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
Rabbi Yehiel E. Poupko is rabbinic scholar of the Jewish
United Fund/Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago.