Select Page

Perfect Mates

With this week’s Torah portion, Bereishit, we begin again the yearly cycle of reading through the entire חומש, the Chumash, or Five Books of Moses. In the second chapter we are introduced to two very special pairs of mates. God specifically engineered these mates to spend their entire lives and existences together. It is the development of these two pairs of mates that is the underlying subject matter of the entire Torah from beginning to end. What are they and how were they brought about?

The first pair of lifelong mates we come across is none other than Adam and Eve. Unlike the creation of the rest of the animal kingdom, it is interesting to note that they were not initially created together as mates. Rather, Adam had to go through a discovery process by which he would come to recognize that first, he did not have a mate and second, he desperately needed a mate. This process is cryptically recorded by the Torah here in Chapter 2, verses 19-24.

At a traditional Jewish wedding, 7 blessings are recited during the second part of the ceremony following the reading of the “Ketubah,” the marriage contract. The endings of those last two blessing are identical with only a change of one word. The 6th blessing ends, “Blessed are you Hashem who gladdens the groom and the bride,” and the 7th ends, “Blessed are you Hashem who gladdens the groom with the bride.” In marriage, which represents the optimal situation for every man and woman, each mate is to be perfected and enhanced by this relationship. The groom is gladdened, and the bride is gladdened. That is the essence of the 6th blessing.

But with the 7th blessing we are told of a different dimension and purpose in marriage. The mating of these two individuals also has the potential of making a new unit, an entity of “bride with groom, groom with bride,” a married life together. This unit has the potential to achieve things that as individuals they would never be able to attain.

Chava, or Eve in English, which means the mother of all life, was designed perfectly so that each of them, Adam and Chava, would attain their full potential. As well, they would become a new and special unit together, marked for great things in God’s creation. The Torah goes on to recount the significant contributions to God’s world made by their progeny, in particular, the eventual development of the remarkable Jewish nation, who are direct descents of their son Seth.

However, there is a second existence created by God, chapter 2:1-3, which is also in need of a mate. “And God blessed the 7th day, and He sanctified/hallowed it…” All the classical Torah commentators are bothered by this verse and the introduction of Shabbat at this point in the Torah’s narrative. After all, Adam and Chava were not commanded to keep Shabbat.

Rashi, on the words, “He blessed, and He sanctified it,” say these words are referring to the future, when the manna would fall for the Children of Israel in the desert. They were “blessed” with a double portion of manna falling every Friday, and the 7th day was “sanctified/hallowed” by virtue of the phenomenon that no manna would fall on the Shabbat. According to Rashi, built into the creation was the miracle of the manna that would take place every Friday and Shabbat for the Jewish people. The Torah is informing us from the get-go that there would be a very special relationship created in the future between the Shabbat and the Jewish people.

The Ramban, Rabbi Moshe Nachmanides, takes issue with Rashi. He maintains this verse is not referring to some future miracle. Rather, Shabbat is a unique purposeful creation by God as part of the very creation of the universe. The Ramban writes, “… the Shabbat day is the fountain of blessings and constitutes the foundation of the world. ‘And He sanctified it,’ that Shabbat draw its sanctity from the Sanctuary on high.” According to the Ramban, the Torah here is teaching us that the Shabbat has some metaphysical, intrinsic quality. He goes on to quote the famous Midrash, “Why did He bless the Shabbat? Because it has no mate. And God said to the Shabbat, ‘… the Children of Israel with be your mate.’”

When did the Shabbat and Israel mate? At Mt Sinai when Moshe received the Torah. The Midrash relates “God told Moshe that He has a special gift to give the Children of Israel out of his treasury in His storage house. It is called Shabbat.” We refer to this gift every Shabbat during the Shabbat morning prayer, ישמח משה במתנת חלקו, “Moshe rejoiced in the gift of his portion…”

As with any marriage, each mate gained from the relationship. Shabbat now had a people to proclaim God’s mastery and ownership over the universe by virtue of being its Creator. The Jewish nation, for their part, would have one day a week to disengage from physical creativity in order to establish a special day completely designated for coming close to the Creator. Shabbat then is a special and intrinsically unique day set aside by the Creator from creation of the universe exclusively for the Jewish people. We mention this fact every Shabbat in the morning prayer, ולא נתתו לגויי הארצות, “And He did not give it (the Shabbat) to other nations of the lands.” Only together, Shabbat with the Jewish people, will God’s metaphysical purpose in creation come to fruition, something that cannot be accomplished if they remained apart.

As embark we on a new year and new cycle of reading the Torah, let us commit to using this gift of Shabbat not only to renew our weekly vigor but to use it as the opportunity it was created for, to bring us closer to our Creator. Thereby, not only do we gain individually, but we become partners with God, participating in bringing about His ultimate metaphysical purpose for the world.

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Robert Kaplan

Join Our Mailing List!