(This blog is a continuation of the previous two blogs: Part I: No, I'm Not Satisfied with Women's Role in Judaism and Part II: What I love about being a Jewish woman...and where I'd love to see change.)

An honest discussion on the role of women in Judaism must include an admittance that at many junctures in time, her voice has been limited, sometimes severely, to the point of silence. Much can be attributed to circumstances, and to the resultant lack of time, talent, resources or opportunities, as well as to a different value system that is difficult to fathom through the lens of the twenty first century.

But I believe that there is an element that hasn't been touched upon that can be found in a fascinating Talmudic passage about the moon. I see this reading as a metaphor for the evolution of the feminine role.

The Talmud tells us of a dialogue the moon had with G‑d, following the creation of the sun and moon—both with equal luminosity:

The moon: "Sovereign of the Universe, can two kings share a single crown?"

G‑d replied: "Go and make yourself smaller."'

"Sovereign of the Universe,"' she said to Him, "because I made a proper claim before You, am I to make myself smaller?"

...On seeing that the moon would not be consoled, the Holy One said, "Bring an atonement for Me for making the moon smaller." (Talmud, Chulin 60b)

Interestingly, the exchange seems to convey that G‑d did not want to diminish the status of the moon, and only does so reluctantly, after the moon herself raises the valid point that there cannot be "two kings sharing a single crown." It seems from G‑d's plan that He would have preferred that the sun and moon remain distinct luminaries, each shining in their respective arenas, but both equally recognized for the essential contribution that they provides.

But the moon herself, with her intuitive understanding, recognizes that in our imperfect world this cannot be so. We live in a world that has only understood things in terms of hierarchy. It would take centuries for the concept of equality for all to come to the fore.

G‑d reluctantly acquiesces to the moon, admitting the validity of her perception and then tells her that it is she, the one who understands this dynamic so well, who must diminish herself.

The moon protests this unfair treatment, and despite G‑d's efforts to placate her by giving her special advantages, the moon is still not satisfied. In the end, G‑d asks us to offer a sin-offering for the suffering He has caused her in diminishing her light.

Only in a future era, in the era of a rectified and perfected world, does G‑d promise that the shine of the moon will be restored completely (Isaiah 30:26). Only in the era of Moshiach will the role of the feminine be fully understood and will the moon shine with equal brilliance and radiance.

The conflict between the genders, the interplay between the masculine and feminine forces of our world continues. As we approach that perfected era, the moon's light is growing brighter in some areas of societal life, while in others it is just as dim as ever. It is a process that is evolving and that each of us can and must contribute to—by pushing our boundaries, questioning our comfort zones and digging deeper to find better answers in the Divine wisdom of our infinite Torah.

In Conclusion

There is a beautiful sight that I witnessed one Friday afternoon when my married daughter and son-in-law were visiting. As my daughters and I kindled the holy Shabbat lights, I noticed my son-in-law standing almost at attention, waiting and watching his wife light hers. He waited in reverence as she kindled the match. He watched as she waved her arms over the lit candles ushering in the holiness of the day. And he stood in silence as she covered her eyes and recited the blessing. Finally, when she was done, the two turned to one another and wished each other a "good Shabbos."

To me the scene was so beautiful because it was clear from his posture and from his patient waiting (especially at a moment when most people are rushing in a frenzy to get in those last-minute, harried preparations) that he felt the immense importance of the moment.

Despite any inconvenience, he makes sure to be present, reverently witnessing and taking in the awesome holiness of this moment, every single Shabbat eve. Clearly he deeply understands and respects that through her kindling the candles, his wife is the conduit of blessing for their family. As she ushers in the very holiness of the Shabbat Queen, she personifies the glory and grandeur of the Shechinah herself, descending into our reality.

This perspective is a true and vital validation and admiration for the feminine, and all that she personifies. And it is such a perspective that we must seek to cultivate within our world.