And we start anew – at Bereshit. The Jewish yearly cycle brings us back to the beginning, to Genesis, to prehistoric times. Again, after completing the Book of Deuteronomy, we return to the first of the five books of the Bible, to the first Torah portion and to its first verse: “In the beginning of God’s creation of the heavens and the earth.” Somewhere, way back when, everything began. The world was created, water was created, along with the heavens, earth, plants, trees, animals and man.
The story of Creation can be read in many ways. For thousands of years, it has been analyzed, examined and studied in a myriad of methods. It is no wonder. The story of Creation contains the richness of all of creation. In just a few words, in a few dozen verses of restrained excitement, the Scriptures tell us everything. All the great secrets, all the hidden answers – it is all concealed in this story of mysterious glory: “And God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light.” The most prominent theme in the story of Creation is God’s opinion of it. We read the sentence “And God saw that it was good” seven times. God, the Creator of the universe, attests before us that the creation is good. It is possible that we might have to occasionally make an effort to reveal this goodness, but it is there.
Is there anything “not good” in creation? Yes!
And the Lord God said, “It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helpmate opposite him” (Genesis 2:18).
What is not good is loneliness. This must be solved. And, indeed, the solution is the relationship between man and woman, the “helpmate opposite him” that God creates.
It is important to note: God could have prevented this problem in advance, but that was not what He wanted. God created man with a problem, with an essential lack of wholeness. That was how we were to learn that this problem, the issue of loneliness, can be solved by the marital bond.
What is the problem with loneliness? Undoubtedly, it is a significant cause of depression. So, we ask, what is it about human companionship that is so vital to a person? Why is a lonely person an incomplete person?
When we delve into the significance of the phrase “a helpmate opposite him,” we might be momentarily taken aback. The solution to loneliness is the marital bond between man and woman when their basic stance is not identical but, on the contrary, is one “opposite” the other. Man and woman face each other and see reality differently from one another. The solution, therefore, is not to find someone like me to share my life with, but to find someone “opposite” me to share my life with.
A person who is not open to someone else’s perspective on life is a lonely person, even if he or she has many friends. A person who is not willing to hear a different opinion loses out on the richness of life, on the tremendous multitudes of thoughts and feelings. Loneliness is hard because people were meant to be open, ready to acknowledge and accept differences. Man was not created for himself, but to look into the eyes of another and be with them, together, in their life.
In the words of Rabbi Yitzhak Arama (Spain 1420-Italy 1494): “God’s wisdom saw it fit that the bond of man and his wife not be [centered] on the sexual relationship alone, like the other animals, but, rather, they should have a unique personal relationship that would strengthen their love and friendship, to draw full and complete support from each other in all their concerns, as befits them. This is what is stated: ‘It is not good that man should be alone’ – that is, that each male and female should be independent, like the other animals, which do not need each other’s companionship” (Akeidat Yitzhak 8).
Parashat Bereshit does not deal with commandments. It deals with what precedes the commandments, with the human background of the laws. In order to be committed to commandments, we must be human beings.
Relationships create humaneness, make our half into a whole, so long as we cherish and respect differences, the essential “opposite” for which we live together.
The writer is rabbi of the Western Wall and holy sites.