Posts tagged " women "

What do I tell my daughters?

July 31st, 2018 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 32 comments

Dear Rabbi and Susan,

After Adam and Eve eat and are questioned about the forbidden fruit, we read [in Genesis 3:16]:

Unto the woman He said: ‘I will greatly multiply thy pain and thy travail; in pain thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee.’

What is the real meaning of “thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee”?

I’m looking for an explanation I can share with my wife and six daughters, especially given the current Western world trend of promoting the empowerment and independence of women.

Thanks for your all your great teaching and your work creating the AAJC.

Just as an aside, you may like to know that your father, Rabbi A. H. Lapin married my parents in Johannesburg in 1956.

Dear David,

Your closing sentence was heartwarming for us as my late dad was a distinguished rabbi for many years in Johannesburg.  You reminded us of the time we were once chatting with a woman in a park. After hearing our name, she said, “Oh, your father married me.” At that point our six year-old daughter, Ruth, who was playing nearby, pulled herself up to her full 40 inches and said, “He did not. He married my grandmother.”

A direct answer to your specific question would entail sitting for many hours and studying those verses with your wife and daughters. However, there is a prerequisite to doing that learning. The Torah is a package deal. It doesn’t work well when verses are lifted out of context. That is why both sides of an issue whether it be slavery in America in the 1800s or immigration today can easily find “proofs” for their ideas by isolating a few words or phrases from Scripture.

We study the Torah with a few basic assumptions.

  1. The Torah is God’s word and as such is timeless and infallible and a true description of reality.
  2. The Hebrew language is a crucial and indispensable part of its message without which 100% comprehension is impossible.
  3. When we don’t understand something or emotionally object to it, it is due to our lack of comprehension rather than to any flaw in the Torah. In addition, certain parts of the Torah may only reveal themselves and make sense as future history unfolds.
  4. When valid transmitters of the oral tradition appear to disagree, they are actually each providing a window into one small piece of the picture as the Hebrew word for argument reveals. We explain this in our book Buried Treasure: Secrets for Living from the Lord’s Language in the chapter titled, “Feud for Thought.”

Working with those assumptions is easier when emotions aren’t involved. The verse you quoted is one that provokes defensiveness and even anger among many today. The Passover Seder speaks of four sons who ask questions about the Exodus. The wicked son actually “tells” rather than “asks” his question. We all have a part of that son in us which means that sometimes our minds are closed to truly being interested in learning the answer.

We don’t think that you or your family are coming from that perspective. However, we would suggest starting with God’s response to both the snake and Adam’s sins before moving on to Eve. Both because they will evoke less emotion and because Eve cannot be seen in isolation. Working through those verses (which done at all properly should take many hours) will set the stage for the response to Eve.

While it is true that there is no way we can do justice to your question in this format, we can at least, give you a glimpse of the complexities inherent in God’s response to Eve.  The verse you quote, Genesis 3:16, takes us about 4 hours to teach adequately. For instance, the fifteenth word in the verse, yimshol is often misleadingly translated as rule.  The root of the word is mashal, which is also the name of the Biblical book of Proverbs—Mishlei.  The accurate meaning of the word is neither rule nor proverbs, but implies being influenced by the actions of others.  Hence, the Biblical book contains many aphorisms, contemplation of which can influence actions. 

One can shape the actions of others by wielding force as do kings and governments. One can also make others comply with your wishes by making them want to do so by means of payment of some kind. Finally, one can influence others in a course of action by example and peer pressure.  All of these three could be seen as a form of ruling.  The verse we are examining references a combination of the above.   

For example, one part of that is God warning that sadly, women will come to be influenced in their actions by what men do.  Could there be a more tragically accurate description of the feminism of the past fifty years? And this is only one word of sixteen that we have glanced into.  We know this isn’t much to be going on with but better we tell you the truth even if it is not easily accessible. 

The thing to remember is that a broad picture of reality is being drawn here of life outside of Eden. It is no longer a perfect life, as all of us can confirm just by looking out the window. However, understanding it lets us cope better with life in a way that provides dignity, respect and fulfillment to both men and women.

