Eve's Creation: Rib or Side?

Exactly what was Eve created from? I always assumed it was one of Adam’s ribs, but I just noticed a translation which said “side.” So which is right?

By the way, if Eve was created from a rib God certainly knew what he was doing (naturally!). Not only do the ribs lie close to and protect a man’s heart, but they are the only bones which regenerate if cut properly (and as a result are often used on patients for bone reconstruction). God could have taken a part of Adam’s rib and it would have grown back!

The Aish Rabbi Replies:

Thank you first of all for your interesting observation! This is perhaps yet another example of God’s wisdom demonstrating knowledge of science the ancients couldn’t possibly have known. (Even the concept of general anesthesia before surgery has an early source in the Torah here.)

In truth, there are a number of different explanations as to what Eve was created from. The Torah states that she was created from one of Adam’s “tzela”s (Genesis 2:21). The word tzela means “side” the many other times it’s used in the Torah (e.g. several times in Exodus 26 and Ezekiel 41) – usually referring to the side of a building or structure.

Based on this, many of the commentators understand that Eve was created from Adam’s side (one opinion in Bereishit Rabbah 17:8, Rashi 2:21, Ibn Ezra 2:21, Rambam Moreh Nevuchim 2:30, Ralbag 2:21). This follows the opinion in the Talmud (Brachot 61a) that Adam and Eve were initially created as a single being – with male and females halves. God determined that it was “not good” that man be a complete unit – feeling he is perfect and needs no one else, and so God turned His creation into two incomplete halves (see Rashi to Genesis 2:18).

(Some commentators understand differently that Adam had smaller appendage on his side, which God built into a woman – see e.g. Ralbag and Abarbanel.)

There is also an opinion that tzela means rib (alternate opinion in Bereishit Rabbah 17:8, Onkelos, Targum Yonatan, Chizkuni 2:21, Seforno 2:21). Some explain that God initially created Adam with an extra rib so it could be used for this purpose (Targum Yonatan, Arbarbanel).

There is a third opinion (Talmud Brachot 61a) that Eve was created from a tail (making humans creatures with a tail bone but not a tail).

Overall, however, this is a typical case where all the English translations automatically follow one explanation which, although in this case valid, is probably the less common one.

(Some of the sources above are cited in an article on the topic by Rabbi Dr. Ari Zivotofsky.)

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