Woman Praying

Two weeks ago, Rabbi Edelstein shared the history and meaning of the beracha Shelo Asani Isha, with many sources to study and ponder. This week, Rabbi Edelstein turns his attention to the corollary blessing recited by women: She’asani Kirtzono.

Now let us return to the blessing that women say instead of Shelo Asani Isha: She’asani Kirtzono – Blessed are you Hashem, master of the world, who has made me according to his desire.[1] While a minority of commentators say that a woman is comforting herself that she got the consolation prize[2], the significant majority of commentators claim that the the ברכה which a woman makes has positive rather than negative implications[3]. As the Yeshuos Yaakov[4] states:

שעשני כרצונו דהיינו כרצון הקב”ה לבד בלי המלכת המלאכים

Who made me according to His will, that is, according to the will of G-d alone without any consultation with the Angels.

Bnei Yisaschar[5], amongst others, writes that the creation of women was a fulfillment of Hashem’s original intention to create man and woman as two separate beings[6]. When, in practice, he then created Adam as one being, and only subsequently separated womankind from Adam, he was manifesting his original desire – hence, כרצונו.

Rabbi Eli Munk in World of Prayer points out that ‘רצון ה, i.e. כרצונו, is never used negatively, only positively. Both he and Rav Shimshon Raphael Hirsch[7] suggest that a woman blesses Hashem in this form for making her more naturally attuned to His will than men, who need the extra מצוות to provide that connection.
In discussing the blessing Shelo Asani Isha, however, we explained why it is inappropriate to praise G-d with a positive formulation. If Rabbi Munk and Rabbi Hirsch are correct, why was an exception made with the blessing of Sheasani Kirzono?[8]

The fact is that the Sages are not the source of this blessing; it is not mentioned in any of the Talmudic sources dealing with these blessings[9]. Indeed the טור, who appears to be the earliest source to mention this ברכה, says that it is only a מנהג for women to say this ברכה which was apparently something initiated by them. By the time of the שלחן ערוך, it had already become an obligation – והנשים מברכות.[10] Because of its unusual beginnings, the blessing has been fraught with controversy[11] and בנות ספרד say the blessing without שם ומלכות.

The fact that the source of this blessing is not Chazal[12], but rather a later development makes it unprecedented in the annals of halachic history. Brachos were made already at the time of Ezra and since then we are not authorized to make new blessings[13]. But women, as an act of unique spiritual creativity, took upon themselves to make a blessing nevertheless. It would seem that this is the only ברכה in history which developed through a part of the Jewish nation’s spiritual creativity and not as a specific תקנת חז”ל[14].

This explains why the blessing is not a direct contrast to the one that men make. The fact that men made a ברכה at this point and that women did not (initially,) created the opportunity for an extra ברכה to begin with, but one which the Sages decided not to make. Women themselves jumped into the breach, creating their own, new ברכה. [15] This puts its wording and its meaning in a totally different light.

It now makes sense to suggest that women come to thank G-d for the unique spiritual potential which they have and in fulfillment of which they will get as close to G-d as a human possibly could. This is not a consolation prize imposed by Chazal. Women chose to embrace this idea by doing the impossible – creating a new blessing. The creation of the new blessing is just as much a praise as the wording it comes to reflect!

Women then say: Since G-d is absolutely good; His giving must therefore be perfect. G-d made me a certain way (שעשני כרצונו) since He wants to give to me the maximum possible; the way He made me must then be absolutely perfect for what He wants to achieve through me. An extra ברכה infuses extra קדושה into the Jewish nation. Indeed, men could have done well to have said such a ברכה as well. That they did not merit to be a part of this creative spirituality only adds insight to the fabulousness of this innovation.

1 It appears from the Tur and the Shulchan Aruch that she would say this blessing with shem umalchus However, not everyone agrees. The Pri Megadim, Rav Yaakov Emden in his Siddur, the Chidah (Kesher Gadol, Siman Heh), and the Ben Ish Chai (Parshas Veyeshev, Os Yud) all say that she should bless without using shem umalchus, since this is a new blessing not mentioned in the Talmud. The ליקוטי מהרי”ח writes that the minhag already spread to say it with shem umalchus, but a woman should say ברוך שם כבוד … after saying it.

2 אבודרהם quoted in ספר טעמי המנהגים, ברכות לד and טור סימן מו, לבוש quoted by עיון תפלה, and the Aruch Hashulachan all say a similar thing:

ואפשר שנוהגים כן כמי שמצדיק עליו הדין (טור או”ח ס’ מו)

3 בני יששכר, שבות יעקוב, רב שמשון רפאל הירש. רב אלי מונק, רב שמעון שוואב, רב שמשון פינקוס, ועוד

4 ישועות יעקב, אורח חיים, מו: ה

5 Brought in Talelei Oros on Tefila

6 . ברכות סא עמ’ א

7 Commentary to the סידור, as well as in Horeb, chap 75 and in his commentary to Vayikra 23:43. This approach is also adopted by Rav Shimon Schwab, On Prayer, pg. 33. Rav Shimshon Pincus offers a variation of this, claiming that a woman defines Jewish identity (i.e., she determines the Jewishness of the progeny) and therefore can lay claim to Jewishness more intrinsically than males.

8 One could imagine that if not for the side-issue we mentioned in the first half of this essay, males could also have made such a ברכה, i.e. She’asani Ish. In fact, there was a time when the ברכה of שלא עשני גוי was changed by the censors to שעשני ישראל. See the note at bottom of תקון התפילות; some of the מפרשים do say that it would be difficult to find a positive formulation which includes male Jews and excludes females.

9 i.e. the ברייתא in מנחות מג, the תוספתא in ברכות פרק ו and the ירושלמי ברכות פרק ט הלכה א

10 שו”ע או”ח ס’ מו סעיף ד

11 It is not mentioned in the רוקח nor is it in the נוסח אר”י. פרי חדש (מו: אות ד) says to leave it out and the יחוה דעת (ר’ עובדיה יוסף) and the כף החיים (מו ס”ק מז) both pasken (for בנות ספרד) that this ברכה should not be said with שם ומלכות.

12 My specultion is חז”ל did not make a ברכה here for women in contrast to men because it is men who have the advantage in this area and not women. Women were not given a consolation prize ברכה.

13 רמב”ם, פ”א מהל’ קריאת שמע הל’ ז: … כל הברכות הערוכות בפי כל ישראל עזרא הסופר ובית דינו תקנום ואין אדם רשאי לפחות מהם ולא להוסיף עליהם …

וכן שם, פ”א מהל’ ברכות הל’ ז

Since the time when אנשי כנסת הגדולה were מתקן the ברכות, the only ברכות that were added were as a result of Nisim such as the Brochos made before and after the reading of Megilas Esther or those made on the lighting of Chanuka candles.

14 Hence the opposition of many Sephardi poskim to saying this Brocha at all, or to saying it with Shem and Malchus.

15 For the purposes of this argument, it matters not who the actual person or people were who originally formulated or suggested this Bracha. It may have been a male or a female or it may have involved numerous people of one or both sexes. The point is, though, that women were able to turn this formulation into a new Bracha of Shem and Malchus.



One Response to “Part 2: Judaism’s Most Controversial Beracha: “That you have not made me a woman””

  1. michael

    This is beautiful. Thank you

    But it still doesn’t answer the main question : why is it formulated in the negative. Why not say : that you made me a man ? and we can go further and ask : why even the need for these 2 Brachos for men and women ?
    And I would have the same question regarding Shelo Assani Goy and Aved, why the need to mention these 3 and why always in the negative ?
    Thank you .


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