But suffice to say, daat kalah doesn’t imply an innate lack of intelligence and binah yetera doesn’t imply an innate surplus of wisdom.
Binah in a nutshell is the art of jumping to conclusions. A wise woman’s binah enables her to jump to correct and useful conclusions while a lesser woman’s binah drives her toward incorrect and harmful conclusions.
Furthermore, daat kalah does not mean that women possess no daat at all; it just means that female daat comprises a lighter dose compared to that of men. Likewise, women’s possession of binah yetera does not mean that men don’t possess any binah, it just means that they don’t have as much binah as women.
And being light on daat (or da’as, if you prefer) doesn’t mean you are stupid or unworthy of an opinion. It does mean, however, that you need to make sure you are holding firmly onto a brimming source of daat as you make your way through life. Traditionally, husbands and fathers provided (and are STILL supposed to provide, regardless of the high intelligence and textual skills of their wives and daughters) their wives and daughters with daat, which the husbands and fathers are supposed to receive from their rav/rebbe and their own Torah learning.
Binah and daat are supposed to work together, both within a person and within a family.
Unfortunately, there are female orphans and widows, women from secular backgrounds, unlearned men, and men who are emotionally neglectful or abusive jerks (not to mention problematic wives who refuse to accept daat from her perfectly decent and available husbandly source)—all of which can leave a woman without her traditional source of daat.
Fortunately, women today are and have been literate for generations in the Western world, which gives us direct access to THE prime source of daat: halacha (Jewish Law).
Here’s how this works:
How to Reel in Extra Daat When You’re Daat-Lite: A True Story
I’d dealt with this family before, dealt with people who’d dealt with this family, and it all came crashing down on me: their hypocrisy, their self-indulgence, their fake piety, and the brash unfairness of them getting away with so much just because they’ve been given so much authority and leeway by their unwitting leader and the general religious populace, which is reluctant to criticize or even open their eyes when these types rise to the top.
I was absolutely enraged.
And there wasn’t much room to give the benefit of the doubt because I saw things too clearly. These were not good people who were making a mistake.
These were hypocrites taking advantage of their position and I was being treated badly for not being a sycophantic suck-up (although I was behaving toward her with the same courtesy I behave toward everyone, but these types expect lots of fawning, and not the mere courtesy that is okay for “lesser” mortals, and also they don’t like you making any demands on them—even if these demands are framed in the nicest way and are simply holding them up to the halachic regulations that THEY THEMSELVES either enacted or supported within the community) and for very nicely asking them to stop letting a mentally ill off-the-derech alcoholic with violent tendencies live in THEIR apartment, a situation which was causing problems for those who lived nearby, the secular music blasting out of open windows at all hours of the night being only one of the problems with that situation.
And such a person was NOT supposed to be living in the middle of a religious neighborhood full of families with small children—according to the stipulations for that community of that same “rebbetzin” and her oh-so pious husband and father (who was the owner of that apartment), thank you very much.
Anyway, I was consumed with wrath.
And then…I thought of a GREAT plan of revenge!
Ooh, it was delicious. Yummmmmm—slurp!
But somewhere in the back of my raging brain, I remembered there is this well-known prohibition:
Thou Shalt Not Take Revenge. (Vayikra 19:18)
Yeah, it’s right there in plain Torah text, making it even harder to brush off with the usual beloved pseudo-platitudes: “Oh, that? It’s only for people on a really high level—like tzaddikim” or “It doesn’t apply to us nowadays. Yeridas hadoros, ya know.”
But I resisted my Yetzer Tov with: “No - this time, revenge is okay! These are really awful people! In fact, it’s probably even a big mitzvah to perform a particularly delicious act of revenge on them! L'shem Shamayim!”
But my Yetzer Tov kept quietly standing firm: “No. Halacha—especially an outright Torah command—applies even if you’re consumed with righteous indignation. In fact, halacha applies EVEN MORE when you’re consumed with righteous indignation.”
My husband was in another country, my father wasn’t frum, and there was no rabbi or rebbetzin I felt I could call in such a state.
