Toward a Meaningful Life with Simon Jacobson
Radio Show Transcript -July 25, 1999
Mike Feder: Yes, this is Mike Feder, your
resident skeptic and seeker, and Iím here with Simon Jacobson
live in the studio.
Simon Jacobson: Hello, resident skeptic
Feder: Thank you. We are going to continue
tonight where we left off two weeks ago talking about men and
women. Itís a program that weíre titling "Battle of the
Sexes: Round II." Is that correct?
Jacobson: Yes. I donít know how many rounds
weíre going to haveÖ
Feder: To the finish. Itís a never-ending
battle. What we want you to do very much is to call in as we
go along, because I know that everyone listening is either a
man or a woman, and you can call us at 212-244-1050.
Letís just go right into it. Itís hard to do this,
but last time we talked, you talked for approximately 20 minutes
just briefly starting on the subject of men and women and how
they were created and what the differences are, but if we could
have a brief, if possible, recapitulation before we get into
Jacobson: One of the reasons weíre doing
a continuation of this particular show is that there was an
unbelievable response, by email, by phone, and people who have
communicated with us in other ways. Obviously itís a topic that
touches so many peopleóthe Battle of the Sexesóhowever you articulate
it, whether itís "Men Are From Mars and Women Are From
Venus," thereís a whole man and woman dynamic, and one
of the main points I made on the last show was, briefly, the
essential approach that the first thing we have to determine
is, who is a man and who is a woman: the quintessential man
and the quintessential woman?
Are we products of society, of being programmed,
of media pressure, of peer pressure, and who is the essential
male inside of the man, and the essential female inside of the
So I thought it would be very interesting and
important to begin with trying to trace, as I said, the quintessential
personality of the masculine energy and the feminine energy.
Feder: Which could be in either the male
or the female.
Jacobson: Exactly. Because once you abstract
it from its particular manifestation, itís clearly a personality,
itís a quality that both men and women have, which isnít surprising
with medical breakthroughs today: we know that in the early
stages of pregnancy, male and female are barely distinguishable,
yet they clearly become two different entities, and itís also
been documented that there clearly are biological and even psychological
differences which in no way makes one better than the other,
just simply different.
Feder: I read in some article that there
are even differences in the brain.
Jacobson: Right. And the point is that
even in tennis, for example, we see that in male tennis and
female tennis, no one sees that segregation as some type of
problem. Itís reflective of their particular bodies and physical
strength and so on.
So to sum up what I essentially said then was
that these are two forms of energy, that one first has to disassociate
it from the man that you think you are or the woman that you
think you are, or the man you know or the woman you know, because
that may be a product of parental influences, schooling, media,
and all kinds of other stuff.
We clearly live in a male dominated hierarchy,
and women are trying to level the playing field, and rightly
so. Men, simply because of their physical position and physical
strength have dominated. And that is not necessarily healthy,
itís just the way things are, so therefore, it very much clouds
our perspective on the issue because of the imbalance created
by the male hierarchy.
From a Kabbalistic, mystical, psychological perspective,
the male psyche, the female psyche, and as you pointed out,
both overlap (everyone has both), is that one is more of an
inward energy, weíll call it the majestic element of humanity:
majesty, inner dignity, an inner force, and one is more of an
outer force, more expressive. One being inward and internal
is the feminine and the other being a masculine energy, a more
aggressive, expressive energy.
Both are necessary for every human being to function
in this world.
Feder: But youíre saying that these are
Jacobson: Natural, quintessential qualities;
one being predominantly feminine and one being predominantly
masculine. And actually youíll find this at length in Jewish
Kabbalistic mystical thought, but Iíve seen it parallel in other
systems, like you mentioned, the yin and yang for example. So
letís not even call it "man" and "woman,"
letís just say they are two forces in nature, two forces in
Feder: Internal, externalÖ But you also
mentioned receptive and communicative.
Jacobson: In some ways the manifestation
of inward energy is about the power to listen, so to speak,
the power to step back from your own ego and be able to receive,
to be able to take in something greater than yourself. Whereas
our expressive mode is the power of giving.
Now take a simple example, a chronological example.
In our younger years, weíre more in the state of receptivity.
You are impressionable, you listen, you receive, you absorb.
Later in life you begin to give, to return.
Obviously, itís not exclusive, but in the educational
years, youíre studying or youíre sitting in a class or youíre
reading a book. Any intelligent person knows that thereís a
necessity for receptivity or else youíll never learn anything
new. If youíre always smarter than what youíre reading or listening
to then, just like a full cup canít be filled, you canít grow.
But receptivity is not a passive state at all, in a way itís
a very aggressive state, except itís aggressive silence. Itís
like you are intentionally willing to absorb at this point.
That is a feminine energy in its quintessential form.
