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The Secret of Feminism and Atheism

The Evolution of History Through Three Phases

    Rabbi YY Jacobson

    2206 views
  • October 25, 2019
  • |
  • 26 Tishrei 5780

Pair of adnate boletus badius mushrooms

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Class Summary:

Tradition teaches that Adam and Eve were originally created as a single bi-gendered creature, with male and female halves fused together like Siamese twins; only afterward did G-d surgically severs the halves, creating two separate and freestanding entities.

But why this whole complicated procedure? Why not create them initially as two separate creatures? Because every relationship requires three stages: oneness, separation, followed by a new, deeper oneness.

These three stages capture the entire process of history: in the beginning everybody was religious, if only in very primitive ways, filled with dogma and coercion. Then modernity and secularism swept the world, severing man from G-d; now we are ready for the third stage: true integration.

And the same in gender-relationships. In the beginning, women were second class; then came Feminism and Women’s Lib, severing the marriage and family unit; now we are ready for a new and deeper relationship-model.

Dedicated by Abraham Sher, for a Refuah Shlema of Chana Rachel bat Eliza

Two Accounts

Genesis gives us two accounts of the creation of the first human beings, Adam and Eve. But they are not redundant; they are opposite.

The first account in the opening chapter of Genesis reads: “G-d created Man in His own image, in the image of G-d He created him; male and female He created them.”

Before progressing forward, the ambiguity of this account is already striking. Does G-d create only man, or does He simultaneously create man and woman? The Bible seems to contradict itself. First it talks of the creation of the male, “G-d created Man in His image, in the image of G-d He created him.” Yet the end of the sentence alters the story. It informs us that “Male and female he created them.” Two creatures, male and female, were created by the Divine.

But there is a yet a second account of the creation of Adam and Eve. “G-d cast a deep sleep upon the man, and he slept; and He took one of His sides and closed the flesh in its place. Then G-d fashioned the side that He had taken from the man into a woman, and He brought her to the man.[1]

“And the man said, ‘This time it is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh. This shall be called ‘Woman’ (Isha), because she was taken from ‘Man’ (Ish).’ Therefore, a man shall leave his father and his mother and cling to his wife and they shall become one flesh.”

The contrast is astounding. In account #1, man and women are created simultaneous, “Male and female did He create them.” In account #2, man is created alone. Only afterward does G-d cast a sleep on him and performs a surgical separation, in which one side of Adam’s body is separated and built into a distinct female body, whom Adam then embraces as his counterpart.

Did G-d create two people, a male and female, or did He create one person, and then through surgery took a part of Adam and crafted it into the first woman? And even if you will find an answer, why does the Torah appear to contradict itself so blatantly? Why would any author write in such a way?

The Critics

Bible critics love using this as a proof that the text had multiple authors. They missed the point. The Bible was not meant to serve only as a factual chronicle of ancient tales, but as a blueprint for human living. If paradox, tension and contrasts are intrinsic to human existence, they must pervade the pages of the Bible, whose tales and stories are to be understood also as metaphors embodying the timeless journeys of the human spirit.

Instead of approaching the Bible with intellectual subtlety and existential depth, many critics employed shallow and narrow methodology to judge the Bible, depriving themselves of its profound richness. They remind one of the town’s fishermen who announced to the townspeople that the fish in the town’s stream were no smaller than ten inches. His mistake? He used a net with holes the size of ten inches. The tools you employ to determine truth will define the barometers of the truth you will discover.

This inconsistency concerning the male-female creation, too, is no exception. It was intended to capture the tension surrounding human intimacy. Relationships, the Bible is hinting at us, are fraught with paradox.

Siamese Twins

The Talmudic, Midrashic and Kabbalistic tradition resolve the contradiction thus:[2] Adam and Eve were originally created as a single bi-gendered creature, with male and female halves fused together like Siamese twins. That is why in account #1 we read that “G-d created Man in His image, in the image of G-d He created him; male and female He created them.” Did He create Him, or did He create them? The first human being, the first Adam, was made up of two components, male and female, joined together by their backs. The “Him” and the “Them” were one.

