Monday, October 19, 2009

Parshat B'reishit: Fun with the DH :) (and more)

First, a little good news.

Now, on with the show.

DovBear published an interesting post on Parshat B'reishit, pointing out, among other things, that the order of creation differs in the two creation stories. (Said DB, "This, it must be noted, does not rule out the possibility of a divine author . . . ") The presenter of this week's d'var Torah (word/discussion of Torah/Bible) seconded DB's opinion about the nature of HaShem in the two creation stories, pointing out that HaShem quite literally muddied his hands to create Adam in the second story.

Those of you who are not yet acquainted with the Documentary Hypothesis would be advised to read a bit of the linked explanation before continuing.

The two different creation stories in Parshat B'reishit are found in Genesis chapter 1, verse 1 through chapter 2, verse 4, and chapter 2, verse 5 through the end of chapter 2, respectively. That second section actually runs past the creation story, per se, through the end of chapter 4, including the birth of Shet/Seth. In the first story, G-d is called Elokim. whereas, in the second, G-d is called by a name that starts with a yod in Hebrew (and a J in English), a name for which Jews often use the respectful substitute name HaShem (to avoid pronouncing or writing such a sacred name). In the first story, Elokim starts from scratch and ends with the creation of the male and female Adam, created in G-d's image. In the second, HaShem creates a male Adam first, then forms a female from his rib last.

I found it most interesting that, after the entire second creation story is finished, right through the birth of Shet/Seth at the end of chapter 4, the story reverts, in Genesis, chapter 5, to the creation by Elokim of the androgynous Adam, of the first creation story, before embarking on one of the Bible's infamously long-winded genealogies.

Another point of interest to me is that, in Genesis, chapter 6, verse 1, the "sons of god" were sporting with "the daughters of the human," "Sons of god"--I call "pagan influence" on that phrase. As for the human women, where did they come from, all of a sudden? Or did our ancestors just not bother to mention any daughters in that long list of "begats?" And the Nefilim of verse 4? Same as the "sons of god," or not?

You might also be interested in this post in which my husband compared Parshat B'reishit with Parshat Sh'mot, pointing out that both parshiot/weekly readings pack a lot of story into one parsha.

5:40 PM update:

Here are views of Parshat B'reishit from GoldaLeah, Rabbi Gil Student, and the ex-Gadol Hador, or whatever he's calling himself, these days.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009 update:

I completely forgot to link to some previous posts of my own re Parshat B'reishit. Here's a post about the "visible seams" in the composition of the Torah, and one about Adam and Eve as a coming-of-age story. Wow, Steg, you've been commenting on my blog since 2004?! Thanks!

Thanks also go to our son for his contribution to this discussion.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

As for the human women, where did they come from, all of a sudden?

The Midrash says that Cain, Abel, and Seth all had twin sisters.
The Torah does not mention them explicitly because it does not want to draw attention to the fact that there as incest.

Mon Oct 19, 10:22:00 AM 2009  
Blogger Larry Lennhoff said...

Elokim is a funny word. Sometimes it is singular and refers to Hashem, and sometimes it is plural and can refer to anything from mythical deities to human judges or rulers. I'm away from my Stone chumash, but even they cite meforshim who propose the naturalistic explanation that the sones of Elokim refers to the sons of the human rulers.

Mon Oct 19, 10:34:00 AM 2009  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

Yeah, that's gross alright. :(

Some of those of us who don't take the creation story--either one--quite so literally can conceive of parallel evolution and/or other reason(s) why there might have been other humans in the area who were not descendants of Adam and Eve.

Mon Oct 19, 10:36:00 AM 2009  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

Oops, gotta go back to being good and mentioning the name of the commenting to whom I'm responding. My previous comment was in response to Anon.

Larry, Elokim is most certainly a funny word. Personally, I take the plural somewhat more literally than some do. In my opinion (and that of a previous rabbi of mine), Tanach (the Bible) shows the religion of the ancient Hebrews to have been henotheistic, rather than monotheistic. "Mi chamocha ba-*elim,* HaShem"? Some may translation that phrase "who is like you among the mighty, G-d," but I translate it "who is like you among the gods, G-d," meaning "we have our G-d and you have your god(s)," rather "than our G-d is the only god."

Well, two Jews, three opinions. That's one of the things that keeps us Jews talking. :)

Mon Oct 19, 10:59:00 AM 2009  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

parallel evolution and/or other reason(s) why there might have been other humans in the area who were not descendants of Adam and Eve.

There are some traditional sources (I believe kabbalistic sefarim - possibly the Zohar) that do say that there other humans not descended from Adam and Chava. They say something to the effect that Adam was the first human created in G-d's image, with a divine soul a neshama. These other human's had a nefesh (a life-force/living spirit) but not a neshama. It was their corrupting influence that led to the introduction of idolatry and the Food.

Mon Oct 19, 11:01:00 AM 2009  
Blogger Larry Lennhoff said...

Personally, I think Hashem is omnipotent and thus is capable of writing allegory. So I don't worry much about the historicity of Genesis, especially the first 11 chapters. But those who do take more concern about it suggest that Adam was the first being with a soul, rather than simply the first human being. How and when other people got souls is left as an exercise for the reader - perhaps souless and ensouled humans co-existed until the flood?

Mon Oct 19, 11:26:00 AM 2009  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

Anon, that approach solves one problem and creates another--I participated in a daily shiur (class?) in my office a few years ago, and one of the topics discussed was the superiority of the soul/neshamah of a Jew, as opposed to the spirit/nefesh of a non-Jew. This is not my preferred interpretation of the concept of the Chosen People--I prefer the idea of Jews as role models (due to HaShem's commandments and our obedience thereof) to the idea of Jews as naturally superior.

Mon Oct 19, 12:02:00 PM 2009  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

"I think Hashem is omnipotent and thus is capable of writing allegory." I like your solution better, Larry. :)

Mon Oct 19, 12:06:00 PM 2009  
Blogger Steg (dos iz nit der šteg) said...

looks like i barely existed back in 2004, too! ;-)

Tue Oct 20, 11:20:00 PM 2009  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

So nu, Steg, may I consider myself one of the people who influenced your decision to create your own blog? Given the difference in age between us, it's not too farfetched for me to be one of your "blogmothers." :)

Wed Oct 21, 08:43:00 AM 2009  

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