Were Adam and Eve Jewish?…ask the rabbi

October 16, 2017 by Rabbi Raymond Apple
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Rabbi Raymond Apple has the answer,


Rabbi Raymond Apple

Q. B’reshit 5:2 says that “Male and female He created them… and called their name Adam”. What does this mean?

A. One rabbi said this meant that He made Adam bi-sexual (a hermaphrodite).

Another rabbi read the verse as saying that He made Adam double-faced, male on one side and female on the other, and split him into two separate beings (B’reshit Rabbah 8:1).

The first view reflects the idea that man being made “in the image of God” had no distinct sexual identity. God was the source of love, both fatherly and motherly love intertwined.

The second view suggests that there are two separate male and female identities; man symbolising power and conquest whilst woman is associated with growth and development.

In the first view, man and woman are essentially one. The human being, like God, is a fusion of “din” (justice) and “rachamim” (compassion).

In the second view the two genders are essentially different. But each one needs the other.

United in marriage, man and woman combine to become a balanced partnership.


When I was a professional youth worker I went up and down the British Isles organising Jewish programs. I gave talks to youth clubs in countless places and also frequently addressed adult groups and even senior citizens’ clubs.

At one such club in the East End of London, appropriately named the Zekeinim Club, I gave occasional talks on Sunday afternoons.

On one occasion, regardless of the official title of my address, one of the Yiddish-speaking audience asked me in question time, “Adam and Eve – they was Jewish, yes?”

I probably disappointed the questioner by having to say “No”. Religion had not yet come into being. Nor were there any religious commandments, though of course the beginning of B’reshit told Adam and Eve to be fruitful and multiply and replenish the earth.

When the structure of Divine commandments was complete, this became mitzvah number 1 and it still is, but at that point it could not be said to be addressed to the Jewish people because there was no Jewish people.

Yet there is actually a point in the question I was asked. It is not so much that Adam and Eve were Jewish, but that Judaism interprets their career in a distinctive way.

Where Christianity builds a whole superstructure on their sin and, at least in circles that still teach this theology, propounded a doctrine of original sin whereby Adam and Eve’s descendants are deemed eternally tainted unless they rise above the taint by means of belief.

What Judaism did was to stick more closely to the text. It noted that God told the first couple that if they disobeyed Him they would surely die (Gen. 2:17); the effect of their sin was that death was brought into the world.

It is true that there are views here and there in rabbinic sources that speak of a load of guilt sitting on Adam and Eve’s descendants, but such views are not standard or normative.


Q. Why do Jews only care about their fellow Jews?

A. They don’t. You are quite wrong. Jews have always worked for the well-being of mankind as a whole.

Job says, “I was eyes to the blind and feet to the lame. I was a father to the poor, and I searched out the cause of him that I did not know” (Job 29:15-17).

Not a word here about the blind, lame, poor or disadvantaged being Jewish.


3 Responses to “Were Adam and Eve Jewish?…ask the rabbi”
  1. Steve Specterman says:

    Real question- Was there ever an Adam and Eve?

  2. Eleonora Mostert says:

    Rabbi Raymond Apple, you are confusing me. Last week on J-wire I read that we should allow homosexuals to marry… shame on all who believe this and go against God…your above statement; “United in marriage, man and woman combine to become a balanced partnership”. Ok everybody, change your minds and don’t support Gay/Lesbian Marriage or changes to the law regarding marriage. Love the person hate the sin accept them for who they are but don’t condone it.

  3. Marta Mikey Frid says:

    The word ‘Sin’ never appears in the Hebrew Bible. By adopting it into our dialogue, we let Christianity’s true Pagan character become part of our own. Neither do we have the words of ‘Satan’ or ‘Devil’ in our Hebrew Bible. This practice has served to rob the Jewish people of the real meaning of the biblical stories.

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