Contact Us

Tending the Garden

Tending the Garden

Where Are the Feminine Role Models?

 Email

I'm often asked why it is that men played such a major role in Jewish history. "Where are the feminine voices, the feminine role models? Why are they not leading the way?"

The short answer is that the women are there of course, in full force, but working through their inner mode, often not noticeable to the indiscriminating eye.

But to understand why they are not at the forefront we need a deeper understanding of the workings of our world and of the purpose of why we are here to begin with.


"I have come into My garden, My sister, My bride." (Song of Songs 5:1)

A common perception is that the purpose of our world is for human beings to fulfill G‑d's will in order to receive their reward in the world to come.

Man does by bringing a new element of G‑dliness into our world. Woman is by revealing the G‑dliness in what already exists This, however, is a simplistic (and selfish) level of relating to G‑d.

The Midrash explains that "G‑d desired to have a dwelling place in the lower worlds" (Tanchuma, Naso 16). G‑d wanted a relationship with us here in this physical world. This world is G‑d's "garden" where we can become connected and united with Him. We connect to G‑d through the study of Torah and the practice of mitzvot, which changes our world into a more G‑dly place, where G‑d can feel "at home."

Ultimately, the depth of our relationship will be realized only after the redemption, in the messianic era. Our job now, however, is to prepare the world for this time.

A garden is made up of plain earth. But it is precisely within its lowly, sullied soil that the most radiant, dazzling flowers can grow. Similarly, it is specifically in our physical world that the most profound relationship between us and G‑d can be forged.

Making our world into G‑d's garden requires two roles.

Firstly, we must uproot the weeds and clear the debris from our garden. We must subjugate the darkness and negativity which obscures the G‑dly source and essence of our world.

Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, we must tend to the garden's various plants, nurture them and ensure that they blossom fully. We must cultivate and bring out the latent inner qualities and potentials of all aspects of our world.

Both of these roles are necessary in transforming our physical world into a divine garden. On the whole, they reflect the respective roles of man and woman.

When we fight negativity--the spiritual "weeds" and "debris" around us--by drawing down new holiness to overcome it, we are employing the external, "masculine" mode.

When we reveal the inherent beauty in creation by working within the physical reality to uncover the holiness already there--cultivating the physical earth so that it brings out breathtaking flowers--we are employing the inner, "feminine" mode.


These two approaches--the "masculine" and "feminine" modes--are present in dealing with almost every facet of reality. We employ the masculine mode when we work "from above downwards"--applying external forces to reshape, bypass and overcome. We employ the feminine approach when we work "from below upwards" to cultivate, nurture and bring out the earth's inherent qualities and talents.

(This is not to say that every man will exclusively employ the masculine mode and every woman the feminine one, but generally speaking these are the masculine or feminine energies within creation.)

In the business world, you will have those "masculine" managers who provide direction in a linear, hierarchal manner by instructing, ordering and directing from above downwards. Then you will have "feminine" managers who will brainstorm with their employees to bring out their latent talents and creative ideas.

In our school classrooms, there are those "masculine-style" teachers who lecture, dictate and "rain down" the knowledge on their students. Then there are "feminine-style" teachers who cultivate the skills within their students so that they are empowered to learn and develop on their own.

In disagreements or differences of opinion, there are those "masculine" debaters who powerfully and masterfully negate the wrongs of their opponent's argument. Then there are others who demonstrate the strengths and potency of their own approach and thereby overcome any possible challenges.

In the area of medicine, the "masculine" approach says fight against a disease by surgically removing it or through medication aimed at eradicating it. The "feminine" healing method, on the other hand, aims to strengthen the resources of the body so it will naturally overcome the illness.


The importance of the feminine role is becoming more accessible and appreciated These are two roles and two directions to creating a home for G‑d.

Bringing G‑dliness down into our world. Or raising and elevating our reality to reveal its inherent G‑dliness.

Conquering negativity and physicality. Or cultivating and uncovering the essential positivity within creation.

Man's primary role is to introduce new G‑dliness to our world. He accomplishes this primarily through his Torah study.

Woman's primary role is to uncover the G‑dliness that already exists within creation. Mitzvot bring out the inner spirituality within the physical realm of our world.

Man does by bringing in a new element of G‑dliness into our world.

Woman is by revealing the G‑dliness in what already exists.


Both roles are vital.

When evil abounds we need to fight it head on. We vanquish darkness by introducing more G‑dly light into creation. It is useless, even counter-productive, to sit down and negotiate with terrorists who wish to destroy you--you need to fight them head on.

But there comes a time when the evil has been largely subdued and the second approach--of finding the inherent good, and revealing the common ground of unity--is more effective.

From the beginning of time, we have fought the evil around us by defeating value systems that were antithetical to a G‑dly world. The masculine energy was largely at the forefront of this battle.

But we are now at the doorstep of a new era. Moshiach will overpower all evil and then focus his energies on education and cultivation. In order to transform the very fabric of our world and reveal its implicit G‑dliness, the feminine approach of nurturance and uncovering is more appropriate.


