The NY Times Does It Again

Still misinterpreting a woman's role…

Comments (37)

(37) L. Adler, March 14, 2010 8:58 AM

To Washington Woman from Jerusalem Woman

Jewish Law was established by G-d, not man. It's not the duck you think it is with men trying to keep the power and control in their hands. Men and women were created with different natures. The male ego is distinctly different than a female's. So are a woman's intuition and her nurturing instincts different than a man's. G-d assigned roles, not superior or inferior, but different, and gave them natures to match. That is not to say that there aren't any women around with more masculine personalities or more feminine men. But as a group, the differences are obvious. The issue isn't that men are trying to keep themselves in power by oppressing women. Rather, it's that G-d assign roles in order for each individual to fulfill his or her life's task and perfect his or her soul and therefore gives each person the nature and circumstances to achieve it. Individuals, families and society will benefit if each person focuses on excelling in his or her role. If G-d assigned men the more public roles, then it is fair and correct. Women wanting power in the public arena is about ego, not about fulfillment. Being an enabler is not inferior even if it is less public. And its fine for men to thank G-d for being assigned a role with more mitzvot. Judaism does not oppress women. If you accept your nature and your role, you will not feel conflicted by this. This does not reflect upon a woman's leadership abilities or intelligence. There are plenty of opportunities for Jewish women to lead, use their brains maximally and make their mark in ways that don't go against Jewish tradition. Judaism also does not force women to marry and have babies even though it is instinctual for most women to want to do these things. Try out Shabbat in religious homes and experience what that feels like. Most of the women are happy and fulfilled, enjoying far deeper relationships with their husbands and children than is common in our day and age.

(36) Herbert Lazarus, March 13, 2010 9:44 PM

You fail to see the real intent here.

If you follow the news stories in the NY Times at all it should be quite apparent to you that they are very anti-Israel and apparently anti-Semitic as well. They try to hide this by having columns by Tom Friedman etc. but that is just camouflage. Their news stories are almost.universally slanted to make Israel look bad. Muslims are generally thought to treat women as inferiors. The Times is trying to equate Judaism with Islam regarding views of women and show that both are equally intolerant.. The fact that this is not true in the modern world is ignored by them because it serves their agenda. That is the reason they print such nonsense, not because they have not been aware of your explanation, rabbi.

(35) Anonymous, March 12, 2010 1:55 AM

Thank you.

I sent this to NYT.

(34) Anonymous, March 11, 2010 6:50 PM

The prayer when taken out of context as it has could be construed to be derogatory. If taken in context it is an expression of being grateful to Hashem for who you are and what He does for you every second of the day from the time you wake until you sleep. Taking issue with a part of the whole smacks of ingratitude. There is a buildup from being grateful for not being born a gentile. Why not take issue here? After all, for the egalitarians, is this not discriminatory? If you take issue of the difference between men and women why not between Jew and gentile. I choose to see these as affirmations of gratitude and leave those who wish to find fault to wonder what they are actually grateful for.

(33) Josh, March 11, 2010 9:17 AM

need to know what your not in order to appreciate who you are

I think a reason why the bracha had to state 'who did not make me a woman' rather than 'who made me a man' in fact teaches us a profound lesson. In order to appreciate who your are - you have to first acknowledge who you are not. Hashem creates each person differently, with a different set of abilities and talents. In order to embrace what we each have been given, we have to first understand who we are not supposed to be. This way, rather than chasing after an image of ourselves which is just plain wrong, we are able to root out who and what Hashem expects us to become. Therefore, to teach us this principle, we thank Hashem not for who we are, but rather, for who we are not. I think that may be an answer.

(32) Anonymous, March 11, 2010 2:25 AM

Then why don't woman say "that He didn't make me a man"

(31) Anonymous, March 10, 2010 10:06 PM

NYT-Western mentility

Just because Israeli women put motherhood first place of importance not careers, compared to the western world, doesn't make them inferior, just wiser! Men can't stand pain, they couldn't survive through childbirth. So of course they are thankful they don't have to. In the western world, men make their wives help support the family, they do not know the joy of manhood. I know the career women think it was there idea to begin with, but back when it started to change it wasn't. In today's age it's just expected with our young women to be mother and supporter, because in times past, the men couldn't handle being the supporter and still can't, obviviously. So the men in the western world, rates womanhood as inferior because they know as men, they are. NYT finds out a prayer line and says "see the Orthodox men thinks just like us" Little do they know.