(After all, it's a pretty thick and comprehensive book.)
So I opened it up and started scanning the contents. But initially, I became even more frustrated and infuriated because it seemed like revenge wasn’t covered!
But really, I was in such a state of wrath that I just couldn’t find it right away and needed to go over the entire Table of Contents thrice before I found it.
Seriously. Picture a wild predatory animal that has been wounded and is crazed with pain. Yeah, that was me.
Anyway, I found it--Chapter 7: Reproof, Vengeance, and Grudges—and guess what? According to some opinions, revenge is actually permissible in some situations!
So of course, I hummingly skimmed over passages referencing solid sources like Mesillat Yesharim: “Here a Jew is required by Torah law to rise above his low earthly inclinations and emulate the angels,” deciding that requirement must only be for tzaddikim (it’s not) and doesn’t apply to me (it does). Instead, rubbing my hands together gleefully, I focused on the part that describes how revenge might be permissible:
- Was I humiliated? Check! (At least, I felt humiliated. It wasn’t public, but heck, why get bogged down in the details?)
- Was I humiliated to the point of feeling hurt from the insult? Check!
- Was the humiliation actively inflicted? Check! (At least from my point of view, it was actively and intentionally committed. It was certainly intentional. Even in hindsight years later, I am completely sure it was intentional.)
But then I ran into some “problems”:
“[S]ome opinions only permit passive revenge (as explained in paragraph 11) but not active revenge.” (Page 62)
Ooh. Bummer. My plot was definitely active revenge.
But maybe that’s just the author’s interpretation?
Nope, it’s footnoted: Shaarei Teshuvah 3:38 and Kodesh Yisrael Chapter 18.
Well, can’t argue with Rabbeinu Yonah.
Then I read: “…it is only permitted to take revenge according to the amount of ‘pain’ suffered. If the avenger oversteps that boundary even slightly, he violates the prohibition of revenge.”
Thus says Rashi (among others) in Gemara Yoma 23a.
I could feel my delicious plan for revenge starting to splutter. No, I tried lying to myself. I’m suffering a LOT of pain! Of course, my revenge wouldn’t overstep the amount of pain I’m suffering! (Also, I enjoyed being referred to as "the avenger.")
How can you measure that—exactly? asked my Yetzer Tov. Just one teeny-tiny step over that boundary and you have got a serious Torah prohibition stamped into your Heavenly account. Is it worth it? After all, it’s not like your account has been squeaky clean until now—can you afford this?
It also occurred to me that intentionally ignoring halacha is intellectually dishonest.
It's like saying: Oh, yeah, I’m oh-so frum—unless, of course, someone really ticks me off. Then it’s okay to indulge my lesser self and toss the usual halacha as if there is some form of wacky pikuach nefesh at stake.
Basically, if I see myself as someone for whom halacha comes first, then it has to come first all the time, and not just when it’s convenient and emotionally satisfying. I mean, it’s bad enough that I accidentally trample halacha sometimes. But purposely tromping all over it? Inexcusable.
So there I was, stuck. Once again, the Great Ones—Rashi, Rabbeinu Yonah, Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzatto, the Sages of the Gemara—were interfering with the gripping desires of my voracious nefesh habeheimah (animal soul).
Anyway, as you guessed, my passion for revenge fizzled out completely and I ultimately didn’t do anything—except beg Hashem to prevent these people from cause any more harm. Which is the best and most effective response anyway. (Unless, of course, there is a clear and present danger, like if they're child abusers or committing some other type of actual crime.)
And this is how daat works.
(Needless to say, if men don’t also hold firmly to halacha with constant review and sincerity, then their own innate level of daat is worthless.)
*Daat is very hard to translate because it means different things in different contexts. In other contexts, daat means “knowledge” or “mind,” but neither of those definitions relate to daat in this context. Here (Kiddushin 80b), Rashi explains daat kalah as being more "easily swayed/influenced/seduced” by subjective factors. The prime daat source—halacha—imbues every person with a center of spiritual gravity to hold him or her securely in place.