Our “Feminine” Role

In our service to the Creator and all creation, there are occasions when we assume a “masculine” role and occasions when we assume a “feminine” role. In this letter, we will begin to explore why our prophets and sages often stress the “feminine” role of the People of Israel:


Our “Feminine” Role:


The following prophecy recalls our journey to Mount Sinai:

"Thus said the Compassionate One: 'I recall for you the lovingkindness of your youth, your love as a bride, how you followed Me into the wilderness, into an unsown land.' " (Jeremiah 2:2)


When Israel arrived at Mount Sinai, the Compassionate One went forth to greet them, as it is written: “The Compassionate One came from Sinai” (Deuteronomy 33:2). As Rashi explains: “He went out to greet them when they came to stand at the bottom of the mountain, like a groom who goes out to greet a bride.”


Dear Friends,


On the Festival of Shavuos, we celebrate the giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai. Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch suggests that the word “Torah” is derived from the word “harah” - to receive a seed within oneself, to become pregnant. With regard to the giving of the Torah, Rabbi Hirsch explains:


“Torah therefore means a seed put by God into the womb of a nation from which the whole life of that nation in all its personal and collective aspects is to develop; it is a Divine seed whose product we call Israel” (Collected Writings, Vol. 1, page 194).


Our people were given the “feminine” role of receiving the seed of the Divine teaching within our collective womb in order to give birth to an ethical and holy nation. This insight leads to a fascinating question: Why don't we also assume a “masculine” role and actively plant this holy seed within the wombs of other peoples? As a Christian once asked me: “If your people have the truth, then why don't you actively missionize like we do?”


The beginning of an answer can be found in the following verse which mentions the underlying principles of the Torah path:


“What does the Compassionate One require of you but to do justice, love lovingkindness, and to walk modestly with your God.” (Micah 6:8)


It is not enough to follow a path of justice and love; one must also walk on that path with modesty. It is a principle which can apply to both an individual and a people. And if we, the People of Israel, have something to offer humanity, then the most modest and effective way to make that contribution is not through preaching to others, but through the power of our own example.


After receiving the Torah at Mount Sinai, we were not given a Divine assignment to collectively spread out among the nations and preach the truth of Torah. Instead, we were told to journey to the Promised Land. And when we stood at the border of the Promised Land, Moshe, our teacher, conveyed to us the following message:


"See, I have taught you statutes and social laws which the Compassionate One, my God, has commanded me, so that you may act accordingly in the midst of the Land" (Deuteronomy 4:5).


In the very next message, Moshe tells us that through fulfilling these statutes and social laws in the Land, we can become a social model which will gain the respect of all the peoples:


"You shall safeguard and fulfill them, for it is your wisdom and discernment in the eyes of the peoples, who shall hear all these statutes and who shall say, 'Surely a wise and discerning people is this great nation!' " (4:6)


In this spirit, we are to strive to become a "light to the nations" (Isaiah 42:6), and when all areas of our existence give off light, we will merit the fulfillment of the Divine promise that "nations will walk by your light, and sovereigns by the glow of your dawn" (Isaiah 60:3). Our home in Zion will then become a spiritual center for all humanity: “The mountain of the Compassionate One's Temple will be firmly established as the head of the mountains, and it will be exalted above the hills, and all the nations will stream to it” (Isaiah 2:2,3).


In the messianic age, the peoples of the earth will be inspired by the feminine energy of the People of Israel that nurtured the Divine seed “within” themselves. There is a poetic allusion to this idea in the following words of King David:


“The complete glory of the princess is within, more than in the golden borders of her raiment. In embroidered apparel she is brought to the king, the maidens who accompany her are her friends.” (Psalm 45:14,15)


Rashi explains that the above metaphor is a prophetic reference to the messianic age, when Israel will be reunited with Hashem, the Sovereign of the world. The maidens who accompany her represent the peoples of the earth, who will be drawn to Israel and become her friends. I would like to suggest that the peoples are referred to as "maidens," in order to indicate that they, like Israel, will adopt a feminine role. They will receive the seed of the Divine teaching within themselves in order to give birth to new life.



Yosef Ben Shlomo Hakohen


P.S. A previous letter in this series - “The Sacred Love Song” - elaborates on the loving relationship between Israel, the bride, and Hashem, the Groom. It also explains why the other nations are referred to in this sacred song as “the daughters of Jerusalem.” This letter appears in the archive on our website, and the following is a direct link:



Hazon - Our Universal Vision