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What’s Wrong with Being a Woman?

Women in Jewish Religious Life

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What's Wrong with Being a Woman?: Women in Jewish Religious Life

In this first class in a series on women’s roles in Judaism, we analyze the blessing that men recite daily thanking G‑d “for not making me a woman.” How are we to understand the seemingly derogatory implications of this blessing?
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Women's mitzvot, Men & Women, Women, Femininity & Feminism

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bina israel February 9, 2023

Thank you that's a very cool class. My question is as follows:
if man thanks god for not impregnating his soul with the female soul, shouldn't females thank god for not impregnating them with a mans soul? Reply

Shuli Melbourne August 17, 2022

Who would be happy to be a woman when we are squeezed up the back behind a mechitza (dividing curtain), we're not allowed to get near the Torah in shul, we can't get up and read from the very book these commandments came from, we're not allowed to sing in public due to MEN'S weakness, and we are supposed to stay at home pregnant in the kitchen.

I was unable to have children and my husband is dead. It feels like there is no place for me in the Jewish world. I feel that Judaism is harsh on women. If we were truly thought to be spiritually superior, wouldn't men say a bracha declaring "please G-d, make me as wise and spiritual as a woman"?

I am sorry if my comments offend anyone. Reply

Avigayil Hingham August 27, 2022
in response to Shuli :

Oh, Shuli. Gd hasn’t given you the easy life… and everything you wrote makes perfect sense. I could not find anything positive in being a woman until I learned about the feminine in chabad chassidus. Specifically from the Rebbe’s sichos in Likkutei Sichos, and especially the Chassidic Heritage Series books. These opened a new world to me, and showed me superior qualities of the feminine. And only THEN could I see the meaning behind the women’s role. Reply

benjamin connally Chattanooga August 3, 2022

This blessing is not a matter of comparing one’s self or others. A mitzvot is not “easy”. The blessing does not say “Thank You Hashem for making me an Israelite Man.” The blessing is a mitzvot. Why would something be a mitzvot if it was easy for a Israelite Man to do? How many Israelite men do you think are saying this blessing thinking “yes I am better than a woman”. Thank you Hashem for not making me a Doctor, thank you Hashem for not making me a government ruler, I praise the Lord above every day for not making me Moses, what a chore explaining all the mitzvot! Are you a slave? Why be mad about this one, stop comparing yourself thinking that’s what we’re doing. Perhaps it is written this way because Hashem thought Israelite Men would have the inclination to go be these other things more so than a woman a slave or a gentile has an inclination to be a Israelite Man? Reply

ROSE D. Miami, Florida August 3, 2022
in response to benjamin connally:

A man mansplaning to women, how unusual. Basically, you’re saying “ladies ignore what we say, you just don’t understand.” Why say thank you for not being a woman rather than a cow or a camel or a fish? A Jewish doctor, a ruler or prophet have all said the same prayer. Many Israelite women and slaves probably wished they were men with the rights Jewish men had.
It is what it is, Benjamin. Putting a PC spin on an ancient prayer doesn’t change the historic meaning. Nice try though. Reply

Avigayil Chana Hingham August 7, 2022
in response to ROSE D.:

I think it’s like thanking Gd that he’s not a navy SEAL because going that deep into material life is way too scary. Women have to maintain their spiritual life as they work all day and night on totally material tasks. While men can break from it all to run to minyan and support and pure spirituality. That’s a much EASIER role than women have. So it’s a “bless Gd, I don’t think I could survive spiritually being a woman.” Reply

ROSE Miami August 7, 2022
in response to Avigayil Chana:

I like your creativity. Do you think this was the original meaning or just a more palatable “spin”? Reply

Isaac Brooklyn NY August 22, 2021

Dear Rabbi Raskin
Have you mentioned the rabbi's name from the Kabbalah who submitted the reasoning for the blessing?
If you did, sorry for overlooking it. And what do we know about him?
How certain are you that this impregnated foreign soul that causes us to do things against our will, will even allow us to recite this blessing?
And have you ever seen this phenomenon with this blessing recited actually happen under verifiable conditions?

