When Moshe ascended to shamayim to receive the Torah, he was accosted by angels demanding, “Mah l’yelud isha beineinu?” – what is this ‘born of woman’ doing among us? (Shabbos 88)
Clearly the term ‘born of woman’ is intended as a derogatory lowering of Moshe’s stature, and the misogynistic overtones may indeed be intended (see Mei HaShiloach for a striking comment in that regard). I think there is more to it than that. The Alter m’Slabodka writes that what distinguishes man from angel is man’s power of free choice. An angel’s existence is static, but man has the ability to elevate himself and all the universe to come closer to G-d. He reads this idea into the debate between the angels and Moshe, but the essential point is that Torah is the vehicle that directs bechira. Who was it that first exercised this right of bechira? It was woman. Chavah made the first choice to disobey, which may have in fact changed the whole concept of bechira to allow man freedom to turn away from G-d (see R’ Dessler, vol 2). The gemara highlights the double edged sword of free choice – Moshe is ‘yelud isha’, a descendent of the one who introduced disobedience to G-d in the world, yet, according to the Alter’s reading (see vol 2), that very power or free choice to disobey is what makes man most deserving to receive the dvar Hashem.
Our discussion of ‘Moshe hosif yom echad m’da’ato’, Moshe adding an extra day of preparation for kabbalas haTorah, got me thinking of this term ‘yelud isha’ in a different way. Rashi (P’ Braishis) explains that Chavah was led to sin by her having added to the command of Hashem – G-d commanded not to eat of the eitz hada’as, yet she told the nachash that she was commanded not to touch it. By confusing the prohibition, she ended up eating from the tree. By the angels’ measure, Moshe was a day late in getting to shamayim. ‘Yelud isha’ may be intended as a reminder that adding to the dvar Hashem m’da’ato can have tragic consequences, as the history of Chavah illustrates. This approach is a bit harder to work into the answer of the gemara, which highlights man’s mission of overcoming a yetzer hara. Perhaps Moshe was suggesting that in Chavah’s pure environment of gan eden adding to G-d’s command was unnecessary, but after man has already fallen and must overcome his base instinct, we require the additional preparation and enactments of torah sheba’al peh to prepare us to receive and help us observe the dvar Hashem.