After many years, I think I have a plausible answer to this question. And it comes straight out of the text, directly from observing what G-d does in Genesis (and the rest of the Torah).
First off, we have to appreciate that G-d creates separation in the world: He separates the waters above and below. Then He separates Himself (by blowing his spirit into man). And then He separates Adam to create Eve.
And in every case, G-d does so because he wants there to be a process of reunification. It is that process that is beautiful, a love story that encompasses all life in the world. And it all stems from the fact that the separation itself is never called “good” – but the reunification of heaven and earth, the connections between people and man and G-d are all repeatedly called “good” and “holy.”
Indeed, G-d is found in the gap. G-d’s voice comes from the gap between the angels on the ark. G-d is found in the love between men and women as well as the love between any two people. And G-d is found when mankind reaches out to Him, trying to span the gap between our divinely-gifted souls and their source.
Here are the specific cases, from a high-level view:
Separation in Creation
The Torah tells us of all the things G-d made that He deemed “good.” But several things were, quite conspicuously, NOT called “good”:
God separated the light from the darkness. God called the light Day and called the darkness Night. And there was evening and there was morning, a first day. God said, “Let there be an expanse in the midst of the water, that it may separate water from water.” God made the expanse, and it separated the water which was below the expanse from the water which was above the expanse. And it was so. God called the expanse Sky. And there was evening and there was morning, a second day.
None of these are called “good” – because they are not. They create a lack, a vacuum, something missing. But what is amazing is that so much of the Torah is dedicated to bridging this gap, naming the connections “holy.” So we have the Menorah and all its symbolism: bringing light into darkness, reinforcing the power of light, ideas, and all intangible goodness.
We also have the Altar, designed to span the gap between the physical and spiritual planes, with its core offerings, that of Elevation. (I have written quite a lot about this here.) This includes reunifying the waters above and below, as well as explaining the ritual bath. That we are here to reunify the world is shown through the laws concerning kosher (and non-Kosher) animals. It is why we pour out blood – always aspiring upward, never toward the animal kingdom. The tabernacle, the Mishkan, embodies all the ways in which we can work to add holiness to the world by reconnecting.
Separation of Man and Woman
When Eve is created, “G-d cast a deep sleep upon Adam; and, while he slept, and closed up the flesh there.” The word for “flesh” is basar, and it is used in this separative act, an act that G-d does because, as He said, “It is not good for Man to be by himself.” So G-d does not give Adam a wife who is made from an independent source. Instead, Eve came from Adam. They were a unified whole, and G-d separated them from each other, just as He had the light and darkness, and the waters above and below. G-d separates things on purpose.
And what is man supposed to do? “Hence a man leaves his father and mother and cleaves to his wife, so that they become one flesh.” Man and woman are created in an act of separating the flesh – and then they are meant to reunify back into one flesh?! This seems kind of crazy – after all, Adam was first a unity. If man and wife are supposed to be unified, then why not just make them that way in the first place, instead of deliberately cleaving them apart?
G-d does not want everything to be unified merely because He makes it so. (Indeed, when the Flood happens, G-d opens the spigots above and below, reunifying the waters, and killing everything in its path). Instead, G-d creates the void between heaven and earth. He creates the void between man and woman. G-d wants us to not be self-contained, to feel that we are missing something important. Then, and only then, are we urged to seek connection, reunification.
The challenge is that this reconnection is not meant to be between dominant men and subservient women. The Torah makes it clear that when “Might Makes Right” in the pre-Flood world, where men merely take the women they want, and seek to maximize their own fame, then G-d will destroy the world. When we fail to reconnect in a holy manner, then the entire reason for the existence of life loses its purpose, and G-d can extinguish all life on earth before starting again. Respecting each other is the key in all relationships. Men must seek a partner, not a trophy. And there is a key reason why…
Separation Within G-d
G-d’s creation of man is different than the creation of anything else in the world. Because when G-d makes Adam, “God formed Adam … blowing into his nostrils the spirit of life: thereby Adam became a living being.” (Gen. 2:7) The text is even more specific later on, when G-d is regretting having made mankind: “My spirit shall not remain in humankind forever.” (Gen. 6:3)
G-d is within us. Which means that when G-d made mankind, He split himself just as surely as He split the waters above and below, and he split Eve from Adam. G-d created a lack in Himself when He makes man. Which explains so very much about the Torah and our world! It explains why G-d yearns for us – and also why He wants us to yearn for Him.
G-d deliberately split Himself to make it possible to create a love story with each and every person on earth. True, our love stories (unlike G-d) have real deadlines. They are not open-ended opportunities, because our chance to grow toward G-d, to find His presence in the gap between us when we reach for other, is for only as long as we live. Once our bodies die, our souls return to their source. But while we live, there is the possibility of a love story.
The Torah dedicates considerable text explaining how we can seek to grow a relationship with G-d, including ways to get close to G-d without being consumed by close proximity. This reunification path dovetails beautifully with growing terrestrial marriages and friendships, as well as with working to connect heaven and earth.
In every case, reunification is the journey of a lifetime. Any close relationship requires incredible and selfless investment, self-improvement and change – growth in all of its positive meanings.
“It is not good for man to be by himself,” says G-d. But the text does not tell us that Adam was complaining! He was self-contained. He needed nothing, did not have to feel or risk anything… he was just fine where he was. Indeed, by creating Eve, G-d made Adam capable of loneliness!
G-d could have remained self-contained, too. G-d is G-d: He needs nothing. But He clearly wants something He did not have before the world was created, before Adam had Eve, before G-d invested a part of Himself in mankind.
Which is why, I think the text is telling us, G-d created the world, split the waters, split Adam and Eve, and even split Himself – G-d was making Himself capable of loneliness, capable of longing for something outside Himself. Capable of love that only comes from missing something, missing a part of yourself.
The world is a love story. Not just romantic fluff, of course! We all know hardships and tragedies, agony and delight, euphoria and jealousy… G-d created the world in order to have – and share – this love story with each one of us.
[an @iwe, @susanquinn, @kidcoder, @blessedblacksmith and @eliyahumasinter work]