Today a major problem is gender relations. Woman assert themselves, and often the man is a victim of the gender war. It used to be when I was young about fifty plus years ago, that I never heard of somebody getting divorced until high school, when a judge did something scandalous and his wife divorced him. But divorces because two people didn’t get along I don’t recall. However, in recent times, women have organized, they have gotten a lot of backing and a lot of money, and they announce to the world, “Orthodox Feminism” or just plain Feminism or just plain whatever they say to declare their strength and gender relations. Men are embarrassed to fight with women, and most of them don’t or if they do they may regret it, especially when the secular courts and society back ladies. So let us take a look at gender issues from a Torah perspective. Is there another way?
The gemora in Berochose 17A states, “Greater is the trust that G‑d has promised to women more than [what He promised] to men, as it says, ‘women of trust, hearken to My voice’.” There is a gemora in Menochose 29b that there are few Tsadikim [great in righteousness] in heaven, which probably means men, because the ladies are assured of paradise as we noted before.
I recall many years ago in Baltimore that somebody noted, “Non-Orthodox Jews are split in their Jewish activities. Men choose non-Jewish organizations and women choose Jewish organizations.” I don’t claim to have the facts and figures, but if I had to guess, I would choose the women as faithful Jewesses over the general picture of men. I did see some statistics recently about the huge amount of intermarriage going on, and an Israeli politician said that if this continues only the Orthodox will remain in Israel. So the issue is not so much men and women in the modern secular world, because with all of the intermarriage, the only ones who will remain will be the Orthodox. But as I go back fifty or sixty years, there was a different climate. The secular Jew was not secular in the sense of intermarrying. In fact, the Yeshivas were supported mostly by secular Jews who had a Jewish heart. I remember when a wealthy Jew, Mr. Himmelfarb in Washington, sent a $5,000 check to my Yeshiva, Yeshiva Chofetz Chaim of Baltimore. The Yeshiva contacted him and asked for a personal meeting that was successful. Again, the non-Orthodox Jews with Jewish hearts were the only ones around in my childhood who could give big money, and they kept the Yeshivas from complete collapse, because who else had big money? Now there are many wealthy Orthodox Jews, and I don’t know how many Jews of heart are out there in the secular world.
Our teaching in the gemora is that Jewish women are connected to G‑d more than men, and they have G-d’s promise and trust more than men. In pure gender statistics, mark one for the ladies.
When I married, I had more energy than I have today, and I used to give long talks on Shabbos to my family. I spoke about the Jewish attitude towards women. One of my favorite proofs was the Matriarchs versus the Patriarchs. Abraham wanted to keep Ishmael his son in the family, but Sora wanted him out. G‑d told Abraham, “Everything that Sora tells you hearken to her voice.” That means, says Rashi, everything, because she was greater than her husband Abraham in prophecy. What would have happened to the Jewish people if Ishmael had remained in the family and would have been the senior son because Isaac was born much later. Well, we know that Ishmael was a fighter and had quarrels with everyone, and what kind of Jewish nation would that be?
Next generation of male and female was Isaac and Rebecca. Isaac wanted to bless Esau and Rebecca got the blessings for Jacob. Can we imagine what kind of family Jews would be if Esau had been the senior of the Jewish people? The Torah and Rashi tell us that his wives were pagans who insulted Rebecca, and Esau himself was a horror how he acted. How did the Jewish people survive? Only from the women.
Next generation was another struggle who would be the boss of the Jewish people, when Jacob preferred Rachel but somehow ended up with Leah. Leah eventually had more children than any other wife of Jacob, and her children were the great Jewish families. From Leah came Judah and the Jewish monarchy, Levi and the priesthood and the service in the Temple, also the great scholars of the Jewish people and those who supported these great scholars. If Jacob had succeeded he would have had Rachel as the main wife, but she had only one son and her second son was born as she died. Furthermore, Rachel was responsible for Jacob marrying Leah, because Rachel knew that if she married Jacob and not Leah, that Leah would be humiliated. Thus, the ladies saved the Jewish people, once again.
History is on the side of the ladies. G‑d’s trust and promise is with the ladies. And let us continue with Jewish history, when we find that the father of Moshe divorced his wife when Pharaoh decreed on the death of Jewish male babies. Miriam convinced her father to remarry his wife, and Moses was born. Who saved Moses from drowning in the river? Miriam and her mother. When the Jews left Egypt, the females led by Miriam brought musical instruments because they were sure that G‑d would save and protect the Jews. When the Egyptians were drowned in the sea as they attempted to attack the Jewish camp and bring them back to Egypt, Miriam and the ladies danced and sang and played musical instruments. The men just stood there and recited a few lines of praise. The men did not bring musical instruments from Egypt, they brought weapons, which were at that point useless. Mark another one for the ladies.
When Moses went to heaven to receive the Torah from G‑d, the remaining Jews built the Golden Calf and some worshipped it. Aharon the brother of Moses was blamed for making the Golden Calf. But the women did not worship it. Let’s give another check to the ladies for their trust in G‑d, and the men, well, anyway.
Just one more point here. The Jews had many leaders throughout the generations. Only one was perfect, Devorah, who led the Jews in judgment and war. No men were perfect. Let us now turn to the Creation story, the sins of Adam and Eve, and the power of penitence.
When the Book of Elijah begins with the discussion of Adam being driven like a woman from the Garden of Eden, it was not trying to pour on the pain and the shame of the sinners who used to live in the Garden of Eden. Let us state briefly here that the idea of being a woman is a central theme of the Creation story, as Rashi states and as is indicated by the various female and male terms used for heaven at that time. Briefly here, the beginning of the Creation story is a story about the superiority of women. The strangest teaching I ever saw in the Talmud is about the argument between G‑d and the Moon. It seems that the Sun and Moon in the earliest phase of Creation were of equal luminosity. The Moon, a female, wanted to lower the power of the Sun, who was a male, and make herself the sole strong light. She argued but G‑d did not agree, and so the Moon was frustrated, especially when G‑d instructed her “Go and reduce yourself” which was the opposite of what she wanted.
What is really amazing is that after the long debate between the female Moon and G‑d, G-d said: Bring a sacrifice for Me because I made the Moon small. We see from this that G‑d accorded the demands of the Moon with great respect, despite His decision to deny them. Of course, the Sun and Moon who are depicted as male and female were not humans at all, but rather angels whose job it was to keep the world functioning for humans who would receive the Torah. When we accord the Moon the status of an angel, we are amazed at the pure chutzpah to argue with G‑d to such a degree that she did not give in an inch. We cannot understand why G‑d declared that for denying her demands to shrink the Sun and to leave her the sole major light, He must bring a sacrifice! Now, to a simple person like me, it sounds like the Moon was spouting pure chutzpah and deserved a good something, but G‑d obviously did not see things that way. He had the greatest respect for her demands, and we surely want to know why. We also want to better understand how an angel who is in charge of the Moon should be a woman and the sun a male.
Let us turn to the Kabbalistic classic Ore Yokor from Rav Moshe Kordevero zt”l, who was eulogized by the Ari z”l that he never sinned and did not die for his failures, but for the general situation where people live and die, and some die without any sin. On page 185 (Shaar 6. Simon 32 beginning - I will make for him a helpmate opposite him) we learn that male or Adam is Kindness, and female is Gevurose, or strength, power, and conquest. Now this does not sound like a regular male or female, but this was the status of Creation.
Let us take a look at Rashi in the first passage in the Torah, the Creation story. Rashi notes that the first passage in the Torah is “In the beginning ELOKIM created the heavens and the earth.” Later on, Rashi notes, in the beginning of chapter two, the Torah changes the Name of G-d from Elokim to HaShem Elokim. Rashi explains that Elokim means strict justice and punishment. This was the Name of the first chapter of the Torah, the Creation of the entire world in seven days. It was done with the female level of justice and strength. Bu G‑d saw that such a world filled with justice and strength would wipe out the wicked, and what would happen to the world? Therefore, in chapter two of the Torah, we see a change from ELOKIM to HASHEM ELOKIM, HASHEM means “the Name” which is a hint to the ineffable Name that is not pronounced. It is a level of mercy, not rigid justice. Rashi explains that if the world existed with ELOKIM or justice it could not exist because of the sins of mortals. Therefore, after the Creation of seven days and the world and its people and animals, the system of Creation was changed from rigid justice ELOKIM to a compromise with mercy HaShem.
The MOON was female and the pure female essence is rigid justice, wipe out the wicked, etc. The MOON noticed that the world had two equally powerful suns, the MOON, her, and the male SUN. She noticed that the world was created in the first chapter of Creation with the female level of ELOKIM and she demanded that G‑d accept this by denigrating the male mercy level of the SUN. She was right, but her level would lead to destruction of the world. Therefore, G‑d recognized that she was right as proven by the word ELOKIM used throughout the first chapter of the Torah and the Creation story. And yet, G‑d did not accept a world that would be destroyed. And what He did was as follows: There would be two systems for the Creation. One level and system for ordinary people, and one for the righteous.
