Can Men and Women Live in Harmony?
Toward a Meaningful Life with Simon Jacobson
Radio Show Transcript - July 11, 1999
Mike Feder: Good evening, here we are again
for another edition of Toward a Meaningful Life with Simon
Jacobson. Iím your host Mike Feder. Tonight our topic is
gender roles, and more specifically the differences or similarities
between men and women.
The question that I want to ask you for all of
us is, are men and women inherently different, and if so, how
and (hereís a good one) why?
Jacobson: Well, we could call todayís show
"The Battle of the Sexes," which is the way itís been
termed. I donít know who originated that expression but I think
itís a good way of putting things. Because a fundamental part
of our society today, particularly brought to our attention
in the last few decades, is this battle that has been raging
from the beginning of time, going back to good old Adam and
Eve, and ever since you find what many people call a battle,
whether subtle or overt, between man and woman. In most cases,
particularly in the modern age, we find male hierarchy dominating,
with women clamoring for attention and equality, equals rights
amendments, womenís rights in general, and it still remains
quite an elusive goal.
If you look at all the statistics of how many
women are really in leadership positions in this country and
in other countries for that matter, salaries, the opportunitiesÖ
So itís a question that touches all of us, because weíre either
a man or a woman.
So itís not something that anyoneís neutral about
or can remain detached from. It affects us all and has seeped
into every part of life: social life obviously, business life,
professional and personal life, and relationships. And I would
like to address your questions, but in addition, to address
a more global issue, can there ever be a resolution to not just
co-exist but complement each otherÖ
Feder: We have to hope that thatís possible.
Jacobson: Yes, but hope is hope. The question
is if that is realistic, and if it is, what can be done? What
practically can be done in a climate like ours that is very
sexually charged and a climate where dominance and power is
a big issue for everyone, with men having monopolized it for
a while and women as I said rising to the occasion of trying
to compete on that level as well.
So your question in that context obviously is
most important because you first have to establish, are they
equal, and are the roles different, are they the same, are the
roles that we have imposed on men and women socially oriented
Feder: I was just going to say, we might
add the question, are men and womenís natures essentially different?
Jacobson: Exactly. What is different and
what is not different? What is healthy and what is not healthy?
Those are essentially the questions at hand.
Frankly, it happens to be one of my favorite topics,
the reason being that from the perspective that I come from
and was educated in, clearly a Torah perspective and particularly
the mystical dimension of it, the Kabbalistic view, has really
fascinating things to say about the whole male/female dynamic.
In our day and age, itís perhaps one of the topics
that is the most blatant, where thereís so much ignorance, while
at the same time so much relevant information that doesnít even
have a religious undercurrent, itís just an understanding of
who we are in our gender roles.
Clearly thereís a biological and physiological
difference between a man and a woman which isnít created by
us and both in the way the bodies are made, in some aspects
of the personality, and other effects that society recognizes
without doubt. You have menís tennis and you have womenís tennis.
You have other areas of society where gender roles are not seen
as discriminatory, but seen as appropriate. A man and woman
canít compete in a tennis match, not because a woman is in any
way inferior, but because she canít compete physically with
a man, so she competes against women. It makes sense.
Feder: Well, not yet, anyhow.
Jacobson: I donít know how many people
would really consider that aspiration or goal that a woman should
be built like a man, I mean, maybe men should be built like
women. Is brute strength the standard, how much you weigh,
or your bone structure? So weíll discuss this but I just wanted
to point that out.
Now, the reason this topic also lends itself,
and I definitely want to hear from our audience because Iím
sure everyone has an opinion on this matter, why it lends itself
to so much controversy (which makes it exciting to discuss of
course) is that everyone is either a man or a woman. I repeat
that because itís not a small issue, because it makes us all
subjective. Weíre not discussing a specimen outside of ourselvesÖ
Feder: Or something in the abstractÖ
Jacobson: Right. Weíre discussing something
head-on, which is us. And whenever youíre discussing "you,"
youíre immediately part of the picture and therefore your attitudesóhow
you look at your father, how you look at your motherÖ
Even if we donít get Freudian, but just on a basic
level, weíre influenced by whether we had a good relationship
with our parents, with the women in our lives, with the men
in our lives, these are big things: male bonding, child bonding,
and all of that.
In addition, as we grow older and get involved
in our own relationships, we again have experiences that are
not always neutral. It may have been deep love, it may have
been spurned, you may have been hurt by someone you loved, so
again it creates the attitude that "women are like this,"
or "men are like that."
Often, itís true. There are some of the popular
books today about Men and Mars and Women and Venus or Tannenís
book about communication between men and women. Since men and
women think differently, they communicate differently.
Feder: Deborah Tannenís book You Just
Donít Understand, itís a great book.
Jacobson: Öabout different communication
where both mean well but they just communicate differently.
One of the points there is that intimacy for a man is doing
things with someone, and for a woman itís talking about it.
A man thinks talking means youíre asking for advice and for
a woman speaking about something doesnít mean youíre asking
for advice, but just trying to communicate.
Feder: I once heard it described as the
difference between content and contact.
