Copyright 2009 by Gary Konecky, 2010  by and Gary Konecky, and 2011 by Gary Konecky

Up until now I have discussed introductory material and background material.  Now it is time to look at specific verses in an effort to come to an understanding about what the bible says about sexual orientation.  It seems only appropriate that I start in the beginning with the story of creation and the allegation that:  “G-d made Adam and Eve and not Adam and Steve.”

In an amazingly terse 27 verses that open the Book of Genesis, we are taken: from nothingness through the creation of day and night; heaven and earth; dry land and seas; vegetation; the sun and moon; creatures that swim, walk, and fly; and ultimately the creation of man and woman.  Nowhere in this account is the seeming contradiction of day and night being created in the first day and the sun and moon being created in the fourth day explained.  Nowhere is it specified how long those first days and nights (the days and nights that preceded the creation of the sun and moon) were.  No reason is given for the creation of man, nor is a purpose given for creation.  This is not a text that calls for a literal interpretation as Bible literalists and religious fundamentalists claim.  This is a text cries out to us with mysteries.  This is a text begs us to explore its secrets.  This is a text invites us to come and meet our creator. 

Let us start out exploration with Genesis 2:18.  The accurate translation of the original Hebrew is: 

And the L-rd G-d said, "It is not good that man is alone; I shall make him a helpmate opposite him." (note 1)

The more common and inaccurate translation is:

The L-RD G-d said, "It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him." (note 2)

Some of you will look at these two very different translations and say the accurate translation makes no sense and that the inaccurate one makes sense.  This is a mistake.  The unusual wording and the seemingly contradictory phrasing in the accurate translation provides the clues that will allow us to ponder the mysteries and reasons of why we were created and what our creator wants from us.

All the other creatures had male and female created at the same time; yet Adam was created by himself.  Later, a female companion was created for him.  Why was this done?  Why was a female created at all?  What is her purpose?  What does “I shall make him a helpmate opposite him" mean?

Lets start our exploration of this verse by breaking the verse into its components.  First, we are told:  “And the L-rd G-d said, ‘It is not good that man is alone…’” Why is it not good that man is alone?  Again, the choice of words used in this phrase is crucial.  The phrase says it is not good that man is alone.  It does not say that it is not good for man to be alone.  The distinction between that and for is critical to our understanding this verse. 

Rashi, the great Torah commentator and Jewish sage explains this as follows:  

It is not good, etc.: [Gen. Rabbah] Lest they [people] say, “There are two dominions: the Holy One, blessed be He, is alone among the heavenly beings, and He has no mate, and this one [man] among the earthly creatures, has no mate.” (note 1)  (note 3)

If G-d has no mate and Adam has no mate, it could be interpreted that G-d rules heaven and man rules earth.  This would mistakenly elevate man to being equal to G-d or that there were two Gods, G-d and Adam.  It could also mean that there are domains, each with its own ruler.  Any of these interpretations contradicts the understanding of the one G-d who rules heaven and earth.

Let us now study the rest of this verse:  I shall make him a helpmate opposite him."  Why a helpmate opposite him?  Is this not contradictory?  Why a verse that seemingly contradicts itself?  Again, let us turn to Rashi’s commentary: 

a helpmate opposite him: If he is worthy, she will be a helpmate. If he is not worthy, she will be against him, to fight him. — [from Gen. Rabbah 17:3, Pirkei d’Rabbi Eliezer , ch. 12. See also Yev. 63a]  (note 1)

With this we discover several important facts.  The first is that an accurate translation is crucial to our understanding of the text.  The second is that we must be willing to search for the meaning of the text.  Lastly, we learn the reasons behind the creation of woman and with that knowledge comes an understanding of how our own intimate relationships are supposed to function (helpmate opposite us). 

Now that we understand why it was not good that man be alone (Genesis 2:18), let us turn to the verses Genesis 1:27 and Genesis 2:21-22.  Here we have two passages that because of their being out of chronological order seem to contradict each other.  Here is one of many proofs that we will encounter that teaches us that the bible cannot be taken literally.  Taking the bible literally and taking things out of context is the slippery slope that will end in Rev. Mel White’s analysis that “Over the centuries people who misunderstood or misinterpreted the Bible have done terrible things.”

Now lets us explore the creation of man and woman.  Genesis 1:27 says: 

And G-d created man in His image; in the image of G-d He created him; male and female He created them.  (note 4)

What does this verse mean?  What is it here to tell us?  How can we all look different and be in the image of G-d?  How can males and females, or people of different races, all look like G-d as implied in this verse? 

The Talmud (Sanhedrin 38a) teaches us:

“For if a man mints many coins from one mould, they are all alike, but the Holy One, blessed be He, fashioned all men in the mould of the first man, and not one resembles the other…”   (note 5)

That said, how are we created in G-d’s image?  Are there other things this verse is here to tell us?  To answer these questions, let us turn to Genesis Rabbah 8:11:

R. Joshua b. R. Nehemiah said in the name of R. Hanina b. R. Isaac, and the Rabbis in the name of R. Leazar said: He created him with four attributes of the higher beings [i.e. angels] and four attributes of the lower beings [i.e. beasts]. (1) [The four attributes of the higher beings are: he stands upright, like the ministering angels; he speaks, like the ministering angels; he understands, like the ministering angels; and he sees, like the ministering angels. Yet does not a dumb animal see? But this one [man] can see from the side. (2) He has four attributes of the lower beings: he eats and drinks, like an animal; procreates, like an animal; excretes, like an animal; and dies, like an animal. R. Tifdai (3) said in R. Aha's name: The celestial beings were created in the image and likeness [of G-d] and do not procreate, (4) while the terrestial creatures [dumb animals] procreate but were not created in [His] image and likeness. Said the Holy One, blessed be He: ‘Behold, I will create him [man] in [My] image and likeness, [so that he will partake] of the [character of the] celestial beings, while he will procreate, [after the nature] of the terrestial beings.’ R.Tifdai said in R. Aha's name: The Holy One, blessed be He, said: ‘If I create him of the celestial elements he will live [for ever] and not die, and if I create him of the terrestial elements, he will die and not live [in a future life]. Therefore I will create him of the upper and of the lower elements (5): if he sins he will die; while if he does not sin, he will live.’

(1) Lit. ' He created in him four creations from above and four from below.’

(2) He can direct his gaze at an object sideways, without turning his head, which an animal cannot do.

(3) He is mentioned only here and infra, XIV, 3.

(4) Like G-d Himself.

(5) His body of the earth and his soul of heaven.   (note 6)

Having discovered that people are created with the attributes of heaven and earth, it now seems a good time to explore why people were created with good urges and evil urges.  To do this, let’s look at Genesis Rabbah 9:7, which tells us: 

Nahman said in R. Samuel's name: BEHOLD, IT WAS VERY GOOD refers to the Good Desire; AND BEHOLD, IT WAS VERY GOOD, to the Evil Desire. Can then the Evil Desire be very good? That would be extraordinary! But for the Evil Desire, however, no man would build a house, take a wife and beget children; and thus said Solomon: Again, I considered all labour and all excelling in work, that it is a man's rivalry with his neighbour (Eccl. IV, 4).(2)

(2) It is the Evil Desire which in the first place inspires this rivalry which leads to great efforts.--One may triumph over his human failings by turning even them to noble purposes.  (note 6)

Our attributes of good and evil are further commented on in Sifre Deuteronomy 6:5, which comments on Deuteronomy 6:5.  Deuteronomy 6:5 (as discussed in part four of this series) command us as follows:  “And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might.”  Sifre Deuteronomy explains that all your heart means the good urge (inclination and desire) and the evil urge (inclination and desire). 

Now that we have a working knowledge of the meaning of Genesis 1:27, lets skip to Genesis 2:21-22:

And the L-rd G-d caused a deep sleep to fall upon man, and he slept, and He took one of his sides, and He closed the flesh in its place. And the L-rd G-d built the side that He had taken from man into a woman, and He brought her to man.  (note 1)

Wait a minute!  We were just told in Genesis 1:27 that G-d had created male and female humans, so how is it that now in the very next chapter we are told about the creation of woman?  Is this a different creation?  Is this a replacement for the woman from chapter 1?  If so, what happened to the woman from chapter 1?  Is there anything here (in a heterosexual creation story) that relates to the LGBTI community? 

When I discussed how to interpret the Bible, I said that if verses are out of chronological order, it is to teach us something; that there is a reason the passages are out of sequence.  We must now search for that deeper meaning. 

As we read Genesis 1:27 with the teachings of Genesis Rabbah 8:11 in mind, the meaning of Genesis 1:27 becomes clearer and opens up the possibilities that come from our being made with the attributes of higher beings and lower beings.  All of creation except man was created by G-d speaking.  Man was created from heaven (G-d’s breath) and earth.  Woman was created from the man.  All the other creatures had male and female created simultaneously.  Man was created without female initially to teach us that we are here to serve G-d, and that man alone could accomplish this.  Now that man has a helpmate opposite him, they should be able to work together and serve G-d all the better. 

