Biblical Surgery; or, The First Jewish Doctor

I want you to know that the “Jewish Doctor” part is pure tongue-in-cheek.   G-d is not Jewish.  He’s for everyone!

That said, if you look into Genesis 2:7-8, you will see an amazing thing:

“And the LORD GOD formed the man, dust from the earth;

Va’yi-PACH beh’ah-PAV nish-MAT chayYIM va’ya-HEE ha’aDAM le’NEFESH chay-YAH

And He breathed into his mouth the Spirit of Life and the Man became a Living Being.”

I’ve transliterated the Hebrew here, because if you read it through a couple of times you will see that it has the actual rhythm of breathing!

What are we seeing here?

“And He breathed into his mouth the Spirit of Life…”

The very first CPR!  Divine CPR!  The Breath of Life!

In fact, in Hebrew, the word for soul is neSHAmah, and the word for breath is neshiMAH!  It is the breath that keeps us alive, and it is the Divine Breath that gives life to the First Human.

Not that the world wasn’t populated with tons of living beings already.  This Divine CPR happened on the Sixth Day of Creation, after everything else was ready and in place for the final touch: Man.

But whoops, there was something missing!  In Gen. 13:18 G-d notices that the Man is lonely: every other creature has a mate, but not Adam.  (Adam is one of the Hebrew words for “man” or “person”.)  So G-d says, “It’s not good for the Man to be alone; I will make him a helper against him.”

Huh?  Helper against him?  What is that supposed to mean?

There are multiple ways to interpret this phrase.  Marriage, as we know, is very complex.  At best, the partners have each other’s backs: they are holding each other up, leaning on each other: they are against each other, giving support.

On another level, they challenge each other, ideally bringing out the best in each other, like good sparring partners.  They are not out to hurt each other, but to energize one another.  Have you ever had a partner who gave in to everything you pushed for, who buckled under adversity?  Yech.  I want a partner who is able to push back when I push, not to shove me away, but to challenge me to grow as a person.  This is a helper against me.

So the very next thing G-d does, in verse 19, is to bring all the birds and beasts to Adam, and ask him to give them all names.  Now, we Hebrews believe that names have very special powers: the name is the essence.  So when parents name a baby, they are temporarily imbued with Divine Insight, to know the child’s soul and intuit the child’s real name.

So it says in the verse, “And the LORD GOD formed from the earth every beast of the field and every bird of the heavens, and He brought them to the Man to see what he [the Man] would call them; and what ever the Man called each living creature, that was its name.”

Now, the Jewish Bible has four levels of interpretation: 1)literal, 2)giving a hint that something is hidden there, 3) explication, 4)hidden knowledge.  And for each level, there are miles and miles of commentaries.  I am going to skim over two layers of commentary here, exploring what this business of naming might be about.

The juxtaposition of G-d musing over the idea of giving Adam a mate, with having Adam name all the creatures, is a hint that in order to name something, Adam had to know that creature intimately.  But wait!  Doesn’t intimate knowledge….knowledge in the Biblical sense, as in “Adam knew his wife and she conceived”….could it be that…..?  Some Kabbalistic sources say yes!  Adam was looking for his mate, as is supported by verse 20, “…he gave names to all the beasts, and the birds of the heavens, and all the creatures of the fields, but for the Man he didn’t find his helper against him.”

So some sources say that Adam “tried out” every creature in the literal sense, but did not find his mate among them.

But there is a higher (and more palatable) interpretation of the expression “to know intimately.”  It is that in order to really know someone, you have to be so empathetic that you actually come to know their inner soul.  In fact, it’s as if you are that person, for a time.  You’re really “walking in their shoes.”  And that, says the Zohar, which is the core text of all Kabbalistic knowledge, is what Adam was really doing.  He was melding souls with every creature so that he could intimately know its essence, in order to know what its true name should be.

Now, having been one with all the creatures of the earth (kind of like a Vulcan mind-meld), and not finding his own mate, G-d had another solution, in verse 21-22: “And the LORD GOD cast a tar-DEH-mah** (deep sleep) over the Man and he slept, and He took one of his ribs, and he closed the flesh where it had been. And the LORD GOD built the Woman out of the rib that He took from the Man, and brought her to the Man.  And the Man said, This One is bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh.”

