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There are three blessings containing nine words which are grouped together in the morning blessings. Namely, 1) Who didn't make me a goy (גוי), 2) Who didn't make me a servant (עבד), and 3) who didn't make me a woman/wife (אשה).

These are often explained to mean that the one saying the blessing is thankful for not being in this negative circumstance.

And yet many examples are found where these are all considered to be positive, desirable and beneficial circumstances, like for example with goy in Bereshit 12:2, 18:18, Shemot 19:6, 32:10, Devarim 26:5.

Or in the case of servant for example in Devarim 10:12, 34:5, Yehoshua 1:1, 22:2,Yishayahu 42:1, and Malachi 3:18.

And the absence of a wife is clearly undesirable like is found Bereshit 2:18. And being a wife is given exceedingly high value like is found in Mishlei 12:4, 31:10, and Ruth 3:11 or Rabbeinu Bechaye to Devarim 33:1:2. In fact in recounting the preciousness of Israel to G-d, it describes Israel as G-d's wife in Isaiah 54:5-6.

In that context, when the blessings recount not making me these things, what are we thankful for and why?


Note: I'm not sure how to edit this into my question and still have it make sense, but I have been asked to justify how my question is different from the linked question, "Why don't we thank God for making us men/women?"

On the simplest level, the linked question is asking about why we don't make the blessing in the affirmative like it says in the body of the question, "Why don't both men and women just thank God for making them the gender that they are?". Also, the linked question doesn't make any connection to the other two negatively phrased blessings.

The actual text of the three blessings is in the negative and contains nine words. My question is asking specifically about what is intended by this negative language in the blessings, especially in light of the idea that the three blessings are associated.

The linked question relies upon the translation of אשה as woman as does the answer to that question which was awarded as correct. However, in reviewing the use of אשה in Tanach, it is more often taken to mean wife, not woman. Woman, meaning human female, is properly translated as נקבה, like in Bereshit 1:27 and 5:2.

In fact, there are three terms which are used generally to describe humans by gender. The first, אנשים ונשים from the common root אנוש like in Bereshit 4:19 and 13:8, has a connotation of being associated with the profane like Rashi explains to Bereshit 4:26.

The second term איש ואשה, like in Bereshit 29:32 and 30:15 or Bereshit 2:22 and 20:12. The terms איש ואשה are related primarily to the state of being married, but also have a connotation of people who have refined themselves somewhat like in the expression איש גבר, meaning someone who has overcome their individual nature like is explained in Pele Yo'etz 359:13. And this quality is essential to marriage.

The third term אדם, as in דומה לעליון like Ramban explains to Bereshit 1:26:1. This expression is used in its earliest form to refer to when the human male and female were unified as one, mentally, emotionally and physically as Rashi explains to Bereshit 1:27.

So the linked question, presumes the very limited and possibly even incorrect translation of אשה to mean human female. And in so doing, it limits the possible understanding of the blessing שלא עשני אשה to something which views women in a diminished state from men, as lesser than men whether in regard to the number of commandments they are allowed to observe or in their essential being.

But among the Rishonim, one of the emphases is that these three blessings are specifically grouped together and are related in their intent. Their text is by many opinions, not to be altered.

In that context and with more accurate understanding of the meaning of the words, my question is aimed at discovering a clearer comprehension of the true intent behind these three associated blessings and their negative language, particularly as it relates to what G-d expects of us in our service (עבודת העבד לקונה הכל) to Him.

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    In that context, when the blessings recount not making me these things, what are we thankful for and why Why do you think that the usage in the blessing reflects that context? – mevaqesh Jan 11 '18 at 19:44
  • In some blessings, it becomes "emphatic" to phrase this in the negative. E.g. - "You didn't make me a woman" - meaning, I'm thankful that I have the obligation to do time-bound mitzvoth - something that women are not obligated to do. This wouldn't convey the same idea as saying the positive, "You made me a man." I gather that all the other negatives convey a similar emphatic concept. – DanF Jan 11 '18 at 19:51
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    I don't understand what you are asking. See this article quoting Rabbi Eliyahu Kitov. chabad.org/theJewishWoman/article_cdo/aid/2463526/jewish/… – Yaacov Deane Jan 11 '18 at 19:56
  • And see the related question from Mi Yodeya. Many people clearly think these blessings reflect this context. judaism.stackexchange.com/q/36902/7303 – Yaacov Deane Jan 11 '18 at 19:58
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    We are thankful that we are given the responsibilities to do more mitzvos. Non-Jews, slaves, and women are exempt from many mitzvos. +1, by the way. I don't know why someone downvoted. – ezra Jan 11 '18 at 20:37
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The whole point is that we are not thanking Hashem for not keeping his promise and making us a great nation but that we are thanking him for not making us members of the other nations. We are not thanking Hashem for not making us an eved Hashem (something we all strive to be), but for not making us a slave of human beings (eved cna'ani) who is not completely Jewish. We are not thanking him for not providing us with a wife or not making us a married woman, but that we have more mitzvos as a man than as a generic Jewish woman. That is why a woman thanks Hashem שעשני כרצונו.

You misunderstand the fact that the translations of the brachos have a different meaning based on the context. Thus the bracha of גוי means a nonJewish person (an individual who is a member of one of the other nations) while the context of (as an example)Breishis 12:2 is a great nation using גוי as a generic description rather than as an individual. This is the same as the other examples that you bring. They do not apply to the barachos.

Similarly, the usage of אשה as a woman is not the same as the usage as wife and does not refer to that. That is why it is a matter of referring to the מצות of any woman rather than just the idea of a married woman.

Again the phrase שלא עשני עבד int the context of the bracha does not refer to someone who is an eved Hashem or even an eved Ivri. The bracha in the context of the bracha refers solely to an eved cna'ani. Each of the brachos is a short hand way of referring to a particular context. While the Hebrew uses the same word in different contexts, or the translations use the same English word, the differing contexts show a completely different meaning.

The brachos are short hand phrases to thank Hashem for not making us the lower levels, which is also why they are in the negative and each one implies thanks for a higher level of מצות

  • +1 @sabbahillel So a woman slave who is not a jew is created by האשם at the lowest level and has only 7 מצות to do. Still, a pretty good deal to have been thought of individually by האשם, to exist at all and on top of that have an eternity full of life and heaven, aye? – gamliela Jan 12 '18 at 16:00
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    @sabbahillel Have you ever considered the meaning of these blessings in the context of how G-d is a 'Gomel Chassadim' to us? What I mean by that is, what is the highest form of Tzedakah or Gemilut Chesed? From that perspective, the negative language of these three blessings makes much more sense and also applies equally to everyone, men and women. – Yaacov Deane Jan 12 '18 at 16:10
  • @gamliela that would be part of the discussion as to what an individual would say to thank Hashem for existing. It would not have to do with the question as asked. – sabbahillel Jan 12 '18 at 16:23
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but we are not making the blessings in "that context"
we are making them in the context of:

  1. Goy meaning a non-jew
    (We are thankful that we have 613 commandments on not only 7)
    But your context is about the jewish nation (not about a non-jew)
  2. Woman meaning a Jewish woman or wife (as in your sources)
    (We are thankful that we have 613 commandments and not only the ones a woman has)
    If i am not mistaken your context does not contradict this
  3. Slave meaning a non-jewish slave belonging to a jew
    (We are thankful: 1. that we are not slaves of a human, or 2. that we have 613 commandments and not only the ones a woman has (he has ~the same commandment as a woman),
    But is this not covered by the blessing for not making us a woman (rashi: 1. a wife is similar to a slave (see bais shmuel 85.2), or 2. about mitsvos by the woman (#2 above)),
    We are adding this blessing because either 1. being a slave is more contemptible (we prefer being a woman than a slave) and we are additionally thankful for that or 2. just to add a blessing to have a total of 3 (rashi)
    But your context is about being a slave to G-d (not to a human)
  • How do you deal with the idea that some poskim say the text of the blessings should not be changed and should be said by everyone? Meaning, for example, women saying, “that didn’t make me a wife”. Remember, אשה can be translated as either woman or wife. – Yaacov Deane Jan 11 '18 at 22:24
  • @YaacovDeane which poiskim?, i only know of one that writes regarding this and he is against this minhag, hebrewbooks.org/pdfpager.aspx?req=30490&st=&pgnum=23 (your question is only if you see a wife as a slave, but according to the other reason a woman or a wife will both be included in the blessing) – hazoriz Jan 11 '18 at 22:29
  • Bli neder I’ll try to dig through my Rishonim. There is much more discussion there. I sure hope some of the women on this site provide answers to this question. It might open the eyes of some of the men. – Yaacov Deane Jan 11 '18 at 22:39
  • @YaacovDeane this same Rav in birches Hamozoin always said "horachamon ... ovi Baal habais haze" (all Lubavitchers do) – hazoriz Jan 11 '18 at 22:57
  • I knew Rav Dvorkin and had brief contact with him toward the end of his life. Please note his comment about the Rebbe. Rav Dvorkin’s General prohibition is going by the translation of אשה as woman. But Torah gives many examples of אשה to mean wife and איש to mean husband. In that case, the blessing would not be false. – Yaacov Deane Jan 12 '18 at 0:42

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