Jacobson: Okay. And so there are very deeply
ingrained attitudes that society has imposed upon us that have
informed and shaped our own views on gender. And I think itís
critical to begin as a preface with anything that we discuss
on this topic that we must recognize that we all have subjective
attitudes that are perhaps very deep.
Like, for example, on a simple level, I fully
empathize and understand why women would in general be upset
at how the men have dominated.
Feder: Itís a manís world.
Jacobson: Yes. Theyíve dominated in business,
in money, and in control. Those three items are not necessarily
the most important items in life, but in a society thatís highly
materialistic and we value people for their status, where they
have climbed on the economic scale, that becomes a powerful
position, and clearly men have abused that position as we continuously
So itís fully understandable why women would be
extremely upset with that.
So I want to discuss that and also how or can
we correct it, but itís important to get to the root of it.
And the first question of course I hear, as a teacher as I travel
and talk to various men and women, is what does Judaism have
to say? Does Judaism also consider women to be inferior?
Feder: Itís a question I have for later.
Jacobson: Okay, but Iím just putting it
all into one big pot and mixing it all up to see whether our
"brew" will end up beingÖ
Feder: Whether it tastes like anything
or whether itís worth eating, right?
Jacobson: Right. So I get that question
very often about the Jewish attitude, the religious attitude
It may seem like, in the eye of the beholder,
women are not given the same religious opportunities, or leadership,
or many things in Jewish tradition, that would appear to the
naked eye to someone who may not know better, to be seemingly
male oriented. So I wanted to throw that into the pot as well.
But I see it this way. We have to distinguish,
as in any type of healthy approach, between the people and the
system, in other words, in the case that Iím discussingóthe
mystical cosmic Torah system of how we see a man and a woman
in their purest formóhas to be distinguished from how people
have treated each other.
Feder: And are treating each other right
Jacobson: Of course that should be added.
In other words, you and I (you, Mike, and myself) may have a
standard that we aspire to. That doesnít mean that you and I
are behaving that way. We can behave in a petty way, we can
behave in an abusive way, and we can be hurtful. And yet, you
canít throw out the baby with the bath water.
We have to find some standard, some objective
system, some goal that we can live up to, and compare that then
to where we stand in our attitudes to each other as men and
I would say that to start from a very abstract,
philosophical approach, each human being has a quintessential
nature: who you are, the essential you.
Then there are factors, attitudes and experiences
in life that, so to speak, add layers and shape and program
us, sometimes in ways that are completely contrary or antithetical
to our own natural tendencies.
When we look at a man today and a woman today,
youíre not seeing the quintessential man and the quintessential
woman. Youíre seeing a man and a woman shaped by a society that
has imposed its attitudes and viewpoints on them.
So when youíre looking at a man and a woman youíre
not just looking at a pure, "freshly fallen snow"
as we were intended to be when we were born, youíre looking
at a person who has been beaten up, or has beaten up others,
or has been shaped by many different factors.
Thatís why itís very difficult to easily answer
the question, are men and women different? What part of them
are we talking about? The superimposed elements or the quintessential
So my answer to the question would be that we
have toóno matter hard it may be being the subjective creatures
that we areóstep back for a moment, and Iíd like to present
whatís called the Torah/mystical or Torah/psychological profile
of a man and a woman before they are touched by society, by
parents and community, and then compare that, juxtapose that,
to the modern man and woman as we see them.
Feder: To the original nature or the original
Jacobson: Right. Itís like taking a perfect
circle and then drawing your own circle and superimposing them
to see where the jagged edges are and see its consistency.
I think thatís a healthy approach in any area
of lifeóbecause none of us are perfectóthat if you want to heal
or grow you have to have a backdrop. What am I growing toward?
Or else you may be growing in the wrong direction.
Itís like a child who looks at the parent and
learns love from the parent. If the love of the parent was distorted,
the childís view of what love is is initially a distortion.
Feder: So when you say youíre going to
talk about the original essence or nature, from where is this?
Jacobson: Well, I mentioned briefly, itís
from the Torah, but particularly from the dimension of the Torah
which I call the mystical or esoteric dimension which gives
us spiritual definitions or profiles of people, of events, and
Some may call that the Kabbalah, which is Jewish
mysticism. Itís essentially grounded and based on Bible, for
instance, in the case weíre discussing, I would begin with the
first verse, how are man and woman described in the Bible? What
is the description?
Feder: You mean start out from Genesis?
Jacobson: Yes. Straight from Genesis and
build up upon that and get some type of profile. This is a profile.
A Torah profile of what a man is and a Torah profile of what
a woman is.
Feder: So letís do it. What does it say?
Jacobson: Öand then weíll compare that
to where weíre at.
The first time man and woman are mentioned in
the Bible it says: "G-d created the human being. Male and
female He created them." Thatís the literal translation
of the first time man and woman are mentioned in the Bible.
And then it continues by saying that He created
them in the image of G-d, this one human being that is created
in this somewhat cryptic expression, "Male and female He
So itís like saying He created a human being,
male and female He created them.
Feder: Isnít that two separate people right
Jacobson: No. As a matter of fact, it is
seen to be as one entity.
