THE POWER OF SPEECH AS THE ESSENCE OF MAN
There is a curious sequence of verses in Chapter 2 of Bereishit. In verse 18 Hashem states that "it is not good that man should be alone, I will make a help to match him (eizer k'negdo)." In the following verse, we are told that Hashem formed every living creature and brought them before man "to see what he would call them, and whatever the man called every living creature that was its name." The next two verses add to the problem. In verse 20 we are told about man naming all of the creatures, and only afterwards is he given his partner.
Several questions arise. First of all, we would expect to see the creation of woman occur in verse 19, immediately after Hashem announced his intention to do so. Why, then, do we hear about man naming the animals? At a second level, we can perhaps distinguish between verses 18 and 19 on one hand, and 20 until the end of the chapter on the other. Verses 18 and 19 state two divine plans: to create woman and to have man name the animals. The following verses describe the fulfillment of these plans. If this is so, then the events are out of order - woman should be created first, and then man should name the animals, exactly as the sequence occurs in the first two verses! Why is the order switched?
To fully understand what is occurring, we have to understand exactly what is going on in this entire chapter, and then understand some of the terminology that is being used. Rav Yoseif Dov Soloveitchik, in his essay "The Lonely Man of Faith," distinguishes between the two stories of creation (Chapter 1 and Chapter 2) by focusing on the role and character of man in each one. In Chapter 1, man is created with woman, as one being; in Chapter 2 man is created, and only afterwards is woman brought into existence. He uses this difference to define two distinct types of communities. Adam the first belongs to a "natural" community. He exists as "a social being, gregarious, communicative...Adam the first is never alone." By contrast, Adam the second is part of a "covenantal" community. He is alone and searches for redemption. He finds that redemption with woman, but "he must initiate action leading to the discovery of a companion who, even though as unique and singular as he, will master the art of communicating and, with him, form a community." The community of Adam the first is a majestic one, one that sets out to fulfill its mission of subduing the earth (1:28). His relationship to his partner is one wherein both are of one mind. Adam the second's role is not to subdue the earth but to "till it and to keep it." (2:15) It is through the processes of labor that he is to raise himself up and find redemption (perhaps vaguely echoing Hegel's notion of the master-slave dialectic). Thus, his community is not a natural one, but rather one that he has to strive to create by himself. Once he creates it, it is not a single-minded body. Rather, Eve is an eizer, a helper, who is also k'negdo, against him. They work towards the same goal by playing off of each other.
As stated above, Adam the second forms this community through the medium of speech. It is this very medium that forms the basis of a community elsewhere in the Torah. In Bereishit 11:1 we are told that "the whole earth was of one language, and of one speech." This is the description of the community that built the Tower of Bavel, a community that was destroyed when their language was changed and their effective means of communication were left useless. Similarly, the forming of the covenantal community of the Jewish people at Mount Sinai was also effected through a mass act of speech: "And all the people answered together, and said, All that the Lord has spoken we will do." (Shemot 19:8) These three examples make it clear that speech is the key ingredient in the formation of a covenantal community, a community bound by allegiance to each other and not merely by a synchronization of activity. The reason here is clear: speaking allows one individual to convey his thoughts to a second person, thus forming a mental bond that is stronger and more lasting than a physical bond is (Perhaps this is why only in Chapter 2 are we told that man and woman will "form one flesh." Although the verse may be focusing on a physical phenomenon, the notion of being completely absorbed into each other to the point of becoming one unit may also relate to a mental state, to the ontological bond that is formed.).
Beyond its role in the covenantal community, what is the power of speech, and what is it as it relates to man's being? Both Onkeles (Ber. 2:7) and Rav Yehuda HaLevi define man as being the sole creature that possesses the power of speech. Studies performed over the past half-century have borne out this idea. They have demonstrated that the power of speech is merely a manifestation of a complex mental process, and no animal has been able to replicate such processes. Even monkeys that were trained to "speak" in sign language were only taught a few signs, but had no deeper grasp of basic grammatical structures that a two-year old human figures out on his or her own. The Chafeitz Chaim on Parshat Tazria emphasizes this point by stating that speech is the essence of man as it is the point where man's physical and spiritual natures converge to produce one result.
Beyond this we must understand what speech can accomplish. Here we turn to some of the terminology used in the chapters of creation. The simplest verb used to describe an act of speech is "vayomer" - he said. However, there is a second root that occurs in several places in Chapter 1 in reference to Hashem, then recur in Chapter 2 in reference to man. In Chapter 1, verses 5, 8, and 10, we are told that Hashem called something by a particular name - "vayikra Elokim" This term is used in reference to the naming of the day and night, the firmament, the dry land, and the waters. After that, the term "vayikra" does not reappear at all in Chapter 1. It is only in Chapter 2, when man is given the task of naming the animals, that we see this term used again.
What does all of this mean? Does it matter where this root occurs and where it is omitted? The answer to the second question is obviously yes, and to understand why we must understand what "vayikra" really means. In addition to containing the power of communing with another being, speech also contains the power to make something so. A person who gives verbal testimony in court seeks to establish as irrefutable fact that a certain thing is true. One of the most powerful expressions of this power is the ability to name an object. A person can use whatever term he wants to refer to something, but it is all meaningless unless he is the one who has the power to name that object. Stated differently, by naming something, a person exercises their control or ownership over that object. Thus, we see in Chapter 1 that Hashem names the things that are exclusively his - the concept of time (as opposed to the measurements of time, as represented by the heavenly bodies; they were created on the fourth day and are not "called" anything by Hashem, as man would later control them) and the foundations of space and the physical mass of the earth (interestingly enough, these are Kant's two pieces of a priori knowledge - space and time; they alone exist before man begins philosophizing and creating his own worlds). Everything else in creation, all of nature, was created to serve man and to be controlled by him, and thus Hashem did not specifically name them. Man, being the guardian of creation, is presented with the role of naming the animals. Creation is his to control and to conquer, and thus he is granted this privilege.
However, a problem remains. Why does man name the animals in Chapter 2? One would expect that Adam the first, the majestic man, would be the one to perform this feat and thus assert himself as the pinnacle of creation! After all, it is Adam the first who is told to subdue creation, while Adam the second is only instructed to keep the land! Furthermore, we see the term "vayikra" used by Hashem in the creation of Chapter 1, but not at all by the creation of Chapter 2! Thematically, this story seems out of place in Chapter 2 if viewed in this sense!
It is exactly this point that leads us back to our initial question, and perhaps we can now understand the sequence of events that occurs near the end of Chapter 2. Hashem decides to create a match for Adam, to bring into existence a second individual who will form a community with him and with whom he can set out to dominate the land. However, as was pointed out earlier, Adam was alone until this point. He had yet to encounter another human being, and thus how was he to form this community?Rashi claims that Adam had to name the animals so that he could realize that he lacked a partner and feel a need for one. I think that Rashi's idea is on the right track, but that it runs deeper than merely a realization of solitude on the part of Adam. Adam's covenantal community was to be formed through verbal communion with Eve, through the use of a power that he as yet had no concept of. Thus, the creation of Eve is interrupted by two verses in which Hashem gives Adam his first opportunity to realize that power of his faculty of speech. He gave names to all of the animals and only then "for the man there was not found a help to match him." Only when Adam understood that his power of speech could be a dynamic, creative force did he himself come to the realization that he was alone. Only then did he discover that this power was not being used to its fullest extent. Thus, it is at this point that Hashem brings Eve into existence and the two of them begin forming their covenantal community.
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