Wednesday, October 10, 2007

parshat Bereishit: Was Chava Named For A Snake?

I doubt it. DovBear has a short post about it. He cites Robert Alter, who notes an ancient Mesopotamian (Alter said Canaanite) myth of a primordial serpent.

DovBear also cited Zohar which gives a snake connection of Chivya, and DovBear then asks the good question of how Adam knew Aramaic, if the first, holy language is purportedly Hebrew.

It is a good setup, and I will take the bait.

First, in terms of the Aramaic. I am personally comfortable with the first language being conceived of as Proto-Canaanite, which had Hebrew and Aramaic elements. (And just as Pharaoh spoke Egyptian but it was recorded in the Torah as Hebrew, so may the language used in Bereishit match the Hebrew language at the time of Moshe.) But let us say that you wish to insist it is Hebrew. Who says that Hebrew cannot have Aramaic cognates. Especially archaic Hebrew makes use of words which we are only otherwise familiar with from Aramaic. For example, in parshat veZot haBeracha, we said:

ב וַיֹּאמַר, ה מִסִּינַי בָּא וְזָרַח מִשֵּׂעִיר לָמוֹ--הוֹפִיעַ מֵהַר פָּארָן, וְאָתָה מֵרִבְבֹת קֹדֶשׁ; מִימִינוֹ, אשדת (אֵשׁ דָּת) לָמוֹ. 2 And he said: The LORD came from Sinai, and rose from Seir unto them; He shined forth from mount Paran, and He came from the myriads holy, at His right hand was a fiery law unto them.
The word veAta, "and He came," is Aramaic. But it is not Aramaic, but rather an Aramaic cognate. And all the times midrash, or medieval or commentators, refer to Arabic cognates, the intent is not that this is an Arabic word being used in Torah, but rather that we have little knowledge of the full Hebrew vocabulary, and since Arabic is a related Semitic languages, we might intuit what it means here as well.

So too here, we might say that chivya is an archaic Hebrew word for snake, alongside nachash. As such, we uproot the entire question.

However, Alter's assertion is predicated on the common scholarly assumption that name etiologies in Tanach are fanciful, as a result of sound similarity. But is not sound similarity a plausible etiology? For example, my sister-in-law is named Avigail, named after a grandfather named Avraham. Scholars do the same for Moshe. Moshe would mean "drawer out," rather than "drawn out." (Actually, in the archaic kal-passive, it could well mean "drawn-out," but ignore that.) And how could an Egyptian princess know Hebrew. (Never mind that she was able to talk to the Egyptian slaves, and hired a Hebrew nursemaid, such that she could have consulted them.) No, it must be an Egyptian half-name, Mose, from Thut-mose and Ra-mses, even though a different letter is used for the S of Ramses (samech) and Moshe (shin/sin).

Yet they decide to ignore that once you discard the etymology explicitly offered, why do you feel bound by the narrative at all? "Moshe" means various things in other Semitic languages, so why favor an awkward Egyptian etymology once we assume that the entirety is fanciful? Who says he was named by an Egyptian princess in the first place?

So too here, Alter discards the explicit etymology of the verse, but then wishes to connect it to the narrative anyway. Since there is a serpent in the story, connect her name to the serpent. But who is to say there was any connection to the story at all? For example, connect it to חוה, to express, to state, to experience.

He actually gives two snake explanations. The first connects it to the story, to her "wily interlocutor." The second connects it to the primordial serpent, and thus to the reason given explicitly in the verse - em kol chai.

I would choose to distance Chava from any snake allusions. My quasi-heretical [ ;) ] basis for this is that, in my reading of Bereishit, there is no connection between the snake narrative and Chava's name.

There are two "threads," if you will, within the Gan Eden narrative. The first thread is the naming of all the animals. The second thread is the eating from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. They stand side by side, and then are interwoven. They have knowledge of one another, but conceptually stand apart.

I believe that the naming of Chava belongs to the naming the animals thread. The snake belongs to the Etz HaDaat thread.

