Rabbi Shais Taub, weekly columnist in Ami Magazine and well-known speaker, shared an interactive virtual shiur on a man’s role in frum families. The shiur was hosted by Let’s Get Real With Coach Menachem.

Coach Menachem Bernfeld began by sharing that there are myths that, for men, emotions are a weakness. Some people are scared of emotions. He noted that suppressing emotions can cause problems.

Rabbi Taub shared that there are a lot of issues that our community struggles with, which get swept under the rug. This forum is a special place where people can talk about issues and stop feeling so alone. When technology is used the right way, it can give us connections. People from all over the world and from all different backgrounds listen to this show.

He shared that this topic is never discussed, and it’s an issue that needs to be addressed. Men’s emotional struggles are still being ignored.

He shared that he became aware of this issue because he speaks to many people in his role as a rabbi, and he noticed a disturbing pattern among young frum men. It was something he first observed in older single men who chose to remain single. Young men were sharing that they were not interested in the traditional male role of giving and not receiving anything. They spoke about women in a hostile way and expressed anti-feminism sentiments.

“I was hearing young Jewish men speaking in a negative way.” It’s upsetting to hear young men raised in our system with such a hopeless, bleak attitude about marriage and the traditional male role. He hears young and older men express the feeling that they feel invisible and that their emotional needs are not considered. They experience pressure to mask their emotions and they cannot open up with their wife, mentors, or friends. They are feeling pressure to be a husband and father, and they feel isolated, lonely, and unheard and unseen. They say they are suffering alone and they carry great shame.

A wife talks to her sisters and/or friends, and they have an avenue for expressing their feelings. A man says that if he does this, he is considered weak. He shares that he has no one to talk to and that no one cares about what he is feeling. One man said, “I feel like a money machine.”

A man who was married for over ten years expressed that he feels daily pain because of the pressure to provide for everyone and it almost broke him. What has kept him going is that he feels it allowed him to understand Hashem and how sad Hashem is when He provides so much and we only come to Him when we need something and don’t appreciate all He does and thank Him enough.

Rabbi Taub taught that we need to give validation to those suffering with these issues. According to Torah, we don’t have to negate one gender to promote the dignity of the other. Also, there has to be a way to give self-respect to the Jewish woman. We need to know how to promote male pride and a feeling that a man is worthy of his emotions and not at the expense of women. “This will bring the Shechinah into the world.”

Someone asked for a definition of masculinity. Rabbi Taub shared that masculinity and femininity are spiritual concepts that exist in the spiritual realm. Hashem’s aspect of being removed is His masculine aspect, while the Shechinah that dwells in and nurtures our world is His feminine aspect. The ultimate healthy state is the marriage of masculine and feminine. The world requires the union of the feminine and the masculine. In Heaven, masculine is the provider and feminine is the receiver.

He then explained in practical terms that the masculine role is the provider while the feminine role is to be the receiver. She is also a giver, but the man is the one who gives first. He initiates. “Masculinity is the idea of being an initiator – being the one who starts things.”

When a man walks in the door after work, he should walk in as an emotional provider. He needs to come in ready to invest in her. She will then add on to the emotional support he gives her and create enough warmth to fill the entire house.

“We need to reclaim being the one to initiate – especially in the emotional exchange of energy.” He explained that masculinity is never happy being a taker. A woman has to use her keen eye to catch her husband doing the right thing and praise it and let him know she appreciates it. When the provider successfully provides, it activates him to do more.

Someone shared a question about the difficulty for frum divorced fathers who are not supported by the frum community. Men are estranged from their families with no support base, this man shared.

Rabbi Taub pointed out that we can’t legislate changes, but we need cultural changes to happen. We need people to gain awareness, which leads to sensitivity to what people are experiencing, and then this will lead to cultural changes. It is a problem when fathers are removed from their children’s lives. Rabbi Taub suggested that men need to get together with other men to get emotional support the way women do, so they can then have a chance to provide emotional support to their wives. A man needs a way to meet his emotional needs outside of the home in a healthy way, so he can come home to give emotional support to his wife. Men need strong friendships, and they also need to have a mentor or rabbi they can talk to. Foremost, they need a strong relationship with Hashem.

Rabbi Taub continued. “We need a safe place to express our emotions. Our culture needs to provide a framework for men to have this.” He then shared that you need to give your sons a safe place to be vulnerable.

Ask your sons about their emotions. Also, it’s important to hug your son. A young man needs to experience a hug from his father. “Fathers, hug your son tightly. Pull him in close. It soothes him and makes him feel safe, so when he is the head of a household, he will feel that safety because you put it into him.”

He stressed that fathers need to offer more masculine affection to their sons.

He shared that showing someone genuine male empathy can literally save a life.

By Susie Garber