Contact Us

Why I’m Not Offended by the Blessing “Thank You, G-d, for Not Making Me a Woman”

Why I’m Not Offended by the Blessing “Thank You, G-d, for Not Making Me a Woman”

 Email
© Devorah Weinberg
© Devorah Weinberg

Every so often, I’m asked my opinion on the blessing that males recite daily, thanking G‑d “for not making [them] a woman.”

Do I think that this blessing should be abolished? Does it make me feel angry? Theoretically, if we had a Sanhedrin (court of law) that was great enough to change these words, should this blessing be omitted from our morning liturgy?

Since I am a staunch advocate for women, many assume that I would be offended by this blessing. Many well-meaning men and women find this blessing troubling, and I understand their perspective.

But, although I do think that there is something very wrong here, I am not bothered by the blessing itself. And let me explain why.

I have come to understand a deeper, and quite beautiful, Do I think the blessing should be abolished?explanation about this blessing, from Rabbi Eliyahu Kitov:

A king calls two of his subjects and gives them very different assignments. He appoints one as the general of his army. This individual will wear a special uniform, adorned with many shiny medals signifying the import of his brave work in defending his country. He will take great risks and will be charged with tremendous responsibility, but he will also reap the rewards of his efforts, as his heroic service will be acknowledged by all.

To the second individual, the king assigns a completely different role. He is to serve in the king’s secret service. He wears no uniform, and is not adorned with any badges of honor. He too will be charged with valiant missions, and take perhaps even greater risks, without which the kingdom could not survive. But no one may know about his courage. Though to the outside observer his job may appear far less glamorous, his role is vital, and the king assures him how much he appreciates his sacrifice.

So, Rabbi Kitov explains, a man thanks G‑d every morning for not being assigned the less rewarding role. He proudly dons his religious “medals” and uniform, and assumes his extra commandments in his more public service. A woman, on the other hand, understands the significance of her more private role. She realizes how vital her nurturance is for the survival of mankind. She assumes the role that receives little public recognition, modestly knowing that to G‑d her sacrifices are invaluable.

I appreciate this explanation; I find it respectful, not patronizing. So, it is not the blessing itself which disturbs me.

However, I am disturbed by the reality behind this blessing. Because this blessing simply reflects the world that we live in. The facts on the ground, as it were. And I’d rather acknowledge reality, no matter how unappealing it may be, than hide from it. In acknowledging, we make room for progress.

Let’s face it, being a woman—yes, even in today’s progressive 21st century—is difficult. While opportunities for women have expanded, women are still earning less than their male counterparts. Women’s lack of representation in many key positions proves that the glass ceiling still exists. Sexual harassment still abounds in the workforce and beyond. Working women are still performing the majority of the household chores. And biases against women are still unfortunately prevalent; even in today’s modernized secular society—and perhaps now more than ever—women are objectified and exploited.Biases against women are still unfortunately prevalent

And let’s not forget a woman’s biological makeup. Until modern science is able to make every woman capable of experiencing a nausea-free, energy-filled pregnancy, as well as a pain-free birth (not to mention restful nights while nursing a newborn), as well as symptomless monthly cycles, a woman will naturally experience certain uniquely female hardships. (This does not in any way take away from the accompanying miraculous experiences, like the unparalleled wonders of birth and motherhood.)

So, meanwhile—yes, feminist that I am—I do not have any problem with every husband, father, brother and son reciting this blessing daily, thanking G‑d for making him immune to some of the less-pleasant experiences that we as women face.

As my sons and husband say this blessing, I want them to feel grateful for their mothers, sisters, wives and daughters, who sacrifice so much for them and for our society. And, as they do, let them think about how they as individuals can make the circumstances of the women in their lives better.

As they recite this blessing, let them contemplate, too, our present imperfect reality. I want them to remember that all is not well. The current order of things is not what is ultimately meant to be.

And let them envision and pray for a time when all injustices and hardships will disappear. Let them pray for a time when, in the words of the wedding blessing, the “voice of the groom and the voice of the bride will be heard.”

Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi, who lived over 200 years ago—well before the launch of any feminist movement—explained that now the dominant energy of the world is masculine, while I want them to remember that all is not wellthe “feminine” immanent aspect of G‑d, the Shechinah, is in exile. The feminine perspective (“voice of the bride”) is subdued. But there will come a time, the messianic era, when not only will her voice be heard and understood, but her gentler perspective will be appreciated and hallowed.

In that time, as was prophesied by Isaiah, “the moon shall be like the light of the sun.”1 The “feminine” moon that waxes and wanes monthly will be restored and will shine with equal radiance. Only in the messianic era will the feminine perspective be fully expressed.

For then the Shechinah will be openly revealed in our world. In that era, nekeivah tesovev gever2—“the female shall surround the male,” and eishet chayil ateret baalah3—“a woman of valor will be the crowning glory of her husband.” And, just as a crown sits atop a head, the feminine energy will supersede the masculine.

Redemption is a feminine era. It is a time when we will experience a more inner, more private dimension in our relationship with G‑d. It is a time when we will naturally observe the mitzvahs and learn Torah out of our intrinsic love for Him, without the need for reward. Our role as G‑d’s bride will be fully appreciated.

But until that time, I for one will listen to my men saying this blessing, and hope that they are thinking of its implications.

And doing their part to get us all there.

Chana Weisberg is the editor of TheJewishWoman.org. She lectures internationally on issues relating to women, relationships, meaning, self-esteem and the Jewish soul. She is the author of five popular books.
Devorah Weinberg is an artist and illustrator on shlichus in Port Washington, NY with her family. She is the mother of four children including a newborn daughter. She possesses a Bachelors in Fine Arts and is working towards her Masters in Art Education. She has a passion for creating Jewish Art and illustrating Jewish children's literature. She has exhibited with several artists' groups both locally and nationally. In addition to pursuing her art she assists her husband in his work as Youth Rabbi at the Chabad of Port Washington.
© Copyright, all rights reserved. If you enjoyed this article, we encourage you to distribute it further, provided that you comply with Chabad.org's copyright policy.
 Email
Join the Discussion
Sort By:
143 Comments
1000 characters remaining
Dion England August 14, 2017

I could not read more than halfway through this astounding tract before the sheer stupidity of the thing forced me to stop.

The reason that the blessing includes thanks to God for not making one a woman, a gentile or a slave is because all three of these are regarded as inferior in worth to the Jewish male. Anything else is blatant self-deception. Reply

Craig Hamilton Sandwich, MA August 14, 2017
in response to Dion:

Dion ~ You are mistaken. I am a gentile, and I don't find the, "Thank you for not making me a gentile prayer," even slightly offensive. Though I have had some problems with the Reform denomination, I don't feel the slightest tolerance of any bigotry among Orthodox Jews though I haven't met many. This is what I believe: If there is a problem between anyone and Torah, if there is true love of Hashem, that problem can't last.
I am proud to be a child of Noah, and frankly I think that either a Jew or gentile who doesn't love Noah will be perpetually washed away in a flood, as G-d would cleanse the whole world for the sake of a few upstanding individuals. Likewise, if a Jew is mistreating a slave, or a woman, it can't last.
Many of the writers at chabad.org are women. How is that self-deception? How far does acceptance of women go at Chabad.org go? Straight to the top! Mendy Kaminker is the editor of the Hebrew edition of Chabad.org ~ I encourage you to explore chabad.org because it should change your mind. Reply

Joseph Seigel Springfield October 7, 2017
in response to Dion:

1st of all Dion, all the observant Jewish males that I know hold woman in high esteem, 2nd You are not the person or people who wrote this prayer, so stop assuming, 3rd when this prayer was written we did not have the modern convenience like a washer and dryer, or prepared food, so women and slaves had a much tougher life than free males. 4th Gentiles at this time had a easier life (free, not slaves), but because they did not know Torah, or understand the mitzvah observant Jews felt sorry for Gentiles from a spiritual stand-point. Reply

