Conjoined twins have a rare condition that occurs once in 250,000 live births. Less than fifty percent of them survive birth, and an even smaller percentage can be safely separated by surgery. The twins may be conjoined at the head, thorax, or abdomen, and may share important organs or blood vessels. The decision to separate them is not an easy one and the risks of separation must be weighed against the dangers of staying attached. Many conjoined twins are able to lead nearly normal lives together, and can learn to walk, ride a bike, even engage in sports, while attached to one another.
According to some Midrashim, the first parents of mankind were also originally conjoined. Some Midrashim describe Adam and Eve as having been created conjoined back to back. When G-d put Adam into a slumber and “removed his rib,” he actually separated the two halves and made them into separate beings.
What is the significance of this concept, that the two were originally created as one? We read a great deal about the “battle of the sexes,” and debates rage about the proper roles of men and women, and whether men are superior to women, at least in certain fields or areas. Thanks to the feminist revolution, there are now few fields that are barred to women. However, certain barriers continue to exist, and it is uncertain whether those barriers are best broken.
For example, while both men and women are capable of performing in the workplace, only a woman is capable of bearing a child, giving birth to that child and nursing it, which is the optimal food for an infant during the first year of life. Many mothers, indeed, although raised with feminist ideals, nevertheless find it difficult to separate from their babies, and put their careers on hold to stay home with their infants, at least for the first year.
Part of the problem is that we insist on viewing the relationship between the sexes as adversarial, when in truth there is a wonderful harmony and symbiosis between them. Neither is meant to dominate the other; rather, each views the other as an essential part of themselves.
The domination of male over female was part of the curse of Eve, after she ate of the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge. When Moshiach comes, though, says the prophet Isaiah, “The woman will encircle the man.” The woman’s spiritual powers will flourish and the innate unity between men and women will finally express itself with no hint of hostility or subjugation. We see the beginnings of the fulfillment of this prophecy today. Women today are encouraged to study and teach Torah to others and make a positive impact on the Jewish and general community, all while maintaining their standards of modesty. With the revelation of Moshiach we will have the advantages of independence together with the benefits of being “one flesh.”
Prof. Yirmiyahu Branover is chairman of the Center of Magnetohydrodynamic Studies and Training at Ben-Gurion University.