I would separate them as follows:

1) The Tree thread, approximately:

Bereishit 2:
טו וַיִּקַּח יְהוָה אֱלֹהִים, אֶת-הָאָדָם; וַיַּנִּחֵהוּ בְגַן-עֵדֶן, לְעָבְדָהּ וּלְשָׁמְרָהּ. 15 And the LORD God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it.
טז וַיְצַו יְהוָה אֱלֹהִים, עַל-הָאָדָם לֵאמֹר: מִכֹּל עֵץ-הַגָּן, אָכֹל תֹּאכֵל. 16 And the LORD God commanded the man, saying: 'Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat;
יז וּמֵעֵץ, הַדַּעַת טוֹב וָרָע--לֹא תֹאכַל, מִמֶּנּוּ: כִּי, בְּיוֹם אֲכָלְךָ מִמֶּנּוּ--מוֹת תָּמוּת. 17 but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it; for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.'
then:
כה וַיִּהְיוּ שְׁנֵיהֶם עֲרוּמִּים, הָאָדָם וְאִשְׁתּוֹ; וְלֹא, יִתְבֹּשָׁשׁוּ. 25 And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed.
Then, in Bereishit 3:
א וְהַנָּחָשׁ, הָיָה עָרוּם, מִכֹּל חַיַּת הַשָּׂדֶה, אֲשֶׁר עָשָׂה יְהוָה אֱלֹהִים; וַיֹּאמֶר, אֶל-הָאִשָּׁה, אַף כִּי-אָמַר אֱלֹהִים, לֹא תֹאכְלוּ מִכֹּל עֵץ הַגָּן. 1 Now the serpent was more subtle than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said unto the woman: 'Yea, hath God said: Ye shall not eat of any tree of the garden?'
ב וַתֹּאמֶר הָאִשָּׁה, אֶל-הַנָּחָשׁ: מִפְּרִי עֵץ-הַגָּן, נֹאכֵל. 2 And the woman said unto the serpent: 'Of the fruit of the trees of the garden we may eat;
ג וּמִפְּרִי הָעֵץ, אֲשֶׁר בְּתוֹךְ-הַגָּן--אָמַר אֱלֹהִים לֹא תֹאכְלוּ מִמֶּנּוּ, וְלֹא תִגְּעוּ בּוֹ: פֶּן-תְּמֻתוּן. 3 but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said: Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die.'
ד וַיֹּאמֶר הַנָּחָשׁ, אֶל-הָאִשָּׁה: לֹא-מוֹת, תְּמֻתוּן. 4 And the serpent said unto the woman: 'Ye shall not surely die;
ה כִּי, יֹדֵעַ אֱלֹהִים, כִּי בְּיוֹם אֲכָלְכֶם מִמֶּנּוּ, וְנִפְקְחוּ עֵינֵיכֶם; וִהְיִיתֶם, כֵּאלֹהִים, יֹדְעֵי, טוֹב וָרָע. 5 for God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as God, knowing good and evil.'
ו וַתֵּרֶא הָאִשָּׁה כִּי טוֹב הָעֵץ לְמַאֲכָל וְכִי תַאֲוָה-הוּא לָעֵינַיִם, וְנֶחְמָד הָעֵץ לְהַשְׂכִּיל, וַתִּקַּח מִפִּרְיוֹ, וַתֹּאכַל; וַתִּתֵּן גַּם-לְאִישָׁהּ עִמָּהּ, וַיֹּאכַל. 6 And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat; and she gave also unto her husband with her, and he did eat.
ז וַתִּפָּקַחְנָה, עֵינֵי שְׁנֵיהֶם, וַיֵּדְעוּ, כִּי עֵירֻמִּם הֵם; וַיִּתְפְּרוּ עֲלֵה תְאֵנָה, וַיַּעֲשׂוּ לָהֶם חֲגֹרֹת. 7 And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig-leaves together, and made themselves girdles.
ח וַיִּשְׁמְעוּ אֶת-קוֹל יְהוָה אֱלֹהִים, מִתְהַלֵּךְ בַּגָּן--לְרוּחַ הַיּוֹם; וַיִּתְחַבֵּא הָאָדָם וְאִשְׁתּוֹ, מִפְּנֵי יְהוָה אֱלֹהִים, בְּתוֹךְ, עֵץ הַגָּן. 8 And they heard the voice of the LORD God walking in the garden toward the cool of the day; and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God amongst the trees of the garden.
ט וַיִּקְרָא יְהוָה אֱלֹהִים, אֶל-הָאָדָם; וַיֹּאמֶר לוֹ, אַיֶּכָּה. 9 And the LORD God called unto the man, and said unto him: 'Where art thou?'
י וַיֹּאמֶר, אֶת-קֹלְךָ שָׁמַעְתִּי בַּגָּן; וָאִירָא כִּי-עֵירֹם אָנֹכִי, וָאֵחָבֵא. 10 And he said: 'I heard Thy voice in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself.'
