Gender Fluidity in the Jewish Tradition

This resource includes multiple examples of gender diversity within the Torah.

July 17, 2019

By Joseph Meszler

Gender Fluidity in the Jewish Tradition
Source Sheet by Joseph Meszler, with great thanks to Abby Stein

Jewish tradition understands the original creation of Adam to be both male and female and then split down the middle. The Hebrew word for “rib” is also a word for “side”:

Bereishit Rabbah 8:1
(1) God said: Let us make Adam in our image, in our shape: R’ Yirmiyah ben Elazar said, when the Eternal created Adam initially, he was created as both genders; thus is it written, “male and female did God create them.” R’ Shmuel bar Nachman said, when the Eternal created Adam initially, God created him with two faces, one on each side, and [when God made Chavah,] God split him along the middle, forming two backs. They challenged him: but it is written, “And God took one of his ribs!” He said to them, [“mitzalosav” doesn’t mean rib, it means] one of his sides, similar to that which is said, “and to the ‘tzela‘ of the Tent,” which is translated “the side of the Tent.”

ראשית רבה ח׳ א׳

וַיֹאמַר יְיָ’ נַעֲשֶׂה אָדָם בְּצַלְמֵנוּ כִּדְמוּתֵנוּ (בְּרֵאשִׁית א, כו). אָמַר רַבִּי יִרְמְיָה בָּן אֶלְעָזָר: בְּשָׁעָה שֶׁבָּרָא הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא אֶת אָדָם הָרִאשׁוֹן, אַנְדְּרוֹגִינוֹס בּרָאוֹ, הָדָא הוּא דִּכְתִיב: זָכָר וּנְקֵבָה בְּרָאָם. אָמַר רַבִּי שְׁמוּאֵל  בַּר נַחֲמָן: בְּשָׁעָה שֶׁבָּרָא הקב”ה אֶת אָדָם הָרִאשׁוֹן, דִיוֹ פַּרְצוּפִים בְּרָאוֹ וּנְסָרוֹ וַעֲשָׂאוֹ גַּבַּיִּים, גַּב לְכָאן וְגַב לְכָאן. אַיְּתִיבוּן לֵיהּ, וְהכתִיב: וַיִּקַּח אַחַת מִצַּלְעוֹתָיו?! אָמַר להוֹן: מַתְרִין סטרוהִי, היךְ מָה דאת אָמַר: (שׁמות כו): וּלְצֶלַע הַמִּשְׁכָּן, דִּמְתַרְגְּמִינַן ולסטר מִשְׁכָּנָא וְגוֹ’

 

 

One passage in the Talmud claims that Abraham and Sarah were both tumtumin (of indeterminate sex) and later became male and female respectively:

Yevamot 64a-64b

Rabbi Yitzḥak said: For what reason were our ancestors initially infertile? … Rabbi Ami said: Abraham and Sarah were originally tumtumin, people whose sexual organs are concealed and not functional, as it is stated: “Look to the rock from where you were hewn, and to the hole of the pit from where you were dug” (Isaiah 51:1), and it is written in the next verse: “Look to Abraham your father and to Sarah who bore you” (Isaiah 51:2), which indicates that sexual organs were fashioned for them, signified by the words hewn and dug, over the course of time.

יבמות ס״ד א:ט׳-ס״ד ב:א׳

א”ר יִצְחָק מִפְּנֵי מָה הָיוּ אֲבוֹתֵינוּ עֲקוּרִים…אָמַר רַבִּי אמי אַבְרָהָם וְשָׁרָה טוּמְטָמִין הָיוּ שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (ישעיהוּ נא, א) הַבִּיטוּ אֶל צוּר חוצְבָתַּם וְאֶל מַקֶּבֶת בּוֹר נֻקַּרְתֶּם וּכְתִיב (ישעיהוּ נא, ב) הַבִּיטוּ אֶל אַבְרָהָם אֲבִיכֶם וְאֶל שָׁרָה תְּחוֹלֶלְכֶם.

 

 

In this passage, Moses compares himself to a nursing mother, showing no qualms about using a completely feminine metaphor:

Numbers 11:12 (12) Did I conceive all this people, did I bear them, that You should say to me, ‘Carry them at your breast as a nurse carries an infant,’ to the land that You have promised on oath to their ancestors?

