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.

6 comments:

rebecca m said...

I like :)

I wasn't sure you were going to pull it all together, but you did.

Mercy doesn't come out looking so good here. It's kinda "b'dieved". A perfect world wouldn't need it. Maybe. I can't imagine a world without mercy being necessary, b/c it's so far from where we live.

"Distilled"-- plays off the 'androginus" midrash, but in a less surgical way, which I like.

chillul Who? said...

Whew! I was getting freaked out being up there all by myself

Thanks for commenting Rebecca :)

The question of mercy is interesting too, like you bring up - why do some many of our stories have to do with God "relenting" in the face of human fallability? the mabul, the first luchot, etc. I think it might be less that "a judgemental god" is the ideal, as that "perfect people" are the ideal, who can handle strict justice because they don't do anything wrong.

Steg (dos iz nit der šteg) said...

very cool!

i like the interpolation of השטן as being the result of Adam's lie which then takes form to bite them in the... heel.

NeilLitt said...

When Adam ha-Rishon adds to God's restriction, "and neither may you touch it," he becomes the first to build a fence around the Torah.

Does this fence get erected from a lack of trust or is it perhaps a first (failed) attempt to create greater distance between the human and the transgression?

You call it a lie, but if it does not differ from those who say that there was no such son; that it was never an eye for an eye; etc.; then on what do we stand?

There is a natural tension between our ideals and our abilities. Denied the fruit from the tree of all knowledge, our knowledge is frustratingly incomplete. We stand before God and our fellow humans, fallible, vulnerable, with imperfect understanding. Our failures are not lies; they are errors of transcription. Grave, for sure, but more deserving of mercy than judgment.

chillul Who? said...

Hi Neil, you said: You call it a lie, but if it does not differ from those who say that there was no such son; that it was never an eye for an eye; etc.; then on what do we stand?...Our failures are not lies; they are errors of transcription. Grave, for sure, but more deserving of mercy than judgment.

Thanks for commenting! I felt uncomfortable with the anti-"fence around the torah" aspect of my agadah here too. There were a few lines I rewrote about 10 times as I mulled over some of the implications.

However, I think that the link between Strict Judgement and Absolute Truth is a strong one, and that it's not such a stretch to link "building fences around the Torah" with Mercy - it functions almost like a plea bargain in halacha.

I look forward to reading and talking about your agadah this week! (and everybody else's.. I guess I was just super eager to get started)

chillul Who? said...

And thanks for commenting Steg as well!