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The Elements of Jewish Living

Gender

By TorahLab

"Men are from Mars; Women are from Venus is one of the long standing titles on the NY Times best selling list. The book is a helpful one. The implication of the title and the metaphor of the book is two people from two different worlds struggling to somehow, unnaturally get along. We know better. Not only are they not from two different worlds but indeed they were created at the same moment by the same breath of G-d, woman from the body of man. They not only compliment each other but complete each other. Together they become the ultimate creation. A person in the image of G-d.

When G-d creates the human soul He creates the male and female as one but as it descends into this world it becomes divided into a male and female. The complete soul is the combination of male and female. This is why the male and female are so attracted to each other. G-d Himself unites the two halves together again and does not hand that responsibility over to others for it is only He that can match up these two halves to make them whole once again. (Zohar Lech Lecho 204)

In Western civilization the divorce rate has never been higher and the interest in even trying marriage is at an all time low. It seems that women in their quest for freedom and equality have mistakenly represented themselves as being the same as men. Sensitive men have cooperated by trying to feel the same as women. This has created havoc in relationships because men expect women to deal with things in a male way and visa versa.  Dr. John Gray, author of the above mentioned book, observed that men and women are different. There is a major difference between equal and the same. He points to basic cultural differences between the two. Men are more solution oriented, women more process oriented. If a woman describes her problem to a man, the man will invariably interrupt the woman with a solution. This is of almost no help to the woman as she is more interested in processing the problem than hearing the solution. Women, on the other hand, offer unsolicited well-meaning help to men not realizing that she is shattering the mans' ego by implying that he can't solve the problem on his own. If a husband is driving the car and gets lost, his wife, from the passenger seat, will always chime in and suggest he asks someone for help. This seems like a logical and well-meaning suggestion. This innocent suggestion, however, can create a tension that will shatter the mood of an entire evening. The wife will have no idea what is troubling her husband. The husband himself might not understand what his bothering him. What is actually happening is that she is making her husband feel inadequate by pointing out that he can not solve the dilemma, something men feel they are supposed to be able to do.

Man was created in the image of G-d. G-d is a combination of male and female attributes. The ultimate image of G-d was the original Adam who was du-partzufi or a combination of man and woman. All masculine and feminine forces were combined into one. G-d then divided them into two separate beings, creating two halves of one G-dly image. It is only when these two creations come together in a spiritual and physical bond that a complete image of G-d is formed.

The mystics teach that the nature of the division of the G-dly image is implicit in the names zachar and nekeiva. Zachar implies a force while nekeiva implies form . The philosophers who were not privy to the Kabbala similarly referred to the man-woman distinction as chomer and tzurah, which for our purposes means the same thing. This concept is often over-simplified by referring to the man as the giver and the woman as the receiver. This is only partially true. It is more accurate to say that energy needs to be harnessed in order for it to be useful. If it is left in a state of chaos than it will necessarily become destructive. If it is given form and channeled correctly it becomes a powerful constructive force. The male energy has no channel or distinction unless it is given female form. The male can be compared to radio waves, the female to a receiver. Male energy without female form is as useless as radio waves with no receiver. Female form without male input is as meaningless as a radio receiver in the Lincoln tunnel.

Rav Kook took it a step further. “There are two kinds of souls. Those that make an imprint on life, on themselves and on existence and those that carry that imprint and cause it to grow.  There are those that grow through their undertaking of making an impression on themselves and their world and there are those that grow through inspiration which is received from outside themselves. Man is superior in his yearning to create and impress and therefore recites the blessing “Blessed is He … that He did not make me a woman.

Man however has the distinct disadvantage of being limited to the narrow limitations of his spiritual and physical makeup, which can lead him astray from G-ds ultimate plan. Woman is superior by virtue of her receptivity. This superiority allows her to be impressed and inspired by the all encompassing bounty which G-d created in this world. She therefore recites the blessing “Blessed is He … who has made me according to His will. She can aspire to fulfill G-ds will without turning astray. (Rav A.Y. Kook, Olas Rayah, pps 71-72)

The Chida explains that the female energy refers to midas hadin or the attribute of justice, while the male attribute is mercy or midas harachamim. Superficial observation would indicate that the opposite is true. The man is usually considered the disciplinarian in the house. We've all heard the infamous 'wait until your father comes home'. Yet, in a certain way mothers can be stricter than fathers. Rachamim, mercy, is infinite and free flowing. It belongs to the male trait of unformed energy. Din, justice has more form and boundaries, an inherent female trait, hence contrary to popular thought the male which is zachar actually has more mercy or rachamim than the woman. Often the disciplinary sentence of a mother will be harsher than that of a father.  When we pray we ask G-d to have mercy on us 'as a father to his children.'

The distinction between energy and form manifests itself on many practical levels. It is often said that women spend more money than men. In my experience the exact opposite is true. Men will want to spend money and invest it in the wildest of fashions. It is his wife that will be more conservative and bring her husband to his senses. When we say women overspend, it is often because traditionally the wife will do the shopping and the husband will always feel that money is so hard to make and so fast to go. He then blames his wife for the phenomenon. Clearly if the husband were shopping he would spend more.

In the mystical tradition, material reality is only a reflection of an abstract source. A deep enough study of the physical can therefore yield an understanding of its spiritual roots. Man and woman therefore represent the tangible images of two supremely high Divine expressions. In the biological relationship between man and woman, the male contributes the seminal spark , microscopic in dimension and yet containing the germ of life. The female has the ability to hold this speck of almost nothing within herself and build it into a complete life. She is the source of maintenance of life itself. This model operates on all levels . In intimacy it is often noted that the male is more driven. More driven, however, does not equal more pleasure. Pleasure is equally experienced when there is complete unity between two forces. When energy that would otherwise run amuck is given form, so much so that it even can produce a new human being, the ultimate feeling of accomplishment prevails. Through the holiness of intimacy we revert back to our original state of du-partzufi, a complete tzelem Elokim.

We all have the image in our minds from our own parents or from 'Father Knows Best' of the husband waiting impatiently to leave on time for the wedding while the wife is in the peak of her preparation. I recently read a statistic, based on a national survey, which states that, on average, women are ready 47 minutes after the agreed time of departure. We can just picture the woman in front of the mirror while the man stands anxiously at the door staring at his watch and eventually losing his temper and yelling. While she is involved in process, he wants to make the move.

There is no biblical manifestation of this concept clearer than the Purim story. Mordechei is criticized by the Talmud for having provoked Haman to begin with. In the words of the commentaries he bubbled over with an uncontrolled spark of holiness. When G-ds plan for redemption was put into place G-d chose Esther, a woman, to carry out the process. She was a stickler for that process. It needed to take its time, she couldn't be rushed to appear in front of Achashverosh flaunting her Judaism. There was order and form. Finally Mordechei admonished Esther by demanding action. 'If you don' take your position in front of the King G-d will find a different emissary to save the Jewish people.' If you don't abandon form for action G-d will bring salvation through another source. The back and forth represented the perfect male/female symbiosis.

Absorbing the wisdom of the Torah we should have one argument with Dr. Gray. Man and woman not only compliment each other but complete each other. Together they become the ultimate creation. A person in the image of G-d.

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