"Blessed are you, Lord our God, Ruler of the Universe, who has not made me a woman." -- Morning Blessings, Artscroll Siddur, p. 12.
I'm supposed to say that each morning. If I were a woman, I would recite this instead: "Blessed are you, Lord our God, Ruler of the Universe, who has made me according to Your will."
These difficult, even painful blessings are a part of a series of otherwise beautiful meditations thanking God for the everyday gifts of sight, clothes and freedom. Those other blessings roll easily off my tongue, the praise genuine and sincere. But for years I've struggled with praising God for not making me a woman. And I'm not the only Orthodox rabbi who struggles with it.
As a committed Orthodox Jew, I have accepted the entirety of halacha -- the Jewish path of law and tradition -- upon myself. This includes guidelines on rituals, holidays, charity, legal matters, sex and, yes, prayers. Not only do I accept it on myself, but as a rabbi, I teach it to others.
There are parts of halacha that I love, and parts that I struggle with. This blessing though, this blessing is really tough. Written by male rabbis nearly 2,000 years ago, these words evoke for me the sexism too prevalent in the Orthodox world and beyond. These words have echoes of the religious misogynists who throw chairs at a woman for praying at the Western Wall or force women to sit at the back of Israeli buses. This blessing helps enable the religious sexism that silences women's voices, keeps them from positions of communal leadership, and denies them study of our sacred texts.
Do I want any part of that sexism? No.
So do I say the blessing? Yes.
Sadly, there are some excellent reasons to be grateful for not being a woman in this world. For example:
This blessing calls me to recommit to building a world where inequality and oppression do not exist. It calls me to recommit each day to building a world where saying "thank you God for not making me a woman" will disappear, not because it is offensive, but because it is meaningless.
Follow Ari Hart on Twitter: www.twitter.com/arihart