Expression is that after youíve absorbed and internalized
whatever it is, you then choose to express it to someone else.
As they say, good speaking is always good listening. If you
know how to listen well, you know how to speak well. I donít
mean oratory skills or the power of a loud, resonating
voice, but what I mean is the kind of speaking that people will
If you never listen to someone, you havenít really
earned the right for anyone to listen to you, no matter how
wise you are. So I intentionally ask the listeners, and yourself,
Mike, to separate these two forma of energy from the man and
the woman that we are familiar with, and then we can juxtapose
the conceptual male and female to the male and female we experience.
Hereís the exercise: once you define what masculine and feminine
energy isóand you can read more about it in the chapter on Men
and Women in my book Toward a Meaningful Lifeóonce youíve
defined that quintessential energy, so to speak, then look at
yourself and compare. Where do you stand in your ability to
receive? Where is your inner dignity? Are you overly dominant
and aggressiveówhether you are a man or woman?
And what about the other side? Some people are
very inward, and rarely express themselves. Is that healthy?
So thereís a necessity for a balance. The imbalance that exists
in society today is a direct result, in a subtle form, from
the beginning of time, from a Biblical point of view: Adam and
Eve were misaligned when, in the original story, they ate from
the Tree of Knowledge and they became, so to speak, self-contained,
where they no longer had mutual respect for the feminine and
the masculine; that is, now weíre each on our own. And the fact
is that men and women need each other, so in a sense we mutually
consent, or mutually agree that since I need something from
you, then Iím ready to give you something. It becomes more like
a business deal rather than a deep respect of the spirit of
Feder: Like a partnership or a cooperation.
Jacobson: And I would say that this is
reflected in a broader sense not just in the battle of the sexes,
but in a general trust between human beings. When you donít
have a good senseóyouíre not really confident of your own position
of what you are aboutóyou tend to protect yourself, and that
usually creates a wall that doesnít allow for communication
with another type of person.
Between men and women, obviously, itís much more
overt and exaggerated simply because of the sexual relationship,
the issues of romance and love, and all that comes with those
Feder: So this is a pretty fair approach
to a recapitulation of what we said last time, even though itís
hard to do a thing like this in such a short time. But now letís
bring this more down to the flesh and more up to dateóweíre
all walking around here on the planet. Men in the world seem
to think (and this could be just cultural training or they act
this way for the last who knows how many years) that men do
certain things and women do certain things. You remember the
phrase, "A womanís place is in the home" while men
are out there in the world. Yet all these things are changing
tremendously in the last 20-30 years to the point where you
have almost a national plague of a lack of identity.
A lot of men experience this sort of "float,"
they donít even know if theyíre men, or how theyíre supposed
to men, are they supposed to stay home or go to work, and then
thereís women in the workplace. All these things are floating
back and forth and affecting a lot of relationships in a very
Now, you say itís a battle of the sexes. If this
is a battle of the sexes, itís a massacre, in other words, for
the last several thousand years, women have been downtrodden,
overridden, put in a position of almost slavery in many places,
and are still second-class citizens in most places.
How did it all go so wrong if this was the original
plan of a benign Creator? And is there a place for men and a
place for women that really is different?
Jacobson: Well frankly, as soon as you
say "How did it go so wrong?" it rubs me in a very
bad way. Not so much your words but that it sounds very much
like fire and brimstone. I would rephrase that if I may in my
own words (but itís good that you said that because it represents
many peopleís feelings).
Feder: Thatís the skeptic part of this.
Jacobson: Iíd rephrase it and say that
itís not so much how things went wrong, itís how things were
put into place. We do suffer from an identity crisis, but this
is not something that we should be afraid of, because thatís
exactly how G-d intended to create us.
G-d "threw" a soul into this world,
and Iím emphasizing the word "threw," because when
you study the roots of creation, the roots of birth, we usually
put it this way: that a soul, a spiritual entity, which was
unfettered, like a bird with no nest, upon conception is put
into this container, into this material word, and once itís
put into this world itís made to forget consciously where it
originates from, in the sense that it can deceive itself into
thinking that all there is to life is the material, the here
Feder: Well, maybe weíre getting off track
here, but why would somebody put a soul into the world and deliberately
give it amnesia?
Jacobson: Because there would be no purpose
to existence, no meaning to life, if we were not true partners
in this search. In other words, if we were puppets, put here
just to play out a script, and there was no free will and no
challenges, it would be similar to a parent who holds onto his
childís hand and never lets it walk. So why would a parent ever
let go of the hand of his child? Very simple. Because the child
has to become independent. And this does require a separate
discussion and this theme will come up many, many times of free
will, human independence, autonomy, and, without getting into
an explanation, suffice it to say itís a necessity. Life has
no meaning if there isnít a challenge of that nature.
