Saturday, September 13, 2008

Ezer again

I have posted on this topic before, and all I can think is that ezer kenegdo "help meet" means that women and men are in a mutual relationship. In a book I am reading now, Sefer Yetsira, a Hebrew text from the 2-6th century, I am not sure, the term kenegdo is used for the hands, not as a dominant right hand and a left hand, but simply the hands, five fingers on one and five on the other. The feet also are kenegdo.

So, what does that mean about the woman being a "help?" Woman want help also. We don't want to have to survive on our own. Not really. I think it means that a woman is a "help" similar to a man, she is "like" him, and that they are to be a help to each other. Anyway, that is what the Latin says, "adiutor similis eius" a help similar to him.

Of course, men and women are very different, and that is why they can help each other - they should each help the other in what the other lacks. Basically, men lack giving birth to the baby and women lack strength to do other things while they are giving birth to the baby.

And from these simple biological facts a host of other differences ensue. But, these differences do not mean that men should lead and women should follow. These differences mean that men and women together are better than men alone, or women alone, and that is all there is to it.

Maybe men and women should take turns leading and following, or maybe they should lead together, or even follow together. But men and women should be a help to each other, and not always trying to put fences around each other and limiting each other.

Thanks Rachel, for your thoughts on this. You wrote about ezer,

"when it's attributed to God, He is never subordinate to His people, he is their rescuer. Dr. Susan Hyatt in In the Spirit We're Equal "defines the hebrew to mean "one who is the same as the other and who surrounds, protects, aids, helps, supports," with no indication of a secondary position."


Anonymous said...

Thank you Suzanne, for your beautiful, clear and, well, helpful, thoughts on ezer kenegdo here. This sentence, especially, brought it all together for me and moved me to tears: "These differences mean that men and women together are better than men alone, or women alone, and that is all there is to it."

Suzanne McCarthy said...


While I have written about the importance of men and women to each other, I work in a predominantly feminine environment and half of the women, over 50, are single. There is a great deal to be said for friendship with others of one's own sex as well. I would not denigrate that at all. I think friendship with a group of others is essential for everyone, and cross-gender friendship is also wonderful. However, not everyone will find the love of their life. That's a tough one, but from what I have seen, some people really never do meet that one right person. I wish it weren't so.

Donald Johnson said...

I like the kenegdo hands reference, so I want to use it in my teachings. It is a great example.

Sue said...

I just checked the text on this. It says "the number of the ten fingers, five opposite five." "Opposite" is kenegdo.

Anonymous said...

I wasn't moved so much in terms of thinking of that one right person, but more that I've been thinking about differences and wishing for a venue where the differences that are, could be acknowledged and celebrated (1) without those differences being made more of than they are (e.g. being spoken of prescriptively as if every woman has to be exactly a certain way and every man another certain way) and (2)without the acknowledgment of the differences being synonymous with assumptions and judgments of "what it means".

It's what the differences "do not mean" that makes it easier to enjoy what they do mean. Our differences--whether gender differences, personality differences or any other kind of spectrum we conjure up for noticing and understanding and pondering and wondering at how we are alike and different from the people around us--those differences really are what makes the whole thing of not being alone good.

I wasn't interpreting what you said as denigrating same gender friendships. The principle you were talking about here, which touched me deeply, seems to me to apply to any type of relationship.

In each of my friendships, each of the relationships that keep me from being alone, I love being able to see the differences between my friend(s) and I and value them--in a sense make much of them because they are what really show off why it is good not to be alone, but at the same time not make more of them than what they are (i.e. assume that our differences mean things always have to be a certain way).

Anonymous said...

Ran into this quote recently, attributed to Hauerwas:

"You always marry the wrong person… Love does not create marriage; rather marriage provides a good training ground to teach us what love involves."

I think there are cultural pressures and baggage yet from 150 years ago that make us think there's "the right one" out there, just waiting to be met. The church buys into this too, big time. I think that's part of the reason many "bible-believing" Christians get disillusioned and divorced, and perhaps part of what can set people up for abuse. Hauerwas' words are reality, not the other stuff.

I agree with eclexia about the sentence quoted. That's reality too.

Dana Ames