What is the significance of Eve being created from Adam?  Is this of any importance to the LGBTI community? 

Previously, I lead you through the laborious process by which the Hebrew Bible is interpreted and in this installment we working our way through that complex process.  Now we are about to see the first fruit of that labor. 

Lets see what Rashi had to say in his commentary to Genesis 1:27:

male and female He created them: Yet further (2:21) Scripture states: “And He took one of his ribs, etc.” The Midrash Aggadah (Gen. Rabbah 8:1, Ber. 61a, Eruvin 18a) explains that He originally created him with two faces, and afterwards, He divided him. The simple meaning of the verse is that here Scripture informs you that they were both created on the sixth [day], but it does not explain to you how they were created, and it explains [that] to you elsewhere. — [from Baraitha of the Thirty Two Methods , Method 13]

(note 4)

Rashi teaches us that Genesis 1:27 informs us that Adam and Eve were created.  Rashi then explains that the details of the creation of Eve are given later, in Genesis 2:21-22.

Rashi also explains that Adam (prior to the creation of Eve) had two faces (male and female) and that G-d divided them to create Eve.  Lets now look at one of Rashi’s sources, Genesis Rabbah 8:1:

R. Jeremiah ben Eleazar said: When the Holy One created Adam, He created him hermaphrodite [bisexual],166 as is said, "Male and female created He them167 . . . and called their name Adam" (Gen. 5:2).

R. Samuel bar Nahman said: When the Holy One created Adam, He made him with two fronts; then He sawed him in half168 and thus gave him two backs, a back for one part and a back for the other part. Someone objected: But does not Scripture say, "And He took one of his ribs (mi-tzalotav)" (Gen. 2:21)? R. Samuel replied: Mi-tzalotav may also mean "his sides," as in the verse "And for the second side (tzela) of the Tabernacle" (Exod. 26:20).169

Footnote 166

Normally androgynos means one who has both male and female genitals; but here it means two bodies, male and female, joined together.     

Footnote 167

Thus Adam was originally male and female.     

Footnote 168

Thus Eve was created out of half of Adam's body and not out of a mere rib (Leon Nemoy).     

Footnote 169

Gen. R. 8:1.    . (note 7)

What is interesting to note is that the rabbis in this discussion are exploring not if Adam was male and female, but how Adam was male and female.  The only point of disagreement is that of the unnamed person who is concerned because the plain text of the bible mentions rib and not side.  R. Samuel addresses this concern by explaining how the Hebrew word used can mean rib or side.  R. Samuel explains this by citing the use of the same Hebrew root word as used to mean side in Exodus 26:20 as his proof. 

That said, it does not matter if Adam’s two faces were back-to-back, or side-by-side, or if Eve was a creation from Adam’s rib, or was a creation from Adam’s side.  The reason I say this is because in each of these understandings, Eve somehow came from Adam.  If Eve (a female) came from the original Adam, then somehow the original Adam (the Adam before the creation of Eve) had to have male and female attributes.

Now lets try to apply this to LGBTI people.   The heterosexual society in which we live defines very rigid gender roles.  Maybe, the rigid gender roles that society imposes on the LGBTI community are not what G-d intended when he first created Adam.  Maybe all the fuss and bother over sexual orientation and sexual identity is not G-d’s will.  Perhaps LGBTI people with their unique blends of male and female attributes are closer to G-d’s intent as expressed by G-d in the original Adam.  

Note 1:

Note 2:

Note 3:  For additional information, see pages 26-27 of The Metsudah Chumash / Rashi, Volume I, Bereishis, by Rabbi Avroham Davis, copyright 2006.

Note 4:

Note 5:  The Soncino Talmud, Judaic Classics by David Kantrowitz, Version 3.0.8, Copyright 1991-2004, Davka Corporation. 

Note 6:  The Soncino Midrash Rabbah, Judaic Classics by David Kantrowitz, Version 3.0.8, Copyright 1991-2004, Davka Corporation. 

Note 7:  THE WORK OF CREATION AND THE FIRST GENERATIONS, Man - Section 60, from The Book of Legends Sefer Ha-Aggadah, English Translation © 1992 Schocken Books, Inc., CD-ROM Version © 1995-2003 Davka Corporation. 

The reason I used the translation of Genesis Rabbah 8:1 from Sefer Ha-Aggadah and not the Soncino Midrash Rabbah was that Sefer Ha-Aggadah provides a clearer explanation of the dialogue between the unnamed party and Rabbi Samuel.

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