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Contrary to prevailing impressions in many Western societies and cultures, there are essential differences between men and women. Rabbi Forma shares his unique perspective on equality, and argues that when properly understood, it can help make your marriage succeed.

Thank G-d We Are Not Equal!

Thank G-d We Are Not Equal!

A different perspective on men, women and relationships

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Thank G-d We Are Not Equal!: A different perspective on men, women and relationships

Contrary to prevailing impressions in many Western societies and cultures, there are essential differences between men and women. Rabbi Forma shares his unique perspective on equality, and argues that when properly understood, it can help make your marriage succeed.
Men & Women, Relationships, Women, Femininity & Feminism
Rabbi Yehoshua Forma is a former Chabad emissary to Paraguay, and former learning program director of ISEJ, the Superior Jewish Studies Institute in Buenos Aires, Argentina. He is currently and international lecturer and marriage counselor.
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Anonymous Trucksville April 25, 2016

Rabbi while I agree in almost every point you touch on in this lecture. I've got to say that yes the industrial revolution played a part in widening the divide between men and women but not out of an implied longing on women's part entirely but my grandpa said it's because from that time on the value of women's contribution to society was downgraded and belittled. It's always been my belief that respecting and valuing each other as men and women and our unique power is the key to harmony in life, family, etc., I've noticed a real lack of respect on both genders parts for each other and my husband and I are working hard to raise our sons to not oy respect women and their unique power but to respect themselves and their unique power. Respect as my grandpa would say is the cornerstone of the family and the world around us. Reply

Rabbi Forma July 25, 2014

For Rose Dear Rose,

Before I answer your note I would like to clarify that, when I speak about “Men” and “Women” in this lecture I am referring to their intrinsic aspects, namely the “masculine” and the “feminine”, as opposed to their cultural ones. And there is a huge difference in saying that. In fact, that was the whole point I was trying to make in my lecture.

Both ‘Men’ and ‘Women’ are beings that are highly influenced by culture. Therefore they will vary drastically in the way they behave depending on where they grow up and how they are educated and raised.

However, when it comes to the intrinsic “masculine” and “feminine” aspects in them, our Torah teaches that these are ‘constants’ which are inherent in a predominant way in men and women respectively. In addition I mentioned that these aspects are to be found also in a non-predominant way, in the opposite gender and manifests itself at times and for a specific reason when needed; in other words, sometimes a man will bring out a feminine trait for a specific need and a woman would do the equivalent too, but this
is an exception to the average gender behavior.

Now, please let me address your note:

I superficially mentioned the case of the lions not as a ‘proof’ of
something, rather vaguely as an ‘example’ to illustrate a point. If you want to understand better this point encourage you to read about it in further detail from an article written by a very respected Rabbi and Chasidic Philosopher, Rabbi Manis Friedman, see here.

You say that you are “tired of men (including Rabbis) telling women who they are ‘supposed’ to be”, apparently implying that rabbis are using a male, (macho?, bossy?) attitude to criticise or instruct women about their obligations.

On this I have to agree with you partially. It’s fair to be tired and even frustrated having so many of these men telling women what they are supposed to be. But this is not the case here. And therefore, though I understand you, I beg to disagree on one aspect.

Rabbis do tell women what they are supposed to be AND they also tell many other people what they are supposed to be. They tell men, children, parents, married couples, singles, young, old, politicians, soldiers, professionals, businessmen, Jews and non-Jews... and just about everyone in the planet is often told by a rabbi what he or she is supposed to be; because that’s a Rabbi’s job! To tell people (including themselves) what is it that G-d wants all of us to be.

So, as far as what this argument refers to, you can divest the ‘man’ you refer to, from the ‘rabbi’. A ‘rabbi’ is nothing more than a ‘communicator’. He is only giving over a message that the Torah has commanded him to give over.

And for that reason, you may hear my wife conveying the same message to either a man or a woman, and for that matter any other Jewish man or woman that has become also ‘communicator’ of the Torah’s message, whether a rabbi or not, can and should convey the exact same concept, each one in his/her own words. As far as Judaism is concerned, once you have learned a Jewish concept, you can be the next communicator for that concept; because it's not only a rabbi’s mission, it’s rather the mission of every single Jew.

Part of a Rabbi’s work consist in being a marriage counselor (based on Torah knowledge, of course). For many, many years rabbis have received numerous couples in their offices, grieving from so much strife and conflicts. Rabbis in turn give the advice of Torah used for millennia, and guess what? It often, very often works! Not by forcing dogmas down their throats, rather by teaching Torah concepts like the ones given in the lecture you heard.

The point trying to be made becomes reasonable not only to people that already agree with it but also to people who have been strangers to the path of Torah before, because of their lack of knowledge, and nonetheless have accepted to give a chance and follow the advice of Torah.

As it was said in the lecture, because of the strong cultural influence today (more than ever), most of our opinions are not ours, rather those we acquired from our social surrounding. Many people will not agree with what the Torah says. However many of these people have been open minded enough to hear and listen to what the Torah has to offer. They have questioned with their logic and they have heard also using the same logic. They have
been able to temporarily step out of their own frame of mind and stepped in to frame of Torah thinking. And for many of them, it ended up making a lot of sense. It paid the effort of stepping out from their cultural cliche.

As a marriage counselor, we have had to work together with psychology therapists and, as a rule, we always make sure that we agree on concepts, values and procedures. It has been such a surprise to see so many Psychologists (non observant and some not even Jewish) agree with so many aspects as they are presented by Jewish wisdom. Yes, not all agree, but as we move forward into the scientific research of men and women relationships, many aspects of this scientific researches agree today with the old Torah knowledge.

