Mending the World of Patriarchy

Genesis 1 is an account of the Creation, whereas Genesis 2-3 is an account of the creation of patriarchy--a remarkably truthful account.

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Genesis 1 is an account of the Creation, whereas Genesis 2-3 is an account of the creation of patriarchy--a remarkably truthful account. The world brought about by Genesis 2-3 is one in which desire is no longer joyful but oppressive. Even before the disobedience, relations between man and woman and world are commodified and function-based. Adam is created to till the soil. Woman is created to help Adam.

However lush, the garden is a workplace. Created things are good, not intrinsically as in Genesis 1, but because they are resources. The Garden is described as prime real estate, rich in water and in trees, and adjacent to lands rich in gold and gemstones. Everything is viewed extractively. The forbidden fruit is presented as the epitome of desire in terms not of intrinsic value but of what it is good for: "good to eat," "alluring to the eyes," "desirable for insight" (3:6).

Woman's desire for man ensures her subjugation and her anguish (3:16). Man's desire is nor even mentioned. He is exhausted by the effort to pull from the ground what can be consumed before descending into the ground and being consumed by it. Adam and Eve are alienated from each other, from the earth, from their labors, from the rest of creation.

The world of patriarchy cries out for mending. A mending world would commit itself to equality and power-sharing, to working cooperatively in order to fill needs and solve problems. At one again with rest of Creation, perhaps we would even learn not resent our mortality so bitterly. Reunited also rest of creation, men and women could learn again to be "loving friends"--as the traditional rabbinic wedding blessing portrays them.

The product of fourteen years of work and the contributions of more than 100 scholars, theologians, poets, and rabbis--all of them women--The Torah: A Women's Commentary is a landmark achievement in biblical scholarship and an essential resource for the study of the Bible. For more information or to order a copy, visit URJBooksandMusic.com.

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Rachel Adler

Rachel Adler, a feminist theologian, earned a Ph.D. in religion and social ethics from the University of Southern California jointly with Hebrew Union College, Los Angeles, where she now teaches.