There is only one thing in creation that is lo tov—no good. Creation is good. The light is good. The grains, grasses, fruit trees, and vegetation are good. The sun, the moon, and the stars are good. All the swimming and flying things are good. All the creeping, crawling, prowling, tree-swinging animals, including armadillos, porcupines, ant-eating sloths, wild boars, heritage pigs, and free-range whatevers are good. All is good.There is only one thing in creation that isn’t good. God takes a look at the Adam and God says, “Lo tov—It is not good!” The Adam is all alone.
Everything in creation is perfect when created. There is only one in creation that is not good. The Adam is not good because the Adam is all alone. Now you will protest that the animal, every animal is created male and female. And Adam is created male and female. The animal is male and female in order to reproduce. The same is true for the Adam animal. Adam has a biological reproductive partner, a physical pleasure partner. Only the Adam, alone of all animals, has an additional need of another, a human. One cannot know the self without knowing the other. The other is absolutely like the self, and at the same time, in his or her uniqueness, utterly different and distinct.
Everything in God’s creation is entire and complete unto itself. Only the Adam is incomplete, not good. Relationship is where the Torah begins. Until he has one Adam is lo tov. The most intimate of all expressions of the attachment of one human to the other is the kiss. God kisses the Adam into being. The moment God creates the Adam, unlike everything else in creation, God looks at Adam and declares lo tov, not good.
As soon as Adam learns that he is alone he knows he is incomplete. God creates Eve. Thus the Torah tells us: Hence a man leaves his father and mother and clings to his wife, so that they become one flesh. (B’reisheet 2:24) The Adam knows that without Eve he is not good. He knows he is alone. He knows that he has to search for his partner. In companionship the Adam becomes tov.
God, too, is alone. That is not tov—good. God calls out to Adam and Eve in one word, “Ayeka—Where are you?” Before ‘I love you,’ one has to cry out ‘where are you?’ One has to search for the other.‘Ayeka—Where are you?’ is when creation becomes good. God is the first one to ask ‘where are you’. Ayeka, ‘where are you,’ is the awareness of absence, of something missing in the self.It is in this awareness, that family and community and society are built. Creation is not good, incomplete without relationship between man and woman, and God and person. One cannot know the self without knowing the other. Judaism is the only religious civilization which says that one cannot be fulfilled without this encounter and its creation of family.
The One God sets out to create the human in His tselem—image. There should have been only one type of human. There is not. When God creates, God endows each type of human with only a portion of the divine image.It is in the encounter between man and woman, in that relationship, that the full image of the One God is realized.Therefore, when God looks at the created Adam, God declares lo tov, this is no good.Thus we now understand a critical distinction between Judaism and all other religious civilizations. At the foundation of all other religious civilizations there is a revelation to one person, to a man. In the Torah it is God who summons Abraham and Sarah, and it is at Sinai that God addresses a whole people, men, women, and children. God meets and the Torah is given only to those in relationship with others.
It is not that life is best lived, or most happily lived, or most satisfying in and through relationships. In the Jewish tradition it is far more than that. Life is relationship. The Torah is about the normal things of this world and quite simply the place in which the Torah is lived and realized is in relationship.
Rabbi Yehiel E. Poupko is rabbinic scholar of the Jewish United Fund/Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago.