Man & Woman
By Rabbi Manis Friedman
When G-d created Adam, at the moment Adam opened his eyes, what was his
psychological profile? He had no Oedipus complex because he had no mother.
He didn't have a birth trauma, because he wasn't born. He had no sibling
rivalry... What was this man like? What was the makeup of his psyche?
Interestingly, Adam didn't have a survival instinct either. That's why
G-d said, "The day you eat from this tree, you'll die," Adam wasn't
impressed. "Oh, so I'll die." He had no survival instinct. So, what was
going on in his mind?
Adam had a death wish. That was his psyche. He had a death wish because
felt so unnatural. In a sense, when G-d says, "From dust you are, and to
dust you shall return," that described Adam's psyche. "I come from dust, I
want to go back."
Back to what? Back to dust. Back to nothingness.
Men, to this day, have this complex. I if you strip away the externalities,
the trappings -- if you take away his car, and his money, and his blue
shoes -- there's nothing, there's dust. Every man is terrified that in the
end, he will have amounted to nothing, regardless of his accomplishments.
can be the wealthiest, most powerful and successful person, the most
talented and the most admired. Deep down, inside he is afraid that it is
going to go away and he is going to remain a nothing, a non-entity, a zero.
Women don't have this. A woman does not have a fear or a suspicion of her
own nothingness. It doesn't exist. Because Eve was not created from dust,
she was created from Adam. So where a man is afraid of being reduced back
nothing, a woman, if you take away all her accomplishments, all her
achievements, will be reduced to a man.
When you take away a woman's being, she doesn't become a nothing, she
becomes him. She loses herself in him. When you take away a man's being,
doesn't lose himself in her, he becomes nothing.
That's why a man needs to accomplish. He must accomplish, because he needs
to deny this nothingness. Whereas a woman doesn't need to accomplish in
order to exist -- she needs to accomplish in order to be appreciated.
Because if you're a nothing and you have to become a something, then
accomplishment is everything, and respect is what you need more than
anything else. Respect means you are a something.
A woman, who is not afraid of becoming nothing, does not understand and
not tolerate when her somethingness is not appreciated. So what a woman
needs more than anything else is appreciation.
The Talmud says that a man should honor his wife and be very careful with
her feelings. A man should be careful of his wife's honor, because a woman
is sensitive to injustice. This is not just an idle observation about
At the core of a woman's being, it is the injustice that bothers her. She
being treated as if she was nothing, and that's not true. She is something,
and that injustice hurts.
When a man is treated like nothing, it's not the injustice that hurts him
it is the truth that hurts. He is nothing and he hates being reminded of
His reaction is not as to an injustice, it is not a moral indignation,
a personal hurt. Whereas with a woman, no matter how badly she is abused
devastated, it remains a moral injustice to her.
This is why there can be a woman who is abused for years in a relationship,
and all the while she tells herself that she deserves it. A man cannot do
that. He can not say, "I deserve it" because that's not the issue. The
issue, to the man, is "am I or am I not." If you abuse me, then I am not
I can't take that. I can not be diminished to nothing and go on living. A
woman, on the other hand, simply tells herself, "I deserve this, therefore
it is not an injustice." In this way she can go on living.
This explains why men are aggressive. A man is desperate to be recognized
a something, and so he needs to prove himself, he needs to achieve, he
to acquire. This need to acquire is an aggression. Whereas when a woman is
determined to retain what is hers, to remain herself. No matter how
intensely she pursues that, it is not aggression, because she's not out to
acquire -- she is trying to preserve.
When the lion goes hunting, he's aggressive. When the lioness goes hunting,
she's trying to sustain her family. Though she may be more violent than
male, it is not aggression -- it is maintenance. When you threaten a bear
cub when its mother is around, you're in big trouble. You say, "Oh, this
mother is aggressive." Yet she's not, she's totally passive. If you don't
present a threat she's fine, she's not out to get you. She doesn't want
anything you have. She wants to maintain what she has and that she'll do
ferociously. But that's maintaining, so it's not aggression.
In contrast, the male lion wants what you have, and he's going to get it.
even if he does it nicely, even if he does it gently, it's aggression.
a very subtle and polite seduction is aggression, because you are trying
get what isn't yours. You are out to get something, you're acquiring, you
are a predator. You can be a nice predator, but that, too, is aggressive.
Men are called aggressive because they need something they don't have.
are called passive, because they don't necessarily want what they don't
have; they like what they do have. We are not talking about physical
possessions, rather psychological, the psyche.
This helps us to understand the blessings men and women make before the
A man says, "Thank You for not making me a woman." A man is grateful for
what he is not. Because he can't make a positive statement, he can't say,
Thank You for what I am. He's never sure he is anything.
A woman says, "Thank You for making me as You want me to be." A woman can
make a positive statement about herself, because she knows that she is.
is grateful for what she is.
- Rabbi Friedman, a noted Chassidic
philosopher, author and lecturer, is dean of Bais Chanah Women's
Institute of Jewish Studies.
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