Weekly Parsha


Before us we have two people; both of them are the image of God.
Rabbi Avital Hochstein is a faculty member at the Shalom Hartman Institute and has learned, taught, and done research at the institute for more than 15 years. In 2016, she was among the first recipients of rabbinical ordination from the Shalom Hartman Institute / HaMidrasha at Oranim Beit Midrash for Israeli Rabbis. Avital is currently working on her Ph.D., focusing on Talmud, in the Gender Studies Program at Bar Ilan University. Avital is President of

In other words wherever there is distinction, complexity, or a mixing of categories, the Mishnah used the language of derakhim/ways. Wherever there are no distinctions and there is no complexity, the Mishnah uses the language of devarim/things. It turns out that the use of the word derekh/way itself points to there being more than one way to perform a marriage, more than one way to achieve the same state. And perhaps, more than one way to look at the union of marriage itself.

The conclusion that emerges from the Talmudic discussion is thus both fascinating and touching. The use of the word derakhim itself testifies to a different perspective regarding the topic under discussion – in our case, marriage or partnership. Partnership, according to this understanding is, in fact, a derekh, in the sense that it is a compound. Its fruit has the characteristics of all of its components. Its characteristics stem from its multiple parts. This type of partnership isn’t the story of one incomplete person who is made whole, a person who will never be complete until all of its characteristics flow from one unitary source.

Rather, it is a story of combining and grafting, a process of creating a new entity characterized by the components of its different parts. This type of partnership emerged from the description of humanity in Genesis 1, “God created Adam in His image, in the image of God He made him, male and female He created them. God blessed them. God said to them, Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth.”

Before us we have two people; both of them are the image of God. There is no primary one out of which the second was created. The encounter between two people is thus not the result of one partner’s lack that the other one fills. There is no one who serves or completes the other. Maybe there are circumstances in which the encounter is between two who are separate and equal. This encounter is not meant to return one partner to its original perfect state, but rather to forge two unique individuals into a new creation, combined and composite.

Indeed, the verses echo and say that this encounter generates new entities, “be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth.” The blessing inheres in the combination of two, both of them are the image of God, yet both of them are distinct from one another. Each has independent value. When they meet fruitfulness is created, a fruit that is not a faithful copy but something entirely new, a combination of two who are separate and different into a fruit that is itself distinct.

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