יא וַיֹּאמֶר--מִי הִגִּיד לְךָ, כִּי עֵירֹם אָתָּה; הֲמִן-הָעֵץ, אֲשֶׁר צִוִּיתִיךָ לְבִלְתִּי אֲכָל-מִמֶּנּוּ--אָכָלְתָּ. 11 And He said: 'Who told thee that thou wast naked? Hast thou eaten of the tree, whereof I commanded thee that thou shouldest not eat?'
יב וַיֹּאמֶר, הָאָדָם: הָאִשָּׁה אֲשֶׁר נָתַתָּה עִמָּדִי, הִוא נָתְנָה-לִּי מִן-הָעֵץ וָאֹכֵל. 12 And the man said: 'The woman whom Thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat.'
יג וַיֹּאמֶר יְהוָה אֱלֹהִים לָאִשָּׁה, מַה-זֹּאת עָשִׂית; וַתֹּאמֶר, הָאִשָּׁה, הַנָּחָשׁ הִשִּׁיאַנִי, וָאֹכֵל. 13 And the LORD God said unto the woman: 'What is this thou hast done?' And the woman said: 'The serpent beguiled me, and I did eat.'
יד וַיֹּאמֶר יְהוָה אֱלֹהִים אֶל-הַנָּחָשׁ, כִּי עָשִׂיתָ זֹּאת, אָרוּר אַתָּה מִכָּל-הַבְּהֵמָה, וּמִכֹּל חַיַּת הַשָּׂדֶה; עַל-גְּחֹנְךָ תֵלֵךְ, וְעָפָר תֹּאכַל כָּל-יְמֵי חַיֶּיךָ. 14 And the LORD God said unto the serpent: 'Because thou hast done this, cursed art thou from among all cattle, and from among all beasts of the field; upon thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life.
טו וְאֵיבָה אָשִׁית, בֵּינְךָ וּבֵין הָאִשָּׁה, וּבֵין זַרְעֲךָ, וּבֵין זַרְעָהּ: הוּא יְשׁוּפְךָ רֹאשׁ, וְאַתָּה תְּשׁוּפֶנּוּ עָקֵב. {ס} 15 And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; they shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise their heel.' {S}
טז אֶל-הָאִשָּׁה אָמַר, הַרְבָּה אַרְבֶּה עִצְּבוֹנֵךְ וְהֵרֹנֵךְ--בְּעֶצֶב, תֵּלְדִי בָנִים; וְאֶל-אִישֵׁךְ, תְּשׁוּקָתֵךְ, וְהוּא, יִמְשָׁל-בָּךְ. {ס} 16 Unto the woman He said: 'I will greatly multiply thy pain and thy travail; in pain thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee.' {S}
יז וּלְאָדָם אָמַר, כִּי-שָׁמַעְתָּ לְקוֹל אִשְׁתֶּךָ, וַתֹּאכַל מִן-הָעֵץ, אֲשֶׁר צִוִּיתִיךָ לֵאמֹר לֹא תֹאכַל מִמֶּנּוּ--אֲרוּרָה הָאֲדָמָה, בַּעֲבוּרֶךָ, בְּעִצָּבוֹן תֹּאכְלֶנָּה, כֹּל יְמֵי חַיֶּיךָ. 17 And unto Adam He said: 'Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying: Thou shalt not eat of it; cursed is the ground for thy sake; in toil shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life.
יח וְקוֹץ וְדַרְדַּר, תַּצְמִיחַ לָךְ; וְאָכַלְתָּ, אֶת-עֵשֶׂב הַשָּׂדֶה. 18 Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field.
יט בְּזֵעַת אַפֶּיךָ, תֹּאכַל לֶחֶם, עַד שׁוּבְךָ אֶל-הָאֲדָמָה, כִּי מִמֶּנָּה לֻקָּחְתָּ: כִּי-עָפָר אַתָּה, וְאֶל-עָפָר תָּשׁוּב. 19 In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken; for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.'
and finally:
כב וַיֹּאמֶר יְהוָה אֱלֹהִים, הֵן הָאָדָם הָיָה כְּאַחַד מִמֶּנּוּ, לָדַעַת, טוֹב וָרָע; וְעַתָּה פֶּן-יִשְׁלַח יָדוֹ, וְלָקַח גַּם מֵעֵץ הַחַיִּים, וְאָכַל, וָחַי לְעֹלָם. 22 And the LORD God said: 'Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil; and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever.'
כג וַיְשַׁלְּחֵהוּ יְהוָה אֱלֹהִים, מִגַּן-עֵדֶן--לַעֲבֹד, אֶת-הָאֲדָמָה, אֲשֶׁר לֻקַּח, מִשָּׁם. 23 Therefore the LORD God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from whence he was taken.
כד וַיְגָרֶשׁ, אֶת-הָאָדָם; וַיַּשְׁכֵּן מִקֶּדֶם לְגַן-עֵדֶן אֶת-הַכְּרֻבִים, וְאֵת לַהַט הַחֶרֶב הַמִּתְהַפֶּכֶת, לִשְׁמֹר, אֶת-דֶּרֶךְ עֵץ הַחַיִּים. {ס} 24 So He drove out the man; and He placed at the east of the garden of Eden the cherubim, and the flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way to the tree of life. {S}