Jacobson: So in other words, itís one unified
entity that was then split into two. And remember, it is a biblical
statement so it has many interpretations, but I will give you
the classical interpretation (and it has other, equally valid
interpretations but theyíre all consistent with each other).
The human race is one entity with two energies,
male and female, which weíll call masculine energy and feminine
Feder: Which could be either both in a
male and both in a female.
Jacobson: Exactly. Thatís exactly the point.
That both do have each other: a male has a masculine and a feminine
energy, and a woman has a masculine and a feminine energy.
Now, in spiritual language, you donít begin thinking
in terms of the physical and then travel to the spiritual, you
work the other way around. You begin first on the abstract energy
level, and that carries forward and is drawn down and manifested
on a material level.
Itís simply a different way of looking at life.
Instead of looking at it from the outside in, you look at it
from the inside out.
Feder: Or from the top downÖ
Jacobson: When I say top, itís not physically
the top, it means from the inside out. Iíll give you an example.
When a person cries and tears come out of your eyes, no one
would say that first you have tears in your eyes and then you
have emotions. It begins from within. You have emotions and
then tears well up in your eyes and then itís expressed in physical
Now, when you cry, you donít need to look at the
tears in your eyes to know youíre sad. But I have no way of
knowing that youíre sad unless you tell me or I see tears or
some other physical expression.
Feder: So, spiritually speaking, then youíd
have to ask if there are inherent spiritual differences from
Jacobson: Thatís exactly the point. Because
as soon as there are physical differences, like with tears or
with laughter, they are only physical manifestations of spiritual
differences. Which means essentially, that instead of using
the word difference, I would use the term unique qualities.
A woman, or letís say, feminine energy, has unique
Feder: Are these spelled out in the Bible?
Jacobson: Well, in the Bible, itís inferred
to, and yes, it is described and Iím going to describe it for
Feder: Okay. Now weíre hearing it!
Jacobson: So youíre getting impatient.
But I want to take it step by step because I believe in the
short-long approach which means that if you cover your early
steps correctly, your later steps will be easier to explain.
Feder: Is my impatience a masculine or
a feminine quality?
Jacobson: Good question. I hope by the
end of the show youíll know the answer.
So we have here a situation where weíre describing
male and female, divorcing it now from how you see yourself.
Looking at yourself in the mirroróas you see yourself now in
the mirror as affected by society and many factorsóis not freshly
fallen snow as I put it earlier.
So we have here the human race, meaning the human
being, who is created as male and female. You could say itís
two halves of one whole entity, both fundamental and necessary.
Take away the male and thereís one fundamental element missing
in its existence; take away the female and thereís another fundamental
element missing in its existence.
Now they overlap, as we were discussing, but there
are still unique feminine qualities and there are unique masculine
qualities. I keep using the word "unique" because
they are differentónot to use a clichéóbut they are in
no way inferior and superior.
Itís no different than the right eye and the left
eye. Or the arm and the legs. Or the heart and the mind. Iím
just using that as an analogy.
We are living in a world where diversity does
not mean conflict. Diversity is a blessing, because essentially
beauty is harmony within diversity.
So weíre talking about the masculine energy and
the feminine energy, and interestingly, as the teachings that
Iím citing explain, this isnít just the human race. Itís the
animal, vegetable and mineral kingdoms as well. Masculine and
feminine doesnít always mean a male and female as we understand
them, it means two energies that always need to come together.
So whether thatís the mating in other worlds or a positive and
negative energy in physics, in sub-atomic particles, weíll always
see that every force of energy, life-force, always consists
of two polars; you can even say that a tension is created between
them, a negative and positive charge.
Feder: Whatís known in the East as the
yin and the yang, a male energy and a female energy.
Jacobson: Yes. Exactly. So we have to somewhat
broaden our scope and definition of masculine and feminine to
be universal, thatís itís everywhere in our existence. And in
a sense, when a man and woman learn to coexist, they create,
in a way, a unity that ripples through all the cosmic levels
and all the universe and itís essentially our role to accomplish
But whenever it comes to two types of energy,
they also have a potential for tension and conflict. Like a
tension and resolution. And the key, of course, is achieving
resolution instead of tension, but you first have to understand
what these energies are.
Feder: But it can never be static, itís
always back and forthÖ
Jacobson: Exactly. Or else you have death
or numbness, lethargy.
So the Torah continues, "Male and female
He created them," establishing clearly two forces in existence,
in the universe, in everything in our lives that are required
for an entity to be complete. Then it says that G-d split them
into two, which essentially explains why we are different and
why we are separate, and we can even get into battle, as weíre
But what are the quintessential interpretations,
and here I ask you to indulge me for a moment in something that
may sound esoteric and abstract and somewhat mystical, but I
will bring it down to earth in a very practical way.
The Kabbalah, Jewish mysticism, begins to explain
existence by using the metaphor of light. Light is the metaphor
for G-dís expression. G-d's expression, or extension, in creating
existence is called Divine energy. Energy is light. This energy
has different forms, and essentially, even before man and woman,
as we understand them in a biological sense, are created, two
energies emanated, so to speak, from the Divine. Thatís why
youíll find in the Kabbalah that thereís a feminine aspect of
G-d and a masculine aspect of G-d. G-d is neither male nor female,
but, in a sense, emanates or manifests two types of energy.
