Eve and her Mother — a Midrash
Has this gorgeousness landed in your mailbox yet? It’s the Winter 2016 issue of Exponent II magazine – our Midrash issue! From the magazine, “Midrash is a Jewish tradition of spinning out a new story based on scripture, filling in narrative gaps or retelling the scripture from a new point of view.”
You can get your print or electronic issue here!
I didn’t send in a submission to the issue, too chicken, I think. I’ll share my story here instead and urge you to go read the winning stories from the real writers in the magazine!
Eve and her Mother
I never didn’t know Her. She was always there: Endless. Eternal. I went with Her in the days of creation; She insisted I come. I tried to help a little, held the palette as she painted sunsets in the sky, but could no more than watch in awe as she planted her heartbeat as the rhythm of the great sea. She placed wisdom in the trunk of every tree, filled towering mountains with strength and brimmed the broad sky with her bright spirit. Her life force, material and immaterial, gives pulse and vibrancy to the planet, as the pulse and blood of every mother extend to her baby. She nurtured me near her side and embodied my earth-home to surround me. I hear Her voice on the wind, see Her eyes sparkle at night and feel Her warm kisses in the day. She lives in me as I live in her, Mother of Heaven in Earth.
She tutored me in the garden: taught me about root, vine, and fruit, to use dung of animals in the soil. I was new in my body. I learned about bones and sinews, heart and blood, and how to clean my teeth. Mother warned of injury and illness, then guided me to healing herbs, pungent and prickly. I was innocent, naked and virtuous. She explained how my body would mirror the changes of the waning moon, with new blood for every new moon. Someday I would bear the children of the world, she said. Our talk of pain bewildered me; how could I understand the unknown and unfelt? I never knew what it was to have my body ripped open, and then my heart. Never knew what a child could do to a mother. (Did I do that to you, Mother?) I admired her, touched her, loved her and wished with all my soul to be as good as she. Wisdom. Strength. Heart. Devotion.
Our daily lessons went on for millennia until She was sure I could fill her role as the Great Mother of all. She would depart from us, and it would be up to me to propagate her memory to my children. My woman heart, wisdom and intuition all inspired by her! I will pass them to generations of daughters, with prayers and hope that they, too, will recognize the source.
“It’s time,” she encourages. “Go tell him it’s time to go.” (I don’t want to leave you, Mother!)
She cautioned me about the serpents in the garden, a necessary part of the plan, but cunning and dangerous all the same.
“Eve,” she soothes, “For this purpose were you born: to choose, to act, to leave, to grow, to learn, to create, to die, and to return. As long as your feet walk upon my clay, we are not separated.”
Bold in the confidence of her assurances, I set out to find him. My helpmeet. Bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh. Is it he, in the thicket, near the tree? I run to him.
It is not he. The serpent intercepts my envoy.
His slippery words flatter me. She said I was ready, that it was time to go, but She didn’t say how. Is this what She meant? Was this Her plan all along? She didn’t teach me this part – said that I would choose knowledge when the time for good arrived.
I take the fruit.
Ack! What is that taste? I remember my lessons: this is bitter. And then strangely sweet. How can it be both? I don’t understand at first, and then all at once, I do.
A simultaneous growing and shrinking, something begins to change within me. I haven’t much time. I must find him!
I run through the familiar trails of my garden, home for so long. Will it be my home, still? A rock in the path grazes my foot. Something sticky and red appears. No matter, I am undeterred.
I find him with the animals, nurturing and naming them with care, learning husbandry and gentleness from Father.
He looks up as I run in breathless, a warm smile spreading across his face as he regards me. Is he seeing my body for the first time, as I am seeing his? A hot knot twists in my stomach. She said I would desire my husband. Is this desire?
I extend my hand, compel him to take the fruit. He resists. I insist. He doesn’t understand, but trusts my pleadings. The bite crackles, then melts.
His eyes again find me, this time as though he had never seen me. I nod my head in understanding, brush his cheek with my lips. Our embrace is interrupted by the serpent, slithering after me through the garden. He greets us with a deception: Naked. Shame. Cover yourself.
My beautiful body, so like Hers, with breasts for milk and hands for work. Immoral? It can’t be. It was Their final creation! The serpent’s lies erode my confidence.
The fig leaves silently declare my acquiescence. Aprons change for coats of skins, scratchy and coarse. The first clue of how my body will suffer in the new terrain.
We stand before our makers and feel our first pains. Sorrow tastes bitter, and my tears are salty. My heart races as I discern my own fear– our imminent separation means leaving her!
The way back to life is out there, through death. But first there will be labor, tears, sweat, and blood. They explain without pretense.
We leave the safety of our garden and set out for somewhere, I don’t know where. The animals scatter. My husband walks with determination, as though he’ll know the spot when he sees it. I linger, pausing to pluck a few berries from a bush as we pass. This time another aching emptiness pulls in my stomach – Hunger. If I knew then how hunger would be my constant companion, I would have stopped and filled my hands with fruit. My feet and legs throb. Finally we reach a small hole cut out of the base of a rock cliff. We will pass the night here, alone for the first time. I throw my face on the earth, wetting the soil with my tears. I feel tired, hungry, cold, scared. Too many new sensations for one day overwhelm me. I roll to my back and see my mother’s million eyes sparkling down upon me. I am comforted.