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Why do men thank G-d for "not making me a woman"?

by Rabbi Shlomo Chein

  

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Have you ever heard women say “men could never handle what women go through”? While this is true, it is not really the issue at hand (at least not on the surface level).

The three morning blessings, thanking G-d for not making me a gentile, slave, or woman, don’t refer to the people mentioned; rather they refer to their obligations: mitzvahs.

Every morning a man thanks G-d for the mitzvahs He gave him. He says thank you for not making me a gentile—who only has seven mitzvahs; thank you for not making a slave—who has more mitzvahs than a gentile; and thank you for not making me a woman—who has more than a gentile and slave, but not quite as many as a man.

Now that man says thank you, he has to go about his day striving to be a “free Jewish man” – which in our context means a fulfiller of mitzvahs
The point of thanking G-d in the negative rather than the positive – i.e. thanks for not making me that way, rather than saying thanks for making me this way – is to remind the person that all the mitzvahs are nothing unless he actually fulfills them. G-d didn’t give man greatness; He gave man the potential to achieve greatness. (Again, “greatness” here is strictly in the context of mitzvahs). Now that man says thank you, he has to go about his day striving to be a “free Jewish man” – which in our context means a fulfiller of mitzvahs.

This is indicative of the general difference between men and women: while men feel a constant need to do, women have an innate ability to be.

Thus men thank G-d for giving them room to act, and women (with their own blessing, thanking G-d "for making me according to your will") thank G-d for who they already are.

For more on the difference between men and women and how it relates to this blessing see "Man and Woman"

For a woman’s thoughts on this issue see http://www.chabad.org/library/article.asp?AID=104785


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