(יב)
הֶאָנֹכִי הָרִיתִי אֶת כָּל הָעָם הַזֶּה, אִם אָנֹכִי יְלִדְיתִהוּ כִּי תֹאמַר אֵלַי שָׂאֵהוּ
בְחֵיקֶךָ כַּאֲשֶׁר יִשָּׂא הָאֹמֶן אֶת הַיֹּנֵק עַל הָאֲדָמָה אֲשֶׁר נִשְׁבַּעְתָּ לַאֲבֹתָיו:

 

 

The Rabbis recognized more than just the binary understanding of female and male. They used the term “androginus” to describe someone who exhibited both male and female biological characteristics. The term comes from Greek and relates to the English word, “androgyny.” A “tumtum” described a person whose biology was unclear. The Rabbis sought to accommodate this reality in the context of Jewish law:


Mishnah Bikkurim 4

An androginus is similar to men in some ways and to women in other ways, in some ways to both and in some ways to neither.

  1. In what ways are they similar to men? Like men, they are considered unclean through semen; required to perform yibum (to marry the widow of a childless brother) like men; dress and cut their hair like men; marry others and are not married off like men; and are obliged to perform all the commandments in the Torah like men.
  2. How are they similar to women? They impart ritual impurity through a red discharge like women, may not be secluded with men like women, if a brother dies childless, they do not marry the widow, they do not receive a portion of an inheritance, and they do not eat the sacrifices of the highest degree of sanctity (in the case of a kohein). After giving birth, their mother counts the number of unclean days that one does for a female. They may not serve as witnesses, and if they have a disqualifying sexual relationship, they may no longer eat terumah. How are they similar to women? They impart ritual impurity through a red discharge like women, may not be secluded with men like women, if a brother dies childless, they do not marry the widow, they do not receive a portion of an inheritance, and they do not eat the sacrifices of the highest degree of sanctity (in the case of a kohein). After giving birth, their mother counts the number of unclean days that one does for a female. They may not serve as witnesses, and if they have a disqualifying sexual relationship, they may no longer eat terumah. How are they similar to women? They impart ritual impurity through a red discharge like women, may not be secluded with men like women, if a brother dies childless, they do not marry the widow, they do not receive a portion of an inheritance, and they do not eat the sacrifices of the highest degree of sanctity (in the case of a kohein). After giving birth, their mother counts the number of unclean days that one does for a female. They may not serve as witnesses, and if they have a disqualifying sexual relationship, they may no longer eat terumah.
  3. How are they like both men and women? A person is liable for striking or cursing them. If they are killed, the accidental manslaughterer is exiled and the intentional murderer is executed. After giving birth, their mother brings a sacrifice, they may eat sanctified things that can be eaten outside of Jerusalem, and they inherit as a sole heir.
  4. How are they like neither men nor women? Terumah is not burned from impurity because of their discharge, nor does their discharge make them liable if they should enter the Temple. They cannot be indentured as a Hebrew servant and they cannot be valued like a man or a woman. If a person says, “I am a nazir,” as they are neither a man nor a woman,” they are not a nazir.Rabbi Yosi says an androginus is a unique creation, but the Sages say they are either a man or a woman but just don’t know which. A tumtum is not this way – some are men and some are women.

 

משנה ביכורים ד׳

אַנְדְּרוֹגִינוֹס, יֶשׁ בּוֹ דְּרָכִים שָׁוֶה לָאֲנָשִׁים; וְיֶשׁ בּוֹ דְּרָכִים שָׁוֶה לַנָּשִׁים; וְיֶשׁ בּוֹ דְּרָכִים שָׁוֶה לָאֲנָשִׁים וְנָּשִׁים, וְיֶשׁ בּוֹ דְּרָכִים אֵינוֹ שָׁוֶה לא לָאֲנָשִׁים וְלא לַנָּשִׁים

