Monday, October 04, 2010

Bothered and bewildered by B'reishit

Here's last year's discussion, complete with links (including one to our son's interpretation of the Adam and Eve story).

A couple of new thoughts that I had this time around:

Update--I forget to mention this beauty, from chapter 4:

כג וַיֹּאמֶר לֶמֶךְ לְנָשָׁיו, עָדָה וְצִלָּה שְׁמַעַן קוֹלִי--נְשֵׁי לֶמֶךְ, הַאְזֵנָּה אִמְרָתִי: כִּי אִישׁ הָרַגְתִּי לְפִצְעִי, וְיֶלֶד לְחַבֻּרָתִי.

23 And Lamech said unto his wives: Adah and Zillah, hear my voice; ye wives of Lamech, hearken unto my speech; for I have slain a man for wounding me, and a young man for bruising me;

כד כִּי שִׁבְעָתַיִם, יֻקַּם-קָיִן; וְלֶמֶךְ, שִׁבְעִים וְשִׁבְעָה.

24 If Cain shall be avenged sevenfold, truly Lamech seventy and sevenfold.

Who's he threatening? Is this guy just bragging, or is this one of the earliest recorded cases of wife abuse?


Blogger Larry Lennhoff said...

Regarding Cain and Hevel the difference seems clear to me. Cain 'brought some of his crops as an offering to God' Hevel offered 'some of the firstborn of his flock, from the fattest ones' (Aryeh Kaplan translation). Hashem favored receiving the choicest selections, not just any old thing.

If I recall correctly this is a recurring issue - the prophets complain about people offering blemished goods as sacrifices at some point.

Tue Oct 05, 11:04:00 AM 2010  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

So G-d was annoyed because Kayin didn't bring the *first* fruits? (There's little or no fat to be found in most fruit or vegetables, so that doesn't count.) HaShem's pretty fussy, as the prophets said.

Tue Oct 05, 11:58:00 AM 2010  
Blogger Yahnatan said...

Regarding light and darkness being created on the first day, but sun, moon and stars not following until the fourth day: several midrashim about the Messiah spun off of this observation.

1) "'And God saw the light, that it was good.' This is the light of the teach you that God saw the generation of Messiah and His works before He created the universe, and He hid the Messiah...under His throne of glory." (Yalkut Shimoni on Isaiah 60)

2) "It was taught that seven things were created before the world was created; they are the Torah, repentance, Gan Eden, Gehinnom, the throne of glory, the Temple, and the name of the Messiah... The name of the Messiah, as it is written: 'May his name [the name of the Messiah] endure forever, may his name produce issue prior to the sun (Pesachim 54a, Nedarim 39a, also Midrash on Ps. 93:3)

Wed Oct 06, 09:07:00 AM 2010  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

Interesting, though I'm not messianically inclined, so to speak.

Wed Oct 06, 10:35:00 AM 2010  
Blogger Larry Lennhoff said...

From a literary analysis point of view, the last 3 days of creation recapitulate the first 3 on a higher (or if you prefer more specific) level.

1 light and darkness
2 separate water above from below, divide heaven and earth
3 gather land from beneath waters
4 Sun moon and stars
5 fish and flying beasts
6 land animals

Wed Oct 06, 10:55:00 AM 2010  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

Oh, thanks for mentioning the second day--it hadn't registered with me that that's when HaShem created the Earth's atmosphere, according to this account. As for the third day, what's a few volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, and tectonic plate shifts between friends? :)

So the fourth day is a higher-level version of the first, the fish and birds get to inhabit the water and the atmosphere that HaShem created to separate it from heaven's water, and land animals get the benefit of the shifting of the tectonic plates? That's an interesting way to look at it.

Wed Oct 06, 12:03:00 PM 2010  
Anonymous rejewvenator said...

Re Creation, I think biblical literalism is simply impossible to reconcile. However, as Larry says, the text of bereishit is highly structured.

As for Kayin and Hevel, the problem isn't that God prefers the fatty or most choice offering. It's that Kayin knew that some of his stuff was better and some of it was worse, but he ignored the distinction in making the offering to God. In other words, Kayin divorced his sense of tov and rah from his relationship to God. And God wasn't so interested in that, b/c God's not looking at sacrifices as a tax rate on Mna, but rather a way for Man to acknowledge God as the source of goodness and order in the world. Kayin fails to order the world into good and bad in his service of God.

As to the last bit, Lemech is saying that he is 77 years old, and therefor will surely die now that he's killed Kayin. Lemech is saying that life and death are not controlled by free choice, but by destiny. Lemech didn't mean to kill Kayin, but he did - and just as God said that Kayin's killer would be aveneged 'shivaataim' lo and behold, it turns out that Lemech is 77. He's not abusing his wives, he's prophecising to them that he's going to die, and that there is no free will in life (exactly opposite God's contention re Kayin's killing of Hevel.)

Thu Oct 07, 08:28:00 AM 2010  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

"Re Creation, I think biblical literalism is simply impossible to reconcile." Probably, Rejewvenator, but it's interesting to try.