One reason why we say that Torah is eternal, is that the Torah does not speak to a specific ‘era’. Rather the Torah talks to ‘Mankind’. And despite the many cultural changes Mankind has suffered since the beginning of times, Men and Women, in their intrinsic aspects, continue to be constant till this very day. Love, hatred, kindness, selfishness, feminine, masculine and all other human traits, are still present in us just like 5700 years ago. To THIS aspect of Men and Women the Torah talks. And therefore it is eternal.

It is not simple, in our lectures we try to make it accessible, but it is by no means a simplistic maneuver of the complex mechanics of human behaviour. If you wish to go deep into this knowledge, please let me invite you to the study of Chabad Chasidic Philosophy and you will be able to enjoy a very complex and deep knowledge about human behaviour from the Torah perspective and yet it will be within reach of being understood.

No, I don’t think Women (in general) are babbling beings neither Men (in general) being monosyllabic oafs.

But there are things that are not within the realm of ‘abstract (arguable) concepts’, rather they are ‘facts’, and as the Talmud says, “when it comes to facts there are no arguments” (it’s either it rained or it didn’t, it’s either day or night). It is a known ‘fact’ that Men in general talk a lot less and Women in general talk a lot more, no wrongs and no rights, it is just a fact. You can argue as to the ‘why’ this is true but not about the “if” this is true, because it’s a fact.

Even science agrees on this. Just Google it and after you sift through and discard all the gossip articles etc, you will have many links directing you to scientific research that tells you things like: “According to a new study by the University of Maryland School of Medicine, the average woman speaks about 20,000 words a day. The average man, meanwhile, speaks a mere 7,000 words.”

These facts are due to a reason, it is not random or chance, it is not culture neither evolution... it’s intrinsic, it’s essential, it is good; and therefore they should be preserved and enhanced.

Life in earth amongst human beings in general and amongst husband and wife in particular, would be a lot easier if we would accept these and other intrinsic facts, and learned how to combine them to produce a benefit only reachable when complemented with each other.

It’s acceptable that both men AND women have ambitions, to have projects, even today more than before... as long as those ambitions do not interfere with the healthy mental and emotional growth of our children and family.

But when ambitions outside our family project become a priority, whether it is the men’s or the women’s ambitions, then, the children grow unattended, just like the grass in an open field. Then, marriage suffers, children suffer, and this suffering affects the rest of their lives and in turn that of their children and so on, G-d forbid.

A man and a woman’s first and most ambitious project in life should be: to build a good and healthy family!

Once a woman wrote a letter to the Lubavitcher Rebbe where she asked his opinion regarding the difficult financial situation at home. Her question was whether she should become a typist in order to help bring more income to the household. The Rebbe answered: “if you need to, work as a typist, but please, do not become a typist, continue being a mother”.
Last but not least, I would like to encourage you to continue learning. Continue questioning! The Torah is not afraid of questions. Questions (and their answers) make us wise. And if you feel you have learned something, then please share it. And yes, tell people what they are supposed to be! In a good and pleasant way, tell people how beautiful it is to live a life in accordance to G-d’s will.

May G-d Bless you and grant you all the good things your heart desires for good. Reply

Rabbi Shmary Brownstein Chabad.org July 23, 2014

To Rose I cannot speak for everything Rabbi Forma said here, as he said it, not I. But I can give my understanding of the matter. The Torah of G-d, not men or women, tells us who we are supposed to be, whether male or female. Our G-d-given biology is a reflection of how G-d desired His world to be ordered. What Torah teaching tells us is not that women should not be ambitious, any less than men should. Rather, that we should recognize our greatest contributions to society in the raising of good Jewish families. This is true for men as well, but especially for women, the pillar of the Jewish home. For both genders, our ambition should be primarily how to serve G-d best rather than pursuing our own goals for our own feelings of accomplishment. Rather than identifying as doctors or lawyers, we should identify as Jewish mothers and fathers who each contribute their strengths to nurturing Jewish families materially and spiritually. Reply

Rose Mercer Island, WA July 16, 2014

Rabbi, female lions do the vast majority of the hunting. I am tired of men (including Rabbis) telling women who they are "supposed" to be. Your argument is reasonable to those who already agree with you. This is unnecessary to make your point that women give birth and care for their children. Women want a safe home to raise their children. Of course most women do. Why take this biological and rational fact so much further and say women are not ambitious, women do not want to do more than have children and a home? Since when is a Rabbi a geneticist and an evolutionary biologist? In the name of Judaism, this argument makes something complex simplistic. You can say these things with a gently voice and a smile but it is still controlling and dismissive. Women babble about the minutia of their day? Men are monosyllabic oafs? Really? Come on. Reply

Sharmon Hickory Valley, TN July 11, 2014

Stay in the bubble Stay in the bubble. Reply

Ray Butler Sydney, Australia July 10, 2014

Complex The superiority complex is in all of us, and our society is not devoid of its impact either. Real Freedom is synonymous with self-control, but being subject to injurious ambition or allowing the mean spirit of others to make you a mean spirit also, these are not an expression of Freedom. The superiority complex is a problem in individuals, only when like-minded people unite they gain greater resources. Reply

Angela Hoffberg Richland, MS July 9, 2014

Equal with Different Parts to Play We really are equal, but we have different roles to play, so we all will be satisfied in the part our Creator made us. We have consequences & will judge ourselves based on our own individual actions, so God is fair. I consider this equal as God has no favorites. He loves all of us the same. God made me naturally submissive to my husband. It's the role I play, but I have veto power, so I consider myself my husband's equal, even though I know he is more spiritually advanced than I am. So, of course, you said things correctly, Yehoshua. Reply

Peninah July 9, 2014

Thank you Rabbi.I really enjoyed the lecture. How I wish women knew how noble the role of being a wife and mother were! A gift from G-d. Reply

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