Shavuot is considered the time when we “married” G-d or cemented our relationship with Him after our “courtship” on Pesach, during the Exodus from Egypt. The Luchot (Tablets with the Ten Commandments) is compared to our Ketubah (marriage contract) and explains the responsibilities of each of us in this relationship. Below is an essay explaining some aspects of that relationship and comparing the psychological differences between men and women to the varying Torah obligations of each.
Have you ever gone into a gift shop and noticed the many rows and rows of cards devoted specifically to women – especially mothers, wives and sisters? We don’t generally hear of wives buying flowers or chocolates for their husbands.
Ever wonder why these affectionate gifts are so gender-specific? Does a man not appreciate the flowers or chocolates? Is it perhaps a woman’s stronger connection with nature that allows her to admire the vibrant colors of the flowers more than her male counterpart? Or is it her poetic, more emotional nature that is so tenderly touched by the few graceful lines of poetry on the attractive card?
No, of course not. While these tendencies may be true, her love for these gifts has really nothing to do with her appreciation of poetry or nature, or whatever other small gifts women traditionally receive.
The secret behind these gender- specific gifts is that women thrive on feedback. The cards, the flowers, or the small tender presents show that he cares. They represent the time he took out of his day to think about her. It means that he values their relationship.
He took the moments to drive to the store and he deliberated on what she would most appreciate. He remembered to choose her best color, or her favorite chocolates. It means the world to a women that he showed that he cares.
Women need that feedback.
Every self-help book on improving married life invariably provides practical suggestions to husbands on communicating his care better, listening better, and understanding more what she is going through. Of course, buying flowers or cards is just one way of expressing that. She may not need the flowers, cards or chocolates, but these tender gestures demonstrate to her that he cares.
A husband neglecting to give his wife the attention that she needs or expects, notices her becoming withdrawn, irritable, upset, or in husband parlance, “nagging.” Venture to ask her what’s wrong, and she’s sure to rejoin, “nothing.”
Never buy that.
What is a woman implying by her response? She is saying that if you care enough, if I am sufficiently important in your life, you’ll keep asking. You’ll find a means to try to understand me. You’ll keep working on figuring out what’s really wrong. If our relationship is as important to you as it is to me, you won’t accept my retort at face value, but you’ll probe. As most husbands figure out soon enough, woe is to the man who assumes that “nothing” means “nothing”!
A man, on the other hand, doesn’t need as much feedback. He is comfortable in knowing that his wife is there for him. She doesn’t need to prove it or demonstrate it nearly as much, or nearly as often. He may be comfortable sitting silently on the couch beside her, just knowing that she is his. He might be doing his thing and she might be doing her thing, but he considers that spending time together. He doesn’t need the constant reminders that she is there for him.
But a woman, through her need for feedback, reminds her man that over time their relationship can grow static. Gestures are important to reignite that flame of romance, longing and tenderness. Demonstrating outright consideration and thoughtfulness through these gestures reawakens the original dynamism and passion in the marriage. She brings a message to the relationship that says that reaching a comfort level with one another is great, but let’s not take one another for granted. Show me regularly that you care, not only in your heart, but also through your deeds.
I know of a wife who complained to her husband that he never bought her anything – not jewelry, not flowers, not cards. His staggered response was, “Honey, do I ever tell you not to spend the money? By all means, if you want jewelry or flowers, go out and buy them!” He thought he was being generous, but of course, he missed the point entirely of what she was lacking. It’s not the time or money that he spent on her; it was the fact that he cared to spend the time and money.
A woman intuitively feels this need in any relationship she is in. She demonstrates through deeds, small and big, regularly, over and over, that she cares and that she loves.
Perhaps this natural dynamic is a reason why women are not obligated in the time-bound mitzvot of the Torah. Some of the traditional reasons given for this are the fact that women may be occupied with other more important things, namely her family life and children. Far from binding a woman to the chains of domesticity, this underlines the supremacy that Judaism places on the value of home life, and its precious regard for family and children – a goal that more and more of us are realizing in today’s hectic and turbulent times.
Another reason given for women’s exemption from these time-bound mitzvot is that she doesn’t require the spiritual powers of these mitzvot for her unique spiritual make up. She intrinsically is in tune with the point of the mitzva without the need to perform it.
What I think this means is that in our relationship with G-d, mitzvot serve as connections, ways of becoming closer. Torah is full of do’s and don’ts. G-d informs us of the things He wants us to do and those He prohibits. He tells us, “Whether you understand this or not, this is what I
need for our relationship. This is how you can demonstrate your love to Me.” Mitzvot teach us not to take our relationship with Him for granted, but to maintain the connection, keep the fire and dynamism alive.
While a woman is equally obligated to abstain from the negative precepts of the Torah, she doesn’t require the constant reminders of the time-bound, positive ones. She intrinsically understands the need for the positive gestures, and the feedback, because that is her own need. She intuitively knows how to demonstrate her love and care in her relationships, because that is so much of what she is all about.
Men on the other hand, need to be told specific directions. They need to be instructed: this is how you can show you care. This is how often you must demonstrate your love. This is the prescribed formula for expressing tenderness.
So, a woman doesn’t need to send her husband flowers, because she will find ways to express how much she cares through the many things she does in her day-to-day schedule. She doesn’t need to buy him chocolates or cards on a regular basis, because the message of these tender gifts is a message that she already is sending him on a daily basis.
And so she doesn’t need to wear a yarmulke or bind Tefillin daily on her arm or pray at three specific times a day to remind her of G-d’s presence in her life, because He is a reality. He is always with her. Not because she is more spiritual. Not because she is a better person. Not
because she is greater than her fellow male counterpart. But simply because feedback to a woman is as necessary as the air she breathes. She understands its importance and will find a million ways in her day to live it.
So, men, the next time you pass by your local mall, take a few moments to stop by and visit the small gift shop. Don’t forget to remember her favorite color, too – she’ll appreciate that you did.
Chana Weisberg is the author of “The Crown of Creation” and “The Feminine Soul”. She is the dean of the Institute of Jewish Studies in Toronto and is a scholar in residence for www.askmoses.com. She is also a columnist for www.chabad.org’s Weekly Magazine. Weisberg lectures regularly and welcomes your comments or inquiries at:
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