Bereshit: Which Creation story to experience today?

androgynous Adam EveThe weather around Chicago this week has been particularly conducive to think in terms of new beginnings.  Crisp, clear, cool in the mornings and evenings…in a word, the perfect autumn days.  We are , in fact, at a place of new beginnings.  We are emerging from our deep personal time of reflection (Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur), and went out, literally, into the Sukkah.  We intentionally place ourselves within the natural world for a week, living under the fragile roof and temporary walls we put up for this joyous harvest festival.  And then, to come back round to the beginning, we turn and re-turn to the Torah, so we can re-enter the cycle that was put on hold for a few weeks.  We can begin with the great story of Creation.

Except that there are two stories of Creation.

Yes, if you read Genesis 1 and Genesis 2, you’ll see that there are two different stories of Creation. Oh, the basics are there…7 days, 6 days of creation, one day of rest, all the animals and finally the human beings.  But the differences about that last one – the human beings, both male and female, and their relationship to the earth – are really interesting.

In his book,The Lonely Man of Faith,  Joseph Soloveitchik says there are two “Adams”. Adam  One is from Genesis 1:26, the one who rules over the Earth, who can triumph over Creation.  Adam One can subdue and control nature. Adam Two is the one from Genesis 2:15, the one who was created to tend and keep the Garden, work with nature but not control it.

There are two Adam/Eve stories, too.  In both,  God created humans in God’s image, but in Genesis 1, we read that “God created them, male and female” (Gen. 1:27)  In Genesis 2:22, we get the whole narrative of how God didn’t think it was right for Adam to be alone, so when Adam was taking the God-nap, a woman was created from Adam’s side.  We get the whole Tree of Life and the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, the forbidden fruit, and making the choice for free will and curiosity.

Commentary on the first story speaks of that first human being as being androgynous – both male and female, that later, God had to divide this being in order to create the two genders.  In fact, one midrash explains that the male and female beings, though joined, were looking in opposite directions.  Only by dividing the being itself could the two parts turn to each other, really see each other, re-join each other, and move forward together.

The first story has man and woman created together and equal,  ruling over the natural world.  The second story depicts woman created after man,  in a more sharing, guarding role within the natural world.

Our modern tendency towards gender equality would have us favor the second Creation story, but our awareness of the fragile environmental balance would have us favor the first.  So what to do?

Use them as guides, as is all of Torah.  In your day to day, are you treating people equally,  no matter their gender or partner preferences, or perceived disabilities or status, like Creation One?  In your treatment of the Earth, are you being “Adam One” or “Adam Two”?   The Torah requires us to measure ourselves to its metrics.  We start the year over, we start the Torah scroll over, we start telling the stories again, all the while using Torah as a mirror.

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