(30) Nelson, March 10, 2010 5:00 PM


would it not have been better and without any misunderstanding to have phrased it in the positive I.E. thank G-D for having made me a man? The meaning would be the same minus any negative content.

(29) Lenny, March 10, 2010 4:53 PM

To be fair, Dowd's column was not mainly about the bracha, but about the status of women in Saudi Arabia (I didn't see Kristoff's column). She was quoting a Saudi prince, who was claiming that Jewish society is more oppressive towards women than Islamic society, citing the blessing as proof. Of course this is nonsense, and Dowd's article goes on to mention the many ways in which Saudi society oppresses women (remember the incident when many girls died in a fire at their school when the clerics wouldn't let them escape because of "tznius" fears?), while also talking about how some of the more enlightened there were working to improve their lot. While I agree in essence with R. Salomon, the fact remains that his response sounds like, and indeed is, apologetic. This bracha and other gender related issues give the non-Orthodox a cudgel with which to wield on the Orthodox. In my opinion, this is an instance of "Es L'asos L'HaShem". Although we generally don't want to be "meshaneh b'matbea", the gedolim of each generation do in fact have the authority to do so. Its too bad there there is neither tjhe unity among them, nor the self-confidence that allows this at the present time.

(28) ruth, March 10, 2010 1:02 PM

a prayer that incites or insights

I read a comment below about Muslim women which really illustrates how warped are people sensitivities about this "line" between men and women, because women are and have been oppressed and it would take a lot to convince me that the way the Taliban treat women is anything but incredibly about power and control. Maybe the New York Times should have a long discussion with Aish but I can say, some of the comments on line here are intolerant and worse. And since I rarely see myself in print, I don't even know whether mine are being, censored. If God ordained this prayer then God also ordained this controversy about a prayer that on the "face of it" seems so wrong. Maybe it would be good to spend time, more time, imbibing the insights of women, as opposed to studying as men, away from women, the rules of empathy and conduct.

(27) chaya, March 10, 2010 9:50 AM

that's right, women are smarter - harry belafonte

NYT has run out of educated topics to discuss! now they delve into our prayers for the intention to stir up angry emotions. or anti semitism? i did not read the article, did it also mention the degrading of the women in the muslim world? to all the women who believe in the one G-d, this is rubbish. i believe that women were created with purity and innocence and that we don't need the extra obligations men do. tzitzit, tefillin, 3 x a day prayers, etc.- are made for them to serve as constant reminders and not to come across sinning. to those who were affected by the article, i pray that G-d endow you with knowledge and understanding so you may perceive the deeper meaning of your existence.

(26) Rona, March 10, 2010 2:10 AM

Shelo Asani Goy

I am surprised they they didn't choose to pick on the blessing that thanks G-d for not making me a Goy. I would imagine that would be more controversial. quite frankly I am sick of these uneducated people who don't get it. Like it or not, women and men are different. they are different becasue G-d created them to be different. Their roles are different. That by no means makes a woman inferior

(25) Raisy, March 10, 2010 1:13 AM

Women experience physical discomfort

My understanding is that the reason men thank G-d for not making them a woman is that women undergo the discomfort of monthly menstruation as well as the pain that often accompanies the birth of children. This was the curse bestowed upon Eve. I don't know if I 'buy' the women-are-closer-to-perfection line: I think both men and women have an equally important but different role to play in G-d's plan. I don't think either gender is 'more distant from G-d's perception of perfection'. I also find it difficult to believe that men would thank G-d for making it more challenging to fulfill their purpose as Rabbi Solomon claims. We don't ask for challenges: only for the strength to withstand/grow from them. Both men and women have distinct challenges; I don't think it is 'easier' or 'harder' to be a man or a woman.

(24) Jonathan Shopiro, March 10, 2010 12:29 AM

Thank you for challenges

Men thank G-d for the challenge of being born inferior (my word but your meaning)? Should the lame and the blind also be thankful for their infirmities? Give us a break!