כֵּיצַד שָׁוֶה לָאֲנָשִׁים? מְטַמֵּא בְּלֹבֶן כָּאֲנָשִׁים, וְזוֹקֵק לִיְבּוּם כַּאֲנָשִׁים וּמִתְעַטֵּף וּמִסְתַּפֵּר כַּאֲנָשִׁים, וְנוֹשֵֹא
אֲבָל לא נִשָֹּׂא כָּאֲנָשִׁים, וְחַיָּב בְּכָל מִּצְוֹת הָאֲמוּרוֹת בַּתּוֹרָה כָּאֲנָשִׁים

כֵּיצַד שָׁוֶה לַנָּשִׁים? ממְטַמֵּא בְּאֹדֶם כַּנָּשִׁים, וְאֵינוֹ מִתְיַחֵד עִם הָאֲנָשִׁים כַּנָּשִׁים, וְאֵינוֹ זוֹקֵק לְיִבּוּם כַּנָּשִׁים, וְאֵינוֹ חוֹלֵק עִם הַבָּנִים כַּנָּשִׁים, וְאֵין אוֹכֵל בְּקָדְשֵׁי הַמִּקְדָּשׁ כַּנָּשִׁים, וְאִמּוֹ יוֹשֶׁבֶת עָלָיו בְּדַם טָמֵא כַּנָּשִׁים, וּפָסוּל מִן הָעֵדוּת כַּנָּשִׁים, וְאִם נִבְעַל בַּעֲבֵרָה נִפְסַל מִן הַתְּרוּמָה כַּנָּשִׁים.

כֵּיצַד שָׁוֶה לַאֲנָשִׁים וְלַנָּשִׁים: חַיָּבִים עַל מַכָּתוֹ וְעַל קִלְלָתוֹ כַּאֲנָשִׁים וְכַנָּשִׁים, וְהַהוֹרְגוֹ שׁוֹגֵג גּוֹלֶה וּמֵזִיד נֶהֱרַג כַּאֲנָשִׁים וְנָשִׁים, וְיוֹשֶׁבֶת עָלָיו דָּם טָמֵא וְדָם טָהוֹר כַּאֲנָשִׁים וְכַנָּשִׁים, וְחוֹלֵק בְּקָדְשֵׁי קֳדָשִׁים כַּאֲנָשִׁים וְכַנָּשִׁים, וְנוֹחֵל לְכָל הַנַחַלוֹת כַּאֲנָשִׁים וְכַנָּשִׁים, וְאִם אָמַר “הֲרֵינִי נָזִיר שֶׁזֶּה אִישׁ וְאִשָּׁה” הֲרֵי זֶה נָזִיר

 כֵּיצַד אֵינוֹ שָׁוֶה לֹא לַאֲנָשִׁים וְלֹא לַנָּשִׁים: אֵין חַיָּבִים לֹא עַל מַכָּתוֹ וְלֹא עַל קִלְלָתוֹ לֹא כַּאֲנָשִׁים וְלֹא כַּנָּשִׁים, וְאֵינוֹ נֶעֱרָךְ לֹא כַּאֲנָשִׁים וְלֹא כַּנָּשִׁים, וְאִם אָמַר “הֲרֵינִי נָזִיר שֶׁזֶּה לֹא אִישׁ וְלֹא אִשָּׁה” אֵינוֹ נָזִיר. רַבִּי מֵאִיר אוֹמֵר: אַנְדְּרוֹגִינוֹס בְּרִיָּה בִּפְנֵי עַצְמָהּ הוּא וְלֹא יָכְלוּ חֲכָמִים לְהַכְרִיעַ עָלָיו אִם הוּא אִישׁ אוֹ אִשָּׁה. אֲבָל טֻמְטוּם אֵינוֹ כֵּן, פְּעָמִים שֶׁהוּא אִישׁ פְּעָמִים שֶׁהוּא אִשָּׁה

One midrash claims that Dina was originally going to be male, but due to the prayer of her mother Leah became a female:

Berakhot 60a

We learned in a mishna: One whose wife was pregnant and he said: May it be God’s will that my wife will give birth to a male child, it is a vain prayer. Is a prayer in that case ineffective? Rav Yosef raises an objection: It is stated: “And afterwards she bore a daughter, and called her name Dina” (Genesis 30:21). What is meant by the addition of the word: Afterwards? Rav said: After Leah passed judgment on herself and said: Twelve tribes are destined to descend from Jacob, six came from me and four from the maidservants, that is ten, and if this fetus is male, my sister Rachel will not even be the equivalent of one the maidservants; immediately the fetus was transformed into a daughter, as it is stated: And she called her name Dina; meaning she named her after her judgment [din]. The Gemara rejects this concerning prayer: One does not mention miraculous acts to teach general conduct.

