Prayer Insights


Morning Blessings # 17: "Mitzvot Opportunities"

Rabbi Shaul J. Leiter

This series has focused on the connection between the morning blessings and the individual's daily renewal of spiritual energy and purpose. This installment discusses the seventeenth blessing.

 

"Baruch ata
sh'lo asa li ishah.
" / sh'asani k'retzono"

"Blessed are You, L-rd our G-d, King of the universe,
Who has not made me a woman." /
Who has made me according to His will."

The seventeenth Blessing is the declaration of thanksgiving to G-d by a man for not having made him a woman (some women simply omit it*; others have the custom of saying the blessing sh'asah li k'retzono "who made me according to his will" in its place).

* The main reason for not saying "who made me according to his will" is that it is not mentioned in the Talmud as are all the other Morning Blessings, so consequently does not have the same level of sanctity. What is its source then? The earliest we have been able to find is the 13th century authority Abudraham. He, however, refers to the saying of it as an already established custom. Can any reader shed light on this matter?

The basic explanation of the man's blessing is made clear by considering its place in the order of the Morning Blessings.  As the last of a sub-series of three ("who did not make me a non-Jew" [#15]; "who did not make me a slave" [#16]), this one expresses the Jewish male's thanks for having been commanded more mitzvot than the Jewish women.

Today, the phrasing of this blessing has often been misinterpreted as indicating a negative attitude towards women.  This view, however, contradicts the high status and respect Judaism accords to women, and the obligation placed upon us men as to how we should relate to the women in our lives: "A man should love his wife as much as himself and respect her more than himself" [Yevamot 62b], "Honor your father and mother," "Fear your mother and father," etc.

Nor is it justified to infer from this blessing that women hold a lower spiritual status in Judaism.  In G-d's eyes, everyone's service is equally important: "I call heaven and earth to witness that whether... man or woman, manservant or maidservant--only according to their actions will the spirit of holiness rest upon them" [Yalkut to Judges 4:4].  G-d may have given men more mitzvot as their way of service, but He gave women other more comprehensive tasks that enable them to realize their full potential despite having less mitzvot.

At ASCENT, when the topic of women in Judaism has to be addressed, we prefer that it be done by women.  For this reason, we asked for "input from a female perspective" on this issue.  We are extremely pleased with the number and the quality of the responses that we received.  They are informative, and contain striking insights.  In deference, I have kept my usually long article short!


Rabbi Shaul Leiter is the executive director of Ascent-of-Safed.

This series is translated and adapted from Meah Shearim and other sources


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