If the saying is true that “Jews are like everyone else, only more so,” it should be even “more so” true about Jewish women. She is traditionally revered as “the crown of her husband,” yet she has somehow more recently become the butt of jokes about her mothering and materialism. Say what you want about her, but either way, it seems we’re always talking about her. Just what is it that is so much “more so” about Jewish women?
Many years ago, my young children were debating among themselves whether it was better to be a girl or a boy. My daughter Mushkie was probably no more than seven, but her answer was clear and definitive: it’s way better to be a girl because girls have babies.
And if babies are what matter, and in Jewish life they matter more than anything, she’s right. The birthright of every single Jewish girl holds the key to the nation’s future: the power to create Jews. By virtue of her unbroken Jewish matrilineage–regardless of any behavior or beliefs, or even the choice for a partner–her children are incontrovertibly and eternally Jewish.
The fact that this is spiritual power rather than physical power doesn’t make it any less powerful.
I used to wonder why my kids woke up terrified from a nightmare crying for “Mommy.” Couldn’t they sense that “Tatty” could protect them from danger far better than I could? Yet, apparently, mothers provide a spiritual comfort and security no amount of fatherly physical strength can supplant. Any therapist will tell you, only partly in jest, when it comes to recognizing the root cause of any issues we may have, “if it’s not one thing, it’s the mother.”
How much “more so” if it’s a Jewish mother.
Not only is she the one with the power to impart Jewish souls within her children, no other person in their lives plays a greater single role in determining their inner character, affecting them and theirs for generations.
(Try this at home: think about the effect your mother had on you.)
And yet, it’s still considered a man’s world. But that’s only because we’re judging the world by physical life’s outer trappings. When it comes to money and all forms of official power, he clearly has the upper hand. But when it comes to “inner” trappings of spirituality, not just the ability to give life but also to affect the quality of life, here she clearly dominates.
It is the inner emphasis that characterizes a woman, and “more so,” a Jewish woman. She has an added measure of Binah, the spiritual quality associated with nurturing and building. Whether she is gestating an actual baby or even ideas, she masterfully grows them from the inside out as they become part of her. She knows how to get what she wants quietly and patiently. She carries the big picture in her mind and cannot be truly satisfied with anything less than success on her own terms. (Watch how little girls fight compared to little boys and you’ll see what I mean.)
G-d created the world with both masculine and feminine qualities. The masculine element is associated with giving, the woman with receiving. This is best evident in the reproduction paradigm; it even explains why we refer to G-d as “He” because of how He gives to the world from beyond it. G-d’s feminine aspect, often referred to as the Shechina, is associated with G-dliness within the world and the effort to build, repair, and redeem it from the inside out, thereby uniting heaven and earth.
This effort pretty much sums up the purpose of Creation according to Chassidus. Everyone, male or female, embodies both masculine and feminine traits with which to participate in this process. Some have more power than others, but we all have more power than we realize.
And when Jewish women realize their G-d given power, how much “more so” can they participate proudly and joyfully.