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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.

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