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Ezer or Kinegdo?

Ezer or Kinegdo?

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Published by binhersh
Overview on the distinction between the roles of men vs. women in Orthodox Judaism
Overview on the distinction between the roles of men vs. women in Orthodox Judaism

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Published by: binhersh on Oct 15, 2009
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05/15/2010

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Part III – Home is Where the Heart(h) Is
As we recall the statement of Rabbi Chananya ben Akashya - that G-d wished to confer meritupon the Jewish people and, accordingly, He loaded us up with all kinds of virtue-heavycommandments and an inexhaustible program of Torah study and, as such, we are never lackingfor scoring opportunities – we may not help but notice that this system seems to bypass asignificant portion of the population (possibly the majority): those of the female persuasion.Evidently, women have a very meager connection to the positive commandments. Indeed, thereare but three positive commandments that are designated specifically for women and two formsof obligatory offerings (aside from personal sin offerings) and they are required to partake inmatzo and marror (bitter herbs) on Passover,
kiddush
on Friday nights,
havdalah
, Grace after meals and
mezuzah
.
1
They are also obligated in the Rabbinical commandments of 
megillah
,Chanuka lights, four cups of wine on Passover, and blessings of enjoyment. After these, the pickings are slim.
2
 Clearly, Rabbi Chananya ben Akashya’s uplifting homily does not endow thewomen with the full range of benefits. Could it be, as some feminists assert, that G-d is interestedin a discriminatory system of virtue in an effort to bar women from paradise?I believe that most of us would consider such a notion patently ridiculous. Moreover, thisassertion can hold true only if one believes that men and women are two distinct competingspecies of human-kind who manage to cohabitate when the conditions for such happen to befavorable. Furthermore, such an opinion relies on the assumption that G-d ‘Himself’ can becharacterized as male in a biological sense.
3
 Ironically, these (mis)conceptions are propagatedmostly by those who consider themselves as liberal and egalitarian.
4
 The ‘chauvinistic’ chareidim believe otherwise.To review the question, we are asking that if the purpose of such an extensive list of commandments is to give us maximal opportunity to merit virtue, why are women denied a largeshare of this opportunity?
5
(Note – we are not asking, as the Talmud in Berachot
6
 asks, how dowomen merit paradise if they have so few obligations, but rather, why is it that they were notgiven as much opportunity as were the men?) Numerous rabbinical scholars explain that men were created to civilize this world by engaging inindustry, production, commerce, mastering the sciences, and, when necessary, warfare. To this
1
The issue of prayer is a bit complicated.
2
Women are exempt from all time oriented commandments besides matzo and marror and the Rabbinic ones Imentioned. They are likewise totally exempt from the ever present obligation of Torah study, the essential obligation of marriage and reproduction, and from the pilgrimage on the festivals except for the special Hakhel that follows thesabbatical year. Though a woman may be a mohel and a shochet it is certainly not the norm. Virtually all the laws of testimony and judicial proceedings, establishing the months, warfare, commerce, trade and agriculture, and the Templeservice are outside of their jurisdiction. The communal requirements of building the Temple and appointing a king areundoubtedly carried out by the men. Of course, if they do engage in trade and commerce and agriculture, they areobligated to all the tithes, charity, and apportioning, paying workers on time, sending away a mother bird, and they areobligated in the levirate marriage. All of these, however, are actually negative commandments that are transformed to a positive (
lahv hanitak l’aseh
).
3
No, I haven’t overlooked Rashi’s commentary on Numbers 20:1. Also of interest is Rashi’s commentary on Numbers5:12 although Rashi himself negates the biological connotation in his commentary on Exodus 15:3.
4
This brings back fond memories of the bumper sticker slogan that was disseminated by the feminist movement at theheight of its renaissance three decades ago: “When god made man, she was only kidding.”
5
Indeed, the Talmud in tractate Kiddushin 34a excludes mezuzah from the commandments that do not pertain towomen using the argument, “This commandment is followed by the urging of the Torah ‘In order to increase your days’ – i.e., extend your life. [Can we claim that only] men require life and women do not require life?”
6
Talmud Bavli Berachot 17a
 
