How are men and women really different?
With all the talk about “woman’s role” in Judaism, most people would be hard put to answer that question. For lack of alternatives, our community often uses societal roles to pinpoint the differences: She takes care of the children/cooks chicken soup/ sings lullabies. He earns a living/learns Torah/puts oil in the car.
But societal roles, particularly in our rapidly changing society, are a weak and fickle reed on which to hang an entire philosophy about gender. In fact, different periods in history had paradigms for gender roles that look quite different from ours. For example, aristocratic Jewish families throughout the ages often had nannies who took care of their children. It would have been completely not in consonance with the mother’s stature to have her flipping pancakes or giving baths. And while today we tend to assign great significance to nursing one’s baby – seeing it as the ultimate in mother-baby bonding – there were periods in history when Jewish mothers would not have dreamt of nursing their own babies; they hired wet nurses.