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Embracing Balance: The Dynamics of Masculine and Feminine Energy

- Mary Esther Harding

As usual, I was hanging out on the balcony. We were four couples enjoying a Saturday night together, and as I was eyeing the night lights reflecting columns of shimmering silver in the water, the men had migrated to the balcony. 


The host, a house blend of the warm hospitality of Avraham Aveinu and the easy elegance of a Russian aristocrat offered up fine cigars all around, unhesitatingly including me as one of the gang.  Looking at the big fat cigar, I quipped, “Thanks, but I only smoke lady cigars.” Instantly, he proffered a slim, shorter version, and having met my bluff, what could I do but tap into the spirit of my cigar-smoking grandfather and draw a puff?


Next, our host offered up a bottle of almost 200-year-old Calvados. Seriously, how could I not?   I did pick out the smaller cut-glass snifter, however, and daintily asked for just a little bit, thank you.  And then I hung out with the guys because I found the conversation (something about Joseph and Egypt) so darn interesting.  Wow, Hanna, you’re really getting in touch with your masculine side tonight.


But that would be a very superficial conclusion. The Torah doesn’t make a big fuss out of defining men and women – why would it? But it makes a very big deal out of defining masculine and feminine energy. And it has nothing to do with smoking cigars, of any size.


A Most Unusual Commandment


In Bo, as Moses was preparing to lead millions of people out of enemy territory, Moses was given an unusual commandment by God - to create a unique calendar that combines both lunar months and the solar year. To put that into context, early civilizations were based on a lunar calendar. After all, what’s easier than looking up in the sky to mark the passing of time? However, with the advent of agriculture, lunar-based calendars were inadequate for informing farmers when to plant their crops, and so the solar calendar, which is seasonal, became dominant.


These two systems (lunar and solar) are not in sync, however; thus, it requires complicated adjustments to reconcile them over a perpetual 19-year cycle. What was so significant about this calendar, and why was it commanded at such a precarious moment?


From Narrowness to Expansion

The Hebrew word for Egypt is “Mitzraim,” from the word “meitzar” – which means “narrow” and “constricted.” In leaving Egypt, the Jewish people were going from a place of narrowness to expansion, from a bounded country to an endless open desert, from slavery to freedom.  And that entails a major shift in thinking necessary to cultivate individual and relationship potential. 


Jewish mysticism teaches us that the differences between the sun and the moon are physical and spiritual.  This polarity is not merely about being a man or a woman; these energies and qualities are present in everyone.


The Dynamics of Masculine and Feminine Energy


The characteristics of masculine energy are “top-down” and proactive.  When masculine energy interacts with the world, the predominant energy is to decisively and quickly impose external solutions onto others or situations.  Years ago, when my husband was admitted to the ER with a gastric bleed, he needed masculine-energy medical intervention to save his life.  Had the doctor not immediately located the site of the bleed, started transfusions, and sent my husband off for surgery, my husband would have died on the spot.   

On the other hand, feminine energy characteristics are “bottom-up” and receptive.  When feminine energy interacts with the world, it sees potential, and by cultivating, building, and revealing innate qualities, it engenders transformation.  And so, after the medical crisis and other complications had passed, my husband was debilitated, and it was almost a year before he regained his former vigor and health.  During that time, he benefited from feminine-energy medical support, utilizing a holistic approach to restoring his body from the inside out, bringing his body into balance, and letting the Natural Healer take over.

So, masculine and feminine energies are equally dynamic and vital, and we need access to both ways of being.  To be free and fully functioning, however, we must know when to be what. Not only do we get into trouble when we employ the wrong energy for the task, but our relationships suffer when we are out of balance.  

The Pitfalls of Unbalanced Energy: Tyranny and Submissiveness

For example, in its unbridled extreme, masculine energy is tyrannical.  Pharaoh exemplifies the unhealthy aspects of masculine energy by seeing reality as an either/or black-and-white proposition.  He reduced reality to one dimension – “my way or the highway.”  That kind of thinking will defend distorted and warped viewpoints to the death.  No wonder it’s a relationship killer. Similarly, feminine energy, in its unhealthy extreme, creates submissiveness to the extent that such a person cannot act or think on his or her own and thus doesn’t even have a point of view. 

It’s not slavery per se, but the willingness to remain a slave out of choice is to reject the idea of self-efficacy.  As we know from Biblical commentary, most of the Jews wanted to stay in Egypt and did not make it out.  And disconnection from one’s identity and personal power is anathema to a vibrant bond in our relationships with each other and God.

Embracing Balance and Harmony for True Freedom

Thus, this is not a call for androgyny, unisex blandness, or the homogenizing of identity and dissolving differences. Rather, true freedom comes from bringing the cosmic forces of masculine solar and feminine lunar energy into balance and harmony on an individual level and, ultimately, a global one.  Being tasked with being a light unto the nations calls for a balancing act that awakens us to the full power of our being, realizes the richness of relationship potential, and creates the joining of heaven and earth.  

Internalize and Actualize:
  • Think about a situation where you may have used the wrong energy for the task at hand. What were the consequences? How could you have approached it differently?

  • How can you balance the cosmic forces of masculine and feminine energy in your life? In what ways can this balance enhance your relationships and connection with others?

  • Our prophets say that the era of redemption is the return of feminine energy. Imagine a world where both masculine and feminine energies are respected and embraced. How do you envision this world? What role can you play in bringing it into existence?

An earlier version of this article with comments was published on



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