Every morning Torah observant Jewish men and women recite a set of prayers referred to as the “morning brachot” or morning blessings. It is a set of 14 blessings which thank G-d for the way He runs the world. Some of these are more global in their focus – “Blessed are You…Who clothes the naked,” while some are more miraculous and/or metaphorical – “…Who give sight to the blind” and others are very personal – “…Who has not made me a slave.”
But there is one blessing – perhaps the most controversial of all the blessings in this list, where men say one thing and women say something else.
In this blessing, men say, “Blessed are You, oh Lord our G-d, King of the Universe, Who has not made me a woman.” Books have been written on what this means exactly, and why it should not be taken as a sexist statement, even though it appears to be just exactly that to our modern eyes and ears. In a nutshell, the most common explanation for this blessing is that, at least traditionally, women have so many things that they must attend to, physically, that they are often unable to do many of the time-bound mitzvot that observant Jewish men are obligated to do. So, what the blessing is actually saying is, “thank You, G-d, for having given me so many religious obligations – many more than women – because they help me stay focused on you and without them, I would possibly stray from the right path.”
So, obviously a woman wouldn’t say this blessing, what does she say instead? One might think that she would say – “Who has not made me a man”, but that would not be appropriate because it would imply that she is happy that she has fewer religious obligations, fewer mitzvot to perform. So, what about, “…Who has made me a woman?” That certainly seems appropriate, and there is certainly room to thank G-d for all the unique things that make a woman a woman – namely the ability to bear children. But what about women who cannot bear children? For many women in that situation, it is a heartache beyond description, and to be reminded of that condition every morning of their life, would be horrific.
The Rabbis in their wisdom, instructed women to say the blessing which is, “Blessed are You, oh Lord our G-d, King of the Universe, Who has made me according to Your will.” I don’t know that the rabbis completely understood that one of the hardest things for a woman to do is to accept herself as perfectly made, the way she is supposed to be. But G-d certainly does. It seems to be a female trait that we are never happy with ourselves. Not just in the what we do – we often feel lazy, unaccomplished, like an imposter, but also in the who we are.
One evening I had a bunch of people over at my house for dinner. One of my guests, a young woman, was lamenting about her weight and about how she just didn’t feel like she could lose weight and how it made her feel. I wanted to show her that if it wasn’t her weight it would be something else and that while weight loss is a good thing if it makes you healthier, she shouldn’t think that being thin solves all our self-image issues. I asked the other 6 ladies in the room if they would be willing to participate in a little experiment. All of the ladies in the room were of varying sizes, but most of them were thin and attractive (at least by my judgement). I asked them, “how many of you are totally happy with your body and how you look?” Guess how many hands went up? None. That’s right, not one.
Then I asked, “how many of you have at least one thing about your body that you absolutely hate and would change in a moment if it were a possibility?” Every. Single. One. Raised a hand. Every woman there, no matter how tall or short, thin or curvy, said that there was something about their body that they *hated*.
And so, G-d in His wisdom gave us a blessing to say every morning, to remind us that whatever society may say about us, no matter what we may think about ourselves, we are perfect. We are made exactly how we needed to be made in order to be the person we need to be, in order to fulfill our purpose for having been created in this world.
King David said in Tehillim (Pslams) 139:14 – “I give thanks to You for I am awesomely and wondrously made, wonderous are Your works, and my soul knows it well.”
Think about it – you were given another day of life because you still have something to accomplish – something to give the world, and you were created exactly the way you need to be in order to fulfill that design.
If you have not yet made it your habit to say the morning blessings each day, why not start by committing just to say this one blessing – every morning – and think about what that means? You have been awesomely and wondrously made and you are perfect – exactly the way you are supposed to be.