"You're trained to look behind you to see who's gaining on you, and sideways to see who's caught up to you," Boteach said in a phone interview. "The dehumanization of the American male is destroying him. He's made to feel like he's a not a human being; he's a human doing, and he's only valued for what he produces."
Boteach first wrote on the topic in a column three years ago, and after syndication carried it to about 70 newspapers he received more than 5,000 e-mails. As he filmed his TLC show, "Shalom in the Home," he says the subject of the dysfunctional male kept reappearing as he traveled from home to home across America. Finally, he decided to put together all his thoughts on the subject in a new book.
But while men are the focus of Boteach's "The Broken American Male and How to Fix Him" (St. Martin's Press), women don't escape unscathed.
More than half of the divorces in America are initiated by women, he said, because their husbands have become intolerable. When men see themselves as losers, he went on, they view a woman who would marry them as twice a loser, and women don't want to be married to men who feel that way.
"The broken American male, through his own state of brokenness, creates a feeling in women that they're inadequate," Boteach said. "He comes home, he turns on the TV; he doesn't talk. He's not passionate. So you start blaming yourself. Your reaction becomes, 'It must be me.'"
Rather than turning to their wives and families, he says, the American male has a slew of other escapes, from sports to alcohol to television.
"Men don't follow sports, they're fanatical about sports," Boteach said. "The reason is if you feel like a failure, you try to live vicariously through your team."
So how do we fix the problem? According to Boteach, the solution begins at home with the next generation.
"We have to raise our boys to stress their emotions more," Boteach said. "We are much tougher on our sons in the belief that the world is going to be tougher on them, and we don't show them their emotions matter."
The next step, he says, is to change what drives a man. If a man lives to work, he becomes burned out or overly focused on his work to the exclusion of his family. To spur this change in focus, Boteach has created a new definition of success by rearranging a man's priorities.
"We have to stop giving men a career and start giving them a calling," the rabbi said.
Focusing so much on advancing one's own situation instills fear and insecurity and makes a man self-absorbed, he explained. A calling, however, focuses a man on maximizing his potential for his own betterment, rather than trying to get ahead of others.
"A calling gives you a unique sense of purpose," he said.
Rabbi Shmuley Boteach and Dennis Prager will discuss "Are the Modern Men Broken? If So, Are They Fixable?" March 6, 8 p.m. $30-$60. Nessah Synagogue, 142 S. Rexford Drive, Beverly Hills. (310) 273-2400. http://www.nessah.org.