Sunday, January 7, 2018

Just one single human life

The entire humankind once consisted of just one single individual.

That individual was a non-binary transgender hermaphrodite, but also 100% male and also 100% female (depending on perspective, each being valid from that particular point of view.) [1]

That individual was not Jewish, nor of any other religious or cultural persuasion, nor was he/she/they atheist, agnostic, animist or theist.

The individual was transracial, and was neither liberal nor conservative. The person didn't believe in socialism or capitalism, or any ism for that matter.

This individual was as dark as the darkest-skinned person on earth, and as fair-skinned as the lightest-skinned person on earth. In fact, he/she was both the darkest-skinned AND the fairest-skinned person to have ever lived! He/she had both the curliest hair AND the straightest hair of anyone who had ever lived.

The individual was the oddest-looking and most-out-of-the-box creative person to have ever lived, but was also the most conforming, run-of-the-mill & average person who had ever lived.

This individual had the lowest IQ ever, but also the highest. More brilliant than the most intellectually-sophisticated human ever, but also as foolish as the least intelligent member of the species. He/she was actually the smartest AND dumbest person who had ever lived! The strongest AND the weakest. The healthiest and least-healthy. The most physically-fit and the least-fit. The fattest and the skinniest. The most-beautiful and the ugliest human who had ever lived.

The individual was illiterate and non-verbal with no one to communicate with, perhaps like someone who is on the spectrum.

The individual was an immigrant, forced to flee his/her place of origin [2], but also a native. He/she was both a stranger and a local, a settler and also indigenous. The establishment and the newcomer.

The person was neither heterosexual nor homosexual. The person happened to be sexually-deviant (by today's standards) [3] whose children all practiced incest [4], but was also a believer in monogamous marriage in the traditional Biblical sense! [5]

Needless to say, the individual was immodest and uncouth, didn’t keep any societal norms, wasn’t on social-media, and certainly didn’t wear fancy or dignified clothes. In fact, he/she/they didn’t wear ANY clothes. [6] The person was amoral, by today’s standards, [7] but was also pious, and at times, even self-righteously indignant and holier-than-thou! [8]

This individual was simply human, no more and no less, who suffered from fear, shame, guilt, dishonesty, denial, and was inclined to blame others for his/her own weaknesses, just like all humans who would ever live thereafter. [9]

This individual was one day old, but also a mature adult. He/she was both the youngest AND the oldest human who had ever lived!

I know this all sounds contradictory, but it was true! Or at least the Bible says so. [10]


So that no one ever come along and claim that any one particular human being's life or dignity doesn't matter.

So that no one ever dare suggest that a human being who is a one-day-old infant, or a hoary senior, or female or male or both or neither, conforming or non-conforming for whatever reason, or homosexual or heterosexual or nonsexual, or of any particular religion or culture or lack thereof, or of any level of intelligence or literacy or lack thereof, or of any level of cognitive ability or disability, or of any ethnic, political, or national background, etc. etc., so that NO ONE EVER dare suggest that this person's life doesn't matter.

That one person's life, even if that one person is ____________ (fill in blank with the human quality you find most abhorrent or least appealing), has infinite value, as much as that of all of humanity. No more and no less than the totality of all of humankind.

Save or sustain that one life, and it's as if you have saved or sustained ALL of humanity. [11]

Treat that person with compassion and dignity, and it's as though you have shown compassion and dignity to the entire world.

The way you regard that one individual is a reflection of how you regard all seven billion of us. [12]

It's a reflection of how you regard the entire Cosmos.

Look into that individual's eyes. It's a reflection of the entire universe. [13]

[1] Genesis1:27: “And God created the “Adam” in His image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.” Rashi: “’Male and female He created them?’ Yet further (2:21) Scripture states: ‘And He took one of his sides, etc.’ The Midrash Aggadah (Gen. Rabbah 8:1, Ber. 61a, Eruvin 18a) explains that He originally created (Adam) with two faces, and afterwards, He divided him.” The Midrash cited by Rashi describes the original human as being androgynous, male from one side and female from the other, connected by their backsides. The “removal of the side” (typically mistranslated as “rib”) in 2:21 refers to separating the single androgynous human into two distinct individuals, who can someday reunite face to face in the act of intimate union. Of course, Rashi concedes that this isn’t necessarily the literal meaning of the text, but midrashic symbolism. Nevertheless, in traditional Judaism, there are many midrashim that are in fact accepted at face value. This is one that particularly resonates with me. See also ibid 5:2. Please note that there is no neuter gender in Biblical Hebrew, so “He created him” doesn’t mean that masculine qualities are necessarily ascribed to G-d, nor does it mean that the “Adam” is being defined as exclusively male, according to the midrash at least.

[2] Ibid 3:23-24: “And the Lord God sent him out of the Garden of Eden, to till the soil, whence he had been taken. And He drove the man out…” Seems that Adam was evicted from the Garden and became an immigrant in the new soil he was banished to, but also indigenous to that soil, from “whence he had been taken.” So he/she was both expelled and repatriated.

[3] Ibid 2:23: “And man said, ‘This time (in reference to “Eve,” the first distinctly-female human), it is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh.’” Rashi comments: “’This time’ teaches us that Adam came upon all the animals and the beasts [in search of a mate], but he was not satisfied until he found Eve.” — [from Yev. 63a]. “Came upon” is a euphemism for phallic penetration, both in Biblical and Mishnaic Hebrew. See Genesis 29:21, Rashi, and Mishna, Keritut 3:5-6, and countless other examples.

[4] See Leviticus 20:17. The verse prohibits the marriage of siblings and describes it as “חֶסֶד” in Hebrew (pronounced “hesed”, which usually translated as “kindness”). Rashi notes that on the literal level, חסד here means a disgraceful act, since חִסוּדָא means disgrace in Aramaic, as per Onkelos on Gen. 34:14. Rashi also cites the midrashic interpretation: “If you [object and] say, ‘But Cain married his sister!’ [the answer is:] the Omnipresent [in permitting this marriage,] performed an act of kindness (חֶסֶד), to build His world through him, as it is said: ‘the world is built on kindness (חֶסֶד).’” (Ps. 89:3). - [Torath Kohanim 20:116]

[5] Genesis 4:25.

[6] Ibid 2:25: “They were both naked…”

[7] Ibid: “…and they were not ashamed.” Rashi: “for they did not know the way of modesty, to distinguish between right and wrong… until eating from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil.”

[8] Ibid 4:25, Rashi.

[9] Ibid 3:8-13. 
Adam and Eve hid, were afraid, ashamed and in denial. When confronted, Adam blamed Eve, who promptly blamed the Serpent.

[10] According to traditional Jewish thought. Whether you believe in this fantastic story or not (I do, unabashedly), it begs an explanation. Hence this article, as per the sources cited in footnote 11.

[11] Mishna, Sanhedrin 4:5, version of Rambam's Pirush Hamishnayos.

[12] This does not mean you necessarily need to agree with all choices that individual makes or doesn't make. It just means that you accord that individual the respect, dignity and compassion that the only human being on earth would deserve. You acknowledge the core value that this human being possesses, simply by virtue of being the one unique person whom the Divine Creator hand-fashioned in His own image, as if he/she were the only one.

[13] "Uni-verse" = "one turn." Perhaps it can be interpreted to mean: "turn back to one, i.e. our one common origin." Alternatively, perhaps it means “Returning to One.” The purpose of the universe (and its tikun) is to realize that we are all one.
(Thank you Joyce for etymological correction)