Skip to main content

Thought for the Day: Zachar = Action, N'keiva = Potential

I once heard R' Berel Wein discussing a car ride he had with a well known and noted rosh yeshiva.  The conversation turned to chinuch habanim and R' Wein noted that he had gone to public school.  The noted said he also had attended public school.  R' Wein found that hard to believe, but the well known and noted rosh yeshiva insisted it was true.  R' Wein finally told him, "Oh , yeah?  Sing 'Silent Night' for me!"

Ok, so 50 years ago that was our biggest problem with the surrounding culture.  The problems are much bigger today.  I am not even discussing the internet and it's issues (though I heard recently that 30% of all internet traffic is associated with the basest sort of sites).  There is, it seems to me, even a worse issue; the infusion of their ideas and philosophies into our hashakafa.  Of course this is not a new problem, but davka because this is the information age, the infusion of their ideas have crept into the most sacred of our ideals.

There is a thought among those outside the Torah community, that Orthodox Judaism in looks down on women.  They have several "bomb" proofs.  Masculine pronouns and verbs are always used in reference to G-d, Jewish men recite the bracha of "shelo asani isha" (who didn't make me a woman) every morning, women are considered somehow so dirty that they need a ritual cleansing once a month, etc.  Very powerful arguments, no?  It is amazing what you can come up with by ignoring context.  And the Torah is no small context, so it is fairly easy to distort and pollute its ideals.  There are many points of conflict between the Torah outlook (ie, reality) and the liberal western (ie, 6 o'clock news) outlook.  I originally thought to make this one post, but I am thinking I can milk a few posts out of this.

Let's start by putting things back in context.  The original human being was neither male nor female.  (We'll leave Lillith for another time.)  The split created two beings, with the role of the n'keiva side defined by "eizer k'negdo" --  a corresponding and complementary helper.  She helps by defining potential (the woman, for example, is completely in charge of when the married couple can be together).  She also helps by being a touchstone for the appropriateness of his actions -- she supports him when he is meritorious and opposes him when he is not (Y'vamos 63a).  His role is to work within that framework of potential to create k'vod shamayim.  Neither role is better than the other, just different.

Uh oh... separate but equal?  First, not separate at all!  Man and woman must work together to realize their purpose in being here.  Equal?  No clue.  That's like asking if the brain and heart are equal.  If you are asking that question you are missing the point.


Popular posts from this blog

Thought for the Day: Battling the Evil Inclination on all Fronts

Yom Kippur.  When I was growing up, there were three annual events that marked the Jewish calendar: eating matzos on Passover, lighting candles on Chanuka, and  fasting on Yom Kippur.  Major news organizations around the world report on the "surreal" and "eerie" quiet of the streets in even the most secular neighborhoods of Israel.  Yom Kippur.

As you know, I am observant of Jewish law.  Some have even called me "ultra orthodox" (not in a kind way).  Given that, I have a question.  How likely do you think that I would be tempted to eat on Yom Kippur, that most holy day of the year?  Let's make the scale zero to ten, where zero is "as likely as driving through McDonald's on Shabbos and ordering a Big Mac with extra cheese." and ten is "as likely as breathing regularly".  Take your time.  If you answered "zero"; thank you, but -- sadly and penitently -- no.  The answer is more like nine; I'd like to say lower, but i…

Thought for the Day: Using a Mitzvah Object for Non-Mitzvah Purposes

As I am -- Baruch HaShem -- getting older, I am more cognizant of the fact that I'd like to stay as healthy as possible right up the moment I leave this world.  Stuff hurting is not the problem (I am told there is an old Russian saying that once you are 40, if you wake up and nothing hurts -- you're dead), stuff not working, however, is a problem.  To that end, for several years now I commute to work by bicycle (weather permitting, 30 minutes on an elliptical machine when weather does not permit).  I recently took up some upper body weight training.  Not because I want to be governor of California, just simply to slow down loss of bone mass and extend my body's healthy span.  Simple hishtadlus.  I have an 18 month old grandson who is just the right weight for arm curls (yes... I am that weak), so I do about 10 reps when I greet him at night.  He laughs, I get my exercise; all good.  (Main problem is explaining to the older ones why zeidy can't give them the same "…

Thought for the Day: Thanking HaShem Each and Every Day for Solid Land Near Water

Each and every morning, a Jew is supposed to view himself as a new/renewed creation, ready for a new day of building his eternal self through Torah and mitzvos.  We begin the day with 16 brachos to praise/thank/acknowledge HaShem for giving us all the tools we need to succeed.  We have a body, soul, and intellect.  We have vision, mobility, and protection from the elements.  Among those brachos, we have one that perhaps seems a bit out of place: רוקע הארץ על המים/Who spreads out the land on/over the water.  After all, it's nice to have a dry place to walk, but does that compare to the gratitude I have for a working body and vision?  As it turns out, I should; as explained by the R' Rajchenbach, rosh kollel of Kollel Zichron Eliyahu (aka, Peterson Park Kollel).  Your best bet is to listen to the shiur; very distant second is to continue, which I hope will whet your appetite for the real thing.

First... since we have dry land, I don't have to slog to work through even a foot…