As discussed in the previous post, the sugya that ends the discussion of tzitzit, leaves women out of the conversation. Not only are women exempt from the mitzvah (although this is debated), but they also do not have the other markers of identity – tefilin and, as the story about King David drives home, the very mark of identity on their flesh – brit milah. Thus, when the Gemara finally gets to the statement of R. Meir that a person, i.e., a man, makes three blessings every day, one of which being “… that God has not made me a woman,” this is less of a surprise than a concrete articulation of the theme that has been present throughout – women have less obligations than man, and also have fewer, if any, markers of identity. This point is made in an even harsher way by the Tosefta, which states that one thanks God for not being a woman because “women are not obligated in mitzvot.” While this clearly means that they are not obligated in all mitzvot, the point remains – they play a much less visible role in the world of mitzvot of action.
I do not have a satisfying way – short of apologetics, which is never satisfying – to resolve this Gemara with contemporary sensibilities. To address the practical issue of saying the blessing “… that God has not made me a woman,” and possible alternatives (saying it in the positive:”God has made me a man,” saying it in an undertone, etc.), I have posted R. Yehudah Herzl Henkin’s teshuva on this from Bnei Banim 4:1, under Resources – Primary Sources. Appended to the Hebrew teshuva is the English translation that was published by Rav Henkin in a separate volume on women’s topics.
That being said, the practical “solutions” do not address the deeper issues, and I would be very interested in hearing from any of you your thoughts regarding this Gemara and the challenges that it represents. Please respond with your thoughts and comments by posting a comment to this post.
A good Yom Tov to all. Chag Samayach.