Anonymous July 18, 2017

This is one of the most loopy mental gymnastics that I've ever read. If this practice was in any other religion, you would decry it. But because it is apart of your identify, your upbringing, your religion, you willingly ignore. Reply

Anonymous August 4, 2017
in response to Anonymous:

Task, not quality Thank you for 1. not being a gentile, 2. not being a slave, 3. not being a woman has nothing to do with thanking for being in a better situation. This is thanking for being in a higher rank of responsability while the reward is exactly the same. A jew has much more tasks to perform before Hashem than a jewess, and immensely more than a gentile. Yet their reward for righteousness is exactly the same. But, while the reward is the same, for the same sin, the defilement of the jewish soul is immensely greater than of the gentile's. There's nothing intrinsically better in just being jewish, it's practicing judaism that it's greater, it's the service of Hashem that makes greatness. So, because one loves Hashem so much, one is thankful for the opportunity to serve Him in such a greater way. There is no such thing in judaism as "It's great that I am better than him". Humility and kindness are the guiding lines towards righteousness. Reply

Jakub Kielecki August 4, 2017
in response to Anonymous:

Task, not quality (continuation) When the sin of the golden calf ocurred, the Leviim were the only ones who kept faithful to Hashem. In reward Hashem gave them priesthood, which carries even more obligations and more restrictions. So Hashem rewards faithfulness with a heavier burden, not with more goodies? The point is, this is not a burden, it's a chance to serve Hashem at a higher level. Why did Abraham took the covenant in the first place? Because he loved Hashem so much, he was ready to perform the toughest tasks in order to please Hashem. Just like one is ready to work and struggle for the benefit of one's family, because of love. Jewish men were given a harder task than jewish women. I don't know why, but it is thus. On the other hand, gentile men and gentile women are on the same level (the easiest) of service to Hashem. These thankings have nothing to do with misogyny or supremacy. That's a wrong and unfortunately common interpretation. Reply

Anonymous November 21, 2016

The other way round The purpose of men saying "Thank You, God, for not making me a woman" is to prevent them from even thinking "God, I'm not that happy that you didn't make me a woman". One should never doubt God's good judgment, so if one was born a man, one should be happy for it! The fact is that the path to righteousness for men is not so smoothly paved as it is for women. That may cause men to wish they could have been born a woman, and thus doubt God's decision to make them men. Whence do some people take the idea that one would thank God for being better than someone else? Utter humility is a condition sine qua non there's no even thinking of becoming righteous. That's not the point of the blessing at all! Reply

Shoshana Jerusalem October 5, 2016

See June 13 As I mentioned on June 13, but no one believes it, the reason for these blessings is: "Thank You for making me a Jew because I can serve you with so many mitzvos (commandments). Thank You for not making me a slave because even though a slave has some mitzvos, he does not have all of them. Thank You for not making me a woman because even though she has almost all of the mitzvos, I still have a few more. And even though this makes my life a little harder, I accept this upon myself and am happy to be able to serve You with these mitzvos."

And it's not so bad to be a woman, Mrs. Chana Weisberg.
Did you ever notice that men often use terms alluding to childbirth for themselves? "This nation, CONCEIVED in liberty," or they "give birth" to a new idea, or "create" a work of art. Why? Because they are consciously or subconsciously jealous of women, that we are conceiving, creating and giving birth. And this is one of the driving forces in men to build great buildings, etc. Reply

The Pretty Platform New Jersey September 29, 2016

A true servant of god will not wear his medals on his sleeve and outwardly diminish the role of other god fearing members as inferior. If a man was truly respectful of a woman's role as you say god has for her, he would not publicly and in prayer be thankful for not having her role, but instead honor the role that has been granted to her by his god. But since this is not the case, then may every woman within this organization wake up and realize that they are merely tools to the men that govern them. But needless to say, she is within this prayer categorized along with a gentile and a slave, which hold no position with your jewish god as something honorable. Let's be clear and call a spade a spade, the man is thankful because he is given the superior human position OVER a woman, OVER a slave. Reply

