Parshas Tazria-Likkutei Torah-Difference between men and women

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Parshas Tazria

Isha Ki Sazria Veyalda Zachar

[Likkutei Torah p. 22]

Parshas Tazria discusses the stages of impurity and subsequent sacrifices that a woman is obligated to bring to the Temple after she gives birth. The verses distinguish between the birth of a male and female child. If she gives birth to a male child, she is to sit seven days in impurity and then wait an additional 33 days to bring the offering to the Temple. If she bore a female child, then she is to wait 14 days in a state of impurity, then 66 more days to bring her afterbirth offering. The verse uses a peculiar wording to describe the birth of the male child, stating, “When a woman gives seed and gives birth to a male child.” Why did the verse find it necessary to state the seemingly superfluous information of how the woman became pregnant? The Sages derive from this wording that the verse is teaching us a natural phenomenon whereby the male gender derives from the female’s seed, while the female gender derives from the male’s seed. In this Mamar, the Alter Rebbe delves into the implications of this saying of Chazal, explaining how it is not merely asserting a biological phenomenon but actually teaching us a great lesson in understanding the harmony of marriage and the makeup of the male and female partners as well.


Explorations of the Mamar:

1.      Why is the female responsible for the gender of a male child and the male responsible for the gender of a female?

2.      Why are women from Gevurah and men from Chesed, and how is this expressed in their personality?

3.      How is it possible to reach marital harmony if men and women are from two completely opposing Sefiros: Chesed versus Gevurah?

4.      What secret dynamics do the Sefiros share that allow them to unify with each other?


The question:

It says in the verse, “When a woman conceives and has a male child.” The Sages state, based on this verse, that when a woman gives her seed first a male child is born, and when the male gives seed first a female is born. This matter seems puzzling, as why would each one contribute its opposite gender towards the child? The philosophers explain that this change of gender is a result of the fact that when a woman gives seed first, the seed of the man enters last and determines the gender of the child, following the rule of Tatah Gavar. Therefore, in such a case the child will be a male. Likewise, when the man gives seed first then the seed of the woman is last, thus causing the gender of the child to be female. However, according to the philosophers, a male child derives from male seed and a female child derives from female seed. This negates the simple interpretation of the saying of the Sages that implies that it is actually the female seed that is responsible for the male gender and the male seed that is responsible for the female gender. This is also evident from a separate saying of the Sages regarding the wording used to describe the birth of Dina in contrast to that of the Shevatim. The verse states that Dina was a daughter of Yaakov, as opposed to the way it defines the Shevatim, of which the verse states that they were the sons of Leah. Why does the verse identify the father regarding Dina, yet the mother regarding the Shevatim? Based on this, the Sages derive that the male gender comes from the female seed, implying that it is the actual female seed that creates the male gender, unlike the interpretation of the philosophers. The explanation of this matter is as follows:


Men are from Chesed-Women from Gevurah:

Men derive from Chesed, while women derive from Gevurah. This can be seen from the verse that states, Zachar Chasdo, and Dina Demalachusa Dina. Zachar, which means male, is Chasdo, from Chesed, while Malchusa, which means queen [female], is from Dina, which means Gevurah. The aspect of Gevurah found in women can also be witnessed in various character traits exhibited by women. Chazal state that when Sarah Imeinu was foretold that she would have a male child she menstruated, hence signifying the state of Gevurah. [Blood comes from Gevurah, signifying an instinctive distance from having a child.] Likewise, the Sages state that although Avraham commanded his wife to give fine-flour bread to the guests, she instead used regular [cheaper] flour. This was a result of her female root in Gevurah, which causes a person to naturally be less giving to guests. 

Understanding marital harmony:

A child is born as the result of contributions from both the father and the mother. Both contribute to the child from their physical features. The Sages state that from the father’s seed come all the white aspects of the child, which include the nerves, bones, and brain, and from the mother’s seed come all the red aspects of the body, which include the skin and the muscle. However, after learning the above spiritual roots of the father and mother, it remains puzzling as to how it is possible for them to unite and become one flesh in the birth of a child. Chesed and Gevurah are two complete opposites, as much as fire is the opposite of water, so how could they coexist? To understand this matter, we must first introduce a proper understanding of the dynamics of the Sefiros.

