Monday, October 12, 2009

Introducing Absolut Genesis, 2009 Edition

From the same anonymous folks who brought you the Absolut Haggadah, here is Absolut Genesis.

Written in an engaging style and punctuated with relevant jokes and comics, this 27-page book discusses the first three perakim of Sefer Bereishis, which is the Biblical cosmogony, the creation of man, and the events in the Garden of Eden. They analyze text, form, and structure and come out with a nice running perspective on the Biblical text. And it is free.

It is the results of the discussions of an anonymous chaburah which has met over the past few years, focused on learning peshat in sefer Bereishit. I know they have discussed a whole lot more than the first three perakim -- they have gotten at the least past all the events involving Yitzchak -- and so I don't know what their long term plans are.

I agree with a lot of the ideas in here, though some of it is too philosophical for my own personal preferences. But I can analyze and post more about things I disagree with. So don't take my disagreement here as a condemnation of the entire work. Here is an excerpt from the book, to give you a taste:
The second account of creation can be divided into two sections of 22 verses each. The first section 2:4-25 speaks of God’s creation of man, the physical characteristics of the garden and the command. The second section 2:25-3:2 1 speaks of man’s choices in the garden. Both sections share the central verse which serves as both the end of the story of creation and the beginning of human history. This second section starts with “And Adam and his wife were naked” and ends with “and God made garments of skin and clothed them.” What is so significant about nakedness and clothing? We are also told in 3:7 that Adam and his wife already sewed clothing for themselves and yet the clothed Adam, when explaining why he is hiding says (3:10) “I was afraid because I was naked.”

Later, in verse 3:21, we find out that God also makes leather garments for the couple.
Why two sets of clothing? Was the woman reading Vogue?

The two sets tell us that man and woman destroyed two relationships when they violated God’s command; two trusts were broken. The first set of clothing is because now man and woman have placed distance between them. They must critically evaluate the other’s words and deeds. They are no longer one flesh, one organism. Man blames his wife for his problems, (what else is new), and now sees his wife as the “other.” Man must find a name for his wife since she is no longer an extension of his being.

The second relationship that was broken was the one between man and God. Before they ate from the forbidden tree, man had nothing to hide. Now man now is ashamed and must cover up his guilt and hide his breach of trust. Man is not hiding from God because he is physically naked. At this point he already has clothing. Rather, man is hiding from God because he has ruined his relationship with his creator. God provides man with a second set of clothing to allow their relationship to continue.
Whether I agree with the particular conclusions, I do think that the different (and sometimes somewhat conflicting) accounts do serve two different purposes, having to do with the relationship of God to the universe, God to man, man to God, and man to universe. And that the dual Creation in the first and second perek serve different purposes.

Still, though there are two incidents of man getting clothing, I don't think that these are necessarily complementary, or that they serve parallel roles ("two trusts were broken" -- between man and man, and between man and God).

Rather, even in terms of the world of the narrative, both sets of clothing are needed. The clothing within the garden is indicative of man's loss of innocent. Originally there were naked (ערום) and did not know it, unlike the crafty (ערום) snake who would know this. After eating from the tree of Knowledge, they knew it, and so had to modify their behavior. They made lousy clothing out of fig-leaves -- loincloths. But this is indicative of their change from innocence to maturity.

Yet they hid themselves from Hashem's presence, because they are ashamed of what they did, or else because they are naked. And Adam gives either the excuse or the reason for his hiding, that he is naked. This might well be a contradiction of the likes of Bereishit I and Bereishit II, as the Absolut Genesis hints at (We are also told in 3:7 that Adam and his wife already sewed clothing for themselves and yet the clothed Adam, when explaining why he is hiding says (3:10) “I was afraid because I was naked”) but might do better to make more explicit.

It is understandable that mere girdles or loincloths are not necessarily sufficient for standing before the Melech Malchei Hamelachim, Hakadosh Baruch Hu! Indeed, over Simchas Torah I was reading through Orach Chaim siman 91, and about how besides not having the heart see the erva, there may well be addition requirements for Shemoneh Esrei of more clothing because of הכין לקראת אלהיך ישראל. (I have a post planned.)

While their leaf-clothing is indicative of their loss of innocence, Hashem's giving them this clothing may reflect Hashem's changed attitude towards them, and His recognition of their changed status.

More than that, within the story, leaf-girdles may be sufficient for the pleasant climate in the Garden of Eden, but Hashem is about to drive them out of there. If so, clothing made of animal skin would be much better suited for the colder climate.

And allegorically, this is placed just before He drives them out of Gan Eden, and right after He curses them. One shouldn't think that Hashem has entirely distanced himself from man. This doesn't show man's distance from God; it shows man's closeness to God! Despite driving him out, Hashem still cares for Adam and Chava. (Indeed, see Rabbi Meir's sefer Torah where עור was spelled with an aleph.)

Taking a quasi-Documentary Hypothesis approach here, just like we have Bereishit I and Bereishit II (and Adam I and Adam II from Lonely Man of Faith), we have two interwoven stories. (We see these often as the macro-level and micro-level of Hashem's interaction with the world.) And the "contradiction" is not just that two sets of clothing are given, but two names are given to Chava. True, one is the name of her kind and the other is a personal name, but still, two names are assigned.

If we try to separate out the threads of the two stories, we might conclude that Hashem's giving them clothes has nothing to do with the so-called Fall of Man. That is, if I were to divide the stories, I might divide it as such:

The "sin" eating from the Etz HaDaas. From perek 2:

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, the creation of woman, and the Naming of all the Animals in one strand. From perek 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.

Then, back to the first strand, the separate story of the "sin" of eating from the Etz HaDaat. Despite it being the very last pasuk of perek 2, I would say that it resumes the story:

כה וַיִּהְיוּ שְׁנֵיהֶם עֲרוּמִּים, הָאָדָם וְאִשְׁתּוֹ; וְלֹא, יִתְבֹּשָׁשׁוּ.25 And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed.

This strand continues through their entire sin, and the curses, up until the naming of Chava:

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.

Then, back to the other strand, of Hashem having created Adam and Chava, and their being of one flesh. Hashem continues to take care of them:

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}

Then, back to the other strand, of them being driven out of the garden of Eden.

These stories do not necessarily contradict one another, but they serve entirely different purposes. And they would be put together based on the requirements of maintaining a chronological order.

(Of course, this is my own division, based on themes that appear to me.)

But if so, then Hashem clothed them with clothes made of animal skins, right after Adam has shown mastery of the animals by giving them names, and recognizing that Woman is like him, and distinct from the animals. And if so, it has nothing whatsoever to do with the fall of man due to eating from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. Rather, it has everything to do with Hashem's providing for mankind, and Hashem's recognition of man as a distinct entity from the animals -- indeed, He shows how man is to use animals for his own needs.

And if so, focus on the giving of both sets of clothing as a reaction to Adam and Chava's sin, and thus on creating distances, might not be the correct approach here.

Of course, these are my own theories, and their theories are nice and have merit as well. And the rest of the book is nice as well.

Anyhow, check out the e-book, and give them feedback, either in the comment section here, or by emailing them at


Yosef Greenberg said...

Care to write the reason for that picture above?

joshwaxman said...

my own idea, not theirs. because it is funny, because it is an image associated with Creation, and because God is handing over a bottle of Absolut.


but I understand why you are asking...


Rabbi Joshua Maroof said...

and Adam I and Adam II from Halakhic Man

I think you mean from Lonely Man of Faith.

joshwaxman said...

yes, thank you.

as you know, philosophy is not my cup of tea. i think i read it several years ago in revel for a biblical cosmogony class.

thanks again,


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