So the amnesia is only on the conscious level,
not on the subconscious one, because on the subconscious level,
we do search for this identity, and part of that search is the
search for love. Thatís why sexuality and love are so confusing,
because essentially love is your search for identity. And your
search for higher identity is very enigmatic, very elusive,
because we have no tools. Our tools are very materialistic,
very tangible, very sensory. So to come back full circle to
our topic, where you ask, "What went wrong?"ónoólife
was made in a way that we will be faced with challenges. Are
you going to live your life based on being a product, or even
a victim, of circumstances, including being a man or a woman
who has been shaped by society, or are you going to discover
what makes you truly you, what makes you male, what makes you
female, whatís your masculine side, whatís your feminine side,
and access that?
In a culture and environment where we are not
sure about this, what we usually do is rely on mass mentality.
It just seems easier to go with the flow; thatís the way it
is. So when you talk about the massacre that you were describing,
the problem is this: that when you solve the problem, youíre
not going back to the root, weíre just solving the basic problem.
Okay, so women have been in the home and men have been at work.
Or okay, so women go out to work, and men go back home. It doesnít
work that way. You have to really get to the root of the issue
What does it mean exactly that the womanís place
is in the home? Her physical place is in the home but her mind
is in a soap opera on television and sheís thinking about why
canít she have a career like her husband?
And when the man is at work, does that mean that
his life and his entire investment is at work, and home is an
Feder: Well, you know, very often it breaks
down that way in the world.
Jacobson: Yes, in a world that is unclear
as to its true priorities. I was, as we all were, reading and
watching the events of the JFK tragedy, but at the same time,
the reporting of it has become a story in itself: how many hours
are being spent by the media and the millions of dollars itís
taken to cover it, and people are gobbling it up, and hungry
for more. And Iím not getting into an analysis or media critique,
or anything like that
Feder: Thatís a whole separate thingÖ
Jacobson: Right. But I do want to say something
that struck me, and I was talking to a friend this morning,
who made a good point: People distract themselves in life, and
theyíre busy with many ways of distracting themselves, whether
itís through entertainment, through money, through status, through
music, through watching celebrities. Then you suddenly see a
person who seems to have it all struck down, and you see mortality,
and it forces you to suddenly look at yourself in the mirror
and ask, so what exactly am I valuing, and what exactly is important
Now, when things go well, or at least ostensibly
well, we donít ask that question. But it forces one to think
about it, and I think itís a good point, which is directly connected
to the issue of the Battle of the Sexes, of men and women. Because
the question is, "Who are you? And how do you identify
yourself?" And thatís one of the points we made two weeks
ago which was: the center of life between a married couple,
man and woman, has to be the same center. If there are two centers
going on in their lives, they cannot have an intact marriage.
Feder: What would you define as two centers?
Jacobson: Career and home. The woman is
taking care of the home and the children and the meals, and
the man takes care of a career. Itís two centers. You canít
have two centers of a circle.
Feder: You know, when I was growing up
in the fifties, the entire generation of America was like that.
My entire neighborhood was like that. All the women were home,
and all the men went to work, and actually most of those households
stayed together and the marriages stayed intact.
Now, that is not the way things usually are, and
a lot of marriages and relationships are falling apart. There
is more divorce now by 100% than there was in the 50s.
Jacobson: So there are two ways to analyze
that. One way is that women started making too much noise. They
should stay home and men should go to work and we should turn
the clock back to Mikeís younger years.
Feder: Wait! The opinions of this program
are not necessarilyÖ
Jacobson: No! Iím just using you as an
Feder: Okay. Use me as an example.
Jacobson: So one approach would be that
we should turn the clocks back: thereís too much talk and women
have been given too much freedom and perhaps they should just
be satisfied with whatís going on at home, a simpler life, men
should do their work and come home, and things are fine.
But one may argue that what you were witnessing
was simply a festering problem that just took a little while
to explode. Because what were men doing at work? If they were
creating another hub, or center, for their lives, it is inevitable
that the women would ultimately rebel and say, "Hey, the
guyís having fun out there. He doesnít have to deal with crying
children, with all the trials and tribulations of home life.
Heís having fun with the guys, drinking at night, and who knows
what else is happening thereÖ"
Feder: I donít think a lot of the jobs
these guys were doing were necessarily fun.
Jacobson: No, but the point was, if they
both saw life as one center, that the man simply saw his work
and career as being a means to a spiritual end: Iím working
because I need to make money to be able to provide for a family,
for a home, my mark on this universe is not what kind of name
I will make for myself on Wall Street, but what kind of children
I will leave.
Feder: Which would be the shared center.
Jacobson: Exactly. And the husband
feels that he' s half of the picture. His wife is the other
half, and perhaps even the more important half, because sheís
dealing with the end itself, the family upbringing. And the
man saw it as that. Not just in words, as lip service, he felt
it within, internally. Now I donít know if that was the case
where you grew up. If thatís the case, then the priority then
is different than it is today.
