This story is from Stories for Galutim, which you can buy here, if you like. I’m putting up “Adam” for free because I want everyone who needs to see a story like this to be able to read it.
When God began to create the heavens and the earth, She imagined a universe of infinite possibilities. And since He was the omnipotent Ein Sof, the All-ness of All Things, whatever He imagined would be created. She opened Her eyes and imagined light, and then She closed Her eyes and imagined the dark. He divided them so they could each stand alone.
She imagined a blue planet with mighty oceans surrounded by a cooling mist, and it was so. As He spoke inscrutable words that reverberated throughout the dimensions, the oceans receded to reveal dry land. Plants sprung up from the new earth; trees blossomed and their branches hung heavy with fruit. Light streamed from Her fingertips and rained down in the heavens, leaving sparks that glimmered in the sky and two great bodies to light the earth. Animals tumbled forth, heaving into existence and filling the new world with cacophonous sound. The oceans thrashed with whales, fish of all types, and the mysterious creatures in the dark, unplumbed depths.
And finally, She paused and contemplated the pinnacle of Her creation. The whole of the universe held its breath as He shaped soundless words, sending them forward in six dimensions, causing ripples in the very fabric of the universe.
We will create the human in our image.
The words echoed throughout the universe. If mortal ears had been able to hear the Voice, it would have sounded like a chorus of millions, speaking in unfathomable harmonies impossible to replicate, impossible to ignore.
She spread her hands and scooped up a great double handful of earth, then began molding a creature. The human would be unlike anything else in His creation. She shaped the earth, molding a form that stretched from one end of the earth to the other, overshadowing all the other creatures. The human will be the glory of my creation. It must reflect my might.
He gave the human a pair of heads facing away from each other. She gave it four legs and four arms, mirroring each other on opposite sides of the body. He thought at the Universe, It must be like Us in all ways, and gave one half of the creature one set of genitals and the other half a different set. When She had finished, She pulled back from Her creation and said, It is good, and rested from Her labor as the new sun sank below the horizon.
For a whole day He rested and all the angels of Heaven along with Him.
When the sun set on the seventh day, She roused Herself, singing, and the angels sang with Her, echoing Her song throughout the spheres. All creation sang with Him. The mountains and hills sang; the trees clapped along; the oceans accompanied them in deep, resonant, organ tones; the stars shone and offered their trilling harmonies. The human creature lifted its voices above all, joyful in the new week, harmonizing with itself from its two mouths.
When the song was finished, God said to the angels, Behold my creation and rejoice in its perfection. See how my creatures sing praises. Behold the human creature, who I have created a little lower than you, who sings praises of its own free will. I have created the human in Our image. Look upon it and rejoice in it, my angels.
The angels looked at the human creature and muttered amongst themselves.
God said, Why do you murmur?
For a moment there was silence in Heaven. Then an angel of the middle ranking stepped forward, voice tremulous, saying, “Almighty Creator, your works are most wondrous to be sure. But this human creature — it is so much like you that it frightens us. For how can a mere created being have so many of your characteristics? It is all things as you are all things, and it spans from one end of the earth to the other.” The angel shifted uncomfortably, then continued at the encouragement of its fellows. “We fear the creature. We fear it will rise up and threaten Heaven because it is so large and so nearly perfect like you, even though it is a created thing.”
God was still, and then asked, What would you have me do?
“We… we ask you to reduce it and make it less like You. Make it smaller. Separate it from itself so that it will not be able to rise up against us angels and overtake our positions.”
You would have me make my perfect creature less than what I created it to be? You would have me split my human creation in two pieces and leave it bereft? To make it a fragment of itself?
The angels were frightened of Her voice, but one found the courage to say, “Who among us can say what the human will become? Surely it is the only being in creation with true free will to choose its destiny. It is so large and powerful that it could take over Heaven and destroy the world you have brought forth. We angels are created to serve you, but the human has the ability to stray from its purpose and destroy even as you create. We fear it and what it might do.”
A pause, and God said, I will consider what you have said.
He turned inward to Himself and thought for time out of time. Before She had created the Sun to rule the day and the Moon to mark the nights and keep the calendar, one might have thought a few minutes or a century passed while She considered. In Earth time, though, He considered for a full week. When the sun set on the seventh day, after all of creation sang in the new week, She turned to Her angels and said, I have considered your request.
