A couple who was having communication problems came to see the Rebbe. The woman said that her husband was consumed with his work, and that when he finally found time to speak with her, he criticized her and ordered her around. The husband said that his wife had no respect for him and didn’t listen to any of his suggestions.
“Why do you think your wife should listen to you?” the Rebbe asked. “Because a woman must listen to her husband,” he replied.
“But why should a woman listen to her husband?” the Rebbe asked. “Because the man is the master of the house?”
“No,” said the Rebbe. “The first thing that you as a man must follow is the edict that ‘a man should honor his wife more than he does himself.’ And then the righteous woman will have a husband she can respect and love. If the man does not fulfill his role, then it is the woman who must respectfully bring it to his attention.”
Contemporary society is just beginning to delve into the true distinctions between men and women. Besides the obvious physiological differences, there are also differences in the way men and women think, speak, and behave.
In order to understand the essential nature of man and woman, we must do away with human subjectivity and look through G-d’s eyes. Every human being, man and woman, was created for the same purpose — to fuse body and soul in order to make themselves and their world a better and holier place. In their service of G-d, there is absolutely no difference between a man and a woman; the only difference is in the way that service manifests itself.
What are the differences between men and women?
Man and woman represent two forms of divine energy; they are the male and female elements of a single soul.
G-d is neither masculine nor feminine, but has two forms of emanation: the masculine form, which is more aggressive, and the feminine form, which is more subtle. For a human being to lead a total life, he or she must have both forms of energy: the power of strength and the power of subtlety; the power of giving and the power of receiving. Ideally, these energies are merged seamlessly.
Men are physically stronger. By nature, they are usually more aggressive and externally oriented. In contrast, a woman usually embodies the ideal of inner dignity. Some people confuse such subtlety with weakness; in truth, it is stronger than the most aggressive physical force imaginable. True human dignity does not shout; it is a strong, steady voice that speaks from within. The nature of a woman, while subtle, is not weak. And the nature of a man, while aggressive, is not brutish. For man and woman to be complete, they must each possess both energies.
The answer is not for men and women to try to be alike. All men and women must be themselves, realizing that G-d has given each of us unique abilities with which to pursue our goals, and that our primary responsibility is to take full advantage of those abilities.
What is true liberation for both sexes?
Though feminism rightfully calls for the end of male domination and abuse, and for equal rights for women, it is vital to get to the root of the distortion — that our focus in life, as man or woman, must not be simply to satisfy our own ego or needs, but to serve G-d. True women’s liberation does not mean merely seeking equality within a masculine world, but liberating the divine feminine aspects of a woman’s personality and using them for the benefit of humankind.
After so many years of male dominance, we are standing at the threshold of a true feminine era. It is time now for the woman to rise to her true prominence, when the subtle power of the feminine energy is truly allowed to nourish the overt power of the masculine energy. We have already proven that we can use our strength to slay the demons around us; let us now learn to nurture the G-dliness within.
Learn about what it means to be a man or a woman, about masculine and feminine energy. Learn to live up to your potential, to balance these energies to lead a productive and meaningful life — a G-dly life. And finally, learn to appreciate and respect your male or female counterpart.
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