2) The animal naming narrative:
Bereishit 2:
יח וַיֹּאמֶר יְהוָה אֱלֹהִים, לֹא-טוֹב הֱיוֹת הָאָדָם לְבַדּוֹ; אֶעֱשֶׂה-לּוֹ עֵזֶר, כְּנֶגְדּוֹ. 18 And the LORD God said: 'It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a help meet for him.'
יט וַיִּצֶר יְהוָה אֱלֹהִים מִן-הָאֲדָמָה, כָּל-חַיַּת הַשָּׂדֶה וְאֵת כָּל-עוֹף הַשָּׁמַיִם, וַיָּבֵא אֶל-הָאָדָם, לִרְאוֹת מַה-יִּקְרָא-לוֹ; וְכֹל אֲשֶׁר יִקְרָא-לוֹ הָאָדָם נֶפֶשׁ חַיָּה, הוּא שְׁמוֹ. 19 And out of the ground the LORD God formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air; and brought them unto the man to see what he would call them; and whatsoever the man would call every living creature, that was to be the name thereof.
כ וַיִּקְרָא הָאָדָם שֵׁמוֹת, לְכָל-הַבְּהֵמָה וּלְעוֹף הַשָּׁמַיִם, וּלְכֹל, חַיַּת הַשָּׂדֶה; וּלְאָדָם, לֹא-מָצָא עֵזֶר כְּנֶגְדּוֹ. 20 And the man gave names to all cattle, and to the fowl of the air, and to every beast of the field; but for Adam there was not found a help meet for him.
כא וַיַּפֵּל יְהוָה אֱלֹהִים תַּרְדֵּמָה עַל-הָאָדָם, וַיִּישָׁן; וַיִּקַּח, אַחַת מִצַּלְעֹתָיו, וַיִּסְגֹּר בָּשָׂר, תַּחְתֶּנָּה. 21 And the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and he slept; and He took one of his ribs, and closed up the place with flesh instead thereof.
כב וַיִּבֶן יְהוָה אֱלֹהִים אֶת-הַצֵּלָע אֲשֶׁר-לָקַח מִן-הָאָדָם, לְאִשָּׁה; וַיְבִאֶהָ, אֶל-הָאָדָם. 22 And the rib, which the LORD God had taken from the man, made He a woman, and brought her unto the man.
כג וַיֹּאמֶר, הָאָדָם, זֹאת הַפַּעַם עֶצֶם מֵעֲצָמַי, וּבָשָׂר מִבְּשָׂרִי; לְזֹאת יִקָּרֵא אִשָּׁה, כִּי מֵאִישׁ לֻקְחָה-זֹּאת. 23 And the man said: 'This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.'
כד עַל-כֵּן, יַעֲזָב-אִישׁ, אֶת-אָבִיו, וְאֶת-אִמּוֹ; וְדָבַק בְּאִשְׁתּוֹ, וְהָיוּ לְבָשָׂר אֶחָד. 24 Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife, and they shall be one flesh.
and then, in Bereishit 3:
כ וַיִּקְרָא הָאָדָם שֵׁם אִשְׁתּוֹ, חַוָּה: כִּי הִוא הָיְתָה, אֵם כָּל-חָי. 20 And the man called his wife's name Eve; because she was the mother of all living.
כא וַיַּעַשׂ יְהוָה אֱלֹהִים לְאָדָם וּלְאִשְׁתּוֹ, כָּתְנוֹת עוֹר--וַיַּלְבִּשֵׁם. {פ} 21 And the LORD God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins, and clothed them. {P}

