I have often heard it said that Judaism
believes that women are more spiritual than men. This is supposed to explain
why men have more religious obligations than women - men need these things to
become closer to G-d, women are there already. But do we really believe that?
Is it not just a patronizing way to avoid the question of the different gender
roles in Judaism?
I remember as a child being told that
men and women are equal. I had a big problem with this. I asked, "If men
and woman are equal, why do men and women never compete with each other in
sports? You never see a man playing against a woman in tennis, or women's
soccer teams facing men's, or a mixed gender 100 meters sprint. If we are all
equal, why can't we compete together?"
The answer I received was unsatisfying.
"Men are on average stronger physically than women. It would not be fair
for them to compete against each other in sports which require bodily strength,
because men would always win. But in every other way, men and women are
This did not sit well with me. If men
are superior to women in physical strength, but equal in all else, then men and
women are not equal. Men have an edge. Unless there is some other area of human
endeavor in which women are superior, we are not equal.
This bothered me for years. Until I
learnt Judaism's attitude to women.
Women are more soulful than men. While
men may excel in physical prowess, women are far ahead when it comes to
spiritual strength. Women are more sensitive to matters of the soul, more
receptive to ideas of faith, more drawn to the divine than men. The feminine
soul has an openness to the abstract and a grasp of the intangible that a male
soul can only yearn for. This is why G-d told Abraham, the first Jewish man,
"Whatever Sarah your wife tells you, listen to her voice." She was
the greater prophet, her soul more intuitive than his.
When I first heard this idea, it
suddenly all made sense. There is indeed a balance between men and women. Men
have stronger bodies, women have stronger souls.
Of course there are exceptions. Some
women could beat any guy in an arm wrestle. And some men are more spiritually in
tuned than the women around them. But for the most part, men have bigger
muscles, women have deeper feelings.
The Torah gives men more physical
mitzvos, to tame the body and give the soul extra power. Women don't need this
help. Because although men can jump higher in the air, women can reach higher
into the heavens.