It was Hashem's decision for certain Mitzvos in the Torah not to relate to women, then why would Hashem feel dishonored if women recite the blessing? The same can be said by women not reciting the blessing, that would be a discredit to Hashem for it sends a message that they are displeased with God's Torah for not including them in all Mitzvos. For one shall rejoice with their lot in life.
But this blessing, if true, should not be a question of Mitzvos but rather a matter of Pikuach Neshama as in Pikuach Nefesh, adherence to all halacha is exempt. Reply

Avigayil Boston June 3, 2021

The “For not making me a woman” blessing:
From the perspective of the male mission, it’s excellent to not be made a woman. And, from the perspective of the female mission, it’s outright bragging to thank Gd for making me according to His will.
So the big question is… what are the female and the male missions? Reply

Rabbi Raskin Bklyn hts June 4, 2021
in response to Avigayil :

Great Question.
I speak about it in my book, “ Thank you G-d for making me a women.”
“The man harvests and brings in the grain, the woman transforms it into delicacies... Reply

Avigayil Boston June 9, 2021
in response to Rabbi Raskin:

Hi Rabbi Raskin… It’s masculine to self-define based on how many mitzvos you do, as the masculine role is about steps, degrees, levels. The progression downward, directly connected to Above. Mitzvos focused in external revelation, rituals taking place in spheres of holiness. Manasseh - relating all things back to the Father’s home, the concept of the tzadek. But women are different. Ephriam. We are seemingly cut off, plunged fulltime into dark physicality, our mitzvos submerged in the sphere of “the goyim,” the 70 nations. So we self-differentiate by thanking Gd for not being a goy. Our mitzvos free sparks in vastly more mundane, totally non-revelation activities such as cleaning, or silence. Sparks enslaved to the whims of darkness, very different from men, so we self-differentiate from the “aved.” We thank Gd that only the feminine role is on the frontline battle of “His will” to make a dwelling in this dark sphere, devoid of revelation & ritual. It’s a better role. Reply

Anonymous April 29, 2020

I just stumbled across this video and was very interested to hear this explanation. However, he doesn't answer a very obvious question: according his explanation, why don't women make the blessing "who did not make me a man?" And if he's saying that this soul punishment thing only happens to a man, then why do women make the other two blessings?
Please give me an answer.
Thank you. Reply

Rabbi Raskin Bklyn Hts June 3, 2021
in response to Anonymous:

Thank You for asking.
The answer is that all levels of Torah must compliment each other. Therefore even though according to Kabbalah you should say that Bracha, but according to Halacha, saying “Ty for not making me a man” means ty for not giving me 613 commandments. Such a statement would be a dishonor and discredit to G-d—saying, your mitzvot are not important or beneficial.
But, the impregnation of a foreign soul can happen to anyone man or woman.

However, if our service to G-d is beyond exemplary, we can receive an impregnation of a holy soul— a tzadik.
And that is something we all want and pray for. Reply

Katherine Clearwater February 27, 2018

Where can we get the handouts you mentioned? Reply

Rabbi Aaron L.Raskin Bklyn hts August 14, 2017

Check out the new book based on this lecture called.
Thank you G-d for making me a woman Reply

Rose Dembo Mercer Island August 21, 2017
in response to Rabbi Aaron L.Raskin:

Link please. Reply

Feigele St Johns FL August 9, 2017

Of course NOT! they are both on a different dimension and it's up to them to get together in order to reach agreements for peace and love. Together they make a perfect combination of power and strength - so that no one is superior than the other - some time one is stronger or weaker than the other under oppression but that's not the generality. Reply