So, to get back to the original question, where are the women's voices? Why aren't they noticeable?

As mentioned, they are there, but because their role is from within, their approach is by necessity more hidden, more secretive. They work from behind the scenes, not always discernable to the non-discriminating eye. We need to discover and tap into their energy, their hidden, inner voices to learn from their depth of wisdom how to deal with the challenges of our own lives.

As we stand on the threshold of this new era, the importance of the feminine role is becoming more accessible and appreciated.

Geulah, redemption, is the feminine era. It is an era of peace where we no longer need to fight the negativity of our world but rather inculcate more and more goodness and G‑dliness within creation. Redemption is described as the time when nekeiva tesovev gever ("the female shall surround the male"--Jeremiah 31:21), when the feminine qualities will supercede the male qualities. After resting our weapons we will bask in and absorb the tranquility of peace. Having overcome the darkness, we will finally appreciate the splendor of the light.

Women are charged with bringing this era because they are intrinsically connected to its feminine vision. The world is ready for more of this feminine perspective. Let us not lose our feminine approach, our feminine mode or our feminine touch, let us use it to transform our world into G‑d's garden.

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.
Artwork by Sarah Kranz.
© 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:
9 Comments
1000 characters remaining
Anonymous Australia September 1, 2016

Great article. I found this article well balanced and very enlightening. I believe women have always played a significant role in Jewish history, but this article sheds a lot of light on the 'feminine' in tbe Messianic Era. Thanks for writing. Reply

Yakira raleigh, nc August 23, 2009

Great article and I understand that males and females have different roles in this world- I also respect that. This article still did not satisfy the question of why we do not have more documentation on FEMALE PROPHETS AND MATRIARCHS' encounters with G-D. Sorry, this was just another oversimplication and politically correct justification for men's dominance in the Tanakh. Men need rolemodels and so do women. Reply

Tahara malibu, ca. January 23, 2009

returning to the Garden Your article is a blessing {such clarity.} You have echoed back to me my vision too,and All my beliefs have been confirmed. Thank You! Reply

Joy Krauthammer Northridge, CA, USA December 31, 2007

Tending the Garden Chana Weisberg's Tending the Garden is insightful for me and I examine my own life in the light she offers regarding male vs women's roles.

When I "rested my weapons" and was relieved of my duties as Caregiver Angel Warrior when my husband, Marcel z'l, died two years ago, I took up more gardening of the earth's soil and my soul's soil. I was able to leave the "male" warrior within hierarchical medical administration in this world and transcend to the "women's" role, uncovering G*dliness, co-creating with G*d "to reveal the inherent beauty in creation" and elevate our world.

I had just written about G*d's beauty and my response to it in my poem, Manna from Heaven, not realizing the classification that "female" role plays in revealing creation. In Chana's article I understand my own actions and relationship with the Creator in tending our Divine garden.

Thank you for the clarity because it has deepened my own self understanding of the mitzvot I do. Reply

Anonymous São Paulo, BR May 18, 2007

Tending the Garden Dear Chana:
I really enjoyed your article. Your approach to women´s role model and importance is sensitive and true. We many times and most of the times are in the background of life events. But it is rewarding to look forward to a time when, as your wrote,

"Geulah, redemption, is the feminine era. It is an era of peace where we no longer need to fight the negativity of our world but rather inculcate more and more goodness and G-dliness within creation."

Both men and women complement each other, but the inner qualities and introspection particularly feminine come to be more appreciated after your vision. Thank you. Reply

Silvia Conn Salt Lake City, UT/U.S.A. August 17, 2006

Chana Weisberg's article Very wonderful and very timely. I especially find your words most appropriate and corresponding to my life and works. Thank you Chana! Your gift to the world is priceless. Reply

daniel August 17, 2006

The garden Thought provoking and inspirational, even to a man, may your words prosper into reality and soon! Reply

Anonymous Quezon City, Philippines August 14, 2006

Tending the Garden Dear Madam,

Many thanks for the deep insights!! Now I understand myself a little more ... at 53 years!I have told my friends that to my assessment, I think more like a man than a woman most of the time - (towards work, decision making, attitude in life) which I explained to them was probably rooted in the fact that I was fatherless at age 3-- I felt all the years that I had to fend for myself therefore had maintained a rather 'masculine' simplicity in almost all areas of my life... Yet I would feel fulfilled when I would do something creative like a flower arrangement, or singing, or gardening, as you had cited... NOW, I have the reason and goal to be more feminine!!! And now I can appreciate more my 'ultra feminine' friends... Again, Madam, thanks a lot for that 'healing insight' into 'masculinity' and 'femininity'.

Reply

Roxanne Perri Aventura, Fl August 14, 2006

Tending the Garden I enjoyed the weaving of masculine and feminine energies into the garden metaphor. Great article, Chana. Keep up the good work.
Reply