בְּרַכוֹת ס׳ א: י״א-י״ב

הָיְתָה אִשְׁתּוֹ מְעֻבֶּרֶת וְאָמַר יְהִי רָצוֹן שֶׁתֵּלֵד כּוּ’ הָרֵי זוֹ תִּפְלַת שָׁוְא: וְלֹא מהני רחמי מתיב רַב יוֹסֵף (בראשית א׳ כא,׳) ״וְאַחַר יָלְדָה בַּת וַתִּקְרָא אֶת שְׁמָהּ דִּינָהּ״ מַאי וְאַחַר אָמַר רַב ״לְאַחַר שֶׁדָּנָה לֵאָה דִּין בְּעַצְמָהּ וְאָמְרָה: שְׁנֵים עָשָׂר שְׁבָטִים עֲתִידִין לָצֵאת מִיַּעֲקֹב שִׁשָּׁה יֵצְאוּ מִמֶּנִּי וְאַרְבָּעָה מִן הַשְּׁפָחוֹת הֲרֵי עֲשָׂרָה אִם זֶה זָכָר לֹא תְּהֵא אֲחוֹתִי רָחֵל כְּאַחַת הַשְּׁפָחוֹת מִיָּד נֶהֶפְכָה לַבַּת שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר וְתִקָּרֵא אֶת שְׁמָה דִּינָהּ אֵין מַזְכִּירִין מַעֲשֶׂה נִסִּים

 

 

Even HaBohan is a book dated to 1322 authored by Rabbi Kalynomus ben Kalynomus. A prolific translator and author, this book often satirizes Jewish society. In this particular passage, he criticizes the blessing “for not having made me a woman.” However, beneath the feeling of parody, we might detect a heartfelt prayer that he truly would rather have been a woman. Referring to Dina in the Gemara above, the meaning of the text depends upon the tone in which it is read:


Even Bohan, Kalonymus ben Kalonymus,
What an awful fate for my mother / that she bore a son. What a loss of all benefit!… Cursed be the one who announced to my father: “It’s a boy! . . .
Woe to him who has male sons / Upon them a heavy yoke has been placed / restrictions and constraints. Some in private, some in public / some to avoid the mere appearance of violation / and some entering the most secret of places. Strong statutes and awesome commandments / six hundred and thirteen/ Who is the man who can do all that is written / so that he might be spared?
Oh, but had the artisan who made me created me instead—a fair woman.
Today I would be wise and insightful. We would weave, my friends and I / and in the moonlight spin our yarn / and tell our stories to one another / from dusk till midnight / We’d tell of the events of our day, silly things / matters of no consequence. But also I would grow very wise from the spinning / and I would say, “Happy is she who knows how to work with combed flax and weave it into fine white linen.” And at times, in the way of women, I would lie down on the kitchen floor, between the ovens, turn the coals, and taste the different dishes. On holidays I would put on my best jewelry. I would beat on the drum / and my clapping hands would ring. And when I was ready and the time was right / an excellent youth would be my fortune. He would love me, place me on a pedestal / dress me in jewels of gold / earrings, bracelets, necklaces. And on the appointed day, in the season of joy when brides are wed, for seven days would the boy increase my delight and gladness. Were I hungry, he would feed me well-kneaded bread. Were I thirsty, he would quench me with light and dark wine. He would not chastise nor harshly treat me, and my [sexual] pleasure he would not diminish / Every Sabbath, and each new moon / his head he would rest upon my breast. The three husbandly duties he would fulfill / rations, raiment, and regular intimacy. And three wifely duties would I also fulfill, [watching for menstrual] blood, [Sabbath candle] lights, and bread.

