Monday, 1 December 2014

A Speculative Reading of Bereshit

Rav Natan Slifkin's book "The Challenge of Creation" finally arrived, so I've started reading that. I'm quite fond of his writing(although I would prefer a few more footnotes, not to mention Hebrew source texts, rather than translations) and I'm definitely enjoying myself. I'm still in the introductory chapters, but hopefully I'll put up a post or two about the book some time soon.

In any case, I wanted to put into writing a possible reading of Bereshit that I've been pondering for a while. It's pretty non-traditional, so please regard this as more of a thought exercise in parshanut rather than as a serious attempt at a definitive interpretation of the text.

First, let's look at some of the significant questions on the first few chapters of the Torah(some of which we've mentioned before):
  1. A simple reading of the account of creation in the Torah is not consistent with the Scientific narrative, mainly in terms of the age of the universe and the evolution of species. How do we reconcile this?
  2. The Torah begins with two different accounts of creation which contradict each other on a number of points. How do we explain this?
  3. Who did Adam and Eve's offspring marry?
  4. People live a long time but their ages slowly decrease. Why?
  5. Who were the Bnei Eliohim and the Nefilim? What was their sin and what do they have to do with the limiting of Man's age to 120 years?

Rav Breuer argued, in his classes, that the first story of Creation is the story of a Natural Creation while the second is a miraculous one. The implication was that the truth of what actually happened is somewhere in the middle.

I'd like to suggest the possibility that the two creation stories imply that Hashem made two different, parallel creations. He made a Natural Creation that took place through natural processes over a long time and where Human life evolved. He also made an "artificial" creation, designing and forming Man and Woman miraculously in a well-planned garden with everything they could possibly need.

The story in the Garden is the story of how Adam and Eve sinned and were exiled from the perfect creation into the imperfect one.

Adam and Eve were engineered to perfection and they lived a long time. That said, their offspring married the short-lived, imperfect, Nature-evolved Humans. As such, their descendents lived for shorter and shorter periods.

Ultimately, those most closely descended of Adam and Eve took advantage of their less-able fellows and took a disproportionate number of women for themselves. These were the Bnei-Elohim and the Nefilim(see Malbim for a similar explanation) and their punishment was that Hashem took away their long lifespan.

So there you go. It's a little bit far out there, I'll admit, and maybe I've been reading too much Tolkien. That said, what I do like about this reading is that it doesn't have to resort to saying that the creation story is really Allegorical...

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