What I think is happening, and again, I donít
like to compare generations because I donít really know what
was happening then, maybe women were being silenced when they
complained, and they just werenít allowed, or didnít have the
nerve to complain. And yes, men did create a second center,
I donít know. Thatís why Iím not just ready to say we should
turn the clocks back.
But what is definitely happening is that the center
has shifted away from family and children and the home, and
I think women have also moved toward the new center that the
men have created.
Feder: So what youíre saying is that the
joint center, to look at it in a positive way, has moved away
from the home into the world, and that may be the problem.
Jacobson: Part of the problem. But more
importantly, the reason that the center has shifted is a result
of the source of our security. Ask yourself the question: where
do I get my confidence from? Where do we get our security from?
If your security comes from your teddy bear, or from your money
or from your status, thatís going to be your center. Youíre
going to work toward maintaining that security. If you donít
really feel secure in your relationship, or if you donít feel
secure that you have something to leave your children with,
or that there are real values at home, clearly youíre going
to find another center.
So I think what weíre dealing with here is not
really a marital crisis or a crisis of family, it begins much
earlier. Itís a spiritual identity crisis that begins from day
one when youíre born: why are you here in this world, what is
your purpose, and what will ultimately satisfy that purpose.
People are afraid of their own destiny, so destiny
gets very much caught up in a vicious cycle of demands that
are placed upon us to succeed. We climb the ladder, and when
we succeed, we think we are satisfying that "security,"
but weíre really not. Thatís why I mentioned JFK, Jr., because
suddenly when you see the "security" stripped away
you suddenly realize, hey, is that really where itís at, is
this material success, good looks, youth, having everything,
is that really whatís going to make my life important?
But it seems that way, because if you ask people
to make a list of the five most important things that would
make them happy, I donít know how many people would answer spiritual
Feder: Maybe it depends on the age of the
people you ask the question to. Like 17, or 37, or 57Ö
Jacobson: Well, when G-d offered King Solomon
options of what he wanted, King Solomon asked for wisdom. Wisdom
gives you the wisdom to find the answer.
You know the story they tell about a fellow who
was struck with every problem: he lost his family, he lost his
money, his health, and finally the only thing that was left
was that at least his body was intact, and then he was struck
with some terrible leprosy where his body did not stop itching.
So they say that the angels came to G-d and said, "Have
mercy on this man." So G-d said, Okay, let him make one
request, and I will grant him whatever he asks for.
So at the moment that he was offered the opportunity
to have one request granted, he had a terrible itch on his back
so he said, "Give me a shard, something with which I can
reach this itch on my back," like a backscratcher.
So he had his request fulfilled.
And often thatís what happens when we donít have
that peace of mind or wisdom to really know what to ask for.
Thatís why thereís even a prayer where you pray to G-d, "I
pray that You give me what I really need because I donít always
know what that is."
And in a way (I donít want to make this simplistic
because itís very difficult to talk about a topic like "the
battle of the sexes" because it touches so many different
issues) but I must say that I was trained to think in terms
of getting to the root of the issue. But clearly we also need
short-term solutions, so I am therefore in complete support,
where women are discriminated against in any particular area,
that there should be that equality.
Women are definitely equal and in many ways far
superior to men particularly in certain areas. Men of course
have their strengths. But to just satisfy women with offering
them opportunities that are available only to men is dealing
merely with the short-term, thatís dealing with a particular
situation where a woman gets a job, or sheís in another situation
and she should be given an equal opportunity.
But getting to the root of the issue is really
getting into spiritual identity: who are you as a man or as
a woman? Ultimately, thatís where happiness lies. If youíre
happy with your feminine side, with your masculine side, you
will be able to co-exist and respect others and will not need
to get into the rat race of trying to replicate or emulate someone
else to find your own identity.
Feder: Okay. Letís take a quick break here.
Youíre 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 email@example.com.
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.
Letís keep moving right along here, now letís
be frank: youíre the one who came up with the idea of a "battle
of the sexes" so do you perceive it as a battle, or are
you just stirring up the pot when you say it? I mean is there
a natural antipathy between men and women?
Jacobson: Well, both. I am stirring up
the pot, but you canít stir the pot with something that doesnít
stir, so you need to have a legitimate reason.
I think it is a battle, particularly in what they
call "bedroom politics," where you find a battle in
the area of conquests, so to speak: who ultimately is in control.
Remember, men and women need each other, simply on an emotional,
romantic, sexual level, so thereís something you want from somebody.
So the question is, what do you do to get what you want and
Feder: And this could result in a struggle.
Jacobson: And clearly does. You probably
know about the book The Rules, and other books similar
to that about women striking back, whatever it is.
