Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Posts so far for parshat Bereishit

  1. Bereishit sources -- improved

  1. Introducing Absolut Genesis, 2009 edition. From the same folks who brought you the Absolut Haggadah. See my review of Absolut Genesis here, and download Absolut Genesis here.

    Also, as part of my review, I give several of my own suggestions as to the meaning of the two clothes-giving incidents.

  2. Bereshit sources -- links by aliyah and perek to an online Mikraos Gedolos, and now, links to over 100 mefarshim on the parsha and haftarah.
  3. In the beginning, Hashem separated?! Why I don't find this novel interpretation persuasive, or even that novel.
  4. The Torah begins with the letter Bet. Ibn Ezra criticizes a midrash which explains why, and is criticized in turn by his supercommentator, Avi Ezer, who concludes that Ibn Ezra never wrote it, but that it was written by a talmid toeh. This is somewhat reminiscent of goings-on nowadays. I look into Ibn Ezra in Sefer Tzachot and see that the purported contradiction between Ibn Ezra and himself is readily answerable.
  5. Is the second Pru Urvu a blessing or a mitzvah? Ibn Ezra "argues" with the traditional explanation of Chazal that is it a mitzvah, and explains why. Or rather, says that this was a din deRabbanan which Chazal attached to this pasuk as a sort of asmachta. And I defend him from an attack by Avi Ezer, his supercommentary.
  6. From Junior, did Adam HaRishon name the T-Rex? And proof that no one created Hashem. And all about bechira chofshis.
  7. Did Chava speak parseltongue? If not, how was she able to communicate with the snake in Gan Eden?
  8. The unfinished north, like the letter Beis. Which means that in medieval times, some people considered east to be up. Does this mean that the world was flat?
  9. Was Rashi's father an Am HaAretz? Why does Rashi ask such a "silly" question in the beginning of his perush, if not out of respect to his father?
  10. How are the days of man 120 years? We can say that these Benei Elohim are angels, the nefilim of the context which follows. And since the descendants are also flesh, and not just spiritual beings, they shall have a similar lifespan as that of man, namely 120. Someone who is adam cannot have Hashem's spirit abide in them forever, and therefore they are mortal.

    Or alternatively, because of their sinning, their lifespan has been reduced. I still think it is plausible, and don't consider the explicit contradiction we find immediately after, in that Shem and company lived much longer, to be an unassailable contradiction.
  11. The Torah is not a science book! When arguing this out with one another, the Rishonim do not seem to assume that such a question -- we don't see snakes speak -- is by its very nature heretical. Rather, such questions, and grappling with various features of the text, is talmud torah, and is what they are obligated to engage in. Compare with the attitude that some take nowadays.
  12. The gimel / kaf switch, and the talmid toeh -- Or is Ibn Ezra simply reversing himself?
  13. His journey(s) -- when the masorah opposes the Zohar -- Zohar on Bereishit, on a pasuk in Lech Lecha. In Lecha Lecha, we have a few instances in which rather old Rabbinic texts indicate something about a pasuk that goes against the masoretic notes as well as all our sefarim. In one instance, it is Zohar against the masorah; in another, the gemara; and in a third, Rashi.

    This is interesting in and of itself, but what is also interesting is the way that the mosereticcommentators handle this. In this first post, a contradiction between Zohar's version of a pasuk and our own.
  1. Bereishit sources -- links to the appropriate page in an online Mikraot Gedolot, by aliyah and by perek.
  2. The World Was Created in 10 Statements, part i and part ii -- An attempted analysis of this curious declaration, and identification of which statements in Bereishit these may be.

