Saturday, May 24, 2008

The Creation of Eve ("The Jewish Way")

Comparing patriocentricity to the practice of Orthodox Judaism according to Rabbi Maurice Lamm in “The Jewish Way in Love and Marriage

Groups such as the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood offer teachings that include the concept that women bear the status of the “indirect image of God.” Women are defined derivatives of man, and some of the “hard complimentarians” and the patriocentrists use this speculation and theory to support many of their other gender-related views and practices. Women are seen as lesser creatures than men, both morally and by their essential essence. An extension of this concept maintains that women need a male head in order to fully bear the Word and Glory of God, and some Christians infer that women must have a man intercede for them before God and for them to live a holy life in a proper way.

As I prepare to conclude this series of blog posts, demonstrating that women hold certain rights of autonomy and self-governance within marriage under traditional, conservative and orthodox Jewish law, I would like to offer these concepts regarding the creation of Eve. These concepts and traditional theories differ vastly from many of the patriocentric and hard complementarian teachings within Evangelical Christianity. (And let me remind the reader that the Apostle Paul was an impeccably trained Pharisee, if not a “Pharisee's Pharisee” who knew and kept the law with as much perfection as was possible for any man. He was an academic expert in all things Jewish in his day.)

In an undergraduate course taught by a nationally known Jewish leader and rabbi and in some contrast to what Lamm cites in his book, I was taught a different understanding of the “deeper meanings” of the names of man (ish) and woman (ishah). In Genesis, just before Sarai and Abram conceive Isaac after so many years of waiting, God changes both of their names by adding the Hebrew letter (“H” which is pronounced “ah”) . Some verbal traditions within Judaism identify the “ah” with the life of God, the very breath of God and the fire of passion, as is noted in the traditional expression of la kayim, “to life!”. God is said then to have breathed His own life into both Sarah and Abraham which is what actually caused them to conceive Isaac (and the breath of laughter?). A similar Yeshivite tradition holds that YHWH did the very same thing with the creation of ishah (woman), by breathing the “ah” into her as indicated by her name and title. Woman is then, in a poetic sense and after this Yeshivite tradition, “from man” with God's own creative life and passion “added” to her, endowing her with the creative ability to bring forth life from her womb. That rabbi actually said “woman is man with God's breath of fire.” Again, this is not part of Scripture directly, but in keeping with good hermeneutics, it is an instructive piece of information regarding how Jews view different meaning within their own traditions and other distinctions of their Hebrew language.

(Another cool thing that I may never get to mention talks about the words for “Noah” and “grace.” Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord, and if you hold the Hebrew letters that spell Noah up to a mirror, the reflection spells “grace” in Hebrew. Nearly completely off topic but a very lovely element of this Yeshivite tradition.)

Please read about the speculation of some rabbis as they ponder the significance of the creation of Eve and please compare these ideas to some of the modern teachings such as those from CBMW and the patriocentrics. I don't know that I would use the same terminology that is used here, but there is just as much evidence to support the view that Adam, prior to the creation of Eve, contained both the masculine and feminine, and that feminine element was separated from Adam when God created Eve.

From Pg 119:

Rabbi Joshua ben Korha said that man at first was called Adam to indicate his natural constitution – flesh and blood (dam). But when woman was created, the two were referred to as fiery (esh) – living, dynamic beings. God insinuated Himself into the marriage, then added two letters of His own name, Y and H, to the names of man and woman. He inserted the Y into the man’s name, turning esh (fire) into i-Y-sh (ish,
man); and H into woman’s name, making i-sha-H (ishah, woman). The Chronicles of Yerhameel (6:16) comment on this: “If they walk in My way and observe My commandments, behold My name will abide with them and deliver them from all trouble. But if not, I will take the letters of My name from them, so that they will revert to esh and esh, fire consuming fire.” Hence with God and a partner, marriage is a blessing, ish and ishah. Without God, it can become esh, an inferno where man and woman devour each other.

From Pg 125:

Intimacy, according to Jewish tradition, requires yet another stage of independence – independence in the very midst of intimacy. Ramban notes that the Bible goes out of its way to say not only that a helpmeet (ezer) was provided Adam, but that the positioning of that helpmeet opposite (ke’negdo) him was important. “Perhaps man was created bisexual... but God saw it would be good for the helpmeet to be opposite him. He would then be able at will to separate from her and join her...” A contemporary scholar, Gerhard von Rad, believes that in a circumstance of intimacy, “opposite” implies a mirror image of oneself, in which one recognizes oneself in the other. That is certainly desirable and very often true of long and successful experiences of intimacy. But Ramban, and with him a host of other commentators, reads the biblical “ke’negdo” as literally opposite, as some popularly refer to the “opposite sex”. Opposite, to Ramban, implies not a reflection of one another, but one distinctly different from the other – independent, yet intimate... A deeper understanding of the nature of nonsexual, mature relationships will reveal the requirement of both components – ezer as help, and ke’negdo as opposite. Perhaps this depth of understanding is behind the Yiddish folk saying that husband and wife are like lulav and strog, the palm and the citron, two vegetable growths totally unlike in appearance that achieve meaning only when held together for the blessing on the
Festival of Tabernacles.

In the next post:

Neglecting the blessing and the shaming of “ishah” as a consequence of “militant fecundity.”

Copyrighted material quoted here
under fair use for educational purposes from
by Maurice Lamm. San Francisco, CA: Harper and Row, 1980