Shaya Cohen -


Are the Prayers of Women Superior?

I spend a lot of time in prayer, both alone and in a quorum (a minyan) of men. Prayer is a form of quasi-meditation, once likened by Rabbi Sachs to focusing on micro-adjusting a shortwave radio dial to tune into a very faint and elusive signal. The “still small voice” might be our souls, or it might be the voice of the divine, or it might just be our imagination. I think it might, at times, be none of them, or all three together.

In Judaism, men have a much stronger obligation to pray, especially in synagogue. There are various reasons given for this: women may have other obligations that make scheduled prayer impossible; men need the spiritual connection more than women do, etc. The net result is that many fewer observant women pray in synagogue. But there is a corollary: those few that make the effort radiate an undeniable spiritual energy and power.

My wife and I went to Israel recently, and we prayed at the Wall of the Second Temple a number of times. We also went to the burial place of Sarah, Abraham, Rebekkah, Isaac, Leah and Jacob, in Hebron. And my wife came away with a renewed sense of respect for those women who make the effort to pray at the holiest places available to Jews today.

What do people pray for? Judaism has set services and verbiage, but there is endless room for specific and personal appeals. People pray for health and blessings in sustenance and relationships. We pray for positive connections, and for the pain of our loved ones to be alleviated.

But the experience made me consider the likelihood that men and women not only pray for different things, but that the average prayers of women may be, in some sense, at a higher plane than the average prayers of men.

To me, the reason is that the prayers of women are generally less obviously selfish than the prayers of men. Women pray for children, for the welfare of their offspring and family and friends. Women come to the Wall with a list of people to pray for. The prayers of women form the links of the chains between people and between generations. Women are praying for posterity.

Men, on the other hand, more often pray for what we lack in the moment: present well-being of all kinds (from health to income). We pray that our lives will have meaning and value to G-d. The prayers are sincere and heart-felt. But they are also, in their way, less expansive in terms of love for others. And G-d wants us, above all, to love others. Loving others (and praying for them) is the keystone for a holy relationship with G-d

I realize that this is a gross overgeneralization. But when you see women of childbearing years pouring out their souls in appeals for children, or older women doing the same on behalf of their daughters or daughters-in-law, the net spiritual effect inspires awe in any passerby. This is the energy that inspires women to flock to the (assumed) burial place of Rachel in order to connect with the matriarch who desperately wanted children with all her heart. Nobody messes with a woman who is praying in this way. I have never seen a man pray with this kind of spiritual aura.

This is my impression, for what it is worth. I welcome other inputs!


Comments are welcome!

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