One is called a projected light and one is called a receptive
Another way of describing it is that one of them
is a light or energy that flows outward and one is a light or
energy that flows inward. One is revelation and expression to
others, an expressive light, and one is an internalized one.
To translate this in psychological terms so we
can relate to it, there are times when we want to express ourselves
to others. And there are times when we need time for ourselves,
the introverted element as opposed to the extrovert, where you
need to compose yourself and reflect, where you need your own
space. And itís no less an output of energy. In a way, someone
may say that itís more powerful energy than when you express
yourself because youíre communicating with yourself. But it
is an energyóitís not a silent state, and itís not a sleeping/comatose
stateóitís a state where the arrow is facing inward instead
And then there are times when we socialize, when
we communicate. Now, the balance in our lives, for most of us,
is often out of whack. There are people who are great socialites
and socializers, people who are very extroverted, but canít
really deal with themselves, they donít have enough time to
deal with themselves or theyíre afraid to.
And there are people who are overly introverted,
theyíre very shy and very internalized. They may be very powerful
people, but they donít have that courage or theyíre very private,
or whatever it may be, but ultimately for a human being to be
balanced, you need both, and you need a good balance of both;
you canít allow one to compromise the other. You always need
time for yourself, but you canít always be for yourself. Thatís
Hillelís famous line: "If Iím not for myself, who will
be for me; and if Iím only for myself, what am I?"
So itís a dance and a balance. So to apply it
now to the energy Iím talking about, one is more of a male expression.
The energy of projection is more of a male type energy. Masculine
energy. Again, weíre not talking about the man yet, weíre talking
about the energy.
And feminine energy is primarily the other way.
Itís much more internalized. When you say a human being, for
example, has the ability to communicate with others, just that
idea of expressing is more masculine. When you say a human being
has inner majesty and an inner glow or an inner dignity, that
would be considered to be feminine.
Now, again, both need each other and both have
a part of each other. Thereís no such thing as a feminine energy
that doesnít have expression and thereís no such thing as a
masculine energy that doesnít have inwardness. But yet, for
practical purposes, we have to define them somewhat with the
understanding that 80% of both masculine and feminine energy
may overlap with the other, with one or the other being the
So this is how the Kabbalah explains the firstÖletís
call it the "big bang," the original essence of where
male and female originated from on a cosmic level, very far
from where we are right now. By far I donít mean physically
far, but far on a different dimension.
This evolved into what weíll call in Kabbalistic
terminology the light and the vessel, the energy and the container.
Feder: Now before you go any further, I
have to ask you a question. Is it masculine or feminine for
me to pause right now and go into some details and reidentify
Jacobson: If itís done in a healthy way,
itís part masculine and part feminine. Which part you are, youíll
have to determine by the end of the show.
Feder: Okay. So in a masculine and a feminine
sense, let me reidentify who youíre listening to right now.
You were just listening to Rabbi Simon Jacobson, and this is
Toward a Meaningful Life with Simon Jacobson. My name
is Mike Feder and weíre here every Sunday night from 6-7pm and
youíre listening to WEVD, 1050AM in New York City.
This show is an outgrowth of the Meaningful Life
Center in Brooklyn, and this show is also based very much on
Rabbi Jacobsonís book called Toward a Meaningful Life, in
which almost every subject that you hear discussed on the air
here is discussed in the book.
We really want to thank everyone who has emailed
us or written or called us. Here are some of the ways you can
get in touch with us, and we want to hear from you. The most
important thing is the telephone number: 1-800-3MEANING or 1-800-363-2646.
You can also email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
You can always write to us at The Meaningful Life Center, 788
Eastern Parkway, Suite 303, Brooklyn, NY 11225.
Iíd like to also tell you that we have a new website
where you can download transcripts of this program, and previous
and future programs. Itís www.meaningfullife.com.
Let us proceed. Now, weíve already approached
the original essence of male and female and now weíre coming
down to earth. We have men and women walking around here. History,
and even current events, seem to be very, very far away from
this balance that weíre supposed to achieve originally. Things
have gotten way out of whack, I think. So here we are, on earth,
weíre men, weíre women, thereís a battle of the sexes, men are
seen as aggressive, ambitious and violent, women are seen as
receptive, nurturing, gentle. How did it all get to be this
way, is that the way itís supposed to stay? These are the questions
we have to deal with as weíre living on earth right now.
Jacobson: So what I was doing was giving
you the cosmic history of male and female, where it originates
from in its quintessential form and I was going to bring it
down to where we are now on earth. But I want to take one more
step from where we left off.
So these two forms of energy evolve, and they
evolved into what Kabbalah called lights and containers, the
receptacles and energy, which again are two forms of energy
that exist in every part of existence in every part of the universe.
For instance, when you write a book or write an
article, you have the words, which are the containers, the vehicles.
But you have the energy which is the spirit and the message
between the lines.
Any type of communication, any transmission, requires
a spirit behind it and vehicles to express it. Now the mistake
that some people have is that the vehicles are just passive
or receptive. They too are a form of energy.
