Men Need Work

With a population of over 300 million people, America can be a statistical sociologist’s dream. Because doctors record so many details about patients, a treasure trove of medical data is available for research (we hope scrubbed of identifying information). Particulars of patients’ gender, height, weight, medications, and ailments are all there to be studied. When correlated with geographic and economic data many results are reached and often published. Some of them are nonsensical and are dishonestly contrived to present a politically convenient conclusion. Others are irrefutable and clearly true.

An example of the latter is that financial stress undermines the masculinity of men far more than money problems strike at the femininity of women. I don’t want to be more clinically explicit than needed for the purpose of revealing an astounding and timeless Torah truth, but this is a sad reality. Though nobody enjoys undergoing it, financial stress has virtually no impact on women’s desirability to men or the functioning of their intimate relations. The same cannot be said for men. (We explore this phenomenon in detail in our new book, The Holistic You.)

Money shortage not only reduces men’s desirability to women, but it also undermines their confidence and diminishes their functioning masculinity. What is more, this isn’t limited to financial stress; unremitting pressure at work, along with relentless demands and expectations, take a terrible toll on men’s male identity. Medical statistics for men in areas of the country that during past decades underwent devastating economic contractions such as when the Northeast lost manufacturing and when Pennsylvania lost Bethlehem Steel and associated industries, provided undeniable evidence of this sad reality.

However, devotees of ancient Jewish wisdom need no medical statistics to remind them of this great permanent principle: God uniquely created men as creatures whose identities are largely dependent upon their work and the monetary results of that work. In keeping with His plan for the powerful polarity that propels marriage, women’s intrinsic feminine identities are not tied to their work or earnings.

In Genesis chapter 39, ancient Jewish wisdom points to the reality that a male’s essential manhood is tied to his work. We need to note the difference between two Hebrew words that appear similar but are, in fact, entirely different.

The first word is pronounced SaRiS. Because Hebrew is a consonant-based language, this 3-letter word comprises an ‘s’ sound both at the beginning and at the end, with an ‘r’ sound in between them. It looks roughly like this:

סרס

It means ‘eunuch’, which is to say a male who has lost his manhood. We see the word in this verse:

Then took Johanan the son of Kareah and all the captains of the forces that were with him, all the remnant of the people… and the women, and the children, and the eunuchs, whom he had brought again from Gibeon.
(Jeremiah 41:16)

However, and here is the fascinating aspect of Hebrew, the word also means a man who is excessively and unhealthily devoted to his job, placing him unreasonably under the control of his boss. This person’s essential manhood, too, is diminished.

The second word (reading from right to left) is pronounced SaR and it looks like this:

שר

You will notice that Hebrew has two separate letters to designate the ‘s’ sound. The ‘r’ letter is the same as in the first word I showed you above. The meaning of this word, SaR, is officer or ‘high ranking man’.


Now to the story:

And Joseph was taken down to Egypt and Potiphar, the SaRiS of Pharaoh purchased him…
(Genesis 39:1)

We understand that Potiphar was an employee of Pharoah but because of the word describing him as a SaRiS, translated as a eunuch, we know that he is so over-dedicated to his career that his essential manhood is diminished. He has not been physically castrated, only mentally and psychologically—but of course the result is almost the same.

Naturally, it comes as no surprise that a mere six verses later we read:

And it was after these things that his master’s wife cast her eye towards Joseph and she said, “Lie with me”
(Genesis 39:7)

Not a good woman, to be sure, but we can understand her as a woman married to a man who is essentially married to his career. Her attempt to seduce Joseph comes as no surprise.

The events that led directly to the Children of Israel immigrating to Egypt and the subsequent Exodus from Egypt which we celebrate at the Passover Seder (to be observed on Monday night, April 22, and Tuesday night April 23) begin with a further juxtaposition of SaRiS –eunuch/hyper-employee and SaR, a ranking officer in charge.

We see them here:

And Pharaoh was enraged at his two employees/eunuchs (SaRiS), at the officer (SaR) of beverages and the officer (SaR) of bakeries.
(Genesis 40:2) *

Ancient Jewish wisdom points out that the verse could have been shortened with no loss of meaning, like this:

And Pharaoh was enraged at the officer of beverages and at the officer of bakeries.

The long sentence, as it appears in most English translations, makes little sense. However, in the Lord’s language, in Hebrew, all becomes clear.

When one’s boss lets loose at one with a furious tirade culminating in some humiliating punishment, most men feel utterly emasculated. When a boss behaves in that fashion it reveals that, in his view, he almost owns his employee.

Therefore, early in verse 2, when Pharaoh erupts in fury at the chief baker and chief sommelier, they are described appropriately as his eunuchs. However, their actual titles do technically remain officer of bakeries and officer of beverages.

Whether a man works at a Wall Street investment bank or whether he works as a sales representative marketing software, it is possible for the demands of his job to make him, well, a eunuch. Add in today’s trend for bosses to reach out to subordinates by text message at all hours of the night and you have the makings of a national crisis of well, eunuch-hood. The surge in prescriptions for eunuch-remedying medications about which medical statistics inform us is epidemic in proportion.

The culprit? Partially a lack of balance in life. This is precisely one reason I encourage people to create in every week, a family day—a Sabbath as it were. One inviolable day on which I am not ‘on-call’. My boss cannot summon me on Sabbath because he knows my phone and computer are turned off for 25 hours.

This Thought Tool is dedicated in memory of Cpt. (res.) Elhanan Meir Kalmanson, age 41. When he and his brother heard of the Hamas terrorist attack on October 7, 2023, they, like so many others did not wait to be called into duty, but instead set out to help. They evacuated dozens of civilians that day. Continuing to save lives on October 8, Elhanan was ambushed and murdered by terrorists hiding in one of the houses. This hero leaves behind a wife and five children as well as parents, siblings, and other grieving relatives.

And with prayers for the remaining hostages (or their bodies)) and among them Nadav Popplewell, age 51. When Nadav heard that his 79-year-old mother was in trouble, he ran to her nearby house. Mother and son were taken hostage (another son was killed elsewhere) by Hamas terrorists. She was released and he has not been heard from.

*In our recommended Bible:
P. 122:
6th line from the top, second word from the left. (The final two letters of the word mean ‘his, and there is a grammatical letter yud in the word.)
7th line from the top, 1st word on the right and 4th word on the right.


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