Ish, Isha, Adam, Itta & Obligation

There are 4 names for man: adam, ish, enosh and gever. Adam is the loftiest name and refers to a man of wisdom and understanding (centered in the intellectual faculties), while ish pertains to a man centered in the middot or emotive faculties. Enosh suggests weakness, while a gever overcomes and masters obstacles.

The latter two names (enosh and gever) denote struggle and overcoming struggle (in the realms of physical and emotional drives). The former two names (ish and adam) denote achievement – mastery over emotions and mastery over intellect (respectively).

Significantly, the names adam and ish are relevant to the idea of being obligated by the mitzvot. R’ Nissan Dovid Dubov (Yalkut Bar Mitzvah) writes regarding this:

The age of bar mitzvah the boy attains the level of “ish,” nonetheles, in order to fulfill the mitzvos properly one must also be under the influence of the level of “adam,” [… and] the level of “ish” does not suffice for mitzvah performance … [and] not only does a bar mitzvah have to be an “ish” but that the verse also hints at a level of “adam,” [to be obligated with respect to the mitzvot].

From this we can see, that neither an ish (man) nor an isha(woman) can be obligated with respect to the mitzvot. In terms of a masculine obligation to the mitzvot, only an adam (man) can be obligated. Chassidut teaches regarding an adam:

Adam is the loftiest adjective, that of intellectual capacity. Through this trait a person, striving with mind and heart, achieves superiority over all Creation, not only over terrestrial creatures, but even over spiritual ones, such as the ministering angels and emanations. Though the angels (on high) are Abstract Intellects (despite their bodily existence)-since their conceptions are non-spatial and non-temporal, while those of humans are circumscribed by the limitations of time and space-still man is superior. For only man has been given the mission and ability to illumine the darkness of this physical world with the light of Torah and mitzvot, to make it a G-dly abode.

From this we can see that what distinguishes ish and adam is the ability to illumine the darkness. It is only this ability – to illumine the darkness – of an adam (in contradistinction to an ish) which establishes the obligation toward the mitzvot.

An ish cannot bear obligation toward timebound mitzvot. Likewise, neither can an isha be obligated toward timebound mitzvot.

Similarly, as an adam has the ability to illumine the darkness, so too does an itta have the ability to illumine the darkness as elucidated in previous articles. Consequently, just as an adam is obligated toward the time bound mitzvot, so too, is an itta obligated.


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