Father in heaven / who did miracles for our ancestors / with fire and water / You changed the fire of Chaldees so it would not burn hot / You changed Dina in the womb of her mother to a girl  / You changed the staff to a snake before a million eyes / You changed [Moses’] hand to [leprous] white/ and the sea to dry land. In the desert you turned rock to water / hard flint to a fountain. Who would then turn me from a man to woman? Were I only to have merited this / being so graced by your goodness. . .

What shall I say? Why cry or be bitter? If my Father in heaven has decreed upon me / and has maimed me with an immutable deformity / then I do not wish to remove it. And the sorrow of the impossible / is a human pain that nothing will cure / and for which no comfort can be found. So, I will bear and suffer / until I die and wither in the ground. And since I have learned from the tradition / that we bless both the good and the bitter / I will bless in a voice / hushed / and weak / Blessed are you / O Lord / who has not made me a woman.

סֶפֶר אֶבֶן בּוֹחַן, רַבִּי קְלוֹנִימוּס בָּן קְלוֹנִימוּס

אוֹי לְמִי שֶׁבָּנָיו זְכָרִים: הוּטַל עֲלֵיהֶם עֹל כָּבֵד סִיגִים וּגְדַרִים…חקים חֻקִּים וּמִצְוֹת נוֹרָאוֹת, שְׁלֹשָׁה עָשָׂר וְשֵׁשׁ מֵאוֹת: וּמִי הָאִישׁ הַלָּזֶה, שֶׁיְּקַיֵּם מַה שֶׁכָּתּב בּזֶה? אִלּוּ בְּרָאַנִי, אֻמָּן שֶׁעֲשָׂאָנִי, אִשָּׁה הֲגוּנָה – הַיּוֹם הָיִיתִי חַכְמַת לֵב וּבַעֲלַת בִּינָה. בְּיָדֶיהָ טָווּ אֲנִי וּרֵעָיוֹתַי מַחֲזִיקוֹת בְּפֶלֶךְ מוזרת לְבָנָה, מְסַפְּרוֹת זוֹ עִם זוֹ פַּעַם בְּאוֹר פַּעַם בַּאֲפֵלוֹת, דִּבְרִי הַיָּמִים וְהַבְלֵי טְפֵלוּת

וּלְעִתִּים מְזֻמָּנִים כְּדֶרֶךְ נָשִׂים כְּמִשְׁפַּט הַבָּנוֹת, בְּתוֹךְ הַאֶפֶר אֵשְׁכָּבָה בֵּין שְׁפַתִּים, מָקוֹם שֶׁפחת הַקַּדָּרוּת בֵּין תַּנּוּר וְכִּירָיִם, חוֹטֶבֶת עֵצִים וְחוֹתַה בַּגֶּחָלִים, וְטוֹעֶמֶת מִינֵי תַּבְשִׁילִים. וּלְמוֹעֵד ורְגָלִים, הֲנֶזֶם עַל אַפִּי וְהַעָגִּילִים

וּלְקֵץ יָמִים בְּהַגִּיעַ פִּרְקִי וּמַזָּלִי, בַּחוּר טוֹב יַעֲלֶה בְּגוֹרָלִי: יֶאֱהָבֵנִי אִישִׁי יוֹשִׁבֵנִי בְּקַתֶּדְרָא, יַעְדֶּה עֲדִי זָהָב עַל מְעִילִי, הַנְּטִיפוֹת וְהַשִּׁירוֹת וְגַם כָּל חָלִי. וּבְיוֹם מוֹעֵד, בַּעדן חֶדְוָה וְהַכְנָסַת כַּלָּה וּבַשָּׁבוּעַ הַבּן, תַּרְבֶּה שִׂמְחַתִּי וְגִילִי

