Project Genesis

Jewish Prayer and Freud’s Views on Women

Question: When I was in graduate school a profesor of mine told me that there was a prayer in orthodox Jewish churh that ends – Thank God I was not born a woman or a dog. He was trying to explain why Sigmund Freud might have seen woman as slighty less equal to man. Is it true that there is a prayer that ends this way?

Answer: Thanks for submitting your very interesting question.

There is a prayer that observant Jews say every morning that consists of 13 consecutive blessings and 3 of those blessings go as follows:

Blessed are You …. that You did not make me a non-Jew
Blessed are You …. that You did not make me a slave.
Blessed are You …. that You did not make me a woman.

Women substitute the last blessing with “Blessed are You …. that You made me according to Your will.”

The succession of these 3 is curious and the classic interpretation of the succession is that Jews are thanking G-d for the commandments they were given, starting from the individual with the least commandments, a non-Jew who only has 7, moving on to a Slave who has many more commandments, and finally a woman who has even more commandments. The Jew thanks G-d that he was given 613 commandments, many more than a non-Jew, a slave, or even a woman. The prayer has nothing to do with the equality of these individuals. It is only a contrast of the amount of commandments each was given by G-d. There is absolutely no mention of dogs..

If Freud was influenced by this prayer it was a result of his own warped interpretation. If he was indeed influenced by anything, I would say it’s safer to assume he was influenced by the common attitude of society at his time that women were 2nd class citizens. The Jewish approach throughout the ages gave great reverence to the role and contribution of women, even when it was unpopular.

All the Best,
Rabbi Mordechai Dixler

Follow-up Question:

Question: I read the answers that this blessing is merely a statement of fact about having more mitzvos, not of equality. My question is, if we actually make a bracha that something is good… ie. having mitzvos and say “you didn’t make me a woman” isn’t that stating, Thanks Gd I am not a woman and have so many more mitzvos? Thank Gd my role is one that enables me to have more mitzvohs! Clearly this bracha disputes the “equal but different” gender role explanation. I mean different roles yes, but how are they equal? Her role is less. It is not as good, just as a slave’s role isn’t as good or a non Jew’s role. The woman doesn’t say “thank you for giving me the role of a woman to raise children, and not the role of a man who doesn’t.”

Answer: In a sense you are correct by saying that the role of a women is inferior in terms of Mitzva responsibility. However this is not a “put down” in terms of a gender’s intrinsic worth any more than saying that the Navy has more
value than the Air Force. Gd created different souls with different potentials and gave them instructions on how to activate their potentials. A man’s soul does need more work to perfect than a women’s much like the airman needs more training than the sailor. A man thanks Hashem for the added opportunity he has to activate his potentials which he would not have
as a women. Hope this helps.

Yours, Rabbi Azriel Schreiber

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