Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Parshat B’reishit: On the visible seams in the Torah

Many of us non-Orthodox Jews accept the theory that the Torah is a combination of four ancient traditions edited by scribes—most say under divine influence—into one text. What astounds me is that the scribes who did the redacting/editing seem to have made no effort whatsoever to cover their tracks. Instead, they appear to have treated the redaction process like a quilting bee, piecing together patches of text from the different traditions and leaving the seams between the patches just as visible as the seams in a Torah scroll.

One of the most obvious examples of this approach is the two stories of creation that appear in Parshat B’reishit. In the first, “ . . . G-d created the human in His image, in the image of G-d He created him, male and female He created them.” (Genesis, chapter 1, verse 27.) In the second, HaShem put Adam under anesthesia, performed a rib-ectomy on him, and used the rib to create Eve. (Genesis, chapter 2, verses 21-22.) Perhaps one should give the traditionalists credit for their creativity in trying to prove that there’s only one creation story despite the evidence to the contrary.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

The word for "rib" there, tzela‘, seems to be more accurately translated "side" - for example, later on in the Torah, that's how the sides of the Mishkan are referred to.

Hence, God cut Eve off from Adam's side... and the midrash that explains that the First Human was originally created as some kind of back-to-back hermaphrodite.

I've actually heard an interesting theological theory - that the obvious heterogeny of the Torah text fits perfectly well with a (mostly) traditional view of direct God»Moses authorship. After all, human beings need to make sense. God can be as self-contradictory as God wants, since it's only contradictory from our limited human perspective. Does that get credit for creativity? :-)

Steg (dos iz nit der šteg)

Fri Oct 15, 04:13:00 AM 2004  

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