Project Genesis

Two Creation Narratives

Filed under: Adam and Eve story

Question: The verse states in Genesis (1:27), “And G-d created Man in His image, in the image of G-d He created him; male and female He created them.” Then in chapter 2, verses 21-23, G-d creates woman with the rib of Adam. Can you please explain what is happening here? It seems that “male and female” were already created in Chapter 1, and then again (Adam and Eve) in the Garden of Eden (Chapter 2)!

Answer: Thank you so much for your excellent question. This question was addressed by one of the greatest Rabbis in history, Rabbi Shlomo Yitzhaki (lived in France 1040-1105), traditionally known as Rashi, whose commentaries on the Bible and Talmud are considered both sacred and essential to understanding those basic texts in traditional Jewish circles.

The following is translated from Rashi’s comments on Genesis 1:27 – the bracketed material are my explanations, as I have been taught:

Male and Female He created them”: [We see] later [in the scripture that] it says, “And He took one of his ribs, etc.” [or, as we will see later, “sides”] (Genesis 2:21). There is a Midrash Aggadah (homiletic teaching) that says [that God] first created two faces in the original creature and afterwards He divided them (Midrash Bereshith Rabba 8:1). [This means that, originally, the first human was formed similar to a conjoined twin (except that it was both male and female, which does not happen with biologically conjoined twins). Therefore, the Hebrew word tzelah, usually translated as “rib”, would be, according to this source, translated as “side”.] [However], the simple rendering of the Scripture is that He created them both on the sixth day [as chapter one is speaking generally, without many details, then continuing to the seventh day], and it did not explain the details of how they were created, which would be explained to you in another place [The Braitha of the 32 Attributes, #13]. [My Rabbis explained this like we see the style of writing, let’s say, a newspaper article, where the first paragraph is an introduction, and the second goes into details of the important aspects briefly mentioned in the first article. Just the same, God is explaining in brief the seven days of Creation in Genesis 1:1-2:3, and then goes into the details of the creation of Mankind and their first sin on the sixth day in Genesis 2:7-3:24.]

Therefore there are two answers, possibly both true in some way, as hundreds of commentators have discussed over the centuries:

1. The first human was neither male nor female, but rather embodied both genders. When God saw that it was not good for a human to be alone (for various reasons, one of which the classical commentators mention is that this could bring about arrogance, the human seeing himself as unique, or confusion from the rest of creation, mistaking the human for a deity), He decided to separate this being into two components, male and female, as two separate people. Many often say, based on this, that this is why a man feels incomplete until he is married, because he is only half of a human until he is completed by his wife.

2. The simpler meaning is that Genesis 1 is a quick overview of the seven days of Creation, and the subsequent two chapters addresses some of the major details of the events of the sixth day, as Adam and Eve were the pinnacle of Creation.

I wish you many blessings of happiness and good things,
Rabbi Joseph Kolakowski

How could the generation of Moses sin?

Question: In the book of Exodus great miracles were performed against Egypt, and when the nation of Israel was in the wilderness again God did great miracles, ie…manna…Why did the nation of Israel keep falling back on sinful ways, ie..the golden calf? One would think that after seeing such great miracles one would definitely believe. Did they keep forgetting about God? It just doesn’t seem possible.

Answer: Many feel, “If only G-d would show himself to me, I wouldn’t have any more problems of faith.” Nothing could be farther from the truth. Most of what we do is because of what we want, not because of what we believe. Part of a person is always trying to distract him from what is truly important. Anyone who has ever tried to diet knows how hard it can be to put knowledge into practice.

In terms of knowledge, the generation of the desert was the greatest there ever was. They saw; they knew!—All of our knowledge about the Torah is derived only from their testimony. Still, they were very human, and subject to human frailties. We should understand that the Jews in the desert were not all saints. Our Sages teach that many of our people died in Egypt during the plague of darkness. They had sunk so far into the immorality of Egypt that they were completely beyond hope and spiritual growth. The ones who did leave were not beyond hope. Still, lots of them must have been very close to the line. They still had potential, but were sunk deep in depravity. If they had stayed in Egypt any longer, it would have been too late! These people may have seen very clearly the need for growth, but they had yet a long way to go.

All that being said, the Jews in the wilderness did not do as badly as a cursory reading might indicate. Some of their tests were very difficult – three days without finding water, no food source, forty days with their leader gone, etc. And not all of them sinned by any means. At the sin of the golden calf, those who worshiped the calf were guilty of a capital crime. Still, the Torah testifies that only 3000 were executed (Exodus Chap. 32) out of 600,000 men. In another place (Numbers Chap. 11) the Torah says that the Jews were punished because the “Asafsuf” (loosely translated as “riff-raff”) were complaining. One of my favorite examples is in Joshua 7(11). G-d explains why Israel has lost their first (and only) battle under Joshua: “Israel has sinned, and violated the covenant that they made with me; they have taken from what was consecrated, and stolen, and lied, and packed it all away…” Terrible! But read a little further, and we find out that one Jew alone sinned. All of Israel was blamed. G-d is not being unfair; he loves us, and wants us to achieve what he knows we’re capable of. He holds us to an very high standard throughout the Torah.

Best wishes,
Michoel Reach

[Reposted from the Archives]

Designer Babies

Question: What is the Jewish view on designer babies?

Answer: I don’t know of any source in Jewish law that speaks about this case exactly, but it would seem to run counter to Judaism. Jewish law forbids tattoos and messing with ones body and also puts a stress on being happy with the situation and attributes that G-d gives us at birth and throughout life. It would seem that designer babies fly in the face of this.

If a person really believes that G-d gives us what is best, then there is no need to make such ‘improvements.’ Certainly, if a child will be ill, then the Torah obligates us to improve the child’s situation. But a designer baby isn’t previously ill.

Rabbi Meir Goldberg

Men with Long Hair

Question: Are men allowed to grow their hair long for locks of love?

Answer: Some Rabbinic authorities maintain that long hair for a man poses an issue of “chatsitsa” or separation between the scalp and teffillin (phylactaries) that are worn during the morning services. Others are concerned with the prohibition of Lo Silbash (cross-dressing). Still other rabbis raise the possibility this may be considered a custom of other faiths. In spite of all this, it is difficult to say it’s forbidden as we find in the Torah the concept of being a Nazirite which includes growing one’s hair. Some of the greatest Jewish leaders were Nazirites, such as Samuel and Sampson.

Nonetheless, it seems the Sages discouraged men from growing their hair long even for a constructive purpose. The Talmud (Sotah 10b) states that Absalom’s long hair caused him to rebel against his father, King David. Rabbi Zadok of Lublin points out that even though he did so because he was a holy Nazirite, it still caused him to sin. Fittingly, his demise was caused by his hair getting caught in a tree.

Rabbi Shlomo Soroka

Why isn’t there Sotah for men?

Question: My questions are: “Is the article below suppose to relate to now-modern times? Or is it just the biblical background on adultery? And most importantly to me as a woman, why isn’t there anything mentioned about adultery as it pertains to a married man committing it? Women are not the only sex that commits adultery; it seems to be a grossly one sided article, and it there is no reference as to how this ‘halacha’ pertains to present day, then to me it is just history.”

So what I would like to see or know is what is the halacha view on adultery for the present day as all the ‘sacrifice’ stuff really doesn’t apply today, and what is the present day view of a man committing adultery?

Adultery – Sotah
If a woman is deliberately unfaithful to her husband she becomes forbidden to him and he must divorce her, as it says “Her first husband… cannot take her again to be his wife after she has been defiled”[1,a]; and she is also forbidden to marry the man with whom she was unfaithful. If a man tells his wife before witnesses that she must not be alone with someone and she disobeys, she also becomes forbidden to both of them. When the Temple exists she can (if they wish) return to her husband by performing the ceremony of drinking the “bitter waters”, as it says “If a man’s wife strays… he shall bring his wife to the priest and bring her sacrifice with her, a tenth of an ephah of barley flour; he shall not pour oil on it nor put frankincense on it… and [the priest] shall make the woman drink the bitter water…”[2,b]. It is a man’s duty to be particular about the habits of the members of his household and to warn them against sin, as it says “And you shall know that your tent is at peace and you shall examine your habitation and not sin”[3,c].

1. Deut. 24:4
2. Num. 5:12-31
3. Job 5:24 a. Geirushin 11:14; Ishus 24:17
b. 1:1-2; 2:1,12; Ishus 24:24
c. 4:19

Answer: I’ve been asked to respond your question. You wrote:

Is the article below suppose to relate to now-modern times?

Well, practically speaking, there is no modern correlation to the process of testing a Sotah because there is currently no Temple. Of course, the moral lessons taught by this particular mitzva (law) are universal and the primary underlying lesson – that God is aware of what happens in the human world and that He can and does interfere at will – will not be lost on mature and sensitive readers.

why isn’t there anything mentioned about adultery as it pertains to a married man committing it?

As a matter of fact there is. The Talmud (Sotah 27b) writes: “Just as the waters test the woman, they also test her partner (i.e., the man with whom she sinned).” Which clearly indicates that, assuming they had actually sinned together, both partners will die miraculous deaths.

and what is the present day view of a man committing adultery?