  1. The Snake's punishment: Taking the narrative of the sin in the garden of Eden as metaphor, how are we to understand the snake being punished. What I believe is a plausible explanation, in which the Snake is the evil inclination, and it is not punishment but rather a delineating of the role of the "snake" in terms of its relation to mankind.
  2. Gilgamesh, Utanpishtim, and Gan Eden: cross-listed to Noach. Comparisons and contrasts to the Noach story, and to the Adam story. Such as sleep overtaking Adam, the tree of knowledge perhaps being intercourse, the mouth of the rivers as a place in which eternal life is possessed by those dwelling there. And so on.
  3. Was Chava named for a snake? A response to a DovBear post. I doubt it, and explain why.
  4. The appropriately named Er and Onan: Cross-listed from Vayeshev. But along the lines of the idea that Hevel was not Hevel's true name, but rather was a name chosen as appropriate to his fate.
  • Adam and Eve as Metaphor
    • This post is divided into three parts.
      [A. Motivations] claims that assigning Scripture a metaphorical role where it contradicts modern scientific beliefs is a sign of lack of faith - in which case the claim of metaphor is a means of rendering the text impotent without seeming a heretic; or abundance of faith - in which case one is sure both science and Torah are absolutely true, but this forces one to claim the Torah speaks metaphorically. Either approach is unfair to the text. An example of genesis on the basis of the four elements is given, as is an example of a midrash switching around the order of a verse about rotting manna to accomodate a scientific belief in spontaneous generation. (Before turning for this last, I offer a defense of this midrash.) It is fair to label a text metaphorical if there are features internal to the text that suggest it is metaphor.
      [B. Three Distinct Issues] puts forth that there are three issues that should not be conflated - age of the universe, age of the earth, and age of civilization. It is the last that is really under discussion. Age of the universe is no issue since a proper reading of the first three verses in Genesis, as well as comparison to other creation stories, implies a creation from primordial matter, rather than ex nihilo. The creation ex nihilo may still exist for the primordial matter. Creation and placement of celestial bodies on the fourth day should be understood in the context of the entire described creation, which is a different matter. The solution might lie in the pluperfect, or better, since the creation in 6-days is Earth-centered and the celestial bodies are explicitly placed there to mark time - day, night, years, and seasons - perhaps we might interpret this as the placing of the earth in relation to these celestial bodies - at a certain distance from the Sun, at a certain revolution about it, and at a specific axis and speed of rotation. Age of the Earth is also not necessarily truly an issue. The purpose of retelling the cosmogony, even if absolutely literal, is to show God's relationship with His creation. Thus, for example, He creates and keeps as pets the sea monsters, which in other cultures were the enemies of the pantheon of the gods. Also, actions of the unfathomable God are described, so they must be metaphor on at least some level - God has no arm, but has a zeroa netuya. Similarly, "days" are a tool to allow the human mind to wrap around whatever epoch or grouping (perhaps not even chronological) of God's creative acts. This may be separated by some time from Adam, especially if Adam is metaphor. Age of Civilization is no problem if the tale of the garden is metaphor, and if the genealogical lists with thousand-year old people, like that of the Sumerian king lists, is not meant to record historical fact but serves another purpose. Also, a curiosity about carbon dating and question if a 6000 year dating for civilization is truly problematic.
      [C. Adam and Eve as Metaphor] gets to the meat of the issue. What features of the story suggest it is metaphor. I propose how each story details the relationship of man to God or the world. Thus, Man as created in God's image, Man as dominating nature, man's relation to woman, and man's place in the world, as distinct from that of angels.
      I give reasons why the story seems metaphor. The Man and the Woman are given type names, and referred to with the definite article. Talking snakes and magic trees are not in the normal range of human experience. Disagreement between details of creation in this story vs. that of chapter 1 (accounted for since details of a metaphor may clash with reality or that of another metaphor). Consumption of the fruit changes mankinds nature. The punishment is not personal but establishes the very nature of Man and the natural order.
      I discuss the meaning of the metaphor. Man's eating from the tree was inevitable, and reflects his ability to choose between Good and Evil, a capacity angels lack. The serpent represented Man's yetzer, and the act of diverting from God's will, rather than something intristic in the fruit, actualized Man's ability to choose. This ability is a Good Thing (TM), for it makes choosing Good more valuable, and so there is no fall from Grace but rather a description of how Man is on a higher level than angels. The punishment is no punishment but rather a description of how the world must be to accomodate Man's special nature - life must be finite, rewards must be earned through hard work and pain, and there must be a struggle to overcome and crush the head of temptation. Other metaphors are surely present but this represents a major one.
  • Moshe's Name (cross-posted from Vayikra)
    • This post argues in favor of the Biblically given derivation of Moshe's name, which has many points in its favor over the proposed Egyptian one MSS. It begins with a discussion of how many Biblical derivations do not work out entirely etymologically, but are based on sound similarity. Several examples from parashat Bereishit are discussed: Noach, Kayin, Shet, Isha.
  • Hevel's Hark and the Skipper Too
    • We consider the meaning of kol in the phrase ק֚וֹל דְּמֵ֣י אָחִ֔יךָ צֹֽעֲקִ֥ים אֵלַ֖י מִן־הָֽאֲדָמָֽה, from the perspective of trup. Does it mean hark, or the voice of?
  • Adam and Chava pull a Yeshaya
    • by hiding themselves in a tree, in a neo-drash I just made up. This leads to a discussion of Yeshaya hiding in a tree and being killed by the evil king Menashe, in the gemara and in pseudopigraphic work called The Ascension of Isaiah.
  • Moshe/Kayin parallels, and midrashic vs. peshat narrative (cross-posted from Shemot)
    • Parallels between two murders - of Hevel and of the Egyptian. Both killings take place in solitude, both killers try to pretend the murder did not happen, both go into exile as a result of the murder. In both instances the ground plays a role in covering up the murder. Brothers play a role in both. In both instances focus is made on potential descendants of the deceased.
      Then I highlight and discuss the difference between the two accounts of Moshe's actions, one midrashic, and one literal.
  • Three paths to sin
    • Some homiletics I wrote, for a class in homiletics. From the three possible ways Adam came to sin, the subject of a Rabbinic dispute. 1) Carelessness caused by lack of chavivut for mitzvot; 2) Rationalization; 3) Sympathy and empathy.
  • HaGān, Mashiv HaRuach, And The Pseudo-pausal
    • HaGān, with a kametz appearing even where there is no etnachta or silluq, is good evidence of the pseudo-pausal, such that hatāl should be said even if you say hageshem.

to be continued...

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