The text tells the story twice. First we read that God created man (i.e. the human being) in His image, “male and female He created them” (Gen. 1:27).
Then we are told (Gen. 2:21-22) that while Adam was asleep, God took one of his ribs and fashioned it into a woman. Rabbinic commentary suggests that it was not a single rib that was taken from Adam but a whole side.
At first Adam was two people rolled into one – according to one view, joined back to back; according to another opinion, Adam on the right and Eve on the left. Then God separated the two.
When Adam realised that his alter ego was gone he felt cold and God took pity on his loneliness.
Eventually Adam and Eve found each other and their meeting seemed to be like a reunification; the Chumash says they were now “one flesh” (Gen. 2:24).
But doesn’t the text also say that Eve was brought to Adam to be his helpmate (Gen. 2:18), implying that she was to be subservient to him?
That appears to be the way most readers understand the passage, but a better translation of the Hebrew is “a help meet (i.e. fitting) for him”.
The word “help” does not need to make Eve into a domestic skivvy; understand it in a spiritual and psychological sense and it indicates a soulmate who makes Adam feel complete. Hence the sages say that someone who lacks a spouse is only half a person (Y’vamot 62b/63a).
The notion that Adam originally had both male and female characteristics finds support in the finding of biology that only after the early stages does the embryo have clear male or female features.
Its eventual gender appears muffled at first but then the male or female organs as the case may be become apparent.