Gary Rosenblatt writes that in his morning prayers he cannot bring himself to say the traditional blessing recited by men thanking God for “not making me a woman.” (“A Woman’s Plight, A Community’s Shame,” Editor’s column, April 24.)
He objects to the common defense of this blessing, namely, “that men express their gratitude for having more mitzvot to fulfill than women.” This defense was repeated by Mr. Abe Katz in his Letter to the Editor, May 1.
Although Rosenblatt’s objection to this defense may be valid, it is my opinion that the blessing has an entirely different meaning, one with which he may be sufficiently comfortable to return to the traditional blessing. The blessing expresses a man’s recognition of the gender-specific physical and psychological challenges faced by a woman, and his appreciation of being relieved of such burdens. In particular the burdens of the reproduction process and the physical and emotional challenges associated with it fall almost entirely on the woman.
Furthermore, the statement that men have more mitzvot than women is not exactly on the mark. Indeed all negative commandments must be observed by men and women, but a woman is excused from particular positive commandments that potentially interfere with her ability to meet her special challenges, including her obligations as a mother. Thus the “defense” of this blessing is that it is man’s understanding of the burdens of the woman and not a claim of religious superiority.