My parents were classical music enthusiasts so I grew up familiar with the works of many of the great composers. Had you asked me, I would have said that I knew Beethoven’s Sixth Symphony, the Pastoral. Then, a few years back, my son-in-law Max directed me to an audio program in which a wonderful music teacher discussed the piece.
This led me to an “Aha!” moment. I certainly recognized the Pastoral and thought I was familiar with it. But after hearing the discussion I realized that I never really did know it until then. Since then, I hear the music with greater appreciation, admiration and humility.
One of the things I love about studying the Bible is that there are continual “Aha!” moments. No matter how many times I study a passage, each reading reveals new and deeper insights. Usually it is the original Hebrew that points me to more profound meaning.
In my book, Buried Treasure: Secrets for Living from the Lord’s Language, I wrote seven pages explaining the Hebrew word YaDaH, which means “know”. Still, I barely scratched the surface of the many life lessons and truths that emerge from that one word.
I demonstrated how the word is composed of two smaller words which translate as “hand” and “eye” thus explaining why self-interest is a prerequisite of knowing. But I ran out of space before being able to ask a really important question: Why would the Bible choose to use the word “know” as a synonym for marital intimacy?
Adam knew Eve, his wife, and she conceived and she bore Cain.
What activity offers human beings the greatest pleasure? Immature boys (of any age) will respond, “Sex!” The number of sexually active girls who punish themselves through a warped relationship with food or other forms of self-mutilation suggests this isn’t so. Boys may initially feel they have found nirvana, but they too eventually find emptiness when physical connection has no emotional commitment. After four decades, the much vaunted sexual revolution has not actually delivered the great happiness it promised.
No, the greatest pleasure available to human beings is getting to know God. Since getting to know God is terribly difficult, and for most of us close to impossible, we resort to the next best alternative: One may obtain an inkling of how thrilling it would be to get to know the Creator Himself by instead getting to know one of His creations, another human being.
I wanted to get to know the Dutch painter, Rembrandt, partially because his closest friend had been a Torah teacher whose books I study; Rabbi Menashe Ben Israel. I spent many hours in the Dutch State Museum studying the old master’s paintings. That may not have been quite as satisfying as spending the afternoon with Rembrandt, but it was the next best thing.
Having a spouse allows us truly to know another person. Sex is one, but certainly not the only necessary component of this knowing. Abusing that avenue ends up alienating us, not bringing us closer to each other.
Is the word YaDaH, to know, always used for sex throughout the Bible?
No, it is only used in situations when the man and woman are really building a relationship based on deep inner knowledge of one another. When those qualities are lacking, for instance in a rape, the word “know” is not used.
When Shechem…saw her (Dinah), he took her and lay with her…
In Buried Treasure I teach the real meaning of twenty-eight words. The truth is that I should have given each one of them a book of its own. That is the magic and wonder of the Hebrew language and I urge you to take advantage of this week’s sale.
If I can convey to you some of the awe and humility I feel when I read the Torah, I will be satisfied. If you gain a little of the thrill of knowing God through coming to know a little of His language, I will be ecstatic.
P.S. I am delighted to announce that my audio CD, Madam, I’m Adam is now available as an instant download.