Using Feminine Energy to Transform Ourselves
A careful study of the holiday of Rosh Hashanah reveals that it is closely associated with women. Let us cite a few examples. (1) When the Talmud seeks to relate to the power of prayer on this day it illustrates this by noting that three women were answered on Rosh Hashanah; Sarah, Rachel and Hannah. All three were answered with children. Indeed, the Torah reading of first day of Rosh Hashanah relates how God remembered Sarah and the Haftora relates how He remembered Hannah. (2) The Torah reading on the second day concludes with the birth of Rebecca . Many commentators wonder why these few verses are included when the Torah reading could have easily been arranged to conclude with the end of the sacrifice of Isaac. Obviously, Rebecca’s birth has significance in its own right. (3) We derive the nature of the sound of the Shofar and the number of sounds we blow from the mother of Sisrah (Judges 5:28-30). (4) According to some opinions the wailing sound of the Shofar is symbolic of the cries of Sarah as she became aware that her son Isaac was almost slaughtered by Avraham.
The most significant and undisputable connection between the holiday and women is the fact that Rosh Hashanah occurs on Rosh Chodesh, the first day of the Hebrew month Tishrei. Rosh Chodesh (the first day of a new month) is the holiday of women. The Talmud says that originally the first days of the twelve Hebrew months were full holidays but due to the fact that the men participated in worshiping the golden calf, the holiday was taken away from the men and given to women in reward for their refusal to donate their jewelry to the golden calf. The holiday was later reinforced in reward for the women coming forth and gladly donating their jewelry for the construction of the Tabernacle. Today there are various customs as to exactly how this holiday is observed by women and the fact remains that Rosh Hashanah occurs on a holiday earned by women and this obviously has much significance. What is this relationship all about?
A central theme of Rosh Hashanah is the concept that we coronate G-d as King over the entire world. The text of Aleinu serves as our main form of expression in declaring this and also asks for the Almighty to obliterate idolatry from the world.
It is noteworthy that for centuries an ambiguous verse has been used as a proof of other gods—i.e. idolatry—in the world; G-d said “let us make Man.” This statement provided the heretics with an excuse to mislead others that there is more than one God. However, this is only true concerning Man. With regard to the first woman created there is no room for error. G-d said “I will make him a helper “against” him.” (i.e. a full equal). With the creation of the first woman there was a clear recognition of G-d’s oneness and sovereignty over the entire world; there was no room for ambiguity.
Perhaps this is why Rosh Hashanah is closely associated with women. They are more attuned to G-d’s sovereignty than men. In kabalistic and other Jewish sources there is a concept that women have bina yetera (a heightened sense of insight that men don’t possess). On this day when we crown G-d as King over the entire world we invoke the merit of the righteous women who have a greater sense of His oneness. The merit of their unique relationship with the Almighty is what gets the rest of us through the Day of Judgment.
What’s the practical message for us? In Jewish mysticism two energies are described, masculine and feminine. The masculine energy is inspiration, the feminine energy brings things to fruition. For example, rain is masculine energy and earth is the feminine energy that transforms the rain. The product is a flower, something greater than both energies combined. A man gives a “gift” to a woman but she is the one that transforms it into a child. The man’s contribution fast and instant—like a moment of inspiration—but the woman’s is long and discomforting. She is the one who actually creates something transcendent—a child—that is greater than the contributions of both father and mother. A child isn’t simply a sperm and egg, it’s a human being; the product of a superhuman synergy.
The Day of Judgment is a time to judge what we’ve done this past year. We ask G-d to ‘get up’ from the ‘chair’ of judgment and ‘sit’ on the ‘chair’ of compassion. Is it logical to ask a judge to overlook the facts and rule in the guilty party’s favor? Yet this is what we are asking of G-d. In truth, what we are asking is for Him to look to our future potential for our lives as Jews next year and not let the past hinder us. True teshuva (repentance) is making sure we will not repeat the mistakes of the past and therefore we ask G-d to grant us the chance to correct ourselves. We’re asking, judge me not for not what I did, but what I can become. We are giving birth to ourselves this year and it’s up to us to use the feminine energy of taking the inspiration of these Holy Days and go through a process—even if it’s discomforting—to transform ourselves and affect the DNA of the coming year and give birth to a healthy new self. The product will be greater than the inspiration and gestation; we have the ability to become new people—better Jews than we could have imagined.
Shana Tova–May you all be blessed with a happy, healthy, and sweet year.