Last week we saw that the verse “And both of them were naked, the man and his wife, and they were not ashamed” could be translated as “and they were not shy” which we suggested was more than just a semantic difference, but conveyed in that one alternative word is an entire different and distinctive world view.
A person is ashamed when they do something wrong but there should be no shame in our bodies. Shyness does not convey having done anything bad but rather a reservation about exposure that is healthy and appropriate. We are shy of others that we do not know; we can be inhibited around them, retired and quiet. This is not due to having done anything wrong but because we have been conditioned correctly to be wary of the unknown until we get to know it better and then we are willing to show our true selves.
Adam and Eve had no such reservations as they were created for each other and were willing to be totally exposed both physically and emotionally. Since then, initially in any relationship, man and woman are shy of each other. We are concerned to be too revealed as we can end up getting hurt on many levels. So we learn to cover up not only our bodies but our essence and we hide ourselves behind physical and emotional barriers.
This is a natural and healthy sign of normative human behavior. We do not share ourselves with anyone. We do not reveal that which is better left hidden. We inhabit our own individual world and we do not readily allow others to invade our private space. Nor do we invade another person’s domain. We do not touch them unless they want to be touched. We do not force them to reveal their secrets or their bodies.
So shyness is the preservation of the sanctity of the private areas of myself and of others. Trespassing into someone else’s private space is unacceptable, as much as we would not allow others to force themselves on us.
However, when two people are willing to share of themselves, they permit the other to enter their private space and are willing to expose themselves both physically and emotionally. They invite the other in and do not view this as an imposition. Rather, they feel the need to be touched by the other. This is the crux of intimacy which has a physical component but is in essence an emotion. The extension to another to enter my private space and the desire to be invited to enter that other person’s private space.
This must be a mutual feeling otherwise one is left exposed and injured, but when it is shared and reciprocated then intimacy, love and endearment can follow. The laws of modesty, especially in relation to our dress code, come to protect the beauty of our bodies, not to hide them away because they are dirty or crude but because they are private and if exposed will become cheapened and less worthy.
Adam and Eve knew that they were made for each other and, therefore, were immediately open with each other, more like two siblings than two lovers. Indeed the Song of Song uses the image of “my sister, my bride” to convey the openness that two lovers can feel. However, to get to this point we need to seek out our soul mate, often encountering heartache on the way, but, when a man and a woman reach that ability to be fully exposed to each other, they are bound together as man and wife.
One of the reasons why the bride encircles the groom seven times under the chuppah is symbolically to break down the barriers between them. Similar to the Jewish people encircling the city of Jericho before the walls came tumbling down, so the bride uproots the obstacles between them to achieve two union and intimacy.
More on this next time.