Saturday, October 29, 2005

Random Bereishis Thoughts

The previous Parsha Zot Habracha ended with the mystery of the location of Moshe's tomb which no man knows. This parsha Bereishis begins with the mystery of creation which no man understands. This tells us how the mystery of death is linked to the mystery of creation and that the same G-d is responsible for both. Also as the death of Moshe moves to the creation of the world, we see that life follows death and rebirth follows a passing.

G-d looks upon what he created nearly every one of the six days and calls it good or Tov. To understand what is good or Tov, we need to think what it is in contrast to, namely Ra or bad. The tree of good and evil or the Etz Ha'daat Tov ve'Ra shows us that contrast. What precedes every declaration of Tov is a division. The division of the heavens of the waters, the division of species Min to Min, type to type and the creation of man finally, male and female. Such divisions emphasize that goodness comes from maintaining an order, rather than from the chaos and anarchy that ultimately brought the flood. Without that order the world ultimately reverts to the state of chaos that preceded its creation.

G-d states, Naaseh Adam Betzalmeinu Ve'dmuteinu; Let us make man in our form or image. Who is us? Once G-d makes man though he makes him in the Tzelem Elohim, the form of G-d. With 'us' G-d is speaking to the physical world which is a partner in the making of man since man is made of spirit which comes from G-d and flesh which comes from the physical nature of the world. Tzelem is often used to refer to spiritual or a parody of spiritual things, Dmut to their simpler physical form. Man was made in the spiritual image of G-d who was the active partner and in the form of the physical world which was the passive partner for the making of man.

Each of the animals is brought to Adam to be named and to see if he finds a partner there. Was it remotely conceivable that Adam would marry any particular breed of animal or for it to be a partner with him? This was to demonstrate to Adam that he had to aspire above the animal as no animal was sufficient.

Once Adam and Chava have eaten of the fruit, G-d addresses each of them asking them why they did so. This offers each a chance for repentance and self-examination. G-d does not ask the snake why since the snake has no moral choice and was not offered the opportunity for repentance. The snake is only punished with no hope of redemption, by contrast men and women can improve their lot by coming closer to G-d as Noach and Avraham did thus lessening the curse on the earth.

The curse of Adam is often referred to but in fact neither Adam or Chava were cursed. Only the snake was cursed. The earth was cursed for Adam but at no point does G-d say that Adam himself is cursed. In punishing Adam and the snake, G-d uses the formulation 'because of this' 'Ki' and naming a particular act but no such formulation is used for the woman. She is not held accountable for a particular act since it was Adam who was commanded by G-d directly and the snake who tricked. Chava functioned as an intermediary between them.

What is Chava's punishment? Extended childbirth and child-rearing. In the animal kingdom infants are born quickly and raised rapidly, if at all, before being sent off into the world. Man is unique in the length and duration of childbearing and child-rearing. This also creates the bond of the child with the parents and the existence of the family, rather than a male who wanders off as quickly as possible. Both Adam and Chava had demonstrated a lack of regard for each other and for the consequences of the future. The family was meant to remedy that and create a new form of irresponsibility for man. By adding danger via the snake, extended childbirth and child-rearing and food that had to be derived through extended labor, man became more than individuals pursuing their own ends but a family.


Chana said...

Very nice

ruth2 said...

Yes, this was a very nice post. And BTW, thank you Sultan for always including the english translations of hebrew words for those of us who are still learning or have never learned hebrew or Torah.

I am sure many readers appreciate this sensitivity and need :)
And for doing so without us having to ask first. This kindness is much appreciated!

Anonymous said...

Exactamundo Ruth2!

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