Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Parsha Notes (Berayshis)

Here we go with a new DovBear series (remember this one?) in which I will attempt to briefly summarize all that is interesting and eye catching about the current Parsha.


Moments of Majesty: The first creation story, with its grand symmetries. Lovely, timeless, powerful writing.

Things everyone should know:
(1) There are two creation stories, stories that differ in matters large and small. This, it must be noted, does not rule out the possibility of a divine author, but the fact that God is said to create (barah) in the first story and fashion (yotzar) in the second, among many other differences cries out for commentary.
(2) In this Parsha, Rashi announces his mission statement: (Genesis 3:8) "I have come only to teach the plain meaning of the passage and such Aggadah which explains the words of the Bible.” This is a useful reminder for those who treat Rashi like an anthology of midrashim.

Kefira moments:
(1) The first woman is called ChaVa, though ChaYA would be a better name for the mother of all things,אֵם כָּל-חָי. As I said here, ChaVa sounds like ChiVya, the Aramaic for serpent, and scholars have recognized an old Mesopotamian myth in which a serpent is imagined to be the progenitor of all things, or, in other words, the אֵם כָּל-חָי.
(2) The MT says (Gen 4:8) "And Cain said to Abel his brother" but doesn't tell us what was said. The LXX, Syriac and Aramaic all provide Cain's words: "Let us go out to the field."
(3) Enoch, the man who "walked with God" and "was no more" after God "took" him, is the seventh generation from Adam. In a list of pre-flood Mesopotamian kings, the seventh one is taken by the Sun God. In the Torah Enoch lives 365 years, the number of days in the solar year.

Cool beans:
(1) Lemach is the seventh name of the first genealogy list, and he is said to have liver 777 years. Seven, of course, is a magic number in Judaism, and elsewhere.
(2) In the second genealogy list ten names are given. Ten is also a magic Jewish number.

More, should it come to me. (Noach tomorrow) (I hope)

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