2006-10-20

Bereshith

Rav Kook wrote:
The Tree of Knowledge also combined two opposing qualities, knowledge of good and evil. Adam could not grasp how one tree could encompass two contradictory traits. In truth, this combination is the very foundation of our world. The universe could not exist without combining Justice with Mercy. Adam's sin was in separating between the two, thus transforming the Garden of Eden into a broken, disjointed world.

I think the union of different ways of knowing is one of the most important tasks facing our generation.

In my story The Rose of Paradise, I envisioned the Tree of Knowledge as a device which allows Eve and Adam to see - and therefore partake of - the forbidden Tree of Life. In this interpretation, the Creator's warning (Genesis 2:17) is not a misstatement, as the Serpent claims (Genesis 3:4-5), but rather a statement about the indirect consequences of the action.

We make our choices in life based on what we know. But we also must choose what kinds of knowledge we expose ourselves to. And this brings us back to the idea of different modes of consciousness. Mystical interpretations see this as the hidden message of the story of Eve and Adam in Genesis.

Citing traditional sources (See also Rashi on Genesis 1:27), Rabbi Lori Forman writes in The Women's Torah Commentary,
The talmudic rabbis were also bothered by an overly literal interpretation of the verses in chapter 2. Carefully reading verses 20 and 21, they suggest that the word tzelah [tzela'], most commonly translated as "rib", derives from the Hebrew word meaning "side". Thus, they declare that Eve was not created from Adam's rib. Rather, Adam was a bisexual [i.e. hermaphroditic], double-faced being - neither male nor female. During the sleep that fell upon this first human, its male and female sides were separated, creating man and woman as we know them today. Thus, man and woman came into being not one after another, but simultaneously; in fact, joined together as one. This first story (chapter 1) relates to the cration of this androgynous being, while the second story (chapter 2) relates to the creation of gendered beings - man and woman. The mystics take this talmudic interpretation one step further, suggesting that when men and women fall in love, their yearning is none other than the primeval desire to reunite into the one being that was bifurcated in the Garden of Eden so long ago.


There's much more that I'd like to write, but that's all I have time for now. Shabbat shalom.