Bereshit 5778

D'var Torah | Genesis

In his book entitled Doesn’t Anyone Blush Anymore? Rabbi Manis Friedman, psychologist and father of fourteen children, writes that the key to the resurgent popularity of marriage since the last quarter of the twentieth century is intimacy. Nevertheless, he argues, there is an “intimacy crisis.” Part of the crisis inheres in the very way we use language to avoid and even obscure real feelings. People would once say they were “dating.” That word sounded much like a geological term, something a scientist would use in analyzing the origins of some rock formation. (‘I am dating Eve’ – and perhaps with a little luck and some Carbon 14 I’ll be able to tell her true age.)


So things changed. A subsequent term for couple-hood developed. Dating turned into “going with someone.” Everyone was going out but that didn’t tell you what was going on. Then “going with someone” was replaced by “seeing someone.” (‘I’ve been seeing a lot of her lately.’ – But if she buys some less revealing clothes that condition will change.) “Seeing someone really didn’t convey the exclusive and private nature of the relationship. He is seeing her but I see her too.


All this highlights the somewhat humorous euphemisms people contrive to convey intimacy while remaining polite. Even the Torah, argues Rabbi Friedman, follows suit. “And Adam knew his wife…” (Genesis 4:1). Since they were married, as it were, it was a good thing the pair knew each other. But clearly the context means they were intimate since children resulted from their knowledge. Their knowledge was not intellectual but carnal.


By using the verb “to know” when describing sexual relations the Torah reveals the secret of intimacy. Intimacy is the close knowledge of another person. No matter what physical activity in which a person engages, it is not intimate unless there is a certain closeness that results from awareness, sensitivity, and knowledge. Knowing is the beginning of intimacy. Adam and Eve may not be models of human responsibility but they are models of human intimacy without which human relations would be empty.


Words to Live By

What lies behind you and what lies ahead of you pales in comparison to what lies inside you.

– Ralph Waldo Emerson

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