חֹק וּמוּסַר לֹא יִפְרַע, וְעוֹנָתִי לֹא יִגְרַע: שָׁבַּת בְּשִׁבְתּוֹ וְחֹדֶשׁ בְּחֹדְּשׁוֹ, עָלַי יַנִּיחַ צַדִּיק רֹאשׁוֹ: שָׁלֹשׁ אֵלֶּה יַעֲשֶׂה לִי כְּמִצְוֹת שׁוֹכֵן מְעֹנָה: שְׁאָר כְּסוּת וְעוֹנָה. גַּם אֲנִי שָׁלֹשׁ כְּנֶגֶד שָׁלֹשׁ אֶשְׁמֹר וַאֲקַיֵּם, שְׁלֹשָׁה הֵמָּה לֹא נִפְלְאוּ מִמֶּנִּי וְלֹא רְחוֹקִים: דָּם וְאֵשׁ וְחָלַת לֶחֶם…עֲלֵיהֶם אֵין לְהוֹסִיף בַּמִּסְפָּר וּמִנְיָן, אֵין לִשְׁאוֹל אַחֲרֵיהֶן: הני נָשִׂים בְּמַאי זָכְיִין

אָבִינוּ שֶׁבַּשָּׁמַיִם / שֶׁעָשִׂיתָ נִסִּים לַאֲבוֹתֵינוּ / בָּאֵשׁ וּבַמַּיִם / הָפַכְתָּ אוּר כָּשְׂדִים לבל תִשְׂרוֹף בְּחוּמָה / וְהָפַכְתָּ דִּינָהּ בִּמְעֵי אִמָּהּ / וְהָפַכְתָּ הַמַּטֶּה נָחָשׁ לְעֵינֵי אַלְפֵי רִבְבָן / וְהָפַכְתָּ הַיָּד הַטְהוֹרָה לָבָן/ וְהָפַכְתָּ יָם סוּף לְיַבָּשָׁה / וְקַרְקַע הַיָּם אֶרֶץ נְגוּבָה וְקָשַׁה / הַהוֹפְכִי הַצּוֹר אֲגַם מָיִם / חַלָּמִישׁ לְמַעְיְנוֹ מָיִם / מִי יִתֵּן וְתַהַפְכֵנִי מְזַכַּר לִנְקָבָהּ! / אֵלוֹ זָכִיתִי לְכָךְ כַּמָּה חֲנַנְתַּנִי טוֹבָה / גְּבֶרֶת הַבַּיִת הָיִיתִי וְחָנִיתִי לְבֵיתִי מִצָּבָא / וּמָה אֲדַבֵּר וּמָה אֹמַר / לָמָּה אֶבְכֶּה וְלָמָּה אֶתְמַרְמַר / אִם אֲבִי שֶׁבַּשָּׁמַיִם גָּזַר עָלַי / וְנָתַן בִּי מוּם קָבוּעַ אִי אֶפְשָׁר לַהֲסִירוֹ מְעָלַי / וְהַדְּאָגָה בְּמַה שֶׁאִי אֶפְשָׁר כְּאֵב אָנושׁ וַחֶבֶל /  וְלֹא יוֹעִילוּ בָּהּ תַּנְחוּמִין שֶׁל הֶבֶל /  אָמַרְתִּי אֶשָּׂא וְאֶסְבֹּל /  עַד אִֶגְוַע וְאֶבֹּל / וְאַחַר שֶׁכָּךְ לָמַדְתִּי מִפִּי הַשְּׁמוּעָה / שֶׁמְּבָרְכִין עַל הַטּוֹבָה וְעַל הָרָעָה / אֲבָרֵךְ בְּקוֹל נָמוּךְ בְּשָׂפָה חֲלוּשָׁה /  בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְיָ שֶׁלֹּא עָשַׂנִי אִשָּׁה

Translated by Rabbi Steve Greenberg

 

 

Rabbi Elliot Kukla has done groundbreaking research in the area of gender fluidity in Jewish tradition:

Terms for Gender Diversity in Classical Jewish Texts by Rabbi Elliot Kukla

Zachar: This term is derived from the word for a pointy sword and refers to a phallus. It is usually translated as “male” in English.

Nekevah: This term is derived from the word for a crevice and probably refers to a vaginal opening. It is usually translated as “female” in English.

Androgynos: A person who has both “male” and “female” sexual characteristics. 149 references in Mishna and Talmud (1st-8th Centuries CE); 350 in classical midrash and Jewish law codes (2nd -16th Centuries CE).