Feder: Now before you move on, let me ask
this? Do you mean that the spirit and the ideas are the masculine
and the vehicle is feminine? Or am I misunderstanding?
Jacobson: Iíll explain. In context of a
true container or receptacle, it can be seen as a passive state,
for example, if you pour water into a jug, the jug is just a
passive vehicle, and water is the main thing that you want to
have. The vehicle is just carrying it.
But in the context of masculine and feminine,
the vehicle is really the inward energy. Thatís why its expression
is not always expressive and projective, its expression may
be through a more gentle approach or a more silent approach.
So when a person is sitting silently, which is
louder, silence or sound? Most people say sound is louder. Not
necessarily. Weíre not talking about silence as being weakness.
The silence of a wise person may be louder and more powerful
than sound. But it can appear almost as being a passive state
because you donít hear anything.
The inner majesty or inner dignity of a human
being, that inner energy I mentioned before, can in some ways
appear as a receptacle, as a recipient or a container or vehicle,
but in essence itís really energy that equally has its own virtues
and qualities in contrast to the masculine energy which is the
more expressive one.
In the purest of worlds, where thereís a complete
dedication and understanding that (going back to the Biblical
verse: "Human being, male and female He created them,")
masculine and feminine are two forms of energy that are required
in everyoneís life, in such a world there is no room for confilct
between the two forces. Both are equally indispensable elements
in all human experience. Using the example I gave before of
the introvert and the extrovert: you need both expression and
inwardness. In a pure world where there are no distortions and
no corruption, these two energies (masculine and feminine) completely
complement each other.
In other words, the man has a balance of yin and
yang, his masculine and feminine energy, and the woman has a
balance of her masculine and feminine energy. And of course
that spills over and has implications and consequences that
a man and woman will respect each other as such.
A man will not take advantage of a womanís physical
weakness, for instance. He wonít take advantage of her sensitive
or gentle nature. And a woman wonít take advantage sometimes
of a manís bruteness and lack of sensitivity.
Feder: How do you take advantage of that?
Jacobson: Weíll discuss that in a moment.
Ask some men out there on the street and theyíll tell you how
wily women can be.
Feder: They can twist men around their
Jacobson: Right. And they make us feel
that weíre powerful and strong but itís really the woman that
controls it all. Youíll hear plenty of it. The battle of the
sexes can be directed in both directions once things are out
of whack and once thereís no respect and trust. But letís not
discuss that distortion for a moment. Letís talk about the other
side of things.
So when thereís a full appreciation, and letís
put it in very simple context, when the male and female recognize
that theyíre both part of a larger Divine image, a larger image
that theyíre both living up to, then they realize that my energy
was created or given to me to serve, to build something greater
than myself. Itís not a selfish oriented life. The male and
female both recognize thatóas Adam and Eve both did before eating
from the Tree of Knowledgeóthen thereís a certain complementary
element that comes into play, thatís more than the sum of the
parts; a synergy that is a perfect union: perfect love, the
perfect marriage, divine union of two forces complementing each
The woman, the feminine, helping the masculine
to be in touch with his own feminine energy, and the man, the
masculine, helping the woman to be in touch with her own masculine
Feder: Let me ask you a question, since
weíre right here in the beginning of the Bible stage, and we
have to move on obviously, it seems to me (maybe Iíve been reading
the wrong Bible and youíve often pointed out to me that I seem
to have been reading the wrong Bible)
Jacobson: Wrong translationÖ
Feder: Okay. I seem to remember learning
in school, that G-d created (I think this is how I remember
it, in fact, I know that most people I know remember it this
way) G-d created man, Adam, and then G-d said, "Man needs
a Ďhelpmeet,í" which is the word I read in translation,
and "helpmeet" is an old-fashioned word for someone
who is a helpmate. So He creates man, which is His original
creation, His first creation, His first thought for a human,
then He creates woman by taking one of Adamís ribs and creates
a woman to "help" him.
Now right away thatís a subservient, secondary
position. Now, did I get it wrong? Did I read that wrong someplace?
Jacobson: I would suggest that you and
all listeners open up your Bibles tonight, or tomorrow, and
youíll notice (you read half right, but you donít remember the
first sentence) that the first verse is the way I read it.
Feder: But does the other one exist?
Jacobson: Yes. And Iím going to explain
that. But the first time itís expressed is that G-d created
a human being. Now "adam" means human being. Because
at that time we didnít yet have an Adam and Eve, because then
it goes on to say, "He created them male and female."
As a matter of fact, most commentaries say that that human being
was androgynous, it was both male and female and it was then
split into two.
Feder: Do you know that scientists, if
I remember correctly, have discovered recently that the first
beginnings of a fetus are female, and the male is added later?
Have you read that?
Jacobson: Exactly. Yes I have read that
and I would say that from a Torah perspective itís accurate
but a little different. I think the first stages theyíll discover
are neither male nor female. Then thereís the female dominant
element and then the male. Because similar to the creation of
Adam and Eve, youíre talking about a complete entity that is
half male and half female, and then comes a second section of
the Bible several verses later where it begins to discuss the
So how did He split them apart? So we have an
entity thatís both male and female, clearly equals. Thereís
nowhere that you can imply from that that the male is the dominant
one. Itís clearly two halves. Then it speaks about how G-d split
them apart, and when it speaks about the splitting apart, your
reading is more or less accurate, with some corrections that
I would make.