(23) Washington Woman, March 9, 2010 11:35 PM

Gottenyu, Gottenyu - Rabbi: Wake Up and Smell the Coffee (Which Some Woman in Your Life Probably Prepared)

Rabbi: You can twist this anyway you want, but if you, yourself were a woman, you'd know better. You so desperately want to believe that the prayer is not an insult and does not clearly classify women as a "lower caste" that you will search everywhichwaybutup to come up with a plausible rationale. And please don't tell me I "am valued, am more spiritual, am closer to God" than a man. Until you let me share all the power and participate in making all the rules to which I am subjected, your excuses ring false. The prayer is an honest admission of an established and unyielding patriarchal, male-dominated viewpoint. If it looks like a duck and walks like a duck, and sounds like a duck, guess what? It's a duck. So quack away all you want, because you can't excuse the clear misogyny of the invocation.

(22) , March 9, 2010 10:06 PM

Well said, Rabbi. Thank you for clearing up that age old question. The Times likes to make assumptions before finding out if they're correct or not, and it isn't fair at all.

(21) Dov Matz, March 9, 2010 9:50 PM

Why are you surprised at Maureen Dowd ? I am also surprised that any Jew still reads the NY Times. I stopped when the Monday after Salute to Israel parade several years ago they chose to put 10 demonstrating Palestinians instead of the 500,000 cheering crowds on the front page. The paper is owned by self hating Jews whose grand parents never bothered to mention the Haolcaust on Page 1.

(20) Elana, March 9, 2010 9:07 PM

This is one time I don't agree

This is the first time I do not agree with the Rabbi. You just cannot make excuses for language and wording like, "thank you for not making me a woman." You say, "Thank you for not making me a slave...", meaning that being a slave is not such a good thing, right? Same here. You can dance around the issue all you like to try and explain your way out of it, but that is just explanations. There is nothing dignified by it. Just say it as it is. It was written biasely before and now cannot be changed. End of story. I think it would be easier to accept that then to make a whole rational explanation to an irrational statement. Whether or not men or women are closer to G-d doesn't matter because each individual is on different levels anyway. I, as a woman, have always, even as a child, hated that blazenly written statement.

(19) Dana, March 9, 2010 8:45 PM

I agree with Lisa

Saying that women are closer to Hashem and that's why they can't be counted in a minyan or that's why men give thanks that they are not women feels like paternalistic justification for prayers and practices that are not right but that no-one has the nerve to change. Words do matter, especially words you say every day.

(18) e berman, March 9, 2010 8:35 PM

We answer to a higher Authority!

I don't know why you feel the need to answer the NY Times? They are a secular paper that does not take the time to understand out way of life. Occasionally, they write about something they think will interest their readers. Why should we worry about what they think. We answer to a much higher authority. E Berman

(17) Anonymous, March 9, 2010 7:44 PM

misunderstanding the language

From what I lhave learned, the idea of the phraseology is that men are thanking G-d for not making them women because they are not EQUAL to the tasks -- like child-bearing and -rearing -- that HE delegated to women, which are so much harder & which He gave WOMEN the strength & capacity to do! In other words, men realize that they "got off easy" by not having been delegated the very difficult life's tasks and missions of women, & are thanking G-d for that! And we women are blessed with the ability to reproduce & "create life" -- coming closer to Hashem than men can via the means G-d gave us. As a proud Jewish WOMAN, I am grateful I was not created a man in the sense that they are on a lower level from the get-go than we women are, & have so many time-related mitzvas that we women are exempt from because we have more innate wisdom and understanding thanks to G-d's will for them & for us.

(16) Esther, March 9, 2010 7:32 PM

Let's Face it Judaism is not Egalitarian

Since so few of us reach our potential it might not matter in a practical sense but it is what it is in a theoretical sense - STOP THE APOLOGIST RHETORIC

(15) Anonymous, March 9, 2010 7:29 PM

Great Commentary!!

I have been glad to be a woman!! If one is happy in their roles, how could such a prayer be a problem? I asked my friend who was born in Germany shortly before WW2 ended as to why so many women in Germany were married to Jewish men at the time of Hitler. Her response: "Because all German women know that Jewish men make the BEST husbands!!" I found that INTERESTING!!! After listening now several years to Rabbis teach online, I would think any Torah observant man could be quite the best...if living according to their teachings!! As my own husband in recent years has been trying to live a Torah observant life, my life has been SO MUCH better!!! If all women only knew this...

(14) Beverly Kurtin, March 9, 2010 7:22 PM

Nothing's for sale

Lisa, nothing is for sale, so you can't buy it. I used to feel the same way until I learned that nobody is being put down. I love being a woman and I love that I have fewer commands to keep. But more important is that I'm grateful to have been made closer to Gd's sights. I've talked with enough women like you, so I know that this is something you will either come to terms with at some point in your life or you won't. The wonderful think about Judaism is that there is a choice; nobody is pointing a weapon at you telling you to either do this or die. Daniel! Thank you for telling me what I think. I'm not on the far left, but I believe I think like most moderate progressives. Have you ever read "You shall love your neighbor as yourself?" Lev: 19:11. It isn't a request, it's a command. Many of my friends who are on the right give to others with a closed fist, their thinking seems to be "I have mine, let them go get theirs" and they walk away feeling justified. My friend, Who gave you what you have? Who heaped the blessings of life upon you? If you think that you did it all, welcome to the far right whose fighting song is "I've got mine, get out of my face." At a time when this country and Israel need togetherness the most, the people with the money are turning their backs on those who need food, clothing and a warm place in which to live. Perhaps most importantly, they need affordable health care. I used to work at a county hospital; you would not believe how many people died while they waited for a transplant or were suddenly denied coverage because their bills became too expensive. So, please, Daniel, don't tell me what I think because to you I'm just a bleeding heart liberal but I see you for what you are; my brother. And despite our disagreements in thinking, I still love you. Be in good health, my friend and thank Gd for your blessings.

(13) A B, March 9, 2010 6:21 PM

Shelo Osani Isha

Dear Lisa, Allow me to try to address the issue you are trying so open-mindedly to figure out: The Talmud states that a woman possesses "bina yeseira" - intuition - more than a man does, recognizes the truth about people more than a man does, and is promised a greater reward than a man is. This issue can't be THAT simple, then. The blessingS in the morning prayers thanking G-d for making us with blessings that different kinds of people may not have are NOT necessarily about superiority, and do not imply being BETTER. Rather, they are about convenience and ease in THIS world. Thanking G-d for not making us blind, for example, doesn't imply that the blind person is inferior - in fact he will probably be rewarded in the World to Come for his suffering. The same is true for those who are lame or paralyzed; more things we thank G-d for not being, we appreciate how our own lives are easier and more convenient. Men do sometimes have things in this world easier and more convenient, something they must thank G-d for. For more on this you can read "Letters to a Jewish Feminist" by Yisroel Miller. Good luck!

(12) Ingrid, March 9, 2010 5:37 PM

I don't buy it either

I support everyone's choice to follow their own beliefs, and I am also grateful that my 2 daughters will do their Bat Mitzvahs. I did my adult Bat Mitzvah 2 years ago and it was one of the most spiritual experiences (outside of giving birth!) I have ever had!

(11) Yisroel Pollack, March 9, 2010 4:53 PM

Where The Truth Lies

That’s a lame cop out. Jewishly speaking, men do hold a privileged position relative to women. There’s no need for us to accede to the Times’ liberally fashioned, distinctly non-Jewish position on this or any other matter. We shouldn’t get ourselves worked up just because we can’t manage to make this view palatable to them. Let them whine and complain all they want. Let us persevere and safeguard ourselves, lest we succumb to their secularly wrought, abjectly false understandings.

(10) thechef, March 9, 2010 4:39 PM


the NYT needs to spend less time worrying about the prayers of traditional Jews, and more time investigating the corrupt local, state and national politicians of their fair state. they might also consider exposing the socialists and leftists on their own staff and they may also need to expose the immoral behavior of their own staff members. QUIT WORRYING ABOUT WHAT TRADITIONAL JEWS DO, and clean your own house!

(9) A wife, mother, professional, and "life smart" woman, March 9, 2010 4:16 PM

Yaakov, your response is a nice 21st-century apologetic. I don't believe Gd views the world as these men do. Both are equally greater, and women who experience life and know how powerful their influence is, need not concern themselves with that, statements such as these that enable some fragile men's ego to flourish.

