeavors. We all have the power to recognize that there is more to our existence than the narrow confines of individual identity.

We all have the power to become more than we are and to do more than we can—by becoming receptive to the divine essence that underlies the self and pervades the whole of existence.

By Yanki Tauber; based on the teachings of the Rebbe.
About the artist: Sheva Chaya created the art for homepage. An art graduate from Princeton University, Sheva Chaya works in watercolor and glass, vibrantly exploring Jewish and women's themes. Her work can be seen in her studio in Tsfat, Israel and on her website.
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Anonymous toronto March 7, 2014

family The wonder that is a woman is always felt by those in her family most. She is all encompassing , and will lose her identity first. Only such a person can serve the Law of God. A family who has strong women is always blessed , growing to new heights by the trials in her way. She is trusted by her ancestors and her children that what ever is necessary will be done to keep, what is important safe. Reply

Sarah Rivka :) Cincinnati, OH January 31, 2013

I always find something relevant on this website! :) Ha, I was just chatting with a friend who told me she's pregnant when I got the urge to go on and found this....I shared it with her, of course. Reply

Laurie Dinerstein-Kurs nj January 30, 2013

birth Passive? We are hard at work 24/7 - It is exhausting to create, it is tiring to be stretched beyond what seems possible, standing can be a challenge when you now weight more than accustomed. It is hardly uplifting to need help being lifted up, difficult to watch more pounds accrue than accustomed. When your need to eat crackers to keep away the waves of sickness - putting favorite outfits away for the duration, hunger bouts, nausea, zapped of strength, Drs. appointments and all THAT entails....and possibily still running the home, making Shabbos, perhaps tending to other kids, or even maybr holding a $ paying, at which moment of which day of those 9 months is she passive?? Reply

gary piehl Milwaukee, WI March 31, 2011

Strength of a Woman I'm a hard strong Jewish Israeli commando kinda guy. But I'd rather go thru a bullet hole in he chest than childbirth. That must HURT! Reply

Julie Singer Rocky Hill, CT March 30, 2011

Not passivity I think the "feminine" quality being referred to here is not really passivity, but receptivity. Applied to the creative process, it has to do with openness to new possibilities. For example, Einstein could not have done what he did had he not opened himself to the thought that something might lie beyond the comfortable bounds of Newtonian physics. Receptivity also helps one to see just how much "content" there is in this brief article. Reply

tehillimsongs Israel March 29, 2011

writtern with the man's prospective The words are coming from intellectualization and rationalization.
Let the women speak on the subject. Reply

Anonymous Tarpon Springs via April 16, 2010

great to read something on wonders not often contemplated Reply

Anonymous Washington, DC April 16, 2010

Nice introduction, where's the content? I somehow thought this article was going to go on to tell how anyone can learn to be a mother, with more than just "by becoming receptive". Really, it ended up reading like: "Woman is a wonder because she surrenders her selfhood. She has to do all the work. But she doesn't get there on her own. She is just passive. And besides, anyone can learn to be like her." Reply

Andrea Greene Pueblo, CO April 25, 2009

The rewards of Motherhood go beyond the pains of childbirth. I too enjoyed reading this article. Reply

Anonymous flagstaff, az April 5, 2005

passive? Women's bodies are not passive in any aspect of the process of childbirth. It is a myth that the sperm is the aggressive factor that impregnates the egg. In reality, the egg seeks out the wandering sperm. Moreover, women must feed their babies through their own mouths, and must deliver their babies through their own strength. Reply

Rachel R Baltimore, MD April 22, 2004

Great Article I really like this article. It makes me feel better about the pains of childbirth and there rewards. Reply

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