There is no place for competition between the two sexes; both are necessary, both contribute to society, neither replaces the other. Two chairs or two tables are a poor substitute for a well-matched table and chair.
Judaism does not advocate recognition of men's rights or women's rights, it negates any contest between men and women in the first place. In Judaism, both have duties, not rights, and both must fulfill their obligations to their Creator. They can be confident that they have been provided with the specific tools, talents, and strengths they require to carry out His plans for them. They are free to choose whether or not to devote their lives according to the Divine Plan set out in the Torah, or to follow their own whims and try to achieve what they view as the purpose of their lives. It is entirely up to them, and they alone are responsible for their happiness in life or lack of it.
Our Sages teach us:
Whether Jew or gentile, whether man and or woman, the divine spirit dwells on all according to the level of his or her deeds."
(Tana deBei Eliyahu, Chapter 9, Parashat Mikeitz)
Everyone has the potential for a degree of divinity. We see that gender does not add or detract from one's status; everything depends on what one has done with the resources Heaven has bestowed upon him or her.
Each individual is unique. The Torah is a guidebook for life, and if we examine its teachings, we will find that it urges us to aim for perfection. Rabbi Yisrael Meir Kagan, one of the greatest Jewish leaders of the first half of the past century, compared the Jewish people to an army on the battlefield – the infantry, the cavalry, the navy, the air force, and all the other branches of a well-developed military. Each branch is assigned a different task. If you were to ask – what is more important, the tank division, or those who provide food, water, fuel and transportation, the airforce or the artillery?
Obviously, there is no point to such a question. The army needs all of its branches. No matter how skilled, experienced, and well-equipped the tank commanders may be, they nonetheless require a constant supply of ammunition and food in order to operate. So, too, do the infantry require support from the air. Without top-notch communications men, all the branches will be stymied.
What if a pilot suddenly decided to join the infantry? He might know how to drive a tank, how to patrol the grounds, or how to pilot a ship. Nonetheless, if he has been assigned the task of pilot, he must remain in the cockpit. An army which allows its men to choose their positions at will, and to switch positions whenever they like, is not likely to win many battles, much less a war.
Every Jew is a world of talent and strength. He or she has unique aspirations, personal leanings, and innate abilities. At birth, he is endowed with the talents and resources he will need in order to accomplish the mission specifically assigned to this soul during his or her sojourn on earth.
Today – in the year 2007 – the total world population is estimated at 6.6 billion. That is, 6,600,000,000 individuals, each one with his or her own features, fingerprints, and physical makeup which is distinct from the remaining 6,599,999,999 individuals who populate our globe. What is more, our Sages tell us:
"Just as their facial features are not identical, so, too, are their characters not the same."
Just as each human being has his own unique features, so too does he come to this world with his own unique personal assignment. Knowing this fills the heart of the Jew with gladness. His life has a purpose which no one else can achieve for him. This fact carries a significance that brings joy in its wake. As the Talmud expresses it: "The world was created for me." (Sanhedrin 37a)
Sometimes we overhear one woman telling another: "I envy your calm nature and the way you always seem to enjoy life." Such a person is fettered by the outlook of modern society. She is convinced that her happiness depends on factors over which she has no control, among them, the degree to which she is accepted – and admired – by her peers. Instead of pursuing the task Heaven has assigned her, this woman will fight for "equal rights" among her social peers. She fails to recognize her true inner needs and her full worth as a unique individual.
Each of us has the opportunity to choose happiness and satisfaction. This is one of the most precious gifts which Heaven has bestowed on man. Happiness is achieved by exercising our free will to see reality, to focus on our true wealth. Cultivating the treasures Heaven has bestowed will create positive energy for the women who has chosen to enjoy motherhood. She will lead a rich and rewarding life, happily occupied with the tasks assigned to her.
Happiness depends not on acquisitions, but on one's personal decision to look at the full half of the cup; to use the talents one does have, and not bemoan the fact that he is not someone else; and to respect himself for what he is rather than wait for others to shower him with honor and prestige.
Another requisite is goals which are attainable, without the intervention of others. A young child may imagine a wealthy uncle who will knock on the door and present him with a new bicycle. A mature adult looks forward to earning his own bread, and managing his budget realistically. His goals are not intended to raise the eyebrows of his neighbors or rouse the jealousy of his colleagues.
This is feasible only if his goal is spiritual growth, not material expansion. The key to happiness lies in our own hands; no one can control what motivates us. Thus the key to lasting happiness lies in our own hands. Likewise, the more we invest in spiritual goals, the greater happiness we can achieve.