The only thing "missing" from the text itself re Kayin's sacrifice is the word "first" before the word "fruit." But the text says that Havel *also* brought . . . , so why don't the rabbis dan l'kaf z'chut (judge favorably, give the benefit of the doubt)?

I find your explanation of Lamech's words interesting because the text itself does not specify that the man killed by Lamech was Kayin, and since I've never heard or read that midrash before, your perspective is certainly new to me.

Thu Oct 07, 11:06:00 AM 2010  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

Rejewvenator, I'm sorry to say that your link doesn't work. I'll try it again at home--perhaps my employer's "'Net nannies" are blocking that site.

Thu Oct 07, 11:08:00 AM 2010  
Blogger Larry Lennhoff said...

Shira here's the corrected link.

Thu Oct 07, 11:43:00 AM 2010  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

Larry, thanks for the corrected link to "The Creation Weave." Fortunately, I'm still awaiting the start of my next major project, so I had some time to read the linked text. I will admit that I got lost when the author started talking about a third-day Adam, but the text was certainly fascinating up to that point. If has more reading material like this, maybe I should take a closer look.

Thu Oct 07, 02:03:00 PM 2010  
Anonymous rejewvenator said...

Shira, the plain reading of the text is that Kayin is stating that someone injured him and that he, in turn, killed him. Thus, he is boasting that if Kayin was to be avenged seven-fold, then Lemech's vengeance is even mightier - seventy-seven-fold. He kills in return for receiving a minor injury.

Midrash Tanhuma, however, says that Lemech was blind and that his son was taking him out hunting. The kid would tell him where to shoot, and he would shoot. The kid saw something with a horn, told Lemech to shoot, and then they discovered that he killed a man with a horn - that is, Kayin, who bore the horn as his mark from God. When Lemech saw that he killed his own ancestor he claped his hands together in woe, and accidentally struck the child's head, killing him too.

The midrash is motivated by a few things here. First, Kayin was afraid of being killed, and bore a special mark. But his death is never reported in the Torah, despite God's promise that whever kills him will be avenged sevenfold - yet no mention exists in the Torah of Kayin's death, natural or otherwise. Lemech is the last generation of Kayin (the seventh, in fact), and he makes this weird poem/speech about killing and mentions Kayin. The Midrash therefore assumes that Lemech actually killed Kayin, and spins this story to explain how it came about - which must have been unintentional, since nobody would intentionally kill Kayin, given the vengeance.

Oh, also, the reason Chazal aren't Dan l'Kaf Zechut is because God already did the judging and didn't accept Kayin's sacrifice. Chazal are trying to understand why, and are extremely sensitive to the distinction in the text to teach them why.

Larry, thanks for the assist on the link!

Thu Oct 07, 05:57:00 PM 2010  
Anonymous Laura said...

I just came in to talk about the structure of Bereishit, but Larry beat me to it. And to kind of add to it, if you'll see, 1 seems to go with 4, 2 with 5, and 3 with 6.
But I wonder, if these are separate strands (not arguing either way...I've heard enough of the Documentary Hypothesis in my Bible class, and oh how tiring it is), then don't you think that either those adding in their sections or those who read it immediately afterwards would notice such a discordance, far far earlier than the 1940's, which is when the JEDP stuff started getting around?

Thu Oct 07, 09:34:00 PM 2010  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

Rejewvenator, I never cease to be amazed at the creative lengths to which the rabbis will go to explain the slightest differences in wording and/or puzzling aspects of a text. Here, they hang their entire lack of respect for Kayin's sacrifice on the fact that the text does *not* say that he brought the *first* fruits. There, they derive from the text an entire story asserting the accidentally manslaughter (if that's the proper legal term) of Kayin by Lamech.

" . . . if these are separate strands . . . then don't you think that either those adding in their sections or those who read it immediately afterwards would notice such a discordance, . . . "

Laura, check out my "visible seams" post, to which I linked in this current post. It appears to me that the person, persons, and/or Deity (pick your preferred interpretation) who created this text wasn't/weren't bothered by its patchwork-quilt appearance. My own extremely-uneducated guess is that they simply wished to preserve whatever stories had come down to them, so they just took all of them and stitched them together. The stories were parellel-parked, so to speak.

Fri Oct 08, 01:08:00 PM 2010  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

Just to clarify, this "parellel-parking" theory applies to the Documentary Hypothesis rather than to the literary-analysis approach found in "The Creation Weave."

Fri Oct 08, 01:38:00 PM 2010  
Anonymous Laura said...

Shira: Well, that would make sense. I have to admit I don't know much about this, and I've got a professor and a textbook which are both on completely opposite ends of the argument (so I'm hearing a whole myriad of sides!) Are you saying that there's a different approach to the Creation story besides the one that's covered by the Documentary Hypothesis?

I always wonder why the Creation story is the one that is the paradigm for multiple authors, just because the two don't seem to contradict each other to me. The second just seems like a more detailed/human-oriented account of the first.

Fri Oct 08, 05:07:00 PM 2010  

Post a Comment

<< Home

<< List
Jewish Bloggers
Join >>