With a glint in her eye, eager to challenge me about how I could call myself a Chassidic Feminist—a wig-wearing, religious woman and yet still a proponent of women’s empowerment—a girl slung a quote at me, “To the woman, He [G‑d] said, ‘I shall surely increase your sorrow and your pregnancy; in pain you shall bear children. And to your husband will be your desire, and he will rule over you.’ ”1

“What do you have to say about that?!” she demanded.

I didn’t argue with her.I didn’t argue with her; everything she said was true Everything she said was true. The words say what they say. I told her that I also used to balk at some of the things written about women in the Torah. In fact, some of those things, I still don’t understand. However, as I listened to her frustration and arguments, I realized that I don’t have perfect answers to all of her questions. What I have are different questions.

Yes, I answered her, the Torah does say that Eve’s curse resulted from eating from the Tree of Knowledge. Now, childbirth will be painful, and her husband will influence her. But it’s a curse. It is a consequence. It is not how things are supposed to be. This is exile.

Chassidic teachings explain the story of the creation and see how each detail of the Torah’s account gives us psychological and spiritual insight into the human experience, and our soul work. There are not necessarily simple, easy answers, but if a person wants to get to the truth, then this is the road map.

However, before delving into these details in order to understand what role women play within Judaism, we must look at where we stand in history and transition to a vision towards the future.

“Be angry!” I told her. I also want women to rise up out of their subordination and be empowered, and I get upset at what prevents that—the obstacles that lie in their way. But G‑d is not the one Who prevents that. It is the years of exile from our inner selves, potential, and purpose that have clouded a woman’s true power and responsibility.

G‑d gave us the tools to create life and to know how to make our families grow and flourish. Women have unique abilities to have faith in difficult times and approach others with compassion. Women have a trait called binah yeterah, an inner intuitiveness, which allows us insight into people’s characters and situations. It’s also what makes us know that changing a million diapers and singing a bedtime song each night is the foundation of raising an emotionally and physically whole adult. We can “see the end in the beginning.” We can treasure the inner value and the outcome beyond just the accolades given in the moment.

Some women express these traits more than others, and some men have them as well. This is because they are primarily feminine traits that each person, male or female, can possess. The goal of our world is for the incredible visions and values of the feminine approach to life to be recognized, respected and embraced.

We stand at a transitional moment. Everything depends on the path we choose forward. The world has tilted too far towards valuing masculine traits like rugged individualism, aggression, and the desire to conquer others. Do we continue to fight for women to take on more and more of these traits, to pursue a more outward approach, so they can succeed in a dog-eat-dog world? Or do we demand that society’s values change? Do we demand that these inner feminine values and compassionate nurturing become the standard and goal? Do we challenge both men and women to develop the vital feminine traits within themselves?

Judaism believes in the latterUltimately, the feminine values with prevail approach. Ultimately, the feminine values of seeing beneath the superficial and tapping into the long-term G‑dly rewards of a life of service and kindness will prevail.

Chassidism teaches that a “Woman of Valor is the crown of her husband.” A king without a crown is not a king, just as a world without the glory of the feminine cannot be a complete world. In the messianic world to come, the feminine will be revealed as the crown—the true source of splendor in this world. Then the beauty of masculine traits will also be revealed when they work in harmony with the feminine. Then this exile will be over. Then all the pain, confusion and anger will be a memory. Both women and men will be free to unearth their true G‑dly potential.

And then, it will make perfect sense that I am a Chassidic Feminist.