Does G-d Have A Feminine Side?

Does G-d Have A Feminine Side?

Question:

Why is G-d always referred to in the male gender? We call Him our Father, our King, and always a "He". Surely G-d is not a man. Why does Judaism perpetuate this patriarchal male dominance?

Answer:

Indeed, G-d transcends gender. Being the source of all life, G-d encompasses both male and female. This is reflected in our prayers. Sometimes we appeal to G-d's female aspect, sometimes His male aspect. It depends on the context.

In fact, we refer to G-d in the feminine in one of the most popular prayers - "Lecha Dodi". Every Friday night, we welcome the "Shabbos Bride" and "Shabbos Queen". Who is this royal bride? None other than the Shechina, the feminine divine presence that descends on the day of rest. Why is G-d feminine in this prayer, while in most other prayers masculine?

To answer, let's analyze a basic difference between male and female. Meet Brenda and Mike.

Mike comes home from a stressful day at work. Brenda senses his bad mood.

Brenda: What's wrong Mike? Everything alright?

Mike: Huh?

Brenda: What's disturbing you?

Mike: Nothing.

Brenda: (hurt) What do you mean nothing?! I can see something's wrong. Don't you care about me enough to share your feelings?

Mike: ????

Brenda has forgotten that men only share their problems with you if they think you can help them find a solution. Otherwise, why burden someone else with your problems? Since Mike feels that his issues at work are not Brenda's area of expertise, he keeps them to himself. She can't advise him, so he'll work it out on his own. Meanwhile she feels neglected and unloved, because women share their feelings, not to get a solution, but just to share and feel close and loved. She wasn't planning on giving him advice for his problems, she just wanted to be there for him and soothe him. But men don't get that.

Now let's turn the tables around. On another day, Brenda comes home from work, and before Mike even says anything she tells him:

Brenda: I have had such a stressful day. My boss is an animal. He just hasn't stopped pressuring me and no matter what I do it's never enough. And I can't stand his condescending attitude.

Mike: I've told you a million times you should leave that job. Why do you stay there?

Brenda: (frustrated) I didn't ask for career advice, I was telling you about my day. I'm perfectly happy in my job.

Mike: ????

What Mike doesn't realize is that women deal with their problems differently to men. Brenda wasn't looking for advice, she was looking for understanding. All Mike had to do was listen with an empathetic look and the odd comforting "mmmm" sound. This is the feminine way of dealing with a problem: share it with someone who cares, and by them listening to you it won't feel so bad anymore. Men like to offer advice, but women just want to share their frustrations and then feel better about it, even if nothing has changed.

This is of course only a generalization. But it's mostly true. For a man, a problem needs a solution. For a woman, a problem needs to be shared. Men try to change the facts. Women try to change the feelings. Men try to improve the situation. Women try to feel better about things as they are.

Now let's look at G-d. G-d has both masculine and feminine modes of expression, because G-d is the source of both. G-d can be the masculine fixer of problems, or the feminine soother of troubled souls. In prayer we appeal to both. It depends on the circumstance. Sometimes we want a masculine response from G-d, and sometimes we need the more feminine approach.

Usually we pray because there is a problem that needs fixing. Someone's sick and need to be healed, someone's down and needs picking up, there are hungry people that need to be fed, and the world is full of pain and sorrow and it needs to change. It would be out of place to appeal to the feminine side of G-d with these requests. We don't want to feel better about poverty; we want an end to it. We don't want to come to terms with sickness; we want a cure. So we pray to "Our Father, our King", the male aspect of the divine. "G-d, fix the problem!"

But then there are times when we are not looking to change the world at all, but rather to appreciate it on a deeper level. On Shabbos, we don't try to fix things. We desist from the aggressive mission of improving the world through work and creativity, and enjoy the natural pleasures that the world already has - friendship, family, spirituality. Rather than changing reality, we seek to nurture its innate beauty.

So on Friday night, we welcome the divine presence in the form of a "Shabbos Queen", or a "Shabbos Bride". It is the feminine aspect of the divine that descends on Shabbos, not to solve the problems of the world, but to soothe us into the awareness that the world we live in is already beautiful.

During the week we go about the male business of fixing the world. On Shabbos, we reach the feminine realisation that we need not change a thing.


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