Tolerate or Freeze to Death

Were you once totally united with another person?

That person could have been a spouse, a relative or a friend.

You may have been there for them. And they may have been there for you.

That unity, though, may have dissipated.

It might have started with an unfortunate incident. That might have sparked a regrettable comment. And then, perhaps, an angry retort.

And it just may have snowballed from there.

This may be your story.

And, on some level, this may be Adam and Chava’s story.

They, much more than us, had been so united with each other.

So much so that they’re portrayed as parts of one conjoined whole. It’s the following verse: “Hashem created him, male and female.”[1] In describing Adam and Chava, two people, as a single “him,” we’re portraying them as being two parts of one, unified whole.[2]

There, too, the unity broke. There, too, that break began with an unfortunate incident. And there, too, that unfortunate incident spawned a regrettable comment.

When did that break occur? What was that unfortunate incident? And what was that regrettable comment?

It all goes back to the sin Adam committed when he ate the forbidden fruit. That’s when Hashem reproached Adam as follows: “Did you eat from the forbidden tree?.” And that’s when Adam excused himself from sinning by claiming that he wasn’t at fault. Why not? Because, Adam claimed: “the woman that you gave me, she gave me and I ate.”[3]

By lodging that claim, Adam is blaming Chava. And in blaming her, he’s disuniting from her.

Here too, then, there’s disunity.

And here too, once there’s disunity, it just gets worse and worse.

We see that happening right after this incident.

That’s when Adam stops calling his wife by the name that she was given at creation – the “isha” name given to her when Adam said: “she will be called Isha.” [4]

This name speaks volumes about Chava’s exceptionally positive relationship with Adam.

Why? Because isha is the feminine form of “ish,” the Hebrew word for man. “Isha,” then, means “female man.” And calling woman “female man” identifies her by her connection with her husband.

Identifying her by that connection was appropriate when she and her husband were fully united with one another.

But it isn’t appropriate when she and her husband aren’t fully united.

And this explains why Adam - now that he’s disunited from his wife – renames her. Instead of calling her Isha, he now calls her Chava. That’s described in the following possuk where we read: “she’ll be called Chava (life) because she’s the mother of all life.”[5]

Woman’s new name doesn’t allude to her connection with man. And that’s appropriate now that she’s disunited from man.

These pesukim also suggest that this wasn’t just a short-term name change. And that’s because, from this point in time and on, woman isn’t ever called Isha. Only Chava.

Isha, then, didn’t ever become suitable again. And that’s because woman and man never fully reunited.[6]

And it isn’t just Adam and Chava who lost that unity. Humanity, in it’s capacity for marriage, also lost that unity. And that’s because Adam and Chava transmitted that disunity on to us. It’s the following: “Adam’s sin…caused wives to separate from husbands.”[7]

Which is why so many marriages – and so many other relationships - are marred by disunity. So much so that sometimes we can’t even longer even envision unity.

Which is why we need to follow the penguins’ path.

It’s the path that affords penguins unity and warmth even in Antarctica, where temperatures reach an unimaginable -144°F.

Penguins find that unity and warmth, even there, by forming massive penguin huddles. Those huddles, of course, unify them - because huddling is all about uniting. Those huddles also warm them. That happens through the pooling of body heat that huddling facilitates. And that let’s penguins survive Antarctica’s brutal winters.

No, it’s not easy for penguins to huddle. Huddling crowds them and presses them against one another. And that causes them pain.

They huddle, though, despite the pressure and the pains.

And that’s because they know that huddling pools their resources. And that if they don’t pool their resources, they’ll freeze to death.

And they don’t want to freeze to death. So they huddle.

Doesn’t this, then, make us like penguins?

Like penguins, we can join familial and communal “huddles.”

Like penguins, our huddles can pool our strengths and love.

Like by penguins, that pooling can warm and sustain us.

And like penguins, those huddles can also create pressure and pain. They do that because they press us against difficult people. Some of those people may say hurtful things. And some of them can have challenging personalities.

Some of us can’t deal with those pressures. So we exit the huddles.

That exit may, indeed, decrease certain pressures. But it will also decrease unity and warmth. And that may cause us to freeze to death.

Some of us, though, will accept the pressures – difficult as they may be - because we don’t want to lose the unity and warmth.

Yes, it’s often as stark as that.

Accept the pressure and huddle.

Or separate from the huddle and freeze.

Might it not make sense to accept certain pressures - if that allows us to remain in the huddle?

[1] Bereishis 1:27

[2] Ramban, Bereishis 2:24

[3] Bereishis 3:20

[4] Bereishis 2:23

[5] Bereishis 3:20

[6] Malbim ad. loc.

[7] Zohar 1, page 53

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