Bri'a bi’fney atzmah

 

Our tradition gives us a holy nonbinary category. In Mishnah Bikkurim 4:5, the androgynos is discussed as a holy subversion of binary thinking because of the phrase “Bri’a bi’fnei atzmah”, “a being created of its own”. This phrase is also used to refer to the koi in Tosefta Bikkurim 2 because the koi is neither wild nor domesticated. (“A Created Being of Its Own”)

בְּי֗וֹם בְּרֹ֤א אֱלֹהִים֙ אָדָ֔ם בִּדְמ֥וּת אֱלֹהִ֖ים עָשָׂ֥ה אֹתֽוֹ׃ זָכָ֥ר וּנְקֵבָ֖ה בְּרָאָ֑ם וַיְבָ֣רֶךְ אֹתָ֗ם

 

[Genesis 5:1-2]: "When God created the adam, He made him in the likeness of God; male and female [God] created them."

 

A modern scholar, Susan Weidman Schneider, interprets this verse as a merism,

such as “thick and thin”

or “young and old”.

As such “male and female [God] created them” can be read as “Zachar u’nkevah bara otam.” “God created male and female and every combination in between.”

(“Transgender Jews: An Introduction”)

Six boxes is better than two

Our tradition gives us more than two boxes.

These Talmudic terms may describe intersex manifestations but have also been applied to gender.

Learn more:
TransTorah's logo

L'dor vador, From Generation to Generation

Seeing queer reflections in our ancestors

ADAM
JACOB
JOSEPH
AVRAM & SARAI
KALONYMUS BEN KALONYMUS
Notable additions:
Check out these source sheet authors on Sefaria to learn more (click on the photos):
Rabbi Abby Stein's Sefaria profile
Binya Koatz's Sefaria profile

Image Credits

  • Abraham and Sarah by Chagall (1956)

  • Creation of God by Harmonia Rosales (2017)

  • Joseph and Potiphar's Wife by Guido Reni (1631)

  • Even Bochan by Kalonymos Ben Kalonymos (1322), image sourced from the Jewish Encyclopedia

  • Isaac Blessing Jacob by Jusepe de Ribera (1637)