First of all, rib is only one interpretation.
Some interpret it that the word in the Torah is really "side,"
it doesnít say "rib."
There is an interpretation of rib, and there is
an interpretation that itís an entire side, meaning, that in
a sense a male and female were like two sides, two halves, and
they were split apart by taking the female side and the male
side. So itís not really like taking a rib out.
Now, regarding the helpmate issue, Iíll discuss
that a little later in answering that question of yours. But
I just want to respond to your question of the Biblical reading
Let me go back for a moment to where I left off,
and I think overall, Iíll try to cover it all and this show
will leave people with more answers than questions. Thatís our
Now we have two forms of energy, masculine and
feminine, and clearly they have different roles and different
virtues and qualities, but in a world where there is trust,
in a world under G-d, where two people are serving a higher
goal, you donít have any reason for anyone to abuse or corrupt
their particular qualities and no way of abusing the other personís
Clearly, a man is physically stronger than a woman,
and it has been used in history as a form of abuse; the worst
type we donít have to mention, but that physical dominance gives
man power, physical power. He can physically subdue a woman,
he can physically put her in her place, he can beat her up.
And even if he doesnít do it, it creates a psychological fearóthe
woman knows she can always be subdued.
Feder: This seems to explain much of the
last several thousand years of human history.
Jacobson: Correct. And Iím in no way rejecting
that, and Iím not trying to go into some utopian fantasy. But
I do believe that we have to describe what a man and a woman
are, and that it resonates in each of us.
So now a distortion comes into play. Adam and
Eve eat from the Tree of Knowledge and, in a sense, they lose
touch with their purpose of existence.
Feder: Which was?
Jacobson: Which was to build something
greater, to make a home for G-d in this world. To sanctify their
lives and the world around them. To, as the Bible puts it, to
serve, to protect, to transform the world and make it a unified
Feder: So they went off the wrong track.
Jacobson: They went off by becoming self-involved;
each of them now recognizing a sense of self, including a sexual
identity. Oh, Iím a man, this is a woman. Iím attracted to a
woman. Which in itself is not a problem, especially if that
attraction and union leads to something greater. But now, man
is also aware that heís stronger physically. A woman is aware
that she may have certain sensitivities.
In a world where materialism is dominant, who
will be the more powerful? The one whoís more material, who
has more matter. First of all, body bulk on a simple level,
but also more money, more aggressiveness, more aggression.
So now this energy that I described before as
being projective, expressive energy which is a very healthy
thing can turn into brute aggressive energy. What happens if
that man whoís physically stronger or able to be more aggressive
suddenly becomes a warrior? And heís no longer just expressing
his inner energies in a healthy context, heís now dominating.
And if he doesnít get what he wants he says to the woman, "I
want, I insist on this," and heís aggressive about it.
He can even be physical about it, or violent.
Feder: So the more that the two sexes separate
themselves as male and female, the more a man thinks heís a
man and the more a woman thinks sheís a woman, the worse things
Jacobson: Yes. The potential for abuse
essentially comes from a dichotomy and a schism between matter
and spirit. Thatís how I would put it.
The more that the world sees itself, or human
beings see themselves as self-contained materialistic creatures,
the more a world where the male and female will be going in
two different directions.
Because they only really unite in a higher context.
Their unity is based on building that Divine image, which is
building something greater.
Once they become self-absorbed, what happens is
that the tools at your disposalóa man will say "my tools
are that Iím physically strong, Iím aggressive, I have different
talents, I can go out and get a great job, make a lot of money,"
and men begin pursuing that. First of all, they get out of touch
with their own feminine side, thatís number one, which of course
splits them apart from any actual woman, because if youíre not
in touch with your own feminine element, youíre not going to
be in touch with another.
Feder: It splits them apart from the earth
Jacobson: Right. And most importantly it
just creates a climate where material things, where brutal strength,
where physical things, where quantity is more important than
quality. Quantity takes over.
Now for thousands of years, men have created this
type of hierarchy. So it slowly accelerates and they build institutions
and governments and businesses and communities and cultures,
and weíre all programmed to think this way: that the man is
the breadwinner, and heís the stronger one, and he leads, and
the woman is the helpmate who sits at homeÖ
Feder: The homemaker, the nurturer,
Jacobson: The caretaker of the home and
the children. Now that per se is not a problem and is not unhealthy,
but the problem is, what is valued? What is really the center
of life? Is the center of life gentleness, caretaking, children,
spirituality? Or is the center of life career, business, making
money, building things, going to war, conquering, conquests?
Feder: You just asked the question, can
you answer it?
Jacobson: Of course. In a world prior to
the Tree of Knowledge, which is the healthiest of worlds, itís
very clear. The center is soul, spirit, quality. The inner dignity
of the human being.
Feder: The female essence.
Jacobson: Exactly. The feminine aspect.
