Rabban Gamliel, who was a leader of the first century Jewish community in the Land of Israel, and his daughter were invited to a large dinner party for Caesar’s new Roman Governor of Judea. When they were introduced to the Governor he smiled and said: “Before I left Rome I was told that your God is a thief; because while Adam was sleeping, your God took some flesh from his side in order to make a wife for him.”
Rabban Gamliel was shocked speechless. His daughter answered for him: Dear Governor, please assign an officer to guard our house, because last night while we were sleeping, a thief entered our house and stole a large silver tray; replacing it with an even larger gold tray.
The Governor laughed and said: I wish I had had a thief like that stealing from my house. She replied, “Whatever God took from Adam’s side was replaced by his wife; who now stands beside him as a lifetime helpmate; an ‘ezer kenegdo’. This word is mistranslated as rib in the Greek translation — the Septuagint. It actually means side (for example Ezekiel 41:5,11 or Exodus 26:26,27,35).
God took flesh from the right side, or the left side, of Adam and built woman (who is well built to this day). Built seems to be a strange term to use, but the Hebrew word for side appears mostly (40 times) in the context of building a structure. A wall with only one side does not exist. A one sided building cannot shelter anyone.
Adam without one side was only half a man. Thus the Torah concludes, “That is why a man leaves his father and mother and clings to his wife, and the two become one flesh.” (Genesis 2:24)
Two sides become one whole. Two sides can stand together. Which side did God take?
Probably the right side because Psalm 45:10 says, “A royal consort stands at your right side” This is why the bride stands at the grooms right side in a Jewish wedding ceremony.
The woman God built is described as an “ezer kenegdo” — a helper corresponding to or equal to him, i.e., an equal partner or a teammate. The right side does not differ greatly from the left side in bilateral creatures, but psychologically perhaps she is the ‘inside’ and he is the ‘outside’.
This would symbolize a greater difference. Good marriage partners bring different abilities and talents together. Thus, as partners, one plus one is greater than two.
Even a skeptic like Kohelet declares, “If two lie side by side, they keep each other warm; but how can one keep warm alone?” (Ecclesiastes 4:11)
This is why God says, “It is not good for a male to dwell alone. I will provide a helpmate partner for him.” (Genesis 2:18)
The Roman Governor thought for a few moments and then said: I also heard in Rome that Jewish women were beautiful, faithful and wise. I now see that all three are true. Your God is indeed a provider of blessings; and not in any way a thief. (Based on Talmud: Sanhedrin 39a)