Manning Up – A True Confession

There’s no point trying to hide it.

Traditional Judaism assigns men and women different roles within their relationship.

But I don’t know if people understand just how far it goes. To divulge this, I’ll quote a passage from one of, if not the most popular contemporary Hasidic marriage manuals, which describes the traits and behavior expected from a particular ‘one’ of the sexes:

“…Pampers others; listens to others; pays attention to others; concedes…wants for the sake of others; is forgiving; doesn’t seek honor; doesn’t want to benefit from other; supports others; helps others and empathizes with others. …Can accept humiliation with love, and can also accept complaints and accusations without being offended or defensive.”*

Pretty over the top, no?

It’s hard to believe that in this day and age anyone would demand this of women.

The only problem is that the above quote describes what is expected specifically from a man.


The Hasidic author of the above didn’t just pull these ideas of his homburg. They are based on ancient kabalistic spiritual principles.

An axiom of spirituality is that the physical world we perceive is just one in a chain of parallel spiritual worlds, each detail of one world having corresponding counterparts in all the others.

Besides being very cool, this information is an invaluable tool for discerning the spiritual nature of things. Something’s physical nature hints to its spiritual essence.

For instance, it’s the nature of water to flow downward, seeking the path of least resistance and settling at the lowest point. Therefore, a corresponding spiritual characteristic of water is passive humility.

Fire, on the other hand, shoots upward and therefore corresponds to the spiritual trait of ambition, or grandeur.

When it comes to men and women, their distinguishing physical characteristics and their respective functions within their reproductive partnership is telling.

A man is physically fashioned to ‘give’, implanting the seed of life force, which is ‘received’ by the woman, where it is able to merge and develop into a new human being.

Viewing this paradigm from its spiritual counterpart we see that a man’s essential function vis-à-vis a woman within a relationship, is to give.

Beyond the biological, true maleness includes being emotionally giving, psychologically giving, unqualifiedly giving of one’s time, energy, attention, and resources.

Yet somewhere down the line, most men have forgotten who they really are, and in fact, many think it’s just the opposite. That it’s somehow their wives’ role to give to them and it’s their intrinsic right to receive (or even take if not freely given). They, at least in the hidden recesses of their mind, adopt the Jackie Gleason Honeymooners school of (pseudo)-masculinity: “I’m the king of the castle!”

More ‘enlightened’ men may graciously concede that marriage is a ‘give and take’ and they are fully willing to meet their wives halfway and give back as much as they are given.

Yet they too are missing the boat. To be a man, according to traditional Jewish spiritual sources, is to give to one’s partner freely and unconditionally – 100%.

This, by the way, is called unconditional love.

When a man, instead, seeks to be a ‘receiver’, demanding not just obeisance or subservience, but even admiration, respect, and appreciation from his wife, or even just ‘to be understood’, he has abandoned his masculinity.

(Of course, it is fine to receive and enjoy appreciation, etc. when they come, but the feeling that it’s deserved, expected, and especially that it’s a precondition for him to be willing to likewise give these to his wife, is a spiritual self-emasculation.)

A man who’s needy, easily offended, or brooding, is a turnoff to a woman, because, biology aside, spiritually he’s simply not a man. She may not even be conscious of the spiritual underpinnings of her antipathy, but they’re there.

Okay, that’s my exposé for today. There’s a lot more discuss, but for now, I’ll suffice at letting the cat out of the bag.


* from ‘The Garden of Peace’ by Rabbi S. Arush, p.99


About the Author
Nesanel Yoel Safran, US born and a graduate of Brandeis, now living with his wife and family in the Judean Hills, is a writer, chef, and a teacher/student of Jewish spirituality. He blends these assorted vocations on his blog, Soul Foodie, where you can join him on mystical cooking adventures and glean practical wisdom for the kitchen — and for living.