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How The Creation Story Teaches Us About The Essence Of Man And Woman

Against the backdrop of rolling valleys and mountains, and a sun bathing creation with its warmth, creation awaits it finale. Adding infinite texture and destiny to the flow of life force of the fish of the sea, the livestock of the land and the birds of the sky, creation climaxes with the birth of humanity.

The dramatic course of the past six days culminates with the conception of Adam. Against the perpetual rhythm of creation itself, mankind represents its critical zenith.

As G-d breathes into Adam his first breath of life, born are the challenge and responsibility as well as privilege and destiny of all creation. On his shoulders rest the burden and the merit of making his world a home compatible for his Creator. As such, we would have expected Adam’s creation to be recorded in Bereishit as the peak event within a flowing story line. Interestingly, though, the birth of mankind is recorded as two almost separate and independent events, in two separate chapters.

Gen. 1: 26-28,31: And G-d said, “Let us make man in Our Image and Our Likeness. They shall rule over the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky and over the cattle, the whole earth and every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” So G-d created man in His Image, in the Image of G-d, He created him, male and female, He created them.

G-d blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, fill the earth and conquer it; and rule over the fish of the sea, the bird of the sky and every living thing that moves on the earth…”

The first Adam - created as male and female ? is created in G-d’s image. He is commanded to “conquer”, “fill” and “rule over creation.”

Gen. 2: 4-7,15,18,20-22: These are the products of the heaven and earth… And G-d formed the man of dust from the earth and He blew into his nostrils the soul of life and man became a living being… G-d took the man and placed him in the Garden of Eden, to keep and to guard it…G-d said, “It is not good that man be alone, I will make him a helper corresponding to him…

And man assigned names to all the cattle and to the birds of the sky and to every beast of the field, but as for man, he did not find a helper corresponding to him. So G-d cast a deep sleep upon the man and he slept, and He took one of his sides and He filled 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…

In the second account of humanity’s creation, we learn of a human being formed “from the dust of the earth” who is charged to “keep and guard” creation. In this version, we find the necessity of an independent “helper corresponding to him” since at this stage, “it was not good that man be alone.”

Much commentary has been written on the unusual and two-fold structure of mankind’s coming into being. Clearly, there are two versions to mankind’s creation, each accompanied
by an independent destiny.

The first Adam is a figure of will and contest. He is dignified in his mastery over creation, existing in the realm of victorious act. He is the ultimate conqueror. He rules with his strength
and through his conquest. Formed in the “Image of G-d”, he is commanded to “subdue,” “rule” and “conquer” the world. His role in creation is to banish the earthly darkness, impose rule and order. He acts through a hierarchy of domination and control in an active and aggressive effort to overcome the nature of reality.

He works the earth, beating it until its fruit emerges. He reshapes physical matter, winnowing, plowing and harvesting until he extracts its bounty. Never satisfied to just be, he breaks through new frontiers, searching for more. He develops, challenges and pushes creation to its limits – and beyond.

First Adam, the conqueror, draws down new potential and abilities-and G-dliness - from
the outside. In the second version, on the other hand, we are introduced to a receptive, loyal
and submissive being. He is separated from nature not by his dominion over it, but rather by
his covenant to “keep” and “guard” it. He is entrusted to redeem the world, to protect it. He
does not rule by authority or dominance, but rather by nurture and dialogue.

Formed “from the dust of the earth,” he relates to what is, rather than what is to become. He lives with a vision to make the world a home for his Creator, by uncovering the light already implicit within. He finds G-dliness within the world, rather than importing it from without and imposing it onto creation.

While the first man lives with the assertion of the will, the second lives with its extinction. The first masters the world, imposing a G-dly rule on creation. The second offers creation in humble dedication to G-d. If first man is a conqueror, then second man is a protector and
redeemer.

Interestingly, while woman is present at both accounts – “male and female He created them” – in the second version she comes into being as her own independent person, with her own destiny.

Up until this point, creation, including Adam, was “very good”. For in the realm of victorious act, woman did not play an independent or a primary role. However, in the redemptive, protective role, it becomes very evident that “it is not good that man be alone.” The keen necessity of an independent “helper corresponding to him” is born. Man, as ruler and master has need of an equally powerful and influential creation, “corresponding to him” to be charged with the sometimes contradicting, opposing or parallel redemptive role. She emerges in the form of Chava, Eve, or Isha, woman.

While both male and female are urged to “conquer” and subdue the negative aspects of
creation by imposing a G-dly order, the male takes the primary role in this act of conquest.
Similarly, while both women and men are entrusted with redeeming creation, nurturing and
uncovering the G-dliness, the female exemplifies this ability.

So, in resolving the apparent contradiction of emphasis between man as “dust of the earth” – humble dedication to G-d, and man as the “Image of G-d” – assertion of the will, woman and man undertake their respective advantages.

Though each role is integral to the Creator’s plan, and both man and woman are necessarily partners to both accomplishments, each role respectively assumes a stronger degree of emphasis. The internal rift between man “serving and guarding” and “subduing” becomes less of an inner tension as the male and female each assumes their arena of spiritual expertise.

The male affects the creation, by changing it, acting upon it and vanquishing its negativity. And the woman prepares the world to be a home for G-d by redeeming, protecting and discovering the light implicit within it.

And man and woman’s roles, missions or inner dynamics cannot be reduced to the other, and thus neutralized. Protection and nurturance requires the extraction of evil. Similarly, conquest requires a redemptive vision, and is ultimately validated by it.

But as the pages of our own lives turn, we too become active participants in this march of
life. We need to discover a model for synthesizing these two modalities in peaceful harmony.
In future articles, we hope to offer a practical approach to understand how to resolve this
duality between male and female.

Chana Weisberg is the author of The Crown of Creation and The Feminine Soul. She is the dean of the Institute of Jewish Studies in Toronto and is a scholar in residence for www.askmoses.com. She is also a columnist for www.chabad.org’s Weekly Magazine. Weisberg lectures regularly on issues relating to women, relationships and mysticism and welcomes your comments or inquiries at: weisberg@sympatico.ca.

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