Feder: Sorry to interruptÖIt looks like
we have a call. Letís go to the caller.
Caller: Hello. I hope you donít mind: Last
week you said that Rabbi Akiva was the only one who was saved,
but in the Kinus it states (Hebrew spoken here)Ö
Jacobson: Heís talking about last weekís
show where I mentioned a Talmudic story where four people went
into the Garden and only one came out intact. The four were
Ben Azzai, Ben Zuma, Achair, and Rabbi Akiva. One died, one
became insane, one became an apostate, and it says Rabbi Akiva
entered in peace and left in peace.
So this gentleman is asking, "What do you
mean intact?" You find later that he was barbarically murdered
by one of the Romans as one of the Ten Martyrs, and his soul
departed with the words "Shema," as he was
proclaiming the unity of G-d upon his death.
The gentleman is suggesting that I made a mistake,
but essentially these are two Talmudic statements, and they
donít contradict each other, because we were discussing the
story in the Garden, that "Rabbi Akiva went in in peace
and exited in peace."
Later in his life is the story that this gentleman
is referring to, and I appreciate his call. Let's continue with
our topic, even though his call may have some connectionÖ
Feder: I donít know what it isÖ
Jacobson: We can talk about the battle
of the sexes entering in peace and exiting in peace.
Feder: You know what, I think thatís a
thing that a woman would never do. Letís just say it, all right?
Here we are talking about a subject for the benefitÖ I mean
Iím not saying anything about this particular man, Iím just
saying generically. Iíve been on the radio for 20 years and
Iíve taken a lot of calls from a lot of different people. All
my life Iíve been getting calls from men and they have an opinion
to give you. It sometimes has nothing to do with the group effort
or what youíre talking about or any enlightenment that youíre
Women will frequently call up and be receptive.
They heard what you said and theyíll respond to it. Seventy-five
percent of men will call up a radio show, it happens all over
the city, and all of a sudden just step into the middle of something
just because they have an opinion. It just happened!
Jacobson: So letís take it a step further.
You as a man, how do you respond to that, and how would a woman
respond when a man does that? Letís go, Mike.
Feder: I think, now Iím responding as a
man because after all I donít want to get personal but I appear
to be a man, I think that this man is displaying a kind of masculine
energy and Iím responding in a masculine sort of way by saying,
"LookÖ" Or maybe Iím responding in a female way. I
What Iím reacting to that makes me so angry is
that he is interrupting the receptive flow of an enlightened
kind of program here. Heís putting his big foot in the middle
of something and squashing it.
Jacobson: And I donít feel that way at
all, frankly. I feel itís an open show and I feel that if we
invite calls, we can take it in stride. A person asked a question,
and heís not being offensive, and not insulting, but itís a
good example that youíre bringing up.
Feder: But if he had any respect for his
female essence, or any knowledge of it at all, he would be listening
to what weíre talking aboutÖ
Jacobson: But maybe a woman wouldnít be
so critical of the man. Maybe she would find some sort of merit.
Maybe this has been bothering him for a week and he wanted to
share that with us. I donít know.
Feder: Well, thatís a good point.
Jacobson: Look, Iím not suggesting that
what youíre saying is wrong or what heís doing is wrong. I think
that in general what happens is that we respond in kind.
Feder: Well I just did, thatís for sure.
Jacobson: Iíve often been confronted and
instinctively one wants to respond aggressively. But I think
what you learn in life, and maybe this is a big part of feminine
energy, is that thereís a bigger picture. Itís not all about
your reaction, even if your reaction is justified. However there
are times when your reaction wonít be justified. Letís say that
this time youíre right, Mike, but there may be some times that
Feder: You mean that kind of reaction.
Jacobson: Right. So I believe that the
attitude should not be driven by your reaction, your emotional
response, but by what is the right thing to say. This episode
is a good example of the difference between a stereotypical
male and female repsonse. The masculine and feminine do overlap
and thereís a time for each.
Thereís a time to be silent and thereís a time
to speak. But to go back to our topic, here, the point I was
saying is that we are in an identity crisis, whether itís male
or female, itís an identity crisis and I think that though weíd
like to have some short-term solutions and say "Okay, hereís
what you do, hereís five exercises," I will make some suggestions,
but first and foremost is the focus: what is the priority, what
is the center of your life?
Feder: Okay, weíve got a call from Sue
in New York.
Caller: How does a person accept her identity
as a woman? Because of my family background Iím just having
a problem with that. My father was more or less very dominant
and so I really rejected men and I rejected being a woman.
Jacobson: What other options are there?
Well, listen, Sue, let me just say this. I hear you but this
obviously is a big topic. If your father was dominant, which
is a negative type of experience, perhaps thatís why you should
embrace your femininity more than anything.
Caller: I donít, I really rejected it.