In the second account, G-d causes an anesthetic sleep to descend upon this bi-gendered creature and then surgically severs its halves, creating two separate and freestanding entities. One bi-gendered body becomes two; one bi-gendered soul is split into two. Man and woman become separate creatures, who are then brought together in the union of a marriage.[3]

The two accounts of the male-female creation, then, are not contradictory; they delineate a two phased program in the development of humanity. In the first phase, man and woman constitute one organism that is comprised of masculine and feminine faces and identities. The two are united, physically, mentally and spiritually. Then, in phase two, they become separate beings; their unity is now a matter of volition, not nature.[4]

Why a Complicated Process?

But if G-d desired man and woman to become two distinct genders, as He ultimately had them became, why did He create them as one and then separate them? Why didn’t He initially create them as two separate people, just as He did with all other animals, creating them initially in pairs of male and female?

The answer is this:[5] If G-d had initially created man and woman as two distinct individuals, as He did with all other living organisms, marriage would have been a superimposed reality, alien to the innate composition of men and women. Marriage would have constituted a denial of self. It could have still worked, to be sure. Infatuation, romance, love, companionship, the desire for children, could compel the self to move beyond its own boundaries and connect with the alien other. Yet ultimately, these considerations would need to override the solitary nature of man, and when the two conflict, as they do so often, nature must prevail.

In truth, however, man and woman uniting in marriage is an expression of their deepest natural identity; it is an expression of their truest and most essential condition, a reassertion of their original composition when they both came into existence as one.

Marriage is not a suspension of one's natural individual self for the sake of uniting with a stranger. On the contrary, in marriage man and woman return to their natural and pristine state—a single being comprised of two halves. Marriage is the ultimate act of self-discovery. In uniting with my spouse, I re-unite with myself, with my second half. When I am angry at my spouse, I am angry at myself; and when I fight with my spouse, I am at war with my very own soul.

(This does not mean that without a relationship with the opposite gender you are defective and dysfunctional. Once G-d separated the two, each was given an independent physical and spiritual identity, which they ought to maximize independently of each other. However, since the initial and essential persona of mankind is a conglomeration of masculine and feminine energy, men and women are empowered to touch their profoundest core self when they learn to join up with their opposite gender.)

Why the Separation

Why then did G-d separate the first male-female Adam into two distinct persons? If He wished for Adam and Eve – and their male and female descendants -- to be one, why didn’t He just leave them conjoined?

Such an arrangement would have made life easier. If each of us were born with our marriage partner at our side, we wouldn’t need to spend years searching for the right one. And during our lives together, the woman would not have to worry why her husband hasn’t called for a few hours, nor would she wonder when he would come home. He would also not be able to shirk responsibility and run to the computer while his wife was in the kitchen... Where she is, he would be.

The answer is, because every relationship requires three stages: oneness, separation, followed by a new, deeper oneness.

Originally, although man and woman were one, this was compulsory, not volitional. Joined to each other in creation, they had no choice but to relate to each other. Think about how you would have to treat a Siamese twin. Every motion of each of the twins would require consensus. If not, you’d be pulling each other in opposite directions and your lives would become unbearable. The relationship between such twins is a result of creation, not celebration; a matter of fact, not of choice. If it was up to your choice, you would sever the bond.

Similarly in a marriage, couples are often strongly connected to each other. They understand the consequences of ignoring the reality of their partner and feel the effect of each other constantly. But this is a connection formed under duress; they feel stuck with each other.

Only with the separation of Adam and Eve into distinct entities can the component of choice become a possibility. Man and woman are now able to choose each other willingly and passionately. Volition and enthusiasm can now replace coercion and neediness. They become capable of seeing the other as an independent human being outside of themselves and truly respecting and appreciating the other one as an independent human being.

