03. Intellect and Emotion

My teacher, R. Zvi Yehuda  Kook, regularly emphasized the principle that men and women are equal. However, after positing that key precept, he would occasionally dwell on the differences between man and woman: “The element of intellect is more discernible in men. By contrast, human emotion is more prominent in women” (Siĥot Ha-Ritzya, Bamidbar p. 413). Of course, men also have feelings and women are also intelligent, but in general men incline more toward the intellect and women toward emotion. This approach has recently been reinforced by various research studies on the brain and mind, from which it emerges that there are two types of intelligence, intellectual (IQ) and emotional (EQ).

As a result of this distinction, in certain areas the man is more active, whereas the woman is more passive. After the intellect arrives at conclusions, it produces and constructs, whereas emotion is characterized by perceiving impressions from surrounding events; it does not initiate them, rather is impacted by them. Thus, we find that the Torah sages of earlier generations described men as being more inclined to influence and women as being more apt to receive.

These two complementary traits allow us to connect wholly to the Divine ideal, grow stronger in faith, live a Torah existence, and rectify the world under the Almighty’s sovereignty.

Through the analytical and discerning intellect, we establish the principles with which we govern our lives, and via spontaneous, raw emotion we are able to better absorb the faith and vitality of the Torah.

In the following paragraphs I will attempt to further refine this concept based on the words of Rav Kook and his son, R. Zvi Yehuda. 1

  1. For more, see Siĥot Ha-Ritzyah, Bereishit pp. 77-78; Bamidbar pp. 411-416; discourse 9 – man and woman; Olat Re’iyah vol. 1, pp. 71-72; Ein Ayah, Berakhot 7:46. See also Shabbat 33b; Tanĥuma Vayera §22; BM 59a; Nida 45b.

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Series Editor: Rabbi Elli Fischer

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Editor: Nechama Unterman