Understanding the Sefiros:

In general, the Sefiros are distinct from each other, each one carrying its own nature and personality. Nevertheless, in their origins in Atzilus, the Sefiros are built in a form of incorporation called Hiskalelus. This means that despite the main character trait of each specific Sefirah, they each contain aspects of the other Sefiros. Thus the Sefirah of Chesed also incorporates aspects from the Sefirah of Gevurah, and the Sefirah of Gevurah incorporates aspects from the Sefirah of Chesed. This idea is further demonstrated in the counting of the Omer, wherein each day we work on a different Sefirah and a different aspect of that Sefirah: Chesed of Gevurah, Gevurah of Gevurah, and so on and so forth. It is this multifaceted nature of the Sefiros that lies behind their secret ability to unite with each other and work together to facilitate creation. This same style of incorporation of character is likewise reflected within the souls of the male and female.

Women express Chesed, men express Gevurah:

[Earlier it was stated that women come from Gevurah and men come from Chesed. At first glance, this matter appears rather puzzling, as women seem so much kinder and gentler than men, who display more of a tough and stern demeanor. Thus how can we say that in truth the tough man is Chesed and the soft-spoken woman is Gevurah? The explanation is as follows: Although the root of a woman in the Sefiros is from Gevurah, nevertheless she also contains within her an aspect of Chesed, which is called Chesed Shebegvurah. Likewise, although men are from Chesed, they nevertheless contain an aspect of Gevurah that is Gevurah Shebichesed. Furthermore, not only do men and women contain the opposite aspects, but their primary natural disposition is of the opposite aspect, meaning that women mainly express Chesed of Gevurah while men mainly express Gevurah of Chesed. This can be seen in the following difference of approach taken by men and women in childrearing. When a child needs to be reprimanded, the father naturally takes the task of hitting him, thus revealing his Gevurah aspect found within his Chesed root, which desires the child to become a good and upright person and Jew. Thus the father is expressing an external act of Gevurah that is rooted in the motivation and goal of Chesed. The mother, on the other hand, is more naturally inclined to yield to the child’s unfitting behavior and give him all the good that he desires. Although externally the act of giving to the child is an expression of Chesed, nevertheless it is rooted in Gevurah, as by doing so the child loses a much greater benefit of becoming an educated and proper human being and Jew. Thus the woman is committing an external act of Chesed, which is rooted in a natural character of Gevurah.

Making a child:

Based on the above, we can now understand how a child is formed from the union of a husband and wife. During Zivug [marital relations], the father, who is from Chesed, contributes his aspect of Gevurah to the future child, while the mother, who is from Gevurah, contributes her aspect of Chesed to the child. This allows them to be able to unite and form a child together, as they have each contributed the common denominators shared between them. If, however, the woman was to contribute Gevurah from her Gevurah, and the father was to contribute Chesed from his Chesed, then in truth they would be unable to unite at all.

The gender of the child is based on the first contribution:

Based on the above, one can now understand the seemingly puzzling statement of the Sages that the man is responsible for the birth of a female. Since the mother contributes her aspect of Chesed found in her Gevurah, if she were the first to contribute, the gender of the child would be based on her contribution of Chesed and would thus be male, as the male comes from Chesed. However, if the father is first to contribute, since his contribution is his aspect of Gevurah found in his Chesed, the gender of the child would be based on his contribution of Gevurah, and would be female. 



Lessons of the Mamar:

·         In order for one to reach harmony with others, one cannot stick to his natural tendencies and ways. One must be willing to express the common features that he shares with the other person. In truth, each person contains common aspects shared with another that can allow them to unite. As such, it is necessary for the person to dig and find the shared common ground that would allow for this to happen.



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