Their separation allows them to unite in a far deeper fashion.

Or to quote Genesis, following the separation of Adam and Eve into two distinct humans: “And the man said, ‘This time it is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh.” He realizes that the woman is truly a part of him. “Therefore,” the Torah concludes the episode, “a man shall leave his father and his mother and cling to his wife and they shall become one flesh.”

Three Stages

In summation, we have three stages: Dependence, independence, and interdependence.

Stage #1: Natural, complete oneness, not by choice, but by nature. Adam and Eve are linked by their backs; they are completely dependent on each other. Where I go, you must go.

Stage # 2: Surgical de-coupling, known in our sources as the “nesirah,” the act of separation of the genders. Now, man and woman can each go their own way and live independently.

Stage # 3: Two free human beings choose to build a relationship together. Knowing that initially they were one, they view their voluntary covenant with each other as an expression of their deepest and truest self, notwithstanding the sacrifices entailed in a relationship. They come to realize that as much as they can achieve on their own, it is through a relationship with the other that they can touch a far deeper part of themselves and become all they can become in life.

I Know Her

A story:

An elderly man would take a long bus ride each morning to an old age home, where his wife of many decades lay in her bed, frail and almost immobile, suffering from Alzheimer's disease. At 8:30 a.m., the time they would always eat breakfast together, this man would show up at the home, sit with his wife, feed her and talk to her.

One morning a nurse approached him and said, "You really need not bother to make this long trip each morning. Unfortunately, she does not recognize you any longer."

"You are right," the man replied. "But I still recognize her."

The Secret of Feminism

These three phases subtly articulated in Genesis are reflected in the history of gender relationships throughout the millennia.

For thousands of years, marriage was compulsory. Man was made to feel that he must provide for a spouse and children and run a family. This was his mission. The woman was made to feel that she must get married and mother a family. This is her only calling and constitutes her identity. Her value would be as an extension of her husband – a conceptual reenactment of the original creation of Eve as attached by her back to Adam.

Comes Feminism. “Women need men like fish need bicycles,” became a feminist slogan, suggesting that men are superfluous to women's needs. A revolution occurred. Its core message: Woman of the world! Forget the dogmatic role imposed upon you to “wife” and to “mother.” Allow not the dogma of millennia to hinder your success and future. Become your own person. Be like the men. Build a career, make something of yourself; you are an individual, independent of marriage and family.

This – historically speaking – was a reenactment of stage two in the Adam-Eve drama: Separation. Adam and Eve are two separate people; they can go their own ways and do their own thing.

The concept worked. A new generation of men and women emerged with the view of marriage as completely voluntary. Even for those who married, divorce became a common option. No more are you compelled to stick it out in a marriage; there is life before and after your marriage.

But is that all? Have we reached the peak of civilization? With all the blessings of Feminism we have also seen the heartbreak of many a woman – and many a man -- who, now older in years are filled with remorse. How many women have shared with me their regrets for sacrificing on the altar of Feminism their most profound yearnings and dreams – to be able to love endlessly, to embrace children and grandchildren, to travel through life with a partner and soulmate. How many have expressed in recent years their feelings that in the name of individual liberation they became mimickers of men instead of finding their own true soul?

Where do we go from here? History is a one-way road. So what’s next?

Here is the historical and Divine brilliance of Genesis: Feminism represents stage two in the Adam-and-Eve drama which is only a preparation for stage three in the story. Once Adam and Eve have been completely separated, they are empowered to discover the deepest relationship imaginable, one born from inner conviction and passion.

Our society is yearning today for this stage – a renewed passion in relationships, but this time around not based on coercion and social pressure, rather on our inner realization that marriage and family constitutes our deepest truth. Or to quote Genesis: “And the man said, ‘This time it is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh … Therefore, a man shall leave his father and his mother and cling to his wife and they shall become one flesh.”

The Secret of Secularism

The same three stages are reflected in the relationship of society with faith.

