Introduction

In this brief essay, I’d like to read and think through three verses of Genesis, in order to start to establish a foundation for transgender Jewish thought. In particular, to consider hierarchy and binary opposition in the Biblical pattern of creation. (Heaven opposed and superior to Earth; Sun to Moon; Adam to Eve, etc.)

The traditional way to understand the Genesis narrative is that God created through speech. “And God said, Let there be light.? God’s words caused reality to come into existence.

First I’d like to challenge the traditional understanding that G-d’s words were generative, and propose instead the idea that G-d’s thoughts were generative. This moves our theological understanding from the abstraction of a “word? creating a reality that is twice-removed from G-dself (G-d –> Thought –> Word/Reality) to the space of reality as a thought existing in the mind of G-d (G-d’s Thought = Reality).

The latter state parallels what we know about human perception: everything a person can know originates in the senses. Reality is essentially a person’s thoughts about sensory stimulation. There’s no way to verify anything “outside? of human perception. This is not a new idea, but it reinforces my chosen theological position, that “Alles ist G-tt,? which is a construction of 18th century Hasidism. It also moves us away from the idea of separation from God – implied by the notion that a diety created the Universe external to itself.

Next, I’d like to argue against the grain of the traditional reading of verses three and four, that places Light and Darkness in binary opposition, with the concommitant understanding that Light is superior to Darkness. I will retain the opposition, but I will read the binary differently. Rather than valuing, categories will be used to re-focus attention, and generate links of relationship to everything else in creation. I will conclude with a discussion of the implications of these two points for a transgender Jewish theology.

Part 1. Thought Precedes Speech

וַיֹּ?מֶר ?ֱלֹהִי?, יְהִי ?וֹר; וַיְהִי-?וֹר

And G-d said, “Let there be light
And there was light.? –Genesis 1:3

וַיַּרְ? ?ֱלֹהִי? ?ֶת-הָ?וֹר, כִּי-טוֹב;
וַיַּבְדֵּל ?ֱלֹהִי?, בֵּין הָ?וֹר וּבֵין הַחֹש?ֶךְ

G-d saw the light, that it was good
And G-d divided the light from the darkness –Genesis 1: 4

The pattern I read in these two verses focuses on the verbs, as follows:
G-d said “x?
And there was “x?
G-d saw “x? and (saw) its goodness;
G-d divided “x? from “not x?

What were the tellers who told and retold this tale, the authors who penned these verses, and the redactors who retained it over time, trying to communicate about the nature of reality?
Let’s read and think through it a bit at a time.

Genesis 1:3 says: And G-d said, “Let there be lightAnd there was light.?
First G-d SPOKE, and light “was?. The verse does not say, “G-d said, ‘Let there be light, and as a result of the spoken Word, light came into being.? No causal relationship is made explicit.

Rather, the verse says that, when G-d spoke, light already “was?. So when did light come into being?

I suggest that G-d thought before It spoke. It imagined the light before speaking the word. Why do I say this? It isn’t in the text. To speak something is to think it again (re-cognize). I suggest that thought (cognition) preceeded His speech, as it does our own.

The first thought of G-d was to envision light. The act of imagination was the creative act. To the mind, a thing imagined and a thing externally perceived are equally real. In G-d’s case, this is not just a semantic game, because, as the Hasidim say, “Alles ist Gott? (everything is G-d). G-d imagined reality, and it was. Reality exists inside G-d. (There is no “outside? of G-d.) What we can know of G-d’s nature is the same as human nature because it is, like everything else, filtered through human senses. “Creation? happens in the silent, dark and fertile spaces before “speaking?.

If imagination is so important, why did the Authors leave it out of the text? I suggest that the omission was intentional, and serves as a “teaching moment?. It causes us to think through—to imagine—the process of creation, and therefore to learn by doing.

Part 2: Binary, Hierarchy, Categories and the Nature of Identity

וַיַּרְ? ?ֱלֹהִי? ?ֶת-הָ?וֹר, כִּי-טוֹב;
וַיַּבְדֵּל ?ֱלֹהִי?, בֵּין הָ?וֹר וּבֵין הַחֹש?ֶךְ

G-d saw the light, that it was good
And G-d divided the light from the darkness –Genesis 1: 4

The verb va’yar (and he saw) does double duty: G-d saw the light (“and? is implied, but not present in the Hebrew explicitly) (saw) that it was good. Our rabbis teach us that the text doesn’t contain errors. If the text were trying to impart a single meaning, it would have said, “G-d saw the good light? or “G-d saw the light was good?? Since it doesn’t say either of those things, we have to recognize that there is more than one message.