Ruth August 2, 2017

It never occurred to me that women were "less" than men. Reply

Feigele Boca Raton FL May 13, 2015

Equality of Different Genders My comments apply to old times, centuries ago, not to today’s times. For years women had to be quiet not expressing themselves but absorbing all around them and learning as much as men. Of course, all what you’re mentioning relates to today’s women. Years, long, ago, women were more fragile and submissive, thus, leading to the Women’s Lib. It is true teen girls grow and learn faster than their counterpart males, but then males catch up later on. If we both would accept each other values, we would not try to overpower one another. We are not equal, which makes it even more exciting to discover each other possibilities and learn from it, thus becoming together superior humans. No need to try to prove oneself, just ride alongside with respect and love for each other to avoid any conflicts of superiority or inferiority. Today, most cooks are men and good ones while women participate more in sports. Why not enjoy all that is display in front of us no matter the gender. Reply

Rose Dembo MERCER ISLAND via August 9, 2017
in response to Feigele:

Sorry, nope. Women long ago were fragile? Really? Women long ago worked harder than you can imagine, gave birth in unsanitary conditions, had too many children in too short a time, married too young. Women are not the weaker sex. Women are not by nature submissive.
Women and men are different but totally equal. Reply

Billie Toronto June 3, 2021
in response to Rose Dembo:

Yes, I think of even just one woman, Deborah, a judge!!! A prophet!! A warrior. Barak would not even go into battle unless she went before him. Judges 4:9. Because of that, Deborah prophesied the honour of victory would not go to a man but rather a woman. Times were not much different back then, in fact, I would say sometimes they were better. The problem is, especially in the western world, man left G_d behind and became mixed with the gentile mind (I’m a gentile), and forgot about G_ds laws. So of course women became oppressed under the thumb of the gentile man. Reply

ruth housman marshfield hills, ma May 13, 2015

woman I think it's clear, always has been, that the receptive element in life, the container for that life, woman, is also for womb-man, and you hear this when you way the word, if you are me. The aural connectivity is fascinating, and I am walking through Babel. The word fascinating itself has within the word fasten, as in what we attach ourselves to, and this reflects fascinating. A child naturally attaches, to what is loving that child. We just left mother's day behind, and yet, every day is actually mother's day, and earth herself has something to say about this, as she, earth, flowers, abundance, what we harvest, and it's the big table all the way, and what we table, and accept, and reap, and sow, and harvest. Just sow stories. Babel is a gate. We have that spring, the babbling stream, water, Mayim. And I have to capitalize because the computer spells maxim unless I do so. Rules. It's May, the month; and there is dismay, in our lives, as in terrible sorrows. Shall pass. Shalom. Shallom. Reply

Isaac Brooklyn May 12, 2015

Men v women. Who is more superior? Physically, in strength, many Women can hold their own, but when it comes to childbirth, there are no Men that can accomplish this feat. Women on average live longer than men.
Overall, physically, which are really the stronger.

Mentally & intellectually, Girls learn more, are smarter and more mature at a younger age than boys. Most Women handle stress better than most Men. When it comes to College performance, Women are leaving Men in the dust. Speaking of intellectual superiority.

But the issue is not which are more superior, but rather "who is to say"?
How can Man know what Women as a whole, intellectual capabilities are, when Men do not know what the intellectual capabilities of Men are.

I have heard it said of men many times, Our male Rabbis say. "Do not dare to even think that you will ever reach the high levels of the Sages" From our Mothers we hear "Learn Torah diligently, for we know one day you will reach the highest levels of our Sages".
Who is more superior? Reply

Feigele Boca Raton FL May 1, 2015

Time for a change! I am not sure that men did hate women in all these times, but what I believe is that men always felt superior to women, for what reason, I’m not sure. Maybe because of physical structure!! I also believe that men did respect their mothers and wives, but acting overprotecting and condescending on their daughters, which gave them a sense of importance. Men truly and honestly believed that a woman should be in the kitchen and taking care of their family, since they were the ones giving birth. Men detached themselves from all these duties wrongly believing they were not part of it. Reply