As we know, the world changes during the last 300 years. In the beginning everybody was religious, if only in very primitive ways. People were superstitious and believed in all sorts of relationships they had with G-d or with the gods. Sometimes these links were deeply perverted, skewed, and erroneous, sometimes not. But it was an essential part of human life. Few knew of anything else. The so-called gods were part of our reality. Read the Bible and you will witness the enormous temptation for idolatry among the ancient peoples, including the Israelites.

At a later period (in the 4th century and in the seventh century CE) the Monotheistic religions – Christianity and Islam – swept the world. But the world remained religious. This was a millennia-long reenactment of stage one in the relationship between Adam and Eve, which is seen in the Kabbalah as metaphoric of our relationship with G-d.

After thousands of years, following the Reformation and the Renaissance, a new voice emerged in human consciousness. It was the voice of modernity, secularism and a world-perspective completely divorced from religion. In the beginning of the 18th century, Enlightenment was born. Hobbes, James, then Voltaire and Roseau – the fathers of Western Enlightenment changed the way of man’s thinking. Suddenly, Adam and Eve did not need each other any longer. They can find happiness within themselves. Suddenly, man was severed from G-d. In Nietzsche’s words: “god is dead.” The new focus was now on individuality, self-actualization, and self-awareness.

(Interestingly, the phrase about women needing men like fish needing bicycles was coined by Irina Dunn, an Australian educator, journalist and politician, who coined the phrase back in 1970 when she was a student at the University of Sydney. She paraphrased the philosopher who said, 'Man needs G-d like fish needs a bicycle.' Apparently, on some level, the two notions are connected.)

This was the historical expression of stage two in the Adam-Eve drama. No religion and no authority could impose its dogmas on the free man and woman. Man was emancipated from the chords tying him to G-d, just as Eve was once emancipated from her knot with Adam.

But is that all? Have we reached the zenith of civilization? If we banish G-d from our new Garden of Eden will the world finally heal?

With all the blessings of modernity, we need G-d. The more modern science and physics are progressing, the more we are discovering the infinite and paradoxical mind at the core of the cosmos. What is more, If we believe that humans came about by accident, then life has no meaning. There can be no meaning to something that happens by chance. A random explosion or mutation cannot give us purpose. Whether I live a good life or one full of evil makes no difference. It is all a big accident anyway. We only have purpose if we were created on purpose. If we teach our children that they were created on purpose with a purpose, then they will know that more is expected from them than from an animal.

Jewish mysticism teaches that the centuries of the new secularism are essentially the reflection of stage two in the Adam-Eve story, serving as a catalyst for stage three in which we use the freedom given to us to choose a relationship with G-d, realizing that this relationship is not about dogma or coercion, but rather the ability for the human being to touch his or her deepest core.[6]

This is our calling today.[7]

[1] You may be wondering why I quoted the biblical text as saying that the female body was built from Adam’s side. What happened to the “rib” version? Well, the Hebrew term employed here for “side” (tzela) could also be translated as a rib, as some commentators do indeed translate it. This is also the King James translation, and thus the Christian version. But it is not the Jewish one: most Jewish biblical commentators, including sources in the Talmud, the Midrash and the Kabbalah – as well as Rashi -- reject the “rib” version, proving from various biblical references that the term employed here denotes a side, not a rib.

Here we can appreciate yet once again the problems of translation.

[2] Talmud Berachos 61, Eiruvin 18, Midrash Rabah Beresishis 8:1, Rashi, Zohar.

[3] מדרש רבה בראשית (ח, א): בשעה שברא הקב"ה את אדם הראשון אנדרוגינוס בראו (=ביוונית: אנדרו-זכר, גינוס-נקבה), הדא הוא דכתיב: "[בצלם אלקים ברא אתו] זכר ונקבה ברא אתם" (בראשית א, כז). אמר רב שמואל בר נחמן: בשעה שברא הקב"ה את אדם הראשון דיו פרצופים בראו, ונסרו ועשאו גביים גב לכאן וגב לכאן.