The first surgery.  

What’s going on here?  If G-d is all-powerful, etc, etc, why couldn’t He just create a First Woman for the First Man?  Why did He have to take a chunk out of the Man?  And why on Earth did He put the Man under general anesthesia first, when He could have just **whack** taken out the rib and closed the wound and that was that?

Did G-d just want to be the Primordial Anesthesiologist?  He already knew CPR, so why not?

Stay tuned…..

**The word “tardemah” is still in use in modern Hebrew.  It means “anesthesia,” of course!


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  1. I LOVE the CPR reference! I love your thoughts on the helper against me, its’ a new way of thinking about marriage that never occurred to me before.

    • I used to have a radio show in Jerusalem called Holy Healing. Every week my challenge was to come up with connections from Scripture to healing. I can’t wait to share some of this stuff with you! If you’re interested, my shows are in the archives at Radio Free
      Nachlaot. I might post one of them some time.

      The “helper against me” idea(s) are
      all from commentaries and my
      teachers. Glad it’s relevant to you!

      • I really love how the Hebrew appears to breathe. There is a scientist who is really into the mystical numerology of the Bible named Chuck Missler who shows the most amazing signs with numbers in the original Hebrew texts (and the original texts in the NT as well). It just goes to show that there is so much in the Bible to study aside from the words and stories.

  2. PsiFiGal

     /  January 3, 2014

    I’m enjoying these lessons, I love learning new things. I hope you keep them going! The thought of Adam “trying out” every creature first is just…. well I don’t know what to say! I’m curious, why do you spell his name G-d? Omitting that one letter?

    • I’m glad you’re enjoying them! And thank you very much for asking that question. I was hoping someone would ask! In Orthodox Judaism, we take G-d’s Names very seriously. Each one (there are 72) has a special energy. It is as if when the Creator wants to accomplish something, He does it by means of a specific energetic thought-form, and the Names of G-d are those thought-forms. So because the Names are so powerful, out of respect to them and in hopes of not using them in vain, we alter them slightly when we write them. There are alternate spoken forms also. I imagine we will encounter one very soon…. And even though “God” is NOT a sacred name in itself, it has come to be used like one, so the convention is to alter it in some way, like G@d, for instance.

  3. So cool!! I want more!! 😀

  4. I really enjoy these translations. I was molded as evangelical Christian adult but have known there is so much more than the basic repeatative hallelujah fit and redundant door dawning habits which were taught to me. Not everyone in mainstream has the guts to dig deeper and though I may be chastised for it, I am thankful for knowing we really are all one. At least that is how I feel anyway! Blessings!

    • Hey Ms. Holly, glad you’re having a good time here. Did you know that Hallelujah means “Praise G-d”? I bet you do. For anyone who might not, here it is: The Hebrew “hal” means “halo” (Yup. That IS where we get “halo”) and “hallel” means “praise.” The “lu” part makes it masculine. “Yah” is one of the Names of G-d. So you have “Hallelu-YAH” meaning “Praise the “YAH” aspect of G-d.” This Name refers to an aspect called “Master of the World.”

      What’s “door dawning”???? And who would chastise you for knowing we are all one? It’s the truth!

      • Door Dawning Habits. My translation of “you better show to the house of G-D or be condemned.” When I first came to know Christ it all was rules and regs and a political totem pole. You were either in the anointed group or sit down and be submissive to the preaching. and anything out side if a normal Pentecostal dance, smack down or “holla'” wasn’t of G-D if it differed from the last Sunday service. I learned a lot in those days. My Lord showed me His grace and Love. And His power of which He allows me to now possess. Not as in equal to G-d of which we humans are not but like Reiki stuff. POWER to be transformed. BUT what I love the most is my mind transformation. I took off guilt and shame and have fell In love with what I am learning about all the cool Ancient Ways. (Respectfully speaking). I am but a drop in the vast bucket but have found that much of what I speak has the power either to create life or destroy. So much to see and learn now… I am overwhelmed by the Love of the Creator. Even on days when I know I am a doof…. Thank you for your blog. Thank you!