end it was necessary to imbue man with fierce and passionate drives to motivate him to reach hisfull potential. These drives generally fall into three categories of lust: lust for wealth (
kihnah
-envy), lust for bodily pleasure (
taavah
- craving), and lust for glory and fame (
kavod 
- honor).Although these drives cause man to succeed, they are simultaneously tremendous obstacles for self-discipline and for forging a path to G-d. To compensate for this shortcoming, G-d gave us[men] a full spectrum of ‘channels’ to Him in the hope that every man will find at least one thatcan suit him. Conversely, women were not meant to be the instigators of all the aboveachievements and therefore there was no need to instill in women these lustful drives at the samescale as men. As such, their conduit to G-d is not fraught with obstacles to the same degree;hence, they have no need for such a full range of commandments.While this explanation seems to adequately explain why it is not necessary that women should beas burdened as the men, it still falls somewhat short of explaining why they are held back from performing many of the commandments. Of course, based on the response of the Talmud inBerachot that I (parenthetically) alluded to earlier - that women merit paradise by means of supporting, encouraging and enabling their menfolk 
7
 to study and perform commandments - itfollows that women are actually not excluded from any commandments, but rather, can be active participants in a supporting role. Still this avenue entails being fully dependent on theachievements of the men (who, to be fair, do not always get the job done); and so we ask, why isit that women do not have independent access to these channels?Perhaps, the rudiments of the Maharsha and the trend of our discussion can satisfy this question,as well.Many readers may be familiar with the following discourse as it is a very popular generic sermonthat is frequently presented at
 sheva
 
berachot 
celebrations:
The Talmud in tractate Sota states
8
:Man (Ish) and Woman (Isha) - if they are worthy, G-d iswith them; if they are unworthy, a fire consumes them. Rashi explains that the Hebrew spellingof the word ish (Man) is Aleph-Yud-Shin. The Hebrew spelling of the word isha (Woman) isAleph-Shin-Heh. They are essentially the same root, except that the man has a Yud and thewoman has a Heh. The Hebrew letters Yud and Heh comprise an abbreviated version of G-d’sname. When Man and Woman are worthy, i.e., they conduct their relationship according to theWill of G-d, they sustain G-d’s presence between them and the letters Yud and Heh of G-d’sname that He contributes to their essence is preserved and, in turn, preserves them. If they areunworthy, He withdraws His presence and thereby withdraws the Yud that is His contribution toMan and the Heh that is His contribution to Woman. In both cases, the resulting essence are theHebrew letters Aleph and Shin which spell out the Hebrew word esh (fire) to indicate that their relationship will transform into a fire of rage and consume them.
Typically, the homily ends here and the speaker goes on to hurriedly wrap up his speech andconvey his blessings to the newlywed couple before the non-dairy frozen dessert completelymelts into oblivion. But, for us chareidim, it may be a tad bit too soon to relax and enjoy thedessert. The discourse continues.
9
Why exactly is it that, of the two divine letters, the man is bequeathed the
Yud 
and the woman is bequeathed the
 Heh
?
7
Even women who are not married can support their sons, parents, siblings, and/or the community in general. Nobodyneeds to be left out.
8
Talmud Bavli Sota 17a
9
This portion is a continuation of the address that was delivered by Rabbi E. Svei as noted above (noteError:Reference source not found). This also appears in Sefer Kehillat Yitzchok by Rabbi Isaac Neeman of Janowa (Vilna,1900) attributed to Rabbi Elyakim Getzel of Zambrow.
 
For this we must study a passage in Talmud tractate Menachot
:
Rabbi Judah the Prince asked of Rabbi Ami: What is the meaning of the verse,
 Have
 
trust inG-d for all Eternity for with Ya-H 
(the abbreviated name of G-d that consists of a Yud and aHeh)
G-d has formed worlds
…? This concurs with the exegesis of Rabbi Yehuda bar RavIloyi who expounded, “These are the two worlds that the Holy One created – 
olam hazeh
(thisworld) and
olam haba
(the afterlife or the World to Come) – one of which was created with theletter 
 Heh
and the other was created with the letter 
Yud 
; but I still cannot determine if the Worldto Come was created with a
Yud 
and the present world was created with a
 Heh
or vice-versa.When we find the verse,
These are the products of the heavens and the earth
(i.e., this world)
in the course of their creation (b’hibaraam)
… and we expound ‘Do not read the word as
b’hibaraam
(in the course of their creation), but rather 
b’Heh
 
baraam
(with the letter 
 Heh
theywere created)’
 I now understand that it is the present world that was created with the
 Heh
and,consequently, the World to Come is created with the
Yud 
. And why was the present worldcreated with a
 Heh
? Because this world resembles a three-sided structure (i.e., a structure with aroof but with less than four walls that is not fully enclosed) that whoever wishes to exit may doso…and why is the World to Come created with a
Yud 
? To symbolize that the righteous whoinhabit it are few in number (as the letter 
Yud 
is the smallest of all Hebrew letters)…
Thus far, we understand that the letter 
Yud 
is symbolic of the World to Come and that the letter 
 Heh
is symbolic of the present world. Now, let us note a passage in tractate Bava Metzia
:
And Rav said: All those who follow the counsel of their wives will eventually fall into
Gehinnom
(Hell) as is written…Said Rav Pappa to Abaye: Is there not a popular adage, “If your wife is petite, [it is advisable to] bend over to whisper to her [to seek her opinion]?” This is notcontradictory! This statement [of Rav] is regarding [outside] worldly matters, this statement [of Rav Pappa] is regarding household matters. Another version: This statement [of Rav] isregarding heavenly (spiritual or religious, i.e., other-worldly) matters, this statement [of RavPappa] is regarding present-world matters.
If we consider the second version of the Talmud’s solution, we can perceive a deeper reason
why G-d created mankind in two genders, male and female.
Man
must
 simultaneously
managehis status in two worlds – 
olam hazeh
and
olam haba
. His job in
olam
 
hazeh
is to maintain andenhance [quality of] life for himself and others. He does not need to actively acquire life or a lifesustaining world as they are both already present. His job is to preserve this world and the life itsupports. In short, his mission in regard to this world is a passive one of 
 shemira
(guarding or  preserving) as is signified by the white of the
tzitzit 
. In this world,
 Lo Yihiyeh
dominates – do notdo what is destructive to your existence.
10
Talmud Bavli Menachot 29b
11
Isaiah 26:4
12
Genesis 2:4
13
This is derived from noting the tradition that the letter 
 Heh
in this word is purposely inscribed a different size(smaller) than the normal size of the letters being penned. This distinction signifies that we view the letter 
 Heh
asseparate from the rest of the word, as if it is a distinct word. Hence the word
b’hibaraam
is broken into two words – 
b’Heh baraam
.
14
Talmud Bavli Bava Metzia 59a
15
Obviously, I mean in addition to more superficial biological reasons. We may fool ourselves to think that the biological phenomena are the main factor because we notice that all vertebrae and even many plants are male andfemale and none of this ‘
olam haba
’ talk applies to them. With this discussion we may have to alter our thinking that itis only once mankind had to be created male and female for spiritual reasons that G-d implemented this systemthroughout the entire animal and plant kingdom for biological consistency (and to throw off the non-believers).
16
I italicized the term
Man
here to denote that the term in this context is gender neutral. I mean man and woman alike.All the ensuing male pronouns (he, his, etc.) are similarly gender neutral.

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