If they had had mortal bodies, the angels would have held their collective breath.
You have asked Us to reduce Our human creature, to make it imperfect, to make it less like Us. Were you any other creatures, We would dismiss you. But you are Our first sentient creation and We hold a special place in Our heart for you. Therefore, We will grant this request.
Relief flooded the angels and murmurs of, “Thank you, Blessed Holy One” drifted up from the assembly.
But there will be conditions.
The murmuring ceased and Heaven stood silent.
You have asked a serious thing. We have considered it at length. We will do as you ask, but we will not leave the human creature with nothing.
We will reduce it in size so that it no longer spans the earth. It will be small like the ape, but because it will be small, its numbers will increase like the stars in the sky.
Because you are threatened by the creature’s resemblance to Us, We will divide it. Where there was one creature, there will now be two. Each will have a head, two arms, and two legs, and because of the fragmentation of its form, each will be only a single aspect of Our creation. In this form they will be called “man” and “woman” and they will create others like themselves.
The angelic assembly murmured, “Thank you, Blessed One, we praise you.”
Be still. We are angered by your fear. We did not create you for such things. We will accommodate your fear, but only to a point. Although We will alter this creature from its intended form, We will not refrain from creating other creatures like Us. They will emerge from the humans’ own bodies, so they will not be giants except in Our eyes.
An angelic voice at the back of the assembly piped up, “We don’t understand, Holy One. How will they be like you?”
The fragmented human will be divided into two creatures, who will be whole beings unto themselves and will think of themselves as “male” or as “female”. In that capacity they will come together to create new humans. But not all their children will be like them. We will plant the seeds of Ourselves within these humans so their creations may be not only bountiful, but varied. Some will be born appearing male, but reveal themselves in time as female; some will be born appearing female, but be revealed as male. The tumtum will be born with no clear distinction, or as both.
“And when these humans are born, Heaven will rejoice, and We will call the new child “bria bi’fnei atzmah”, a created being of its own. They will be dear to Our heart, because they are created most like Us in Our image.
The angels stood, shamed in their fear, and were silent.
Because of your fear, We will create only a few of them, so that they might not be a threat to you. They will be rare, like precious jewels, and beautiful. They will be all the more dear to us because of their rarity. And to prove Our love for them, We will create ancestors to birth the nation of Yisrael, Avraham and Sarah, and they will be tumtum like Our original creation. Only later will they become like this divided human, in order to procreate and bring a nation of millions to Our earth.
The angels were humbled before God’s eyes and, as one, chorused, “Forgive us for our fear of your creations, Holy One of Blessing. Baruch atah adonai eloheinu melech ha’olam shekahcha lo baolamo. Blessed are you, Almighty Creator of the All Things, who has such beautiful things in Your universe.”
So with a mighty hand and a crack of lightning, God divided the human. And all He had spoken was so.
In later times, the Sages mused upon the variations of all God’s creatures, and they wrote about the tumtum, the ay’lonit, and the saris, as well as the androgynos, the nekevah, and the zachar. The rabbis puzzled over God’s handiwork and eventually decided that all God’s creatures were beautiful in their variety, and all belonged equally to creation.
All humans on this earth are beautiful in the eyes of their Creator, but She has a special place in Her heart for those She created to be most like Her… and on this even the angels agree.
Several ideas from the Talmud and midrash came together to form this story. The idea that the first created being, the “Adam”, was an androgynous creature is from the Talmud (Bereshit Rabah 8). Abraham and Sarah as tumtum is also Talmudic, from Yevamot 64a. The idea that the first human was also a giant creature is from Leviticus Rabbah, a midrashic commentary on the book of Leviticus (Vayikra).
This is such an important concept for queer Jews. It is especially important in light of the fact that, as of 2021, trans bodies are still under attack worldwide. Gender liberation must come soon and in our day, and as Jews we must help lead the way.
God appears alternating between male and female pronouns and as a plural being both to underline the idea that God has no gender, and that the first human was truly created in God’s image.
The following resources may be helpful for trans Jews or anyone else wishing to understand Talmudic thought concerning gender identity, as well as the midrash surrounding these ideas: