06. A Hierarchy of Virtues

First there must be an acknowledgment of the value of the Torah and its study and an awareness of the virtue of the time-bound mitzvot, which illuminate every-day life. It is man’s job to be responsible for the preservation of the universal values expressed through these mitzvot, and to declare them publicly at the established times, as the Torah commands. By recognizing the value of the male role, women can transmit the light within these mitzvot to all strata of life.

At first glance, it seems that the status of men is higher than that of women; men rule and influence while women receive and are acted upon. However, in the longer term, feminine influence becomes stronger. The Sages teach (Bereishit Rabba 17:7), “There is a tale of a ĥasid (pious man) who was married to a certain ĥasida (righteous woman), and they did not have any children together. They said: ‘We are not helping God at all.’ So they got divorced. The man went and married an evil woman who, in turn, made him evil. The woman went and married an evil man and she made him righteous. We thus learn that everything stems from the woman.”

Man’s human aspects are more pronounced; intellect is indeed the pinnacle of humanity. Woman’s ability to receive divinity is more pronounced. Therefore, even though it is the husband who is commanded to learn Torah and establish the values, the general attitude toward those values is more affected by woman; her righteousness or wickedness radiates onto her husband. In the long term, the broader approach to faith is more influential. Therefore, if the woman is righteous and she and her husband have a good relationship, it follows that her husband will also eventually become a righteous person, and if she is evil, her husband will presumably also be wicked.

There are allusions to this idea within the mystical tradition: Initially the man’s advantage is more apparent, but in the future, the advantage of women will be more apparent, as alluded in the verse (Yirmiyahu 31:21), “ For God has created something new on earth: A woman courts a man.” In this world, our gaze is external, and therefore the advantages of man, the one who learns and leads, are greater than those of woman. However, in the future we will gain a more profound vision and then the virtue of faith and intuitive perception will be revealed, such that the status of men and women will become equal. In the World to Come, the virtue of faith and the Divine perception will be so evident that the status of woman will be greater than that of man. Even then, there will be a place and a need for learning as well as for rigorous definitions, yet the feminine emotional aspect will take primacy.

It can be said that after Adam’s original sin and the introduction of the evil inclination into human beings, it is more difficult to rely upon one’s intuition and natural emotions; hence, the primary struggle with the evil inclination is guided by one’s intellect, which must control and direct emotion. However, as the world becomes rectified and faith and morals become a common legacy, the concern that natural emotion will erupt in a misguided and destructive manner lessens. As a result, impediments to emotional expression will be removed, its merit revealed, and with it, the virtue of women.

We should not say that the World to Come is so remote from us that it has no influence on our lives at all, because even today it is buried deeply inside of us. The external soul corresponds to this world, the internal spirit corresponds to the future, and the innermost soul corresponds to the World to Come. Therefore, even today, the deeper we delve, the more we find women’s influence. However, the arrangement is such that woman’s humility in accepting man’s virtue and influence allows her to express more and more of her own virtue.

It is possible to expand upon this topic, but this is not the place. We shall only briefly allude to the fact that the relationship between the sun which radiates and the moon which receives resembles the male/female relationship. Initially, they were both equal, but as a result of the moon’s arrogance, it was diminished. However, in truth, at the heart of the matter, its virtue is great, for it receives the light here in this world. To a certain extent, this is also the relationship between the heavens and the earth; at first glance, the skies are more exalted, but upon second glance, the purpose of creation was for the earth and the final outcome was conceived at the outset. This is also the relationship between the tribe of Yehuda and the tribe of Yosef. On one hand, Yehuda reigned; however, the most cherished and beloved son was Yosef, who was beautiful like a woman, and who was capable of revealing all the highest ideals within this world, in beauty and splendor.

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Translated By:
Series Editor: Rabbi Elli Fischer

The Laws of Shabbat (1+2) - Yocheved Cohen
The Laws of Prayer - Atira Ote
The Laws of Women’s Prayer - Atira Ote
The Laws of Pesach - Joshua Wertheimer
The Laws of Zemanim - Moshe Lichtman

Editor: Nechama Unterman