Monday, October 15, 2012

What was God Wearing?

We're all philosophers, nowadays, so we know the Bible doesn't mean what it, you know, actually says whenever God is described as having a body. But how did the original audience take those verses? Were they philosophers, too?

For an example of the problem, take a look at Genesis 3:8, which reads:
וַיִּשְׁמְעוּ אֶת-קוֹל יְהוָֹה אֱלֹהִים מִתְהַלֵּךְ בַּגָּן לְרוּחַ הַיּוֹם וַיִּתְחַבֵּא הָאָדָם וְאִשְׁתּוֹ מִפְּנֵי יְהוָֹה אֱלֹהִים בְּתוֹךְ עֵץ הַגָּן:

"And they heard the sound of Hashem, G-d going in the garden in the of the wind day. And Adam and his wife hid from Hashem, G-d in the midst of the trees of the garden."
In his comment, Rashi acknowledges those who oppose the idea that God can walk through a garden and produce a sound. But he also says that at face value the verse IS saying that God actually took a walk through the garden:
יש מדרשי אגדה רבים וכבר סדרום רבותינו על מכונם בבראשית רבה (יט ו) ובשאר מדרשות ואני לא באתי אלא לפשוטו של מקרא ולאגדה המיישבת דברי המקרא דבר דבור על אופניו.
ומשמעו: שמעו את קול הקב"ה שהיה מתהלך בגן:
And they heard: There are many Aggadic Midrashim which our Rabbis have already arranged in their place in Bereishis Rabbah and other Midrashim, but I have only come to explain the simple meaning of the Scriptures and those aggados which fit the words of the text with each word stated in its proper framework and with its correct meaning. And the meaning is: They heard the sound of the Holy One, blessed be He, Who was going in the garden.
Words in blue are missing from Gutnik, Stone and my edition of Mikraot Gedolot. They can be found in Daat and Saperstein. Deleting the words renders his comment a non-sequitor, but there it is. 

So, put yourself in the shoes of the very first people to read the words of 3:8 They're not philosophers and they live before the anti-corporealist midrashim to which Rashi nods were written. How did those first readers take our verse? If they read like Rashi, they understood the words to mean that God, in a physical form, ambled through the garden. Those first readers also might have noted that Adam and his wife hid because they heard God coming (and denied His omniscience to boot.)

As the verse continues, God and Adam seem to standing face-to-face. Adam dissembles "I hid because I heard You coming, and being that I'm naked I was ashamed." God answers with mock surprise:  "Who told you that you were naked?", he demands.

According to the non-philosopher first readers who, following Rashi, read this as a face-to-face confrontation what is God imagined to be wearing during this exchange? Do the non-philosophers think he is standing in front of Adam in His birthday suit? If He isn't naked Himself , how does His question hold any power or make any sense? God and Adam have met before, most notably when Chava was introduced. If corporeal God wears clothes - indeed if He's wearing clothes as he asks the question - isn't the question "Who told you that you were naked?" absurd? So must we conclude that, according to the non-philosophers. God told Adam off while He, Himself, stood naked in front of them?

Search for more information about Rashi the corprealist 

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