I suspect that the text is telling us that it is important to distinguish ‘seeing a thing’ (light) from ‘recognizing its “goodness?’. Why is that? On top of that conundrum, the act of separation (“G-d divided the light from the darkness?) seems to be integral to an act of creation. Why is that?

The Hebrew word “tov? which is usually translated as “good? doesn’t imply a value judgement, or “the opposite of bad?. Rather, our Sages tell us that the Tov means “whole,? “functional,? “finished? or “complete?. Light is ‘recognized as complete’ after G-d “sees? it, but before G-d separates it from the Darkness. What does G-d “see? when It sees “Light?? I imagine that G-d saw Light against –and because of—its backround of Darkness.

I suspect that the Torah, by way of juxtaposing seeing/completeness/separation is pointing out that we can only begin to perceive a thing (x) once some difference (not x) is recognized between one thing and another. “Darkness? is not the opposite of light, but the spectrum of differences that may be characterized as “not Light?. “Darkness? seen in those terms seems a broad category that is of limited usefulness. The text is trying to teach us that we may see light as a “whole? only when we recognize the spectrum in which it occurs, beside and distinguished from, darkness. Light is Light only in the presence of and separated from, Darkness. Light without Darkness can’t be.

Light, by itself, the text is telling us, may not be seen as “whole? “pure” or “absolute?. In fact, light, by itself, can’t be seen. While the category of “light? seems to exclude “darkness? neither can be understood as a “whole? without recognition of the stuff that exists outside the “set?—which might be characterized as hue, value, intensity, color, heat, etc.

In the next verse, G-d names the light day and the darkness night. From space, the line separating day from night appears solid, but neither category is pure: dawn and dusk contain both light and darkness. Day may be clouded and night may be brightened. We know that these two categories are not mutually exclusive, not “pure?.

I suspect we are not dealing with a binary opposition and its implication of positive and negative valence. Rather, the text is concerned with teaching us that the perception of “Light? is relational and subjective, and that “Light? as subject is constructed from discontinuous characteristics (separated from amongst the broad category of “darkness?).

Read in this fashion, G-d is not talking about hierarchy and valence, but rather It is drawing our attention to the narrowing of focus, the shift of attention and the re-ordering of Creation that occurs when we categorize. She shuffles like a deck of cards when we categorize, and our eyes are on whatever Consciousness has declared wild. But, neither Her nature nor His Participation are changed with shifting Alterity/sunjectivity.

So what is the pattern of creation?
• G-d said “x? And there was “x?: Thoughts generate reality.
• G-d saw “x? and (saw) its goodness: Seeing and recognizing wholeness (identity) are individual cognitive acts. Wholeness means understanding relatedness of one thing to the rest of creation.
• G-d divided “x? from “not x?: Identity of “x? can’t be proclaimed in a vacuum, but must occur in context, in juxtaposition to that which surrounds “x?. Juxtaposition does not necessarily imply a state of binary opposition. But, the identity of “x? shapes the identity of all “not x?.

Discussion

A change of focus from “word? to “thought? can start the process of building a solid foundation for transgender Torah interpretation. In an attempt to loosen the interpretive fabric of Jewish revelation as much as possible without ripping it, in this view we understand words to be translations of thoughts, rather than a record of unchangeable pronouncements.

Rather than seeing G-d as the creator of the Universe, a transgender theology considers G-d to be an emerging consciousness that progresses in conjunction with the emerging collective and singular consciousnesses of humans and the rest of Creation. G-d transitions and becomes and emerges.

This G-d is closer to the Jewish understanding of a Messiah. The Messiah will come after we have completed the work of repairing the world, but in some sense, the Messiah is already here in every action we undertake toward that end. Similarly, in a transgender view of God, as we increase compassion and empathy toward one another and as we move toward an attitude of self-care that extends not only to our own but to the planetary resources, G-d will emerge as a result of the planet’s collective endeavor. G-d exists now but G-d is in progress; G-d is becoming. Every part of us is part of that process.

A transgender Jewish theology requires the premise that thoughts generate reality. If that proposition were false, no genderqueer would be where he, she, or zie is today.

A transgender Jewish theology requires that sight and negotiation of “wholeness” (identity) be recognized as two individual and ongoing acts of cognition. As corrollary to that, a transgender Jewish theology requires that identity be recognized as “complete? only in context. Seeing the form of a transgender person may be enough to indicate wholeness or completion only in the presence of appropriate context. This shifts attention to the social and collective nature of identity. Categorization is otherwise meaningless.