“Blessed are You, God – Our Lord, King of the World – Who didn’t make me a woman.”
This blessing, codified more than 20 centuries ago as Jewish law, is one of the first things a male Jew utters upon waking every morning. It has long been ammunition for those who oppose traditional Judaism. What on earth does it mean?
Some have said that this blessing lauds the fact that Jewish men have more mitzvot (commandments) to follow than do women. But I believe it is more about the responsibility inherent in a decision to create or not to create another generation of human beings.
The Hebrew Bible teaches that we humans were created in the image of God. Since God has no physical form, what is this be telling us? One answer is that we are the only creatures in the world who have the intellectual capacity to think, decide – and take responsibility for our actions.
It is women, rather than men, who are the primary address for bringing human life into the world. Certainly pregnancy is about women’s bodies and what they do or not do with them. But itis of course far greater than that. While men take part in the creation of a baby, it is women who wield the power of life and death over the unborn fetus.
What we are talking about here – in the ancient blessing, as well as the decision of a woman who finds herself pregnant – is RESPONSIBILITY.
The Hebrew Bible teaches that we humans were created in the image of God. Since God has no physical form, what is this be telling us?”
The Hebrew Bible admits openly that human beings are part animal, and part divine. No-one is ever expected to be perfect. Humans possess a slew of inclinations, desires, impulses and totally irrational motives that determine our daily behavior. The Bible teaches that in the end of the day, we must be responsible for our actions and all the resultant re-actions that flow from our decisions. Furthermore, we are expected to be responsible before God, but even more fundamentally, we are held accountable for how our deeds impact our fellow human beings.
So the blessing can be understood as saying: “Thank You, God, for making me in such a way that I do not bear the awesome, direct responsibility for life and death over human life.”
Talk about the white man’s burden. How about the WOMAN’S burden? When you think about it, it can be at times too much to bear.
We are the only creatures in the world that have the intellectual capacity to think, decide – and take responsibility for our actions.”
But thankfully, God does not leave those responsible for bringing life into the world hanging in the wind. He created “Bina” – understanding – a kind of higher form of intelligence found in greater abundance in the female sex. (As the Grateful Dead have put it: “That’s right – the women are – smarter.”)
And any thinking human being recognizes that men are more likely to get in trouble and less likely to take responsibility for their actions due to the overwhelming power of the array of irrational forces built into their very beings. The Torah spends a lot of time exhorting men to take full responsibility for their idiotic actions, because men have less Bina with which to apply the brakes before they make stupid choices.
The Grateful Dead say that women are smarter.”
Have you noticed that men and women don’t always listen to reason? The best we can do is to strive to take better responsibility for our ways.