And the masculine is a way of expressing it to the world, a
way of refining and taming the material aspects. To use a very
simple example: a man is stronger so he goes out and he knows
how to chop more wood, so he takes the chopped wood and puts
it into a fireplace, and now he can sit with his family and
study, and read, and have a Shabbos table together, as an example.
What happens if the man says no, wood chopping
is a career, Iím making a lot of money, Iím going to start a
wood manufacturing business, and it becomes an end in itself?
Feder: He creates www.wood.com.
Jacobson: Exactly. So suddenly careers
and the type of male bonding that goes on in the male community
becomes a corporate entity. Corporations are an end in themselves.
They have lost touch with the human side, that the whole point
of business, and money, and conquest, and aggression is meant
to make life better.
But life is being played out not in the marketplace
and not on Wall Street, and not on the battlefield. It is being
played out in a very gentle place. In the home, in a hearth,
with a mother and father and children.
Feder: So everything has gone very wrong
from the original essence it seems to me looking at history,
but let me pin you down a little bit here.
Jacobson: Thatís very masculine, youíre
going to pin me downÖ
Feder: Okay, what can I tell you? So men
are going out and working most of the time in a lot of communities,
this is the old way I guess, up until the 60s and the 70s.
Jacobson: Wait. Iím not up to the 60s and
Feder: So women are home, and theyíre nurturing
and gentle and theyíre rearing the children.
Jacobson: In the traditional role.
Feder: Now, may I say that maybe itís incorrect,
but especially in the tradition that youíre coming from, perhaps,
that there are more womenóyouíre whatís called Orthodox?
Jacobson: You know what I think about the
Feder: Yes, so tell meÖ
Jacobson: Thatís another radio show. Donít
define me as Orthodox. You can define me as a Jew, as someone
whoís searching for G-d.
Feder: Okay. So there are a lot of women
home taking care of the family, and there are a lot of men out
working. This is the way most of the world is it seems. Is there
something naturally right about the fact that women are taking
care of children, watching the home, nurturing, being spiritual,
creating a place of spirit and rest and meditation, and nurturing,
and men are out there with their brute strength which is larger
and more real, chopping things down, bringing home whatever
it isÖ Is that right, is that correct? Is that the way it should
Jacobson: If the center of life, and there
can only be one center, is understood by everyone to being the
same center, that weíre trying to build, and Iíll use the expression:
"a home for G-d in this world," and what I mean by
that is that your home is not in your office, your home is not
in the battlefield, your home is a very gentle, soft place.
Also in your own heart and spirit which is the core, the hub,
where everything begins. And everything else is a means, like
spokes that are connected by that hub.
In that type of world, then theyíre both balanced.
Thereís no problem with going out and chopping wood. You know
why youíre chopping. You know why youíre investing. You know
why youíre on Wall Street. You know why youíre aggressive in
the marketplaceó not as an end in itself.
That gives you satisfaction, but itís not the
ultimate satisfaction. The ultimate satisfaction is that that
can fuel a wholesome life, a spiritual life, a life where you
can pass something on to your children, values. And when your
deepest satisfaction comes from that, then you have more or
less of a balance, and more importantly, you will not have a
man abusing that gentleness and abusing the feminine aspect.
Now what happened in history is that this male
hierarchy was built.
Feder: By men.
Jacobson: Yes. And clearly in a distorted
world, where materialism can be seen as an end in itself, and
spirit and quality can be almost squelched or ignored or abused.
In such a world, we basically live in a battlefield. A battlefield
doesnít mean shedding blood, a battlefield can also mean a competitive
Now suddenly we look at the last few decades,
at something called the Womenís Rights Movement, the feminist
movement. In many ways, as they call it in the marketplace,
itís a reality check.
The women begin to complain. They say, oh, we
see that the deal is different. We all thought that the deal
was that we were all building something together. Suddenly the
men are out and theyíre not coming home. Or theyíre not coming
home on time. Or theyíre not coming home altogether. They have
a new center. New priorities.
So the women come out of their aprons and out
of their homes and out of their kitchens and say to the men,
thatís not fair. We want a part of the action, too. So women
essentially want to create a check and a balance and want to
become like menóletís all go out there and we also want to go
out there and pursue careers and make as much money as you do,
and we also can be as aggressive as you can in our own way.
And women have been trying to prove that point.
Feder: And do men also want to conversely
go home and stay at home?Ö
Jacobson: You hear of different movements,
some people say thatÖ but let me finish my thought and I think
that will be answered.
So whatís really happening is that the root of
the womenís restlessness and being upset is a very healthy one,
because the men, in a sense, have messed it up. But the truth
is that their response is not necessarily the right one. So
the women are going to become like men? So weíre all going to
move away from the center of lifeÖ
Feder: And weíll all go out there and beat
each other upÖ
Jacobson: Weíll all become warriors, no
oneís staying home. And the whole attitude in a sense shifted
to one of aggression and battle.
I would say, that the real feminist revolution
should be one, and in many ways is becoming one, which states:
"No, in the name of equality we are not going to succumb
to the male-warrior model for life. We see each other (maan
and woman) as partners. We women can excel at work. We can be
political leaders, oftentimes better than men because weíre
sensitive. But weíre not going to forget our priorities as well.
