ALL The Truth, or Just the Important Truth?
Consider that the word Torah is itself used in the text to mean a recipe or a guide (This is the Torah of the Offering of…). It does not openly teach us calculus or thermodynamics or etymology. If the Torah is a guide, what is it a guide to?
Might the creation of man provide a clue? When G-d tells us how Adam was made:
And the Lord G-d formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul
it is not a description of physical reality in any way we know it. We know people are, in terms of matter, animals.
But that is not the description! Instead, is the Torah telling us that we are formed of two, opposite forces? That we are made from dust, and the breath of life –from Hashem’s spiritual energy?
Could very idea help explain the purpose of life? By accepting, at the same time, that we are mortal, and that we are capable of touching immortality, then we might understand why we are here?
Could it be that the description of Adam’s creation (and indeed that of the whole world) is all about the symbolic understanding of why we are here?
If this is true, the Torah does not tell us that people come from animals, because that statement, true or not, does not help us decide what to do next?
And so, for the purposes of the Torah and our lives, people are not supposed to try to be animals?
Might the text be prescriptive instead of descriptive? Instead of telling us what is, the Torah tells us what we should be trying to become?
So instead of merely being animals, we are supposed to connect with our souls, with the divine element in our world? That in our limited life-spans, we might harness our souls to achieve great things?
Wouldn’t this neatly sidestep all questions about the literal veracity of the Creation Story – like how old the world is in geological terms? What if the Torah does not tell us the geological version of the story because it does not matter for the underlying purpose of the text?! If the Torah is really a guidebook for how to build holy relationships with each other and with G-d, then might reading it with this perspective make the moral lessons much more clear?
How is Adam Alone?
It is not good that the man should be alone
How can G-d say this?! Adam wasn’t alone! He had G-d!
What possible deficiency could Adam have had that required him to have a wife?
If we can answer this question, does that answer apply it to each person and each relationship today?
Why Are There Two Creation Stories?
Chapter 1 and Chapter 2 tell two versions of what appears to be the same story, do they not?
Why? Why does Chapter 1 detail G-d creating the world, and then Chapter 2, in many respects, seems to repeat the telling?
Perhaps we could look at the differences between the versions for an explanation?
For example, the first version seems to be top-down: G-d creates.
But doesn’t the second version be rather more “bottom-up” than “top-down?”
… there went up a mist from the earth, and watered the whole face of the ground. … out of the ground the Lord God made to grow every tree … a river went out of ῾Eden …
Indeed, the first version of mankind seems to be purely physical, albeit in the image of G-d. But is the second telling more spiritual and less physical? After all, in the second telling:
And the Lord G-d formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.
Is the Torah telling us that the same events can be described different ways? Is it telling us that there are different ways to see the world: through a physical lens, and through a spiritual lens? Are both equally valid?
Why Are They Punished?
Are Adam and Chava expelled because they ignored G-d and ate the fruit?
It does not seem to be that simple. Look at the text carefully: The snake, Chava and Adam are all cursed. But they are seemingly not expelled for eating the fruit! Instead, it seems to be a preventative measure:
And the Lord G-d said, Behold, the man is become like one of Us, knowing good and evil: and now, what if he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eating, live for ever: therefore the Lord G-d sent him out of the garden of ῾Eden, to till the ground from whence he was taken.
On top of this: Why does G-d think that Adam must not become immortal? What is the risk to mankind if we are immortal? Might the answer be found a bit later in the text, when our lifespan is shortened to 120 years?
Feminism in the Torah?
The powerful men saw that the daughters of men were fair; and they took them wives of all whom they chose. And the Lord said, My spirit shall not always abide in man, for that he also is flesh: and his days shall be a hundred and twenty years.
Does G-d reduce man’s lifespan because men merely took whatever women they wanted?
How does that logically follow? Is it possibly because a woman is the key, through children, to a man’s legacy? And so shortening man’s life was a reaction to men using force to take women?
Is a woman more valuable because a man is aware of his mortality? Doesn’t Adam only name his wife after she is told she will bear children?
This parsha question sheet takes the approach of reading the Chumash very closely. It is assumed that every letter and word has meaning, and all questions can be answered (at least every one we have come up so far!) So you’ll find the questions offered every week are deeply textual, seeking relevance to our lives today from the foundational document for Judaism and indeed all of Western Civilization.
This sheet is distributed with the general approval of Rabbi Rose.
- A BJSZ member