By Rabbi David Aaron
If I were to sum up all of Kabbalah (and Judaism in general) in just a one word I would say—LOVE. It is all about loving each other and loving G-d. It answers the ultimate question: How to love?
In trying to share the Jewish answer to this question, we are going to take a look at the basic unit of love that most of us can relate to on a concrete level: the love between man and woman.
In the very opening sentences of the Torah we are told that the first human being was created in G-d’s own image. And what was that image? The first human being was actually a man and a woman — a single entity that included the two sexes. Genesis Chapter 1, Verse 27 reads, “And G-d created man in His own image, in the image of G-d created He him; male and female created He them.”
The first human being was both male and female. And in this union of the sexes, in this oneness of opposites, the first human being reflected the image of G-d—a oneness that includes otherness and yet remains one.
This is a very important concept. A lone individual does not reflect the image of G-d; an individual in unity with another individual does. As we discussed last week, in the Kabbalistic picture of creation the light of G-d is described as a oneness that includes an otherness. So until an individual makes a space to include another, and allows that other to do the same, we do not have the oneness that reflects the image of G-d.
The Torah records that after the human being was created, G-d said: “It is not good for man to be alone.”
G-d determines that the human being needs “a helper,” but it is a while before Eve is created. Instead, all the birds and animals are created and the human being is asked to name them. At the conclusion of which, the Torah tells us that he did not find a helpmate.
What does naming the creatures have to do with finding a helpmate?
Well, the Midrash, the oral tradition of the Torah, has the answer. The Midrash explains that what was really going on was that G-d was playing matchmaker. G-d was fixing up the first human being with all the animals in the garden. And Adam was going out on dates. Well, imagine Adam standing there in the lobby of the Paradise Motel. He is waiting anxiously and who walks in but … “That’s a … that’s a … elephant! That’s an elephant! Wow. This won’t work, G-d.”
Poor Adam. He was surrounded by all these animals but he wasn’t happy. Now why couldn’t he be happy with an attractive giraffe or a cute little chicken? Because an animal is subordinate to man; it’s not his equal. In fact, Adam was commanded in Chapter 1, verse 28 ” and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” Adam cannot overcome his loneliness and find true love with a subordinate being over whom he rules.
The Torah is very clear in describing an appropriate spouse. G-d said, “I will make a fitting helper who is “kenegdo” — against him, opposite and parallel to him.” In other words, G-d will create for him someone who, in a very positive, respectful way, will stand opposite him and engage him on parallel ground.
An animal may be a great help to man in doing his work, but an animal cannot be the significant “other.” You will not be ultimately satisfied in the quest for love unless it is with someone you acknowledge is your equal, and whose difference you respect; an other. And an animal is not “an other” — not in an equal, parallel way.
You can not overcome loneliness and achieve true love with an animal, because an animal
is subordinate and when you — if you’re a man – are looking to get married, you are not looking for a woman who is subordinate, who has no mind of her own.
Of course, that’s not to say that some insecure men would prefer not to be challenged. I have heard guys advise each other “Get yourself a young girl, one you can mold.” And yes, a man might find someone young and vulnerable and try to make this woman fit his ridiculous fantasy of a wife who considers him the lord and master. But he will only make his life harder as a result. His will be a very lonely existence, and he will sorely miss the engagement that a “helpmate kenegdo” would have provided, an engagement that is so essential in the process of spiritual growth. All the sadder, because, in this way, he will deprive himself the opportunity of being the living manifestation of G-d expressed through the ability to love, making a space within himself to include a unique “other”.
A relationship of dominance does not express the image of G-d, it is not the image of love, it is not making a space within yourself for other and giving of yourself to that other. Only when two people give to each other and help each other within a relationship of mutual respect and inclusiveness can they receive the gift of love, the everlasting divine light of love.