Weíre here for a purpose in this world. We will not compromise
our power of nurturing. Our gentleness, our sybltelty -- that
is vital to men and to all of life. That purpose does not mean
sitting in the kitchenóI donít want to create this demeaning
view of a woman sitting in the kitchen and sheís the one staying
home with the kids and nurturing, because thatís become almost
like a caricatureóbut letís put it this way: we are nurturing
The name "Chava," the Hebrew
for Eve, means mother of life. Do you know what "Adam"
means? Dust of the earth. Because it reflects on the different
qualities. A man is much more earthy in a sense, where we talk
about the brute strength. A woman is much more of a mother.
I donít mean a mother, but what I mean to say is a bearer of
life, appreciation of life.
We, women, were given to safeguard and to protect
and to build life in this world. And in a sense the objective
should be to reintroduce a core or center of spirituality, which
in many ways is very feminine, and men should serve their role
in fulfilling that as well.
Feder: So maybe I missed it, or maybe you
just gave the answer, but I still am wondering, did I hear the
answer to the question? Do you think womenís place is basically
to nurture, to be at home, letís say rearing children and a
manís place is to be out in the world with their brute strength
bringing home the goods. Is that true or not?
Jacobson: As I said earlier, thereís overlap
and we have to also deal with the realities of the situation
as it is. If you want to turn the clock back and you have the
power to do so, that may be a possibility the way you describe
it. But the reality is that many, many women are in the workplace
today and I would not suggest that they all quit and go back
home. Thatís obviously ridiculous.
Feder: Do you think it would be better
if they did?
Jacobson: No, not necessarily. Because
they have much to contribute there too. The question is not
where a woman belongs, but what is a woman and what is a man,
thatís what we were discussing.
What are you? Are you a career person or are you
a nurturer? What is a man? Are you a warrior or a form of expression
of energy? So I would look at it more like men and women should
try to get who they are. Where they spend their time clearly
has to deal with the realities of our lives today.
Everything is by Divine providence. The fact is
that many women are in the workplace and there are men who are
beginning to appreciate what real homelife is about. I would
not suggest that we turn the clocks back and say, "Women,
you all go back home." That fundamentalist approach is
not at all the Judaism I know of, that women should quit their
jobs and go back home and men should out to work. Thatís not
at all the objective. The objective is to take what we have
and the virtuesóand women can introduce into the workplace a
sense of their gentleness as well, and men can use their strengths
to help nurture.
Feder: You know, I hate to do this, but
in the requirements of time, we only have a couple of minutes
left in the program. Weíve raised so many questions and there
are so many issues that I think we could do a part two, I believe.
Jacobson: Let me say that Iíve discussed
this topic at length extensively in some of my classes and I
would welcome anyone who is interested in this to make available
to them more information on this topic. Especially as our website
develops weíll post it. But anyone wanting more on thisóand
I really see this show as a catalyst, not necessarily as giving
all the answersóshould call us and we will provide more information,
and as you said Mike, do a part two.
Feder: We also want to say that we have
received a lot of requests from people how they can donate to
the Meaningful Life Center which sponsors this radio show and
essentially to help this radio show do what itís doing which
is to bring, we hope, some meaning to peopleís lives. The way
you can do this, in effect becoming a partner in this undertaking,
is to contribute money to the Meaningful Life Center which provides
all of this. Right after we get off there will be someone there
and you can call at 1-800-3MEANING or 1-800-363-2646 and you
can talk to them about how you can donate and how you can help
us to continue what weíre doing here today.
We have approximately one minute left and this
is such a massive issue that we are going to do a part two,
but in the last minute, is there something that you can say
in terms of how we can resolve these things, so that tonight
or tomorrow morning we can understand ourselves better and begin
to resolve these issues?
Jacobson: Well, itís critical that both
men and women realize that weíre both on the same boat, universe,
life. And we are allies, and we are part of one bigger picture.
And to do that the men have to get more in touch with their
feminine side and the women perhaps with their masculine side.
We need more integration. And we need to recognize that
the dominant force in our lives should not be individual (male
or female) interests, but the higher good, the greater cause,
the higher calling.
In a world where the masculine and feminine energies
are so unbalanced in favor of material, brute aggression, we
need to counter balance it by recognizing and cherishing the
power of the soul, the spirit. Because when we look at the quality
of our lives, that helps identify our quantity. Like form and
function. You need to be able to recognize that which is the
vehicle and that which is the spirit. And I think both men and
women, those who are in relationships and marriages can practically
do something every morning to talk about these issues with each
other. To begin the initiate the dialogue, to go to a class,
read a book.
In my book Toward a Meaningful Life these
ideas are captured in the chapter on Men and Women. By putting
this issue on the agenda and discussing it, we come closer to
resolving the struggle. This is by no means exclusively for
couples; relationships begin when you are single. Every one
of us can contribute to a better relationship between men and
women, by recognizing and studying something thatís spiritual
that helps us cultivate these two different types of energy
in a Divine way.
Feder: Thank you very much.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Due to the many questions and
great demand for more on this topic, this discussion will continue
two weeks from now, on the radio show titled The Battle of the
Sexes - Part II.