Sunday, September 30, 2007

Bereshit: The Three-Legged Stool

Adam ha-Rishon/The First Person was given only one choice and commandment by the Lord God: "You may freely eat from any tree in the garden, but you may not eat from the tree of all knowledge - for as soon as you eat of it, you will surely die."

The thrice-over repetition of the word "eat" teaches that the First Person was commanded not to eat the fruit of the tree of all knowledge three times, corresponding to the statement of our sages that "the world exists by virtue of three things: Justice, Truth, and Peace."

Just as a stool with three legs cannot stand once one has been broken, so too was the perfect world of the First Man and the First Woman destroyed by a single un-Truth.

When Chavah Rishonah/the First Woman awoke after being distilled out of the side of Adam ha-Rishon, she awoke in purity and forgetfulness, like a newborn baby, while the First Man rose from the same place as where the First Person had fallen asleep (this is why he also is called Adam ha-Rishon). The First Man, lacking faith in his partner despite their common origin, sought to distance Chavah from her only choice and commandment, telling her: "God said that we may eat from any of the trees of the garden, except for the tree of all knowledge - and neither may we touch it - for if we do so, we will die."

With this lie was the Truth of the perfect world shattered, for it is by exposing Adam ha-Rishon's lie to Chavah Rishonah that the snake exposed them both to sin. For if she did not die upon touching the tree, why should she not doubt Adam's admonition against eating from it as well?

The Peace of the perfect world then shattered with the punishments of Adam and of Chavah, of the snake and of the earth. Weapons were laid at the feet of Adam and Chavah - the plow and the striking heel. Weapons were laid at the lost feet of the snake - its snapping bite. Weapons were laid at the feet of the earth - thistles and thorns. The combatant were named, and war was declared.

(And some say, that the peace of the perfect world was shattered with the creation of the Adversary in response to the First Man's lie, in a double-form and shaped from the dust like a mirror of Adam ha-Rishon: Samael/God's Drug, Father of Demons, and Lilith/Nightborn, Mother of Demons. This is the snake, who pressed Chavah Rishonah against the tree of all knowledge, saying "You will not die, but shall be like God as soon as you eat.")

Finally, the Justice of the perfect world shattered, when the Lord God set aside the Attribute of Justice and dressed in the Attribute of Mercy, giving Adam and Chavah the world outside the garden in place of the world inside it, and eventual mortality in place of instant death. Blessed is the One who rules the universe with compassion and mercy, in our days as in days of old.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Pregame show

Our study of Sefer Ha-Aggadah will begin at the NHC Summer Institute in August 2008. However, a number of people expressed excitement about getting started right away. Therefore, as a preliminary, as we begin the new cycle of Torah reading, we're going to start an optional related project: following the weekly Torah portion, and blogging our own original aggadot (narratives). (Then, when we read the classical aggadot archived in Sefer Ha-Aggadah, we can decide which ones we like better!) This will give us an opportunity to begin studying and discussing together, and to get used to the interface and fine-tune the details.

If you'd like to be part of the procedural discussion, you can join the googlegroup at . The substantive discussion will happen right here on the blog. If you're interested in blogging periodically, join the list and drop us a line; if you'd rather just read and comment, that's great too.

Shabbat Bereishit (the first portion in the Torah, Genesis 1:1-6:8) is Saturday, October 6. That's soon! There's going to be very little (or no) time between Simchat Torah and Shabbat Bereishit, so feel free to start blogging your aggadot on Bereishit right away!