Lord/Rabbi Johnathan Sacks Speech to Vatican

This speech was emailed to me. It is outstanding! The best speech presented to the Vatican that I have read on monogamy and marriage. My favourite part below.

"Since this is a religious gathering, let me, if I may, end with a piece of biblical
exegesis. The story of the first family, the first man and woman in the garden of Eden, is
not generally regarded as a success. Whether or not we believe in original sin, it did not
end happily. After many years of studying the text I want to suggest a different reading.

The story ends with three verses that seem to have no connection with one
another. No sequence. No logic. In Genesis 3: 19 God says to the man: “By the sweat of
your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were
taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return.” Then in the next verse we read: “The
man named his wife Eve, because she was the mother of all life.” And in the next,
“The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them.”

What is the connection here? Why did God telling the man that he was mortal
lead him to give his wife a new name? And why did that act seem to change God’s
attitude to both of them, so that He performed an act of tenderness, by making them
clothes, almost as if He had partially forgiven them? Let me also add that the Hebrew
word for “skin” is almost indistinguishable from the Hebrew word for “light,” so that
Rabbi Meir, the great sage of the early second century, read the text as saying that God
made for them “garments of light.” What did he mean?

If we read the text carefully, we see that until now the first man had given his
wife a purely generic name. He called her ishah, woman. Recall what he said when he
first saw her: “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be
called woman for she was taken from man.” For him she was a type, not a person. He
gave her a noun, not a name. What is more he defines her as a derivative of himself:
something taken from man. She is not yet for him someone other, a person in her own
right. She is merely a kind of reflection of himself.

As long as the man thought he was immortal, he ultimately needed no one else. But now he knew he was mortal. He would one day die and return to dust. There was
only one way in which something of him would live on after his death. That would be if
he had a child. But he could not have a child on his own. For that he needed his wife.
She alone could give birth. She alone could mitigate his mortality. And not because she
was like him but precisely because she was unlike him. At that moment she ceased to be,
for him, a type, and became a person in her own right. And a person has a proper name.
That is what he gave her: the name Chavah, “Eve,” meaning, “giver of life.”

At that moment, as they were about to leave Eden and face the world as we
know it, a place of darkness, Adam gave his wife the first gift of love, a personal name.
And at that moment, God responded to them both in love, and made them garments to
clothe their nakedness, or as Rabbi Meir put it, “garments of light.”

And so it has been ever since, that when a man and woman turn to one another
in a bond of faithfulness, God robes them in garments of light, and we come as close as
we will ever get to God himself, bringing new life into being, turning the prose of biology
into the poetry of the human spirit, redeeming the darkness of the world by the radiance
of love."


This part of his speech is very insightful of the esteemed rabbi. At first, however, I thought it also troublesome since it would appear that Adam is initially insensitive to his wife, treating her more as an object than a person. This seems contrary to the idea that Adam was created in the image of G-d. Then I recalled that in Judaism, women are viewed as more spiritual than men, which is why men need to follow more religious rituals and physical commandments so that their less spiritual nature can be tamed. Women, on the other hand, already possess much of their spiritual wisdom.

video and audio at:


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