The Shulchan Aruch states that in the series of benedictions recited each morning on awakening, a man thanks HaShem, “Who has not made me a woman”, whereas a woman thanks HaShem, “Who has made me according to His will” (SA OC 46:4).
We can obtain an important insight into the profound difference between these two formulations with the help of a little-known fact: the benediction recited by women was innovated by women themselves. The Tur states, “Women are accustomed to recite, Who has made me according to His will” (OC 46); the implication seems to be that they themselves initiated this practice.
It seems that this blessing is especially appropriate for women because it gives expression to a way of looking at the world which is particularly characteristic of women.
Compared to women, men tend to view and define things in a more analytic, negative, numerical way. Their charac- teristic mode of self-definition follows, and this is expressed in the form and content of the men’s benediction: it is analytic, separating humankind into its two distinct sexes. It is negative, thanking HaShem for who we are not. And it is numerical – the order of blessings for men is based on a numerical ordering of who is obligated in the most commandments: slaves more than gentiles, women more than slaves (men more than women).
Women on the other hand tend to a more inclusive, positive, and holistic point of view. The blessing which they adopted to thank G-d for their unique status reflects this: it is inclusive, since men are also created, in their own way, according to His will. It is positive – Who has made me, as opposed to the men’s berakha “who has not made me”. And it is holistic – a general statement that women are made according to His will, not a quantitative measure of this fact.
Rabbi Asher Meir is the author of the book Meaning in Mitzvot, distributed by Feldheim. The book provides insights into the inner meaning of our daily practices, following the order of the 221 chapters of the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch.
The words of this author reflect his/her own opinions and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Orthodox Union.