There is a subtle (and legally meaningless) difference between the adultery of some men and that of all women. Since Torah law allows a man to marry more than one wife – even if Ashkenazic Jews rejected polygamy 1,000 years ago and Sephardic more recently – while a woman may have only one husband, a married man engaging in a casual relationship with an unmarried woman is not liable for the death penalty (even when such penalties would have been imposed). However there is no instance in which partners in a forbidden relationship would be treated differently from each other (or at least no instance that comes to mind). What follows, therefore, is that both partners in an adulterous relationship involving a married woman have committed a capital offense. Both partners of an adulterous relationship in which the woman is not married have committed a serious (non-capital) crime, and, assuming they are both consenting participants, are considered equally perverse and reprehensible.

I hope this helps.

With my best regards,
Rabbi Boruch Clinton

Counting People and King David

Question: In Chronicles 21:1-17 David conducts a census (against the will of G-d) G-d gives David three choices and sends a plague that kills 70,000 Israelites. Did G-d sentence the 70,000 to die because David failed? If counting was prohibited, who counted the 70,000 dead?

Answer: King David himself argued the same point in verse 17, “And David said to God, Was it not I who commanded the people to be counted? It is I who have sinned and done very wickedly; but as for these sheep, what have they done? Let your hand, I pray you, O Lord my God, be against me, and against my father’s house; but let not the plague be upon your people.”

The prohibition against counting the Jewish People is described in Exodus 30:12: “When you take the count of the Children of Israel to determine their numbers, each man shall give an atonement pledge for his soul to G-d, when you count them. Thus there will be no plague among them when you count them.” G-d warns that the natural result of counting them will be a plague, unless they give the atonement pledge of a half-shekel. This prohibition is only for counting those who are alive. So the question is – How can G-d bring a plague when the people are counted if they are not guilty of the death penalty?

Rabbi Bachya ben Asher (14th century, Spain) answers this with the following: When we associate with the goals of the community and assist their cause, G-d judges us as essential to the community. This increases the likelihood that G-d will keep us alive. If we are judged as individuals, without considering our value to the community, our personal shortcomings are brought to light. When we are counted, each person is his own number – each left to his own merits. Such scrutiny is likely to produce horrific results. If there are sins that are severe enough to deserve the death penalty, it will be meted out. As Ecclesiastes 7:20 testifies, “For there is not a just man upon earth, that does good, and does not sin.” You’ve probably heard people say, “We’ve all made mistakes at some point in our lives.” It is everyone’s wish that no one focus on those mistakes.

Best Wishes,
Rabbi Mordechai Dixler

Ten Commandments

Filed under: Shavuos, G-d and Torah

Question:  I understand that it has been determined that there are 613 commandments in the Old Testament. What I am curious about is about the 10 commandments that almost everyone knows about. Are they essentially subject headers that the other commandments would be filed under? Could they be considered, i.e. the 613 other commandments, sub-points of the 10?

Answer: You are quite correct. The 10 Commandments are really 10 categories.

What isn’t Shavuos Always a Sunday?

Question: According to the Torah (Lev. 23:15), the Omer offering is brought on “the day after the Sabbath”, and we then count seven weeks and celebrate Shavuos. Why doesn’t Shavuos always fall on a Sunday?

Answer: “The Sabbath” in Lev.23:15 means “The holiday”, i.e. the first day of Passover. The omer offering was brought on the second day of Passover, i.e. on the 16th of Nisan, which does not always fall on the same day of the week, and Shavuos falls seven weeks later. Holidays are called “Sabbaths” because most work is forbidden on holidays; e.g., see Lev.23:7 about the prohibition of work on the first day of Passover. The weekly Sabbath is called a “Sabbath of Sabbaths” because even more types of work are forbidden; see Lev.23:3.

Shavuos in Context

Filed under: Shavuos

Question: I know that the holiday of Shavuos is coming up soon.  What does that word mean in English? What does the holiday commemorate? What season of the year does it come in?

Answer: The word Shavuos means “weeks.” It is called that because it is celebrated after counting seven weeks from the Passover holiday. The Jews were slaves when they were taken out of Egypt on Passover.  The seven weeks following are seen as a time when they grew from their lowly status, to that of noble servants of the King of all Kings. Shavuos was the culmination of this process—the day upon which the Jews accepted the Torah (i.e. the laws detailing their service as dictated by the Master of the World).

The holiday takes place at the beginning of the summer, the time of the ripening of the fruits planted in the spring. This season is symbolic of the ripening of the Jewish people from a lowly seed (when they left Egypt as slaves), to a noble fruit (when they accepted the Torah at Mount Sinai). In fact, the Torah also calls this holiday the Day of the First Fruits (Numbers 28:26). When the Holy Temple was standing in Jerusalem, Jews would bring the first fruits of their crops to the Temple with a procession of great fanfare, and offer them to their Creator as a statement of gratitude for their personal and national prosperity. The bringing of these fruits started on Shavuos.

Best Regards,
Rabbi Mordechai Dixler

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