J. Ann O. BATTLE GROUND April 27, 2015

Re-defining after the fact, and the state of the heart Rabbi Raskin, I appreciate your teaching, it has given much to think about, and your own belief in the value of a woman. However, I do not think that was what was in mind when the bracha was written nor in the hearts of men the majority of the thousands of years it has been spoken.
The time of captivity in Babylon during the Persian Empire and the lives of Dani'El, Mordecai, and Hadassah was especially anti-woman. If you have ever read an original translation of "The Arabian Nights," a piece of literature from that time period, you see how women were considered. This collection of stories and folk lore is so misogynistic chauvinistic, and anti-woman it is hard to read. It is easy to see that the Principality over that region (spoken of in Daniel) hated women and subtly influenced all who lived there. Even such wise and Godly men as Haggai and Daniel would have been influenced. Sadly, you can see the prejudice in that region even today. Reply

C. Chachaj UK January 7, 2015

Final thought... The harder our hearts the more destruction we invite into our lives.

The responsibility of upholding a deeper understanding is one of humility and circumcision of the heart.

Our true inheritance is not one that is man made, but an inheritance of the soul. If I am to be exiled from a world where I am shunned than it makes no difference for my home is not here, it is with G-d.

Compassion and understanding for all. If even for a lame donkey than how much more for our brothers. I have learnt from the destruction and suffering of my family and allow my heart to continual be circumcised of the ignorance and pride that fear would spring up like weeds.

Peace and justice to all, by the hand of the G-d alone. Reply

C. Chachaj UK January 6, 2015

Moreover... Thank you Isaac for your considered reply. It certainly did something to restore my heart. For, in regards to belief often the obvious is thrown out after centuries of rigid doctrine.

I know in my heart, my love and continual desire to grow in G-d. I do not need man or women to judge, approve or verify my existence, for they are not G-d.

I have continually seen and experienced the deeply stored knowledge and understanding express itself in my life. Through each one of my ancestors I have been given a gift of which no one can take away. It is my inheritance, and it is broader and deeper than any dogmatic belief will hold.

Everything will be tested, everything will be shaken, best to get our own house in order. Not to just to wear the clothes of a true heart, it is best to stop blinding ourselves and challenge ourselves before we invite it.

Blessings to All. Reply

Rose Mercer Island January 1, 2015

Isaac, no one is saying being Jewish is genetic. Everyone at Sinai accepted the Torah and were essentially "converted". Accepting Torah means also accepting that Judaism in passed to offspring through the mother. End of story. Today being converted properly results in the Jewishness of the children of female converts. Reply

Isaac Brooklyn NY December 22, 2014

Re: C. Chachaj, a victim of man made laws. In ancient and primitive times, men were threatened of being outsmarted by women.
Women were equal more in theory rather than in practice. Many more female Rabbis with all women in tow, are needed before true equality can be achieved.

Tradition has it, that Moses brought Scripture down from Mount Sinai dictated by God Himself.
With the most simplest of understandings, makes Scripture the highest authority.
As seen in Scripture, our forefathers, the sons/tribes of Jacob/Israel, all having married non-Jewish women & whose offspring became the Jewish nation.
The Priests and the Levites also went according to their fathers. Even Moses married a non-Jewish woman.
If it were true that one's Judaism follows the faith of the mother, then (God help us) none of us would be considered truly Jewish.
By birthright this gives you as well as the rest of us a choice between, being Jewish as us all, or being non-Jewish as us all.
Judging by your comment, you are just as Jewish as the best of Jews. Reply

Feigele Boca Raton December 21, 2014

Unquestionably, nothing! And, to say that, women and men are equal is a misinterpretation of each gender’s values, only responsibilities should be equal. The body and brain’s shapes are not the same. Each one has a different conception of their own worth and potential in life. If each one would just maintain their own qualities and respect others according to their built physically and mentally, with no assertion of who is better or not, then, maybe, things would get better between us. Tasks shouldn’t be based on gender but on who is more able and if each would bring to the plate their own ability then we would reach equality. We both have marvelous qualities so let’s put them together instead of challenging each other. Reply

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