[4] The truth is that one needs not the oral interpretation to reach the above conclusion. A literal in-depth reading of the biblical narrative clearly indicates this. The Bible states that the first woman was created from the male’s body. But the Bible also states, in total contrast, that man and woman were created initially together. The only way to reconcile this paradox is by assuming that the first woman was created together with man as part of him. Then, in stage two, G-d separated the two integrated beings and built the woman into an independent person. They started off as one and were than separated into two.

[5] See Ramban.

[6] This was a thtme in many of the writings of Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak Kook, Israel’s first chief rabbi.

[7] This essay is based on many Chabad discourses on this subject (Hemshech Rosh Hashanah of 5670, and 5709.) Cf. Sichas Shabbos Shleach 5749, July 1, 1989 (Sefer HaSichos 5749,vol. 2 pp. 536-540). Shichas Shabbas Vayeishev 5752 (1991), and Michtav Kelali to Rosh Hashanah 5728. Sichas Shabbos Shleach 5750 (1990). Likkutei Sichos 21 Parshas Yisro. Sichas Purim 5730 (1970).

Please leave your comment below!

  • C

    Candace -1 year ago

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  • M

    Mendel -4 years ago

    It is fascinating.

    I think it is a paradigm for many areas of development, maturity and spirituality – having said that I now should try to figure out which ones and how to achieve the goal of synthesis between an objective reality, the challenge/resistance  to that idea and the realization that we work at parallel levels and at times there is convergence and at times one or the other takes the primary role ( if only temporarily) hope this makes sense  

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  • RH

    Rob Hodges -4 years ago

    Dear Rabbi Jacobson,

    This is thought provoking. I don't think I ever considered the two accounts to be in conflict. God created man, male and female he created them. I never understood this as simultaneous creation. He created the race of men ( men being a generic term) and in the detail, man then woman. I'm not sure it implies simultaneity. It could still be man, then woman. If I go to a pottery class and I make a cup and a saucer and someone asks me what I did: I made some crockery, a cup and a saucer. It doesn't imply I did the cup and saucer simultaneously.  Also, as a christian, I have Paul's words to justify the man being the head of the woman. He said that Adam was created first and then Eve.

    This said, I like the idea of a primal unity which we return to in marriage to find our deepest sense of being. 
    more thought and study needed.

    best wishes

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  • LG

    LEVI GERLITZKY -4 years ago

    Amazing

    Great article. The lessosn of the century 

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  • Anonymous -4 years ago

    According to the opinions that Adam and Eve were created as one in siamese fashion, after the separation why was the male piece the primary one? 

    Additionally, while society has embraced the feminist model of not "needing" marriage making it ripe for the third stage of getting married because you want to, frum society is still pressuring/forcing marriage on their children leaving them stuck in stage one.    

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Rabbi YY Jacobson
  • October 25, 2019
  • |
  • 26 Tishrei 5780
  • |
  • 2206 views
  • Comment

Dedicated by Abraham Sher, for a Refuah Shlema of Chana Rachel bat Eliza

Class Summary:

Tradition teaches that Adam and Eve were originally created as a single bi-gendered creature, with male and female halves fused together like Siamese twins; only afterward did G-d surgically severs the halves, creating two separate and freestanding entities.

But why this whole complicated procedure? Why not create them initially as two separate creatures? Because every relationship requires three stages: oneness, separation, followed by a new, deeper oneness.

These three stages capture the entire process of history: in the beginning everybody was religious, if only in very primitive ways, filled with dogma and coercion. Then modernity and secularism swept the world, severing man from G-d; now we are ready for the third stage: true integration.

And the same in gender-relationships. In the beginning, women were second class; then came Feminism and Women’s Lib, severing the marriage and family unit; now we are ready for a new and deeper relationship-model.

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