I became much more like a man, you know? Being a woman is a
part of me which I find very hard to accept.
Jacobson: I will say this briefly, and
then I invite you, Sue, to email me further, but I really want
to say that if thereís a part of a person that one finds a problem
withólike in your case about being a woman and you become too
dominant because of your fatheróyou could spend the rest of
your life hating yourself and trying to run away from that,
but whatís much healthier is to find virtues or qualities, something
about being a woman that you can embrace, that makes you feel
I would suspect that part of what youíre afraid
of is that being a woman is for you is negative and that by
embracing that will make you weak or vulnerable or others may
hurt you. And I appreciate that, because given the world we
live in, that is definitely a reality, that women can be hurt.
But I think that being with the right people,
with friends and people you can trust, that can help you to
cultivate and embrace that part of yourself is critical.
I have some other suggestions that I would like
to give you if you communicate with me on email so please follow
Feder: Thanks for the call. By the way,
we have a few calls right now and when you call in, please make
sure to turn your radio down or even off because it reflects
back over the air.
Our next call is Mark from New York.
Caller: Hi, just to enlarge the subject,
instead of it really being a subdivision of the battle between
the sexes, we have a large topic of a battle among humanity,
in that we each battle each other, regardless of sex, for our
own self-preservation, going back millions of years of evolution.
And maybe we need to address that, and then we could move on
to the battle of the sexes, battle of color, battle of height,
size, religion, and all other types of battles that we have.
Feder: Itís a very good question.
Jacobson: Mark, I definitely agree with
you, the problem is that if we spend the rest of our time on
this show dealing with that battle, weíll never get to the battle
of the sexes because itís such a large topic. I think itís very
much interlinked, and I couldnít agree more that the issue is
respect of another individual.
Ultimately, if a man does not respect a woman,
or if a woman does not respect a man, I would tend to say that
they donít respect members of their own gender as well.
Caller: Or themselves.
Jacobson: Or themselves, exactly. And I
think it gets down to a point that Iíve made on this show which
is the idea that "You matter." That you have something
valuable and indispensable to contribute in life and when you
wake up in the morning knowing that you have a mission to accomplish,
that sense of self-respect spills over in how you respect others.
Caller: And you get it back at least equally
or double most of the time when you behave well.
Jacobson: Great point, Mark.
Feder: There it is. Thank you for calling.
We have Cindy on the phone. Go ahead.
Caller: I have a question but first a comment
that women have made tremendous strides in helping to free themselves
from the constraints that we feel men have imposed on us, but
to me it seems that in the religious world, in the Torah world,
I donít see the strides that have been made. Women still feel
that if youíre going to live an observant life, you will be
constrained, you will not have the freedom that seems to be
out there. Not that the freedom has brought more happiness to
families, we still have not found the solution to that, but
if we are going to live according to a narrow way of life, where
does the woman come in that there should be this sharing, this
partnership, and so on.
Feder: Can I ask you a question about your
question? Could you be more specific, like give me some examples
of what you mean?
Caller: Well, take the traditional Jewish
home. The woman is still the one who, of course, has the children
(that happens in every case) but for example, it seems to be
that in religious observance, the man takes the initiative,
the man is the one who gets an aliyah, he goes up to
the Torah, in the synagogue itís visible that the men reign
supreme and it seems to me that a woman from a traditional Jewish
home does not have the freedom that other people seem to have.
People are going away from tradition because they feel that
theyíre not given that freedom within their religion.
Feder: Okay. Fairly put. Thank you.
Jacobson: Thank you for your question,
Cindy. I would say that Cindyís touching upon a very sensitive
topic that I personally have been dealing with with many, many
women growing up in observant homes, observant communitiesÖ
Feder: Observant meaning what?
Jacobson: Orthodox, butÖ
Feder: Right, itís a word you donít like
Jacobson: Right, but observant meaning
traditional, following the letter of the law in Jewish tradition.
Feder: Which, by the way, this could apply
to other Orthodox fundamentalist traditions of other traditions.
Jacobson: Exactly. And they donít want
to rebel against their tradition, yet they find their tradition
being constraining or claustrophobic in some ways. It doesnít
allow for the feminine expression of leadership and so on.
Itís clearly a problemÖ
Feder: Youíre saying itís true.
Jacobson: Itís definitely true because
you know you canít argue with peopleís feelings. People do feel
that way. I know women who have left observance and who have
left Jewish tradition just for that reason alone. Iím sure there
are always deeper reasons as well, but thatís a strong one and
there are many movements in the traditional world where they
attempt to reconcile how to deal with it. There has been criticism
of how much power to give to women, and then of course thereís
the other extreme, which is, women should be silent, stop rebelling,
stop complaining, just keep doing what theyíve been doing for
thousands of years, and not cpm;ian when they see any injustices.
