THE MISNOMER OF “TOXIC MASCULINITY”
March 15, 2019
Boruch Merkur in #1158, Editorial, Editorial, Moshiach & Geula, Purim

Terms like “toxic masculinity” are so damaging because they ascribe qualities to masculinity that have nothing to do with it. A bully, for example, is not expressing masculinity at all. Someone who picks on someone weaker feels a lack of pride and self-worth, and seeks to elevate himself by putting others down. So the bully is actually behaving in a needy, effeminate way.

By Rabbi Boruch Merkur

In his column in Beis Moshiach, Rabbi Daniel Green shared insights into expressions of outrage, dissatisfaction, trauma, or other cathartic displays. He has framed the discussion in terms of what is or what is not appropriate conduct. The Sages found fault in Miriam bas Bilga’s act of defiance, dishonoring the Beis HaMikdash by slamming her sandal on the Altar in protest of the suffering of the Jewish people. They did not criticize the message itself, just her delivery.

The inference here is that crying out for the suffering of others is indeed appropriate. The advice for dealing with personal grievances, however, is much different, much more discreet, without the rage and indignation (and obviously without sacrilege). In its most dramatic form, this personal disquiet is still more of a supplication, a private appeal for mercy.

Identifying what is lacking in ourselves, however, recognizing our unmet needs, should be tempered with humility, with the knowledge that if our self-concern is inappropriate, it is spawn from arrogance. The Mitteler Rebbe teaches us this lesson in the maamer  “VaYasfu Anavim B’Hashem – Then the humble shall have increased joy through G-d” (Seifer HaMamorim Nach – Yeshayahu, pg. 32):

In all cases, the levels of the soul called Ruach and Nefesh are masculine and feminine respectively. Ruach is the source, which is mashpia [i.e., masculine, providing energy and influence] to the Nefesh, which is called feminine, as it receives the shefa (the flow of energy from the mashpia).

The discontentedness discussed above is thus a feminine manifestation of the male klipa, which is called haughtiness. This feeling of lack is unholy, for its source of energy is impure, stemming from haughtiness.

It is readily apparent that arrogance is the source for all types of depression. The person is depressed only because of his ego, his self-consciousness, because he loves himself, which causes him to reaffirm his self-concept, etc. When this person’s honor is slighted, stifling his ability to draw energy from haughtiness, he is dejected, like the female who is embittered by the absence of shefa.

From this we learn how Nefesh, when it receives energy from haughtiness, evokes a heightened sense of self, the affirmation of ego. This is so when the energy translates into a sense of pride and self-contentedness. But when this person is depressed it is because he feels the absence of this shefa, this flow of energy, as in the verse, “unto your husband shall you yearn” [feeling the characteristic longing of a woman for her provider], for in the absence of shefa he is forlorn, etc.

Here we refer to the masculine klipa of arrogance. A man represents G-dliness in the world. Thus, you can see the temptation towards arrogance when notions of masculinity are sullied.

Today’s popular agenda includes the distortion and dilution of masculinity. Terms like “toxic masculinity” are so damaging because they ascribe qualities to masculinity that have nothing to do with it – in fact, they are the opposite – and those qualities are criticized as being toxic. A bully, for example, is not expressing masculinity at all, certainly not a toxic or extreme variety of it. Someone who picks on someone weaker feels a lack of pride and self-worth, and seeks to elevate himself by putting others down. So the bully is actually behaving in an effeminate way, as above.

The Mitteler Rebbe continues to explain the holy flipside of a man’s effeminacy, which is humility:

The above refers specifically to nukva d’klipa, the unholy expression of receiving, of femininity. Nukva d’k’dusha, on the other hand, the holy aspect of receiving, is the opposite, whereby the male is called “humble.” This holy characteristic is the opposite of the feeling of self-aggrandization; it is total bittul. It is called “a humble spirit, an unassuming spirit” – the opposite of haughtiness.

This is the aspect of Moshe, who is called “ish – a man,” as it says, “The man Moshe was exceedingly humble, etc.” … it makes no difference at all to the humble person when shefa is lacking … In fact, he is happy. The main reason for his joy is because he is truly insignificant in his own eyes. Thus, he constantly celebrates his portion, that he is “a veritable part of G-d above” – a gift given to him not at all in virtue of his own merit but simply as an inheritance from our forefathers.

The spiritual reality is that a Jew lacks nothing. In the Purim farbrengen of 5735, the Rebbe says that that is why a man who cannot get circumcised (for there is a precedence of his brothers not surviving the procedure) is still considered a “mahul,” circumcised. True his body is not circumcised, but since he is a Jew, he is considered perfect and whole, not requiring any tikkun or corrective procedure.

The theater for Tikkun Olam is the physical world; the spiritual world needs no correction. Thus, whatever one is lacking physically can be obtained spiritually by tapping into the spiritual reality of wholeness and perfection, affirming the truth that a Jew is “a veritable part of G-d above.”

To summarize: Regarding ourselves we must have the strength and courage to be happy with whatever we do or do not have; regarding someone else we must feel empathy to the point of outrage.

We must work on ourselves and merit to stand before G-d and plead that the world needs Moshiach. We must strive to perfect ourselves to the point that we can summon the audacity to stand before Him – even though it is still “asher lo cha’dahs,” an unlawful appearance before the King – and decry the ongoing defamation of the Rebbe and his prophecy of immanent redemption – “Al tig’u bi’M’shichoi v’linviai al tareihu!

 

Rabbi Merkur welcomes opportunities to speak further about Moshiach and a variety of topics.Please email editor@beismoshiach.org for details.

 

 

Article originally appeared on Beis Moshiach Magazine (http://beismoshiachmagazine.org/).
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