(8) Searle Mitnick, March 9, 2010 3:44 PM

a middle ground

I have tremendous respect for both sides of this issue. However, I am unconvinced by the response to "I don’t buy it". The answer dealt with two possible formulations. There may be good reasons for not using either of them. But there is another alternative. If I man instead of stating the negative "for not having made me a woman" were to say "for having made me a man”, there would be far less ground for offense to women and the point of obligation for mitzvot would still be preserved.

(7) Lisa, March 9, 2010 2:45 PM

Thank you.

Dear Rabbi, Thank you for your reply. I was pleasantly surprised to see that my comment was posted; I really doubted it would be. I apologize for the last remark- that was a little too "hot, under the collar". I love that I'm actually allowed to ask hard questions of Judaism. This morning, in my prayers, I'll just focus on my line as a woman. Funnily enough, it now feels alright. To each his or her own conscience. Again, thanks. Lisa

(6) Andy, March 9, 2010 1:12 PM

agree with lisa #2 not buying it

Men also thank God for not making them a Gentile or a slave. Don't think it's because we think that they are on a higher spiritual level? Seems to me much better to change the wording to make it positive and thank God for making me a Jew. I suppose the sages do have reasons for keeping the blessings as they are,but it is problematic for many. The women [even within orthodoxy] who believe that the roles of men and women are not only different but unequal may have a valid point that needs to be corrected. Without violating halacha might ordaining qualified women as Rabbis in the Orthodox world be helpful?

(5) Daniel Morgenbesser, March 7, 2010 11:01 PM


What would you, Rabbi Solomon,be surprised from the leftist NY Times? This is the leftist way of thinking.

(4) Anonymous, March 7, 2010 9:52 PM

How conveniently they forget to mention that women dont have a bris because they're (we're) dont need the mitzvah of bris, We're born on a higher level.

(3) Jack, March 7, 2010 2:42 PM

If women are 2nd class citizens?

Why is it that once a week the man of the house sings a song of praise to his in front of his family and friends sitting around their Shabbat table? There is clearly no other religion or society that comes to close to revering, respecting and elevating women than traditional Judaism.

(2) LIsa, March 7, 2010 1:10 PM

I don't buy it.

Dear Rabbi, As an educated Jewish woman, somewhat Baal Tshuva, NOTHING bothers me more than the Jewish man's daily prayer thanking Hashem for not making him a woman. If it's only about "roles", then why don't men say the same thing as women, thanking Hashem for being created according to the Almighty's will? Doing so would achieve the stated goal right away, leading to a focus on what's expected of males- without the "apparent" slam against women. I truly believe reciting this prayer can't help but instill mysogyny in males, notwithstanding the contortionist, dogmatic, effort to explain it. "If it walks like a duck and it talks like a duck....". How about women thanking Hashem every day for not being created male-as a man, wouldn't you find such negative language offensive? Would that really be the direct, logical way for women to thank Hashem for their role in life? I think form and substance DO matter.I think of professional codes of ethics which caution against the mere "appearance" of impropriety- not just the actual act. I just don't buy the orthodox rationalization. It might be convenient for the guys, but it leaves too many women feeling second-class and badly. It was a prayer written by men, right? I think the next Rabbinical council should change it, plain and simple. But I'm not holding my breath. __________________ THE AUTHOR'S REPLY: “The question of why men and women don’t simply use the same generic language in their respective blessings (Blessed be Hashem…for making me according to his will), is a good one. Using identical words and avoiding any negative associations for either gender does seem to be intuitively prudent. My best understanding of this matter is that since a man is, in fact, given more commandments to perform, it would appear inappropriate for a woman to say, …shelo asani ish (Blessed are you for not making me a man). Similarly, for a man to utter, …she’asani kirtzono (Blessed be Hashem…for making me according to his will) is equally inappropriate because he was created more distant from God’s perception of perfection than a woman. Thus, the languages that work best are those that are used in our daily blessings.” Yaakov Salomon

(1) lisa, March 7, 2010 11:50 AM


bottom line...a knock is a they are actually doing us a favor & bringing it to our attention once again...just as a reminder......especially since Pesach is right around the corner. As a woman scrubbing my kitchen and buying yet another $6.00 pancake mix, I want to know that I am just a bit closer to my Maker. It makes the job of getting ready for Pesach just a bit easier!! So, in fact, their timing was perfect!!!! Thank you NYT!!


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