I think both approaches are unhealthy, and the key is to allow
for the emergence of the true leadership of women within tradition,
within the power of thousands of years of the timeless tradition
of Judaism. If you go back to the basics of the Divine system
of Judaism (as it is unaffected by human institutions and by
materialistic priorities), women always had a prominent position
in the community. It is critical to distinguish the baby from
the bath water.
There is clearly a certain male dominance that
has affected even traditional circles and it is not necessarily
healthy nor G-dly. And one has to acknowledge that. And at the
same time, the way to deal with it is clearly to introduce women
with a certain pride and dignity to assume their true role as
leaders. And it should be valued. Clearly in a world where the
center of peopleís lives becomes career and materialism, clearly
in a world like thatóand itís affected traditional circles as
wellówomen are going to become very second class, because if
the spiritual value of the home and the family is not the number
one priority for all people, thereís going to be suffering.
Feder: Let me put you on what may be ignorance
or may be the spot here for a second. In an observant community,
and letís take for example, in a Roman Catholic church, women
cannot be priests, and priests are recognized as spiritual if
not other kinds of leaders of the community.
In certain observant Jewish traditions (maybe
Iím wrong) women are not rabbis. Is this part of the problem?
Jacobson: No. This is a symptom, not part
of the problem. Because the question is, is a rabbi the boss?
Is a rabbi the leader of the community? A rabbi plays a role.
A rabbi can be the legal authority, he can be the academic,
the pulpit rabbi, the leader in certain respects.
The question is, what is leadership? And who assumes
that leadership and how is that leadership experienced?
Clearly, in a situation where women are not given
power, or theyíre not respected for what they do contribute,
then if you go into the synagogue, which is the conventional
environment for traditional observance (Yom Kippur, Rosh Hashanah,
Shabbos, holidays) the man is the one whoís sitting on top there.
But that is a misunderstanding of what Judaism
is all about. Is the center of Judaism the synagogue? No, thatís
incorrect. The center of Judaism is the home. The synagogue
is an area to complement the environment of home, of family.
A synagogue that becomes an end in itself is a
bureaucracy, a country club. A synagogue is the place where
you cultivate your prayer, your study, your personal relationship
with G-d, so you can go back home and build a family that is
G-dly and sacred.
As a matter of fact, let me make one more statement
about that, in case we have some traditional people calling
us disliking what Iím saying. The Torah says, the Bible says
that when G-d says, "Build for Me a sanctuary and I will
rest among you," it doesnít say I will rest in it,
in the building, but I will rest among you. Because the
whole point of the Temple, and clearly a synagogue is a mini-Temple,
is that G-d rests among the people.
A synagogue that creates some type of splintering,
or distrust, or one that creates an environment where women
are seen as second class, is not creating a place of "G-dís
resting among you," among the home, the families, the human
beings, the people.
But this is really a bigger topic, and I would
even dedicate part of a future show to this because this is
not something I can easily address in a few minutes.
Feder: So, Cindy, again, weíll ask you
to communicate by email to get more specifics.
Jacobson: But I want to reiterate that
itís a large topic and I have some practical suggestions. I
just spoke about the general thrust and gist of it, but I would
like to give more suggestions (by email) as to what can be done
with the tradition tools to allow women their proper prominence
and leadership in the community.
Feder: Okay, thank you Cindy.
Caller: Thank you.
Feder: Okay, we have one call. John, thanks
for your patience, youíre on the air.
Caller: Yeah, Iím calling from a cellular
phone. I agree with you that the gender roles and the way things
are represented are very messed up, giving power to one side
over the other keeps things separated and not together.
I definitely think men and women should be equal
in the full spectrum of things. Here are a couple of thoughts
I want to get your opinion on. This thing about power, I personally
think itís a class thing. Itís money, itís the top 1% of the
males that are controlling most of this power that you see out
there. I donít think physical power is real power over a person.
I think women have a lot more power than they claim that they
donít have. Just in a lot of areas. One or two examples, thereís
definitely a representation of a lot more violence in the media
and in magazines that happens more to men than women, just in
movies, television, cartoons: these figures are all male figures.
All the cartoons that get beat up are males, boys from when
theyíre small are given guns, girls are given dolls and all
these things set up a lot of things that happen later on.
And letís not forget that women are a part of
raising some of these males that later onÖ
Feder: One of the constraints of a radio
show is that weíre nearing the end of the program so maybe we
can leave it up to the rabbi to respond to you.
Jacobson: Well, John is making a very good
point, basically that symbols of aggression in our society are
very much associated with males, and you see it in video games
and many other areas. It definitely continues to foster that
type of male aggression, and thereís no doubt that that comes
as a vicious cycle that continues to perpetuate itself.