The righteous would live with the female level of justice and be punished in this world for their sins. Ordinary people would live in a world where justice is joined with mercy, otherwise ordinary people would not last. If so, the MOON was for the righteous people, and the SUN for the ordinary people. G‑d acknowledged this by stating “bring a sacrifice for Me because I refused the request of the Moon.” G‑d realized that His refusal to recognize the first phase of the Creation to destroy wickedness and sustain rigid righteousness was a valid problem for the Moon who was created for rigid righteousness, the level of the first chapter of the Torah and Creation. However, the world required two levels to avoid general destruction for people who were not exceedingly pious.
In the end, the Moon female was diminished and along with her the female who struggles with the power of men. But women are closer to G‑d and piety than men, and are closer to Heaven than men. But their struggles in this world, with the clash between the first and second chapters of the Torah, indicate a problem for women in this world, although it guarantees them a higher place than men with G‑d, which is the ultimate purpose of Creation. The gender realities are different between men and women and who is to understand them? Even the angel of Genesis call the Moon was befuddled by it, so what can we expect to understand? We have to understand that we don’t understand, but G‑d does understand.
Before we leave this topic and find a lot of confused people in our wake, let me turn to a related topic, but one that is not obviously related to it, but one that is very strongly related to our subject.
In our daily prayers, in the beginning after introductory prayers, we come to the beginning of the main prayers that begin with Baruch Sheomar. The prayer Baruch Sheomar begins the part of prayer where we are not allowed to speak anything but prayer. Thus it is an elevation over the earlier introductory prayers. After we conclude Baruch Sheomar with a blessing and G‑d’s Name, we come to a passage in of prayer of praise for G‑d, beginning “A song of thanks.” Ostensibly, it appears exactly like all of the Psalms of David and others who wrote praises of G‑d. And yet, incredibly, the Code of Laws on Orach Chaim 51:9 tells us that we must sing this prayer differently than other prayers and Songs of praise because “all of the Songs will be cancelled other than Mizmor LiSoda”. And yet, when we look at the Song of Mizmor LiSoda we see nothing different than the Book of Psalms and other songs to G‑d. So why will all Songs be cancelled except this Song?
I showed this question to various people and got no response. But I have an answer and several people accepted it. We live in the world of finite knowledge. We don’t know G‑d very well, of course, and we understand very little of His plans for us and His processes to deal with us. But all of us suffer problems of some degree, and when something imperfect happens in our lives we say, “I am sure that G‑d meant this to happen for the best.” That is, we have faith in G‑d that He is a G‑d of kindness and our pain is for our own good. But we don’t know this at all, we just have a faith in G‑d’s kindness. A time will come, however, when G‑d will reveal His absolute kindness that will find us in an elevated state whereby we can absorb with our minds the truth of G‑d’s kindness. Then we will see clearly, not on faith, that all of our suffering was for our own good, something that is completely remote from us today and until the higher light is revealed to us in the Future.
The Song Mizmor LiSoda is a Song of Happiness, a happiness that does not proceed from faith, which is a dark thing beyond our finite minds. A Song of Happiness means a true happiness that reveals the heavenly processes of G‑d’s treatment of mortals, their suffering and their problems. In the future, and only then, will mortals realize that our pain in this world was really for our good, not through blind faith, but in the blazing light of heavenly truth which will only be revealed in the Future, when people are worthy to see this Advanced Light and know exactly what G‑d had in mind to help us and make us happy when we suffered.
Since only Mizmor LiSoda has this capacity, it will stand uniquely in the Future, when all of us will know that our suffering was not accepted on blind faith, but on clear and revealed truth, in the Light of the Future not available now. At that point, our blind faith will be supplanted by revealed Heavenly light of the Future World, and new love of G‑d will supplant the old blind faith.
The Book of Solomon A Song of Songs is about suffering of a woman. Nothing in that book explains anything but simply tells of a woman’s suffering. In the Future World, especially at the time of Mizmor Lisoda being revealed in truth Future World light, that book will explain a lot that is hidden now. But those who merit it will be especially those women whose faith sustained them. These women are those mentioned in the gemora “Greater is the promise of faith that G‑d has for the women than He has for the men.” Only then will the Moon shine with her faith vindicated, along with other women. And G‑d’s pledge to atone for what He did to the woman will be understood in a different and higher light.