For Not Making Me a Woman


One of the most puzzling–and, often, infuriating–prayers appears daily in the traditional Jewish service. In the morning blessings, among being thankful for clothes to wear and eyes to see, there’s a blessing, said by men, that thanks God “for not making me a woman.”


This is one of three negative blessings that appear together in the 15-blessing list. The other two are formulated similarly: “Thank you, God…for not making me a slave” and “for not making me a Gentile.”

According to Rabbi Barry Freundel in his book Contemporary Orthodox Judaism’s Response to Modernity, this exactly parallels an exhortation of the apostle Paul in the Christian Bible: “In the Kingdom of God, there is no such thing as Jew and gentile, slave and freeman, male and female” (Galatians 3:28). In response to this, the rabbis may have formulated these morning blessings as an anti-Christian polemic–establishing that for Jews, these distinctions really did matter. Rabbi Meir in the Talmud (Menahot 43b) offered an alternative blessing to this trio–in the positive–“Thank you for making me a Jew.”

Today, Rabbi Meir’s tradition of reciting a positive blessing has been adapted by many. In fact, the Conservative movement has switched to using positive forms of all three blessings. They’ve also taken gender out of the equation, replacing “for not making me a woman” with “for making me in God’s image.”

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