Leaving your question mostly unanswered,

Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin


Act quickly and get free shipping in the United States on all our resources .

Just use the promo code SHIP FREE  at checkout

What’s up with women not helping each other?

November 8th, 2017 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 7 comments

Dear Rabbi & Susan, 

I enjoy your podcast discussions about relationships between men and women. I wonder if you have any thoughts you may like to share regarding women who discriminate against other women? Sadly, I don’t feel women are very supportive of other women and wonder why this is? 

Thanks and God bless you.


Dear Elizabeth,

Your question has vast implications.  These include political, social, business, and family as well as others.  Though we are working on a book about the interface of money and male-female relationships, we’ll try and respond to your question a lot more briefly.

The Bible describes several examples of difficult relationships between women including: Sarah and Hagar (Genesis 16), Rachel and Leah (Genesis 29) and Penina and Hannah (I Samuel: 1).


Too Much Choice?

March 30th, 2017 Posted by Susan's Musings 34 comments

A favorite children’s book in our house was, Who Put the Pepper in the Pot? It describes how, as a pot of soup simmered on the stove, each passing family member added a pinch of pepper. Not surprisingly, by the time dinner was served, the soup was inedible.

A pinch of pepper adds zest to food; too much can ruin it. We can say the same about life choices. It’s wonderful to have choices in life; it is part of being alive.  However, it does seem that each year brings more and more options to young people. Most of these are choices which they have neither the experience nor the maturity to understand.

For many years now, among these choices are how much emphasis to place on a career or profession, whether to get married, and whether to have children (and whether to link the two latter activities). Universities, of course, have their own biases, which tend to minimize marriage and family or suggest that those will be available at any time of one’s choosing.

This week marks my mother’s seventeenth yahrzeit, the Jewish word for the anniversary of a death. During my childhood years, my mother, like most of my friends’ mothers, was “just a mom.” She was always there when I got home from school, she made a supper with a protein, carb and vegetable every night and made sure I had what I needed for school. In pre-computer days, this included a drawer full of magazine articles collected through the years, with pictures from around the world and biographies of interesting people. Since we didn’t have a car it also included taking me on regular bus trips to the library until I was old enough to go independently.


Pray For Your Life

June 14th, 2016 Posted by Thought Tools No Comment yet

If you’ve acquired a new car recently, you probably drove it happily for a while without even cracking open the operating manual in the glovebox. After all, you know how to drive and most cars are fairly standard. You switch it from P to D, press on one pedal to go faster and press the other one to slow down. Maybe the first time you opened the manual was when it began to rain. Despite looking like you needed an advanced engineering degree, the index quickly took you to page 72 for which helped you master the seventeen different modes for clearing rain drops from your windshield. The option for automatic operation whenever it senses rain drops is very cool and made you smile. (more…)

Who are the ‘righteous women’?

May 14th, 2015 Posted by Ask the Rabbi No Comment yet


Can you tell me more about how during the 400 year captivity the Hebrew wives didn’t let their husbands give up on God’s promises? (I’ve heard) something about the husbands wanted to stop producing children and refused to lay with their wives but the women found a way.


∼ Marjorie C.


Dear Marjorie,

We believe that you are actually combining two different accounts. When Pharaoh decreed that baby boys would be thrown in the Nile, Ancient Jewish wisdom relates that Amram, Moses’ father, separated from his wife, not wishing to risk bringing a boy into the world who was condemned to death. At that time, he and his wife, Yocheved, already had two children, Aaron and Miriam. Miriam is given great praise for making the case to her father that Pharaoh decreed an end to males while, by rejecting all pregnancies, Amram was decreeing the end of females as well. Amram accepted Miriam’s words and began to again live with his wife who became pregnant with Moses.

Separately, when the yoke of Egypt became overly burdensome, the Israelite men lost their libido. (Still today, not being able to take care of your family and being crushed by burdens depresses male sexual drive.) The women are credited with beautifying themselves, despite their own suffering,  and going out to greet their husbands and seduce them. This allowed family life to continue. For this, ancient Jewish wisdom gives this generation of women the accolade of ‘righteous,” and declares that it was in the merit of righteous women that the children of Israel were taken out of Egypt.


Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin