Monday, June 15, 2009

Translation of B'Toraso Shel R' Gedaliah II

(This is the second and final part of the translation of small parts of B'Toraso Shel R' Gedaliah that I did a few years ago. The complete Hebrew work can be downloaded here.)

The word “day” can also be explained as a period… There are many different scientific proofs, via precise methods that are tried and tested… that millions of years have elapsed… It is folly to think that it is all falsehood.


The Formation of Man

When the Torah says “And God created the man” it does not refer to one person whose personal name was “Adam.” “The Man,” with the definitive “the,” is the name of the species, as in the previous verse, “Let us make man in our image, as our form, and he shall reign over the fish of the sea etc.” – “Adam” is not a personal name, but refers to the species of man. Similarly, in the continuation, “And Hashem, God, formed the man of dust from the earth, and He breathed the spirit of life into his nostrils, and man became as a living soul.” The description of the formation of man from the dust is by way of allegory and parable. The Holy One did not take a spoonful of dirt and knead it with water, as children do in kindergarten. The “dust” here is raw material, from which animals were also formed.

…Regarding the basic understanding [of Seforno], that the creation of man in the image of God was the end of a long process, which originated in a non-intelligent being, belonging to the category of animals, which continually developed until it received human intellect, and in parallel the physiological form of man that is familiar to us – it is reasonable that this is the correct description. The proof of Darwin, and of the paleontologists, for the existence of earlier stages such as this, seems convincing. The mistake of Darwin is the overall perspective which avoids the question of how changes came about. But with recognition of the Divine will that acts in nature via the medium of angels – we have no need to deny the description of events according to how scientific investigation presents them. There are archeological finds of skeletons of bipeds with small skulls, whose brain could not have been like the brain of man that is familiar to us. The man about which it said, “Let us make man in our image” is the final stage of this staged development.

Gan Eden

“And Hashem, God, planted a garden in Eden in the east, and he placed man, that he had formed, there…” – the species of man, which was formed in the sixth period of the days of Bereishis as an androgynous intelligent and reproducing being. It is reasonable that there were many people scatted in the lengths of the world. Perhaps they had reached America. However, they were unimportant, and the Torah does not mention them at all. In one place, in Eden, that is to say, in the choice land (from the terminology ednah), God placed the choicest of the human species. Over time, He planted there pleasant and goodly trees, possessing good and beneficial characteristics (segulos).
...
“And the snake was more cunning than all the beasts of the field…” – Here all the commentaries alert us to the fact of it speaking by way of allegory. Animals do not talk, and they do not engage in dialogue with people. The snake is the Satan, which is the Angel of Death, which is the evil inclination…
“And man called the name of his wife Chavah, for she was the mother of all life…” – Just as “Adam” is the name of the species, so too “Chavah” is the name of women in general, of every woman, who is the mother and source for all life that is born and continues from her. There were many men before this man, that the Torah also calls by the personal name of “Adam,” and that Chazal call by the name of Adam HaRishon. Likewise, there were many women before this woman whose personal name was “Chavah.” But they were significant, and concerning them there was a point in the Torah telling us of them…

KAYIN AND HEVEL
“And the man knew Chavah his wife”… “The man” is the name of the species, and “Chavah” is also a general name for woman, as above, but here it refers to the specific man and woman who began to live outside of the Garden of Eden, and they gave birth to Kayin and Hevel.

23 comments:

  1. Very interesting, thanks!

    A couple of brief comments:

    > "The “dust” here is raw material, from which animals were also formed."

    What raw material? Atoms?

    > "..the creation of man in the image of God was the end of a long process, which originated in a non-intelligent being, belonging to the category of animals, which continually developed until it received human intellect"

    By "long process," does this mean that there was a special creation for each different man-like specie over time, or just one at the beginning? (I'm guessing the latter.)

    By "received," does that mean a special infusion by God, or was it just a natural development? In what way, exactly, was this line of animals "continually developing"? After all, later on, R' Nadel writes "the species of man, which was formed in the sixth period of the days of Bereishis as an androgynous intelligent and reproducing being." OK, if he was formed with intelligence in the sixth period, then who says that the previous non-intelligent being "continually developed until it received human intellect"? I don't want to think that R' Nadel contradicted himself, but that's what it looks like at first glance.

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  2. "The word “day” can also be explained as a period… There are many different scientific proofs, via precise methods that are tried and tested… that millions of years have elapsed… It is folly to think that it is all falsehood."

    I'm wondering if R' Nadel commented on Gerald's Shroeder's approach of reconciling the two ages. (If not Shroeder's /specific/ approach, then something /like/ his approach.) I believe that NS has commented on that approach, unfavorably, generally.

    “And the snake was more cunning than all the beasts of the field…” – Here all the commentaries alert us to the fact of it speaking by way of allegory. Animals do not talk, and they do not engage in dialogue with people. The snake is the ... evil inclination"

    I'm curious if R' Nadel answered the question on many of our minds, "but what about Bilaam's donkey?"

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  3. "“And the snake was more cunning than all the beasts of the field…” – Here all the commentaries alert us to the fact of it speaking by way of allegory. Animals do not talk, and they do not engage in dialogue with people. The snake is the Satan, which is the Angel of Death, which is the evil inclination…"

    Please tell me how many commentaries say it is allegorical, and the snake didn't talk?

    Rashi - Doesn't say, and it seams literal.

    Ibn Ezra - Literal (after rejecting, 1. she understood the snakes language, 2. it was only a malach)

    Targum Yonoson - doesn't change the translation of snake.

    Ramban - Doesn't say, but clearly indicates the snake got punished.

    Chizkuni - Spoke with the same powers as bilams donkey.

    Sporno - Non literal, (how can an animal talk, Yetzer Hara)

    Or Hachaim - Snake spoke (because the yetzar hara entered him)

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  4. Is there any way to actually relate this to the text, or is it just speculation? After all, you could do pretty much the same thing with any creation myth from the ancient world.

    >“And the man knew Chavah his wife”… “The man” is the name of the species, and “Chavah” is also a general name for woman, as above, but here it refers to the specific man and woman who began to live outside of the Garden of Eden, and they gave birth to Kayin and Hevel.

    Why stop? Let’s say Kayin and Hevel weren’t the names of actual people, but of two tribes of early humans. The Kayin were herders, and the Hevel were farmers. As often happens when herders and farmers occupy the same region, there was tension over land use, and this erupted into a war. The Hevel were wiped out.

    This is fun! Let’s continue.

    To say that Noach saved all the species in a boat and later repopulated the Earth has been shown to be unlikely. It must be Noach represents the people who God spared from the flood(s) that wiped out ancient population centers. Perhaps those settlements, rich from the irrigation and trade provided by their adjacent bodies of water, grew complacent and forgot God. The poor, as is often the case, stayed close to God, and there people are Noach and his “family.” The teivah represents the land that was spared. The materials described represent the produce of the areas that were spared (forests and tar pits) and the measurements given describe the number of places spared. It was in these places around the world that animals survived.

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  5. I'm curious if R' Nadel answered the question on many of our minds, "but what about Bilaam's donkey?"

    It's probably on fewer people's minds than you think, especially those adherents of "Rationalist Judaism". Rambam, Saadiah Gaon, and many others state that this is not a literal account of a talking donkey and that it represents a prophetic experience of Balaam via a dream state.

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  6. Is there any way to actually relate this to the text, or is it just speculation?

    Absolutely, he is relating it to the text. Adam is not his name - it's always written Ha-adam, "the man." Chava means "lifegiver," a generic name for women.

    Incidentally, in my book I explain how Rambam took a different approach.

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  7. Natan Slifkin said...
    Absolutely, he is relating it to the text. Adam is not his name - it's always written Ha-adam, "the man." Chava means "lifegiver," a generic name for women.

    It's not always written ha-adam. When I last looked at these passages, I was in fact wondering about the difference in light of the issue at hand, and whether it might have some relation to species vs. individual.

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  8. The only time it does not say ha-adam is when there is a lamed prefix, in which case the hei is dropped due to rules of Hebrew grammar.

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  9. I believe these were the places I was looking at:

    1:26
    Na'aseh adam

    1:31
    Va-ya'as H. Elokim le-adam [instead of la-adam]

    5:1
    Zeh sefer toldos adam [rather than toldos ha-adam; and further on there, where the implication seems to be an individual]

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  10. All those can be easily read as referring to mankind.

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  11. xxx1:31xxx 3:21 [whoops]
    Va-ya'as H. Elokim le-adam [instead of la-adam]

    All those can be easily read as referring to mankind.

    Fair enough. Agav, it still begs an explanation for the sandwich of 'le-adam' between the 'ha-adam' in each of the neighboring pesukim.

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  12. >Adam is not his name - it's always written Ha-adam

    It could be that this is just a difference between Hebrew and English grammer, but while "the" would indicate that Adam is not a personal name, it would mean that the pasuk is refering to a specific individual and not the entire species.

    If I say, "I like the dog," you can safely assume I am refering to a specific dog and not all dogs, or I would have said, "I like dogs."

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  13. >If I say, "I like the dog," you can >safely assume I am refering to a >specific dog and not all dogs, or I >would have said, "I like dogs."

    Not really. For example: The apple is my favorite fruit. Which could be written: Apples are my favorite fruit. I certainly am not relating to one specific apple.

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  14. >Not really. For example: The apple is my favorite fruit. Which could be written: Apples are my favorite fruit. I certainly am not relating to one specific apple.

    Yes, fine. So let's forget misleading examples and adress what the pesukim actaully say.

    Bereishis 2:8
    ...and placed there the man...

    2:15
    God took the man and put him in Gan Eden...

    2:16
    And God commanded the man...

    Do any of these seem like they're plural? Again, maybe English and Hebrew grammer are diferent, and that's where I'm mistaken, but it seems like the pesukim are refering to a specific man, "the man" rather than mankind.

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  15. According to Rambam the whole story in Gan Eden is an allegory for the eternal struggle that man undergoes. I think that his view is supported by the fact that the man is not named i.e. he is the archetypical man.

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  16. But these words from R' Nadel don't sound so allegorical:

    "the species of man, which was formed in the sixth period of the days of Bereishis as an androgynous intelligent and reproducing being."

    (If I can humbly ask if you would address my first post above...)

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  17. >the whole story in Gan Eden is an allegory

    Isn't that a slippery slope? How do we determine which stories in the chumash are allegories and which are literally true? Should we take the entire parshas of Berieshes and Noach, with the six-day creation, the flat Earth, the global Flood, etc. as metaphor? If we do, then who gets to determine the correct interpretation?

    >I think that his view is supported by the fact that the man is not named i.e. he is the archetypical man.

    Have to think about that. If so, then this would be the only story in tanach about an impersonal figure, and I guess that could justify reading this bit as non-literal.

    Technically, though, pretty much all Biblical figures are archetypes in the literary sense. They tend to be two-dimensional, defined by a very narrow set of traits.

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  18. Alex:

    "What raw material? Atoms?"

    No, he is describing the evolutionary process.

    "By "long process," does this mean that there was a special creation for each different man-like specie over time, or just one at the beginning?"

    Again, he is referring to the standard evolutionary process.

    "By "received," does that mean a special infusion by God, or was it just a natural development?"

    I don't think he specifies. He probably meant the former.

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  19. G*3 - have you read The Challenge Of Creation? I discuss the slippery-slope issue there.

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  20. Thanks Natan. There was just one aspect of my first comment that went unaddressed. Doesn't "formed in the sixth period of the days of Bereishis as an androgynous intelligent" imply that the "forming" came at the same time as the faculty of intelligence? That seems to contradict evolutionary theory.

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  21. G3 wrote: "Have to think about that. If so, then this would be the only story in tanach about an impersonal figure, and I guess that could justify reading this bit as non-literal."

    Could it be that today's parsha had another case? I saw the word "ha-anak" during the Torah reading today.

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  22. משל תורה שבכתב. מכנה "משל" כי המשל תמיד מובן אך הוא לבוש לדוגמתו וענין פלא וכן דברי תורה שבכתב הם מובנים אך נלבשו בה ענינים פלאים. זהו שצריך להבין המשל שהוא הלבוש

    (Vilna Gaon, commentary to Mishlei 1:6)

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  23. Klim quoted R' Nadel:
    >>“And the snake was more cunning than all the beasts of the field…” – Here all the commentaries alert us to the fact of it speaking by way of allegory. Animals do not talk, and they do not engage in dialogue with people. "

    >Please tell me how many commentaries say it is allegorical, and the snake didn't talk? ... Rashi ... Ibn Ezra ... Targum Yonoson ... Ramban ... Chizkuni ...Sporno ... Or Hachaim

    I can add one more, with a twist.
    The Ramchal. According to him, not only did the snake talk, but the words "the snake was more cunning" indicate that all the other animals spoke, too! (I heard this on a lecture by Rabbi Dovid Gottlieb. He didn't name the sefer, but said it has not been translated into English.)

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