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Man and Woman

by Rabbi Manis Friedman


Library » Women & Judaism » Women's Mitzvot » Obligations/ Exemptions | Subscribe | What is RSS?


When G-d created Adam, at the moment Adam opened his eyes, what was his psychological profile? He had no Oedipus complex because he had no mother. He didn't have a birth trauma, because he wasn't born. He had no sibling rivalry.... What was this man like? What was the makeup of his psyche?

Interestingly, Adam didn't have a survival instinct either. That's why when G-d said, "The day you eat from this tree, you'll die," Adam wasn't impressed. "Oh, so I'll die." He had no survival instinct. So, what was going on in his mind?

Adam had a death wish. That was his psyche. He had a death wish because life felt so unnatural. In a sense, when G-d says, "From dust you are, and to dust you shall return," that described Adam's psyche. "I come from dust, I want to go back."

Back to what? Back to dust. Back to nothingness.

Men, to this day, have this complex. If you strip away the externalities, the trappings -- if you take away his car, and his money, and his blue suede shoes -- there's nothing, there's dust. Every man is terrified that in the end, he will have amounted to nothing, regardless of his accomplishments. He can be the wealthiest, most powerful and successful person, the most talented and the most admired. Deep down, inside he is afraid that it is all going to go away and he is going to remain a nothing, a non-entity, a zero.

Men, to this day, have this complex. If you strip away the externalities, the trappings -- if you take away his car, and his money, and his blue suede shoes -- there's nothing, there's dust
Women don't have this. A woman does not have a fear or a suspicion of her own nothingness. It doesn't exist. Because Eve was not created from dust, she was created from Adam. So where a man is afraid of being reduced back to nothing, a woman, if you take away all her accomplishments, all her achievements, will be reduced to a man.

When you take away a woman's being, she doesn't become a nothing, she becomes him. She loses herself in him. When you take away a man's being, he doesn't lose himself in her, he becomes nothing.

That's why a man needs to accomplish. He must accomplish, because he needs to deny this nothingness. Whereas a woman doesn't need to accomplish in order to exist -- she needs to accomplish in order to be appreciated.

Because if you're a nothing and you have to become a something, then accomplishment is everything, and respect is what you need more than anything else. Respect means you are a something.

A woman, who is not afraid of becoming nothing, does not understand and can not tolerate when her somethingness is not appreciated. So what a woman needs more than anything else is appreciation.

The Talmud says that a man should honor his wife and be very careful with her feelings. A man should be careful of his wife's honor, because a woman is sensitive to injustice. This is not just an idle observation about women. At the core of a woman's being, it is the injustice that bothers her. She is being treated as if she was nothing, and that's not true. She is something, and that injustice hurts.

When a man is treated like nothing, it's not the injustice that hurts him -- it is the truth that hurts. He is nothing and he hates being reminded of it. His reaction is not as to an injustice, it is not a moral indignation, it's a personal hurt. Whereas with a woman, no matter how badly she is abused or devastated, it remains a moral injustice to her.


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Women and Nothingness

Posted by: Eliana on Dec 27, 2006

This was indeed a thought-provoking article.

I was troubled, however, by your statement that "a man needs to accomplish .. because he needs to deny this nothingness," which you used to contrast with women who, being born of someone (man, ie, Eve "born" to Adam), are not from nothing (like man) and need not fear nothingness.

Child abuse, spousal abuse, societal expectations, and a myriad of other factors can contribute to some women feeling that they are nothing. These women, like men, NEED to accomplish because they ARE afraid of regressing into nothingness.

This attempt to stereotype women and men is so common nowadays. Given our knowledge of psychology, we should have learned by now that blanket statements about either gender usually don't apply to the majority. Further, they can be dangerous, particularly for individuals living in self-isolating communities who do not fit the "mold" and don't get a chance to know they can still be Torah-observant without trying to.

Editor's Comment

The purpose of this article is to help one understand the differences between men and woman; to equip them with the knowledge and judgment required in deal with the differences appropriately. I do not believe that the author meant to label the genders in any concrete way. Human beings are highly complicated and there are very few differences between men and woman that are without exception.


Life Cycle » Marriage » Married Life

Usually referring to the Babylonian edition, it is a compilation of Rabbinic law, commentary and analysis compiled over a 600 year period (200 BCE - 427 CE). Talmudic verse serves as the bedrock of all classic and modern-day Torah-Jewish literature.
The first man, created by G-d on the sixth day of creation. He was banished from the Garden of Eden after eating from the forbidden fruit of the forbidden knowledge. Died in 2830 BCE.
It is forbidden to erase or deface the name of G-d. It is therefore customary to insert a dash in middle of G-d's name, allowing us to erase or discard the paper it is written on if necessary.