(Breslau, Erev Shabbat Bereshit, 5777)
As I stood before the men and women—seated separately—in Wroclaw’s (formerly Breslau)’s Orthodox synagogue, I took a deep breath and began my D’var Torah for Kabbalat Shabbat Bereshit.
After sharing how much it meant to me to speak in the city from which my wife Vickie’s mother and family fled the Nazis in 1936, I said:
“This Shabbat we begin our Torah once again and read how God—from the beginning of time–created men and women to be equal.
Our Sages teach that the Eternal One created the man’s “ fitting partner” (Genesis 2:18) by creating her not from his head to be above him, not from his feet to be beneath him but from his side to be his equal and from near his heart to be loved.”
After Eve courageously opted for a life of purpose and meaning by eating (Genesis 3:6) the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge, God announced that the future would be different because they were now aware of what their sexual organs could do. The Eternal One said:
“Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall be like you. (Genesis 3:16)”
NO! Not “He shall rule over you,” but, “He shall be like you!”
The Torah does not lie, and everyone knows that a man’s desire for his wife is as least as strong as hers for him.
When the rabbis want to compare things that are alike they say:
משל (mashal) A comparison: What is the matter like?
So here the root משל does not need to connote rule or dominance. It connotes a similarity a comparison.
It connotes equality.
God’s desire from the time of creation was for men and women to be equal.”
I first used this translation in my D.Min dissertation at Vanderbilt in 1992. Before submitting it I discussed it with Rabbi Alexander Schindler, of blessed memory. When he gave it his enthusiastic endorsement, I ran with it and have ever since. It appears again in print in my new book ToraHighlights (pp. 12, 13)
When I look at our world, I believe that this translation is not just a homiletical twist. Rather I believe that God commanded us at the moment of creation—and continues to command us today— to view the relationship between men and women as one of equal partners working together to make our world a better place than it is now.