The issue of gender has been a topic of discussion in the research of Hasidism since S. A. Horodecky’s book (1923), in which he claimed that Hasidism brought about full equality of Jewish men and women in the field of spirituality. Although his claims have been by and large rejected, most
scholars agree that the twentieth century Chabad movement has indeed created space for women in the hasidic model of spirituality. This article sets out to explore whether the particular interest of contemporary Chabad in the role of women is a new phenomenon or has existed from the movement’s inception. Rather than looking at the issue from a social-historical perspective, the article examines the gender discourse conveyed in the homilies of the founder of Chabad, Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi (1745–1812). It explores the role of the feminine aspect of divinity in the process of creation, and its envisioned elevation in the future-to-come, in an attempt to establish the relation between the gender category of “female” and flesh-and-blood women in the teachings of Shneur Zalman of Liadi. This, in turn, leads to determine whether the concept of the transfigurations of genders in the future-to-come, a Chabad tradition that originates in the teachings of Shneur Zalman of Liadi and serves as the ideological ground for the empowerment of Chabad women in the writings of the late Lubavitcher Rebbe in the twentieth century, could have any relevance to the daily life of wives and daughters of Shneur Zalman’s followers.