I couldnít agree more that the women, and this
responds to Cindyís question as well, a woman has power far
beyond what is imagined and what is respected in our society,
and itís critical that we focus on that, and essentially itís
very connected to spiritual power, spiritual power meaning something
you cannot measure with ammunition, with money, and other material
ways. Itís something Pharaoh did not respect when he said, "Kill
all the Jewish males," referring to throwing all the male
babies in the river Nile. He thought the challenge to his great
Egyptian army would be a Moses, a man. He did not realize that
the power of faith, the power of optimism, the power of perseverance,
which is very feminine, was really what his real challenge was.
And even if he would have known that, he wouldnít have any way
to destroy that, because armies cannot destroy faith.
Feder: We have one final call, and Iím
going to have to ask you to make a brief statement or question
because weíre right at the end of the program. This is Baruch
from New York.
Caller: I just wanted to bring up that
Iíve heard certain rabbis and people, theologians, claiming
that the Jewish religion believes that women are on a higher
level spiritually than men, and first of all, I did read a whole
book from Feldheim, Targum Press, that explains how this is
wrong. I researched this very thoroughly. But also Iíd like
to think this is also very dangerous because it is exchanging
the perception (which is wrong) that a lot of people put down
women and exalt the men, and itís going all the way to the reverse,
which is putting down men and saying that women are higher.
I think both of these ideas are very dangerous
and it should be clarified and just like itís not good to put
down women, certain people should not be preaching that women
are on a higher level, which implicitly says that men are lower
creatures. Iíd like you to address that.
Feder: Okay. Well thank you for your comment.
Jacobson: Itís a good segue. Baruchís point
is a very legitimate one. Thatís why right at the outset of
the first program we did on this topic, which I reiterated here
as well, in the eyes of G-d, G-d created male and female, as
it says in the Bible, "Male and female He created them."
So clearly there is no such thing as inferiority and superiority
either way. Clearly they both complement each other spiritually.
Each has virtues that the other may not or does not have and
when they come together in a marital union in a sacred way,
they both become greater than the sum of the parts, they are
definitely two parts of a larger picture.
I think itís wrong to say that a manís virtues
(and clearly a man has virtues and qualities) that a women does
not have makes him better or higher spiritually, or that a womanís
virtues make her higher or superior. One has to look at it that
each have something that is necessary and indispensable, and
respect means that the respect goes both ways, recognizing that
both under G-d have something unique to contribute, and together
they can do more than each can do on their own. Thatís the way
I would put it and I would agree that it should not be counterbalanced
in any other way.
Feder: Now, reality intrudes (is that a
masculine way of putting it?).
Jacobson: A feminine way would be that
Feder: Okay, thank you very much. Iím learning
a lot here tonight. So anyhow, moving right along, you are listening
to Toward a Meaningful Life with Simon Jacobson. This
is Mike Feder and we thank you very much for your calls. Write
down the number, engrave it somewhere, 212-244-1050, because
we want calls on all these shows that we do from now on. Weíre
here every Sunday from 6-7pm.
Weíd like to mention that this program is based
very much on the book Toward a Meaningful Life, written
by Simon Jacobson and available at bookstores everywhere. These
programs are brought to you by you, by the listener, and our
underwriter for tonightís program is Barry Hartheimer, who weíd
like to thank very much for doing so.
Jacobson: Thank you, Barry.
Feder: And also Iíd like to say before
we end that we have received many requests, in fact, from people
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is the organization that brings you all this, the radio show
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We have about a minute and a half left. Do you
want to sum up the whole idea of men and women and the battle
of the sexes? Has anyone won this battle, will anyone ever win
Jacobson: The key is to realize that itís
not a battle.
Jacobson: Thatís the key. As long as you
see it as a battle, it will never be won. And itís not a battle
as you essentially put it, we are in the same boat. Itís that
men and women each have something unique to contribute. Practically
speaking, this can be implemented in many ways, both by men
and by women, and that in general first of all, itís paying
attention to themselves, whether as a man or as a woman, whether
itís at work or at home, and how we speak to our children, how
we speak to each other. The respect for "the Divine image,"
the G-d inside each one of us is critical for the respect of
each other, whether itís men to men or women to women or itís
the different genders.
Just talking about it makes me very sad, but at
the same time very optimistic, because I think people can sometimes
stand right near a treasure and because their back is to it,
they donít see it.
The power that a man has and the power that a
woman has is so profound and thereís so much to accomplish in
this world, that itís sad that we get so distracted with the
material pursuits, the career pursuits, status, the battle.
It would be unbelievable if you were able to find your own,
letís call it the man finding his own feminine side and respecting
that, including his own masculine side, the ability to listen,
the ability to be receptive, gentleness, majesty, and a woman
feeling the same and trying her way of expression, her way of
Feder: Next week on Toward a Meaningful
Life: Reincarnation and the Afterlife. Thank you very much.