Recently, I attended an online lecture by a Chassidic rabbi titled, “The Future Is Feminine.” I’m not sure what I expected, but nowadays I want to hear thoughts that haven’t been floating around in my mind for years. I’m also in a religious and spiritual seeker mind-frame where my focus is on learning from the accumulated wisdom of the sages of my Jewish heritage. October 7th propelled me faster down a path that I was already meandering along. A motivating thought: Why should I accept your concepts if they end up leading to—and even encouraging—the dismissal, death, and destruction of my people?
What surprised me, when I listened to the rabbi and heard the direction he took, was that I remained attentive to ideas that, until recently, I would have been aghast at and probably mocked. Now, I’m willing to listen. It seems that when concepts that had seemed valid turn out to twist and distort reality, casting good as evil and evil as good, that becomes the time to be open to hearing other ideas.
As I explained the main points to younger daughter’s boyfriend later that day, he summed it up succinctly, “Oh, it’s about women staying home.” It horrified me to think that I had listened to and found worthwhile thoughts in that vein. But rather than rip up my notes and turn my back on the rabbi’s ideas, I decided to read through them and think about whether there may be something to what he said, while still firmly in my feminist perspective.
While the ideas he presented are simplistic and stereotyping, I still found them thought-provoking.
- Women are motivated by how good the good is. Things can be so good, why not make them better. For women, achievements come from their identity, and contentment is their natural condition.
- Women are motivated to do something good, which leads to their doing more good deeds; for example, keep Shabbat, then start to eat kosher food.
- Men are motivated to eliminate the bad. I must do something to get rid of the bad. They are anxious, then they become active to complete a task, upon completion there is a moment of contentment, then they return to anxiety, to begin the cycle again. Men identify with their achievements. They are motivated by anxiety, to make a change or to fix something, which is their natural condition.
- Men are motivated to stop doing something negative, which leads to doing something positive; for example: stop eating non-kosher food, then keep Shabbat.
The Desired Direction
- We all need to be more like women. Rather than focus on not sinning (the masculine approach), we need to focus on doing more mitzvahs/good deeds (the feminine approach).
I’m not necessarily thinking about what he said from the male/female dichotomy, though it may have some validity, though certainly not on a universal scale. Instead, I’m thinking about these two ways of moving through the world. It does seem more peaceful to go from the perspective that things need to be improved and to work at that, rather than that things need to be broken and then rebuilt. Not only is the latter way destructive, it’s also arrogant. It’s as if all the contributions of those before you are valueless and only yours are of worth. Each time re-creating, rather than growing a creation and maintaining its fruition.
The wars that were and those that are, could they have been prevented if the world had been more feminine, or acting from a place of improvement rather than destruction?
Since October 7th, my thoughts keep returning to this moment: Israeli hostages still held in terror tunnels, Israel living through the drain and devastation of war; the reignition of the nasty flame of antisemitism; Gazans suffering from the impact of Islamic terrorism and, ironically, antisemitism; and supposedly caring people failing to see the humanity and worth of every human.
And I think about how the rabbi’s ideas could help me think forward, to a way out of the gloom. The rabbi may have been talking about men and women in personal relationships, but that is not where I take them.
These days I see women baking challah, reading psalms, writing, speaking, informing, and organizing as their way of prayer to the Eternal Spirit to protect their loved ones, to return the hostages, to protect the soldiers, to stop the deaths and harm to all civilians—to bring about lasting peace. And I think, too, of the people I know who remain devoted to bringing together Jews and Arabs—people are people—because they cannot abandon the idea that Things can be so good, why not make them better, because they want to make that the way forward rather than I must do something to get rid of the (perceived) bad.
Perhaps the way forward, using the rabbi’s insights, is for me—for each of us—to commit to improving the world—focusing on that which is good: using and sharing our sparks within as best we can so that there is more light, and not a diminishing. Perhaps each of us—man and woman—needs to see what we can contribute to making the world a better place and not letting others, or even ourselves, rip apart the good with the bad.