        • Wow, Holly, the Pentecostal thing is wild. There’s a lot of Pentecostal churches where I’m living now in North Carolina. Yeah, the political totem pole kind of negates the whole idea of all being equal in the eyes of the LORD. I tried to be a Quaker for five years and even that turned out to be too political for me. And that’s not to say that most Jewish congregations aren’t the same way. Luckily for me I found one in Israel that is accepting and just as joyful in prayer and praise as any Evangelical church I’ve ever been in (yes, I explored everybody else’s religion before investigating my own LOL)

          I love your transformation. It’s wonderful that you are OWNING the power that G-d gave you to use. For me, one of the big lessons of the Matriarchs and Patriarchs is their determination to transform negative energy into positive energy.

          Blessings to you!

  5. This is fantastic and I’m an atheist. Maybe it’s the ex-Catholic in me. My name doesn’t have any healing meanings but is plucked right out of the bible. Rachel. With Ann being my middle name. (I took elizabeth as my “confirmation name”.) I digress, I love your translations (with interjecting some humor) and that you know Hebrew. How fun.

    • Oh, but your name is VERY important! It was plucked out of the Bible–and everyone in the Bible has very important names. “Rachel,” or Ra-KHEL as we say it in Hebrew, was Jacob’s first love. I won’t spill the beans too much, because I’m planning to tell that story soon. But the name Rakhel itself means a special kind of sheep that is bright white from being washed. In the Bible itself, the word Rakhel is never used when describing sheep. The only place it appears is in the Song of Songs, or Song of Solomon, which is a verbal dance between two lovers. The male voice speaks of his love’s white teeth as Rakhelim, fresh from the wash. Rakhel herself was tough yet giving and loving. I have often been to her tomb, which is located in Beit Lechem (Bethlehem). We have had to build a walled above-ground tunnel in order to get there without being killed. It’s an amazing experience to sit in Rachel’s Tomb, even if you’re an atheist! By the way, a funny story: A person comes up to one of our great Hassidic sages and says: I don’t believe in God.
      The sage looks up and smiles and says, That God you don’t believe in-I don’t believe in either!

      • oh, I know the story of Rachel, Leah’s sister. If I remember correctly, she was Jacob’s true love but was sent away in order for Leah to bear Jacob’s children but Leah was barren. (my memory is rusty so I may be off) It is one I read over and over as a little girl, but I love your more in depth translation and knowledge of who she was and the proper way to pronounce Rachel in Hebrew. I always thought it meant “little sheep” which I always disliked. I’m like a giddy little girl right now listening to you.

        • oh wait, it was the opposite. It was Rachel who was unable to conceive! But Jacob continued to work…I think 7 years…in order to have her.

          • Right, the story is that Jacob and Rachel fell in love and her father agreed that they could get married after Jacob worked for him 7 years. But at the wedding her father substituted her sister Leah! I’ll write a whole post on this. Anyway, Jacob eventually got Rachel too. Although Rakhel DOES mean a sheep, actually a ewe, the numerical value of Rakhel (in Hebrew letters) is 238, which is also the numerical value of the word barzel, which is iron. So it shows us that although Rachel had the gentle ways of the ewe, she also had a will of iron.

  6. Fascinating Laura. I’m loving this. Looking forward to the next installment. Thank you. Susan.

  7. Love this! Laura, this is brilliant stuff! Do you mind if I print it out to share with a study group? I would include your name and the web address, of course.

    • ((blush)) Thanks, Rabbi! You’re welcome to use any of my material, with the caveat that you give credit to my teachers, Rabbis Avraham Sutton, Sarah Yehudit Schneider, and R’Sholom and Judy Brodt of Yeshivat Simchat Shlomo. Everything I know comes from their teachings, and from a handful of other excellent Torah teachers in Jerusalem. My name is Liebe Feiga Schulman.

  8. bpnana

     /  January 7, 2014

    Keep one going, my dear, we really dig it!!! Love Nanaxx


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