Thus, I would juxtapose the naming of Chava with the other names, for Adam has this role of namer of all creatures.

Don't complain to me that Adam is giving Chava two different names in a single thread -- Isha and Chava. Rather, the first is the name of the kind -- "woman," and then he gives a name to his woman, ishto, fit just for her, for she is the progenitor of all living {people}.

12 comments:

mevaseretzion said...

Very nice.

Gil Student said...

Did you see the Ibn Ezra about why she was called Chava and not Chaya? Because Chaya means "animal" and it isn't a fitting name for a human being!

My mother-in-law's name is Chaya.

joshwaxman said...

Nice. :) My sister's name is also Chaya.
Elsewhere (I think by Moshe), Ibn Ezra notes that names don't have to follow rules of dikduk and the like, which might be another teretz.

Anonymous said...

"I am personally comfortable with the first language being conceived of as Proto-Canaanite, which had Hebrew and Aramaic elements."

Are you kidding?

joshwaxman said...

anonymous:

to respond to you, I need to first know from where your incredulity stems. i.e. are you coming from a kofer or frum-based perspective?

I just put up a new post related somewhat to this issue, here.

Yakov Shafranovich said...

There is a Tosfos HaShalem al haTorah that states that Chava's name was Choyah before the Cheit and was changed to Chavah after the Cheit.

Anonymous said...

"I need to first know from where your incredulity stems. i.e. are you coming from a kofer or frum-based perspective?"

Reality-based.

joshwaxman said...

You did not answer my question. I would *assume* that by that you mean "kofer"-based.

I am willing to listen to any objections, instead of snarky (and approaching obnoxious, but perhaps you do not intend that) comments.

My point is that the Torah does not claim that this first language was Hebrew. There are midrashim that do. But we do not know what that first language is. And, at least as Ibn Ezra reads it, this was not miraculous change of language but drifting away and thus development of language and split-ups into different languages. And indeed, we have a class of "Semitic languages." If you want to go higher in the tree and claim that as the proto-language, go ahead.

Here is a chart of Indo-European languages:
http://www.georgehernandez.com/h/xzMisc/Language/media/IndoEuropeanTree.PNG

Here is a chart Semitic languages, starting with Proto-Semitic:
http://www.bartleby.com/61/JPG/tree.jpg

Whatever the specific proto-language *conceived of* by the Torah, it broadly accords with this idea of languages branching out. (IIRC Steven Pinker makes this connection in one of his pop-linguistics books.)

Feel free to respond. But my patience is getting thin, and I am trying to make it a rule not to respond to anonymous commenters (due to a few obnoxious anonymous "frummie" corresponders). I will consider any points raised, but if none are, I might just ignore or delete the comment.

smoo said...

For an entirely different take on the meaning of the Eden story and 'original sin' see:

http://shmuzings.blogspot.com/20...- revisited.html

It is based on Naomi H. Rosenblatt's book Wrestling with Angels, which is a psychotherapist’s take on the lessons on Genesis.

smoo said...

http://shmuzings.blogspot.com/2006/06/eden-revisited.html

try this link

joshwaxman said...

thanks.
I'll check it out.

Joel Nothman said...

Interesting that you bring that verse from Vezot Haberakha when talking about foriegn words... If אש דת actually means fiery law, that "law" probably comes from Persian...

(I know that you argue that the word is a contraction of דאת, although I'm not convinced and would much rather go with the ketiv.)

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