Tumtum: A person whose sexual characteristics are indeterminate or obscured. 181 references in Mishna and Talmud; 335 in classical midrash and Jewish law codes.

Ay’lonit: A person who is identified as “female” at birth but develops “male” characteristics at puberty and is infertile. 80 references in Mishna and Talmud; 40 in classical midrash and Jewish law codes.

Saris: A person who is identified as “male” at birth but develops “female” characteristics as puberty and/or is lacking a penis. A saris can be “naturally” a saris (saris hamah), or become one through human intervention (saris adam). 156 references in Mishna and Talmud; 379 in classical midrash and Jewish law codes.

 

 

The Rabbis were always concerned about modesty. While they were concerned about an androginus being alone with a woman, they held back from saying this was a punishable offense. Maimonides is quoted word-for-word in the Shulchan Arukh:

Shulchan Arukh, Even HaEzer 22:12

A androginus may not be alone with women, but if they do seclude, there is no punishment [lit. lashes] because they have doubtful status [and there may not have been a transgression]. A man is permitted to be alone with an androginus or tumtum.

אֶבֶן הָעֵזֶר כ”ב:י”ב

אַנְדְּרוֹגִינוֹס אֵינוֹ מִתְיַחֵד עִם הַנָּשִׁים וְאִם נִתְיַחֵד אֵין מֵכִין אוֹתוֹ מִפְּנֵי שֶׁהוּא סָפֵק אַבַל הָאִישׁ מִתְיַחֵד עִם הָאַנְדְּרוֹגִינוֹס וְעִם הַטֻּמְטוּם

 

 

Many Kabbalistic texts use masculine and feminine imagery. Here, the idea is explored that sometimes a male soul winds up in a female body, and visa versa. Isaac is seen as having transitioned from female to male:

18th Century Hasidut

It is known that when Issac was born, he was born with the soul of a female, as it is written in Or Hachaim, and through the akeidah (binding of Issac) he got a male soul that can impregnate… But, this is known according to the Sod (Secret/Mysticism) of they cycling of souls – that at times, a female would be in a male body, because in the reasons of gilgal (the cycling of souls) the soul of a female would come to be in a male. … that is why it says by Issac that the Eternal answered to him and not to her (Rebecca), because he needed divine help to be able to have children.

Translation by Abby Stein, edited by Joseph Meszler

סֶפֶר רָזִין דְּאוֹרָיְתָא, בְּשֵׁם הָרַבִּי ר’ מִיכַל מזלאטשׁב

אוּלָם הַכַּוָּנָה, דְּנוֹדָע אֲשֶׁר יִצְחָק נוֹלָד בְּנִשְׁמַּת נוקבא, וּכְמוֹ שֶׁכָּתַב בַּעַל אוֹר הַחַיִּים הַק’, וְעַל יְדֵי הָעֲקֵדָה הָיָה לוֹ נִשְׁמַת דכר לְהַשְׁפִּיעַ… רַק זֹאת נוֹדַע סֵדֶר הַגִּלְגּוּלִים. וְלִפְעָמִים נְקֵבָה תְּסוֹבֵב גֶּבֶר כִּי בְּסבת הַגִּלְגּוּל נִשְׁמַת נְקֵבָה תָּבוֹא בְּזָכָר, כּאשר י’תִּרְעַם ה’גלגל ו’יִתְרַעֵשׁ ה’חוֹזֵר לָבוֹא בְּגִלְגּוּל שֵׁנֵי וּשְׁלִישִׁי. וְאִם נְקֵבָה אֲשֶׁר תּסובב בַּגֶּבֶר, שְׁנֵי נְקֵבוֹת אֵינָם מוֹלִידִים, רַק על יְדֵי מַעֲשֵׂי הַטּוֹב מַחֲלִיפִין הַנְּשָׁמָה, וּלְיִצְחָק הֶחֱלִיפוּ הַנְּשָׁמָה. לְפִיכָךְ לוֹ וְלֹא לָהּ, כִּי יִצְחָק הָיָה צָרִיךְ לְאוֹתוֹ דָּבָר וְלֹא רִבְקָה

 

 

Source Sheet created on Sefaria by Joseph Meszler

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