Anonymous September 26, 2016

That rabbi is stupid and a manipulative misogynist... a woman can do these same roles as a man (eg. there are women generals today). Stop oppressing and subjugating women with religion. Reply

Avraham Nahoumi United States June 14, 2016

"...Who has not made me a woman." Whatever rationale one may use to explain this prayer, the fact remains that those who recite it feel that women are inferior in the eyes of HaShem. Females may not pray out loud because they will cause the men to sinfully turn their attention to their female charms instead of concentrating with divine spirit on their prayers. The prayer signifies the Middle Eastern attitude that women are inferior to men that is still adhered to by Muslims. If you truly want to show respect to honorable Jewish women, this prayer must be abolished. Reply

Shoshana Jerusalem June 13, 2016

to anonymous June 8, 2016 Your comment has absolutely no connection to the Jewish viewpoint on women and is therefore irrelevant.

The man says "thank You for not making me a woman" because, 'I, as a man, have 11 mitzvos more than a woman has.' That is the entire reason for this blessing. So a man has 11 mitzvos more than I have. This causes suffering? What reality needs to be changed? I love being a woman. Women have a high and exalted place in Judaism.

It would make more sense to study the Torah and see the greatness of woman, than that each person should come up with his/her own interpretation of what is meant.

You said, "compensate women for their suffering". What suffering?
I live in a very Chereidi community and the women seem to me to have meaningful and fulfilling lives. Reply

Weisenfeld Bklyn October 9, 2017
in response to Shoshana:

Right. Can a man touch his nieces and nephews? Can a woman touch her nephews? Does a man have an unclean time? Can a man divorce without permission, a get? Can a woman? Can a woman become a rabbi? A cantor? Are women segregated to a separate part of the synagogue to pray? Can a woman be bar mitzvahed? Did Israel ever have a woman ruler? Are there any orthodox religious groups headed by a woman?

There are other religious scholars who are more forthcoming on the sexism of the prayer. I've been a lawyer for 50 years, but this summation takes the cake (kosher) Reply

Anonymous June 8, 2016

It expresses factual reality without political correctness It is politically incorrect to acknowledge that being a woman is in reality an existence of suffering on many levels simply due the being female. It is vulgar and offensive for males to express this though (by saying im glad im not a woman). Prayers are NOT the answer. The solution lies in taking action to change realities - not hiding away behind 'prayer'. The laws of the land should compensate women amply for their suffering so that there is a balance in the outcomes regardless of gender. The balance comes when no man can honestly say that they are glad to not be a woman - because they too are compelled to suffer and pay their part (which they currently dont). Men must be stripped of their priviledges and have to face laws that compensate for them getting the easy ride in life. Every mans burden must be made the same as a womans - legally and in social practice. Then just as many women will say 'yes it sucks to be female, but being a male is just as bad if not worse'. Reply

jimmie c boswell/ rabbee yehoshooah adam denver co 80218 December 23, 2015

thankful all males, should be quite thankful that ELOHEEM created the woman for him. there is the one especially for me, even if i do not know exactly which one it is. Reply

Anonymous Tampa December 22, 2015

Another Perspective? As a man who must make this blessing, I find it helpful to think to myself that it's similar to our having to bless Hashem for the bad, as well as the good. In other words, "OK, You didn't make me a woman, but I'll try to make the best of what You gave me, anyway." Reply

Allen Rosenberg Pahrump April 30, 2015

Well Said Not many today can take the existential long view. I think the problem stems from a society that traded materialism for spiritualism. Men see women as sex objects at first but with maturity discover women are individuals. The problem of our time is that women are seeing themselves as sex object. Women used to have a separate culture but as the consumer society has targeted them many have applied the practices of consumerism to themselves. I made an effort to marry a Jewish woman and after 12 years she ran away. I raised 4 children alone and it appears none of them will have children, what a tragedy. Reply

Joseph Seigel missouri February 27, 2015

Wow, so true. Chaya excellent post, I agree with anonymous from Alaska....I have 3 daughters and I most definately feel that women are already circumsized and already have a connection with the Hashem. Reply

Anonymous alaska January 26, 2015

Men Value What They Have to Work For I would say Chaya is very accurate, particularly with "Men value more what they have to work for". Young women would do well to internalize this piece of wisdom.

Additionally, women have the natural ability to be more connected and that is why it is so sad when a woman "falls".

But what about those women who don't honor their closer connection to G-D? We see this all the time in modern society. Reply

Chaya NJ via onetorahway.org January 26, 2015

Woman as the Pinnacle of the Creation Women are more connected. We are born circumcised. Chava was the final act of creation, making her even more perfect than Adam. It was in the merit of the women that we left Egypt. It was the women who had so much faith that they brought tamourines and musical instruments to celebrate by the sea, it was the women who refused to contribute their gold jewelry to make the golden calf (giving the holdiay of Rosh Chodesh to women). It is the woman who brings in Shabbos, and we are told that it will be in the merit of women that the moshiach will come. The Rebbe was very clear that the women need to be at the forefront. Why should men thank HaShem for not making him a woman when a woman is so much more? Because he has the opportunity to rise to the same level through his study and mitzvot. And that is why I don't begrudge men having a more "central" role in Shabbos services, etc. Their neshamah requires it. Men value more what he has to work for. Reply

Craig Hamilton Sandwich, MA January 18, 2015

Re: “Don't fool yourself.” Yes, study with this preconceived idealism! You are correct. Gd loves all of His people!
I once thought similarly to you, but if you are patient and look deeper, I guarantee this prayer won’t bother you. In study, I too have reached incorrect conclusions. There is that prayer, “Thank you for not making me like the other man.” Can empathize with my situation easier now? Once, I too was angry. I had misconceptions about how Jews were supposed to act toward gentiles. Through study I learned that I was wrong about Torah and that G-d never calls for bigotry. Instead, Jews are called to follow Abraham’s examples of lovingkindness and hospitality, and Moses’ example of compassion for animals. I, myself, have found happiness as a gentile. IMHO, Noah is the epitome of the spine of Torah. The entire world laughed at him, and he had the spine not to assimilate! God cleansed the world for the sake of one righteous man, Noah. I won’t look down on him! Reply

Anonymous Texas January 16, 2015

Why I'm not offended by a Blessing Thank you Shoshana for your kindness answers to prayer ....May HaShem keep Israel safe & all who dwell there. closeness to HaShem. Reply

Anonymous January 15, 2015

Don't fool yourself. There is no way but the obvious way to interpret the man's blessing. He is thanking G-d for not being created a woman, as if being a woman was a negative thing. And in this man's world, yeah they view it as such. I'm not arguing the beauty of the way the blessing was written for a woman, it is beautiful. But if the man's blessing was simply to underline his more public role, as you say, with mitzvot... the blessing would be a different one..... wording it I the positive form... thanking G-d for creating him a man. Not the negative form of thanking G-d for not creating him a woman.

~A fellow female frum woman who won't lie to herself about certain realities Reply

Shoshana Jerusalem January 14, 2015

women and prayers All the prayers in the Siddur are equally for women as for men and they will bring us close to Him. When we say say the morning blessings (Birchst hashachar) we thank H. for so many of the things that He has done for us. Then comes Pesukei Dezimra, beautiful prayers of praise of H-shem. Then the Shma Yisrael, declaring His oneness, then comes the Shemoneh Esrei -silent devotion prayer (Amida), which is praise, thanksgiving and request.

At the beginning this might seem like an overwhelming amount of time, but you can pick the main portions and skip over certain ones. You might also want to resite selections form the Book of Psalms, Tehillim, and this will also give you a closeness with G-d, our Creator. Reply

Anonymous Texas January 13, 2015

Why I'm not offended by the Blessing. Really like Article, can you tell me if women have special prayers in the Siddur? Perhaps women are are busy with house hold shores sometimes feel a little alienated from prayers. Our preoccupation with family life need a little quiet time with HaShem. Please recommend a good prayer reading source. Thank you. Reply

Related Topics