Parshat Bereshit: A Tribute To Nehama Leibowitz

In chapter 2 of Breisheet, the first woman is created. The woman is called “Isha” as it says in Breisheet 2:23 “And the man said, this is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called woman because she was taken out of man (ki meish lookcha zot)”.

In chapter 3 sentence 20, the woman is called “Chava”: “The man called his wife’s name Chava because she was mother of all of the living (em kol chai)”.

Nehama Leibowitz brings down a commentary from the Akedat Yitzchak (Rabbi Isaac Arama 1420-1494):

The two names, “Isha” and “Chava” indicate two purposes. The first one, “Isha”, teaches that woman was taken from man, stressing that like him you may understand and advance in the intellectual and moral field just as did the matriarchs and many righteous women and prophetesses and as the literal meaning of Eshet Chayil (Woman of Valor Proverbs 31) indicates.

The second name, “Chava”, alludes to the power of childbearing and rearing children as is indicated in the name “Chava”, mother of all of the living. A woman deprived of the power of childbearing will be deprived of the secondary purpose and will be left with the ability to do evil or good like the man who is barren. Of both the barren man and woman Yishayahu (56:5) states: “I have given them in My house and in My walls a name that is better than sons and daughters”.

nechama leibowitz
Nehama Leibowitz (1905-1997) lived in Israel and was a teacher of Torah to thousands, maybe millions of people through classes, lectures, worksheets (which Nehama mailed out to people all over the world and personally corrected and mailed back) and books. Nehama exemplified an “Isha”. Since Nehama was not able to bear children, she did not fulfill the role of “Chava” in the formal sense.

However, the Gemara in Sanhedrin 19b teaches:

Whoever teaches someone else’s child Torah is considered as if he had given birth to him.”

In that case, Nehama Leibowitz fulfilled the role of “Chava”, mother of thousands, possibly even millions of children from varied backgrounds throughout the world.


Rabbanit Sharona Margolin Halickman
Rabbanit Sharona Margolin Halickman was the first Congregational Intern and Madricha Ruchanit at the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale, NY. After making aliya in 2004, Sharona founded Torat Reva Yerushalayim, a non-profit organization based in Jerusalem that provides Torah study groups for students of all ages and backgrounds. Rabbanit Halickman is a member of Beit Hillel.


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