Archive | October, 2012

Bereshit – better late than never!

21 Oct

Finally, I’ve found the time!! (Well, I know we’re now one reading past Bereshit, but I’ll catch on that during the week, I hope).  Reminder: the parshah ‘Bereshit’runs from the start of the Bible to Gen. 6:8.

I had various thoughts on this parshah…so much of an obvious nature to comment on…but something in particular caught my eye and I just thought I’d say something about that.  I just hadn’t noticed the strong parallel between Gen. 3:16 and Gen 4:7 before.  In the former passage, God is giving his/His/Her  angry response to the Taking of the Fruit.  Having bawled out the serpent, he turns to Eve:

‘And to the woman He said,

“I will make most severe/Your pangs in childbearing;/In pain shall you bear children,/Yet your urge shall be for your husband,/And he shall rule over you.’

It’s the last couple of lines I’m interested in here.  ‘Ve el-ishekh t’shuqatekh/ve-hu yimshal bach’ (No, I have no consistent transliteration system, sorry.  I am using the latest JPS trans, by the way).
He uses the noun ‘Teshuqah’ for ‘urge/desire’ and the verb ‘mashal’ for ‘to rule’.
And now the 2nd passage. In 4:7, God addresses Cain who is upset that God thinks less of his offering than Abel’s, and says:

‘”Why are you distressed…?/..if you do right..There is uplift,/But if you do not do right/Sin couches at the door;/ Its urge is toward you,/Yet you can be its master.”‘

Again, I’m focussing on the last two short lines: again for ‘urge’ the Hebrew is, once again, ‘T’shuqato’ and what the JPS translates as ‘Yet you can be its master’ is “ve-atah timshal-bo’ so once again the verb ‘mashal’ is used for ‘rule’.

So…it’s as if Eve is placed in some parallel relationship to ‘sin’ itself; and maybe, if we read the two passages in direct parallel, we can read that God is saying that Eve needs to be kept under control, under governance, like the potential force for bad that she is, and Adam is therefore given that control…sin is not about to be eradicated, but can be kept under control, and so can Eve.  I had always read the first passage as ‘and now you are going to be stuck in this situation where you will be ineluctably drawn to your husband but that means being ruled by him, and that’s a price you have to pay…(and perhaps also, that because you are so drawn, you are going to have to suffer the miseries of childbirth that result from that attraction. And perhaps the use of ‘Yet’ in JPS to translate the ambiguous ‘ve’ in ‘Ve el-ishekh t’shuqatekh’ reflects that interpretation – despite knowing what misery childbirth is, YET you won’t be able to escape it because you will desire your husband etc )  But this other reading would mean something, shall we say, worse: ‘and here’s how I’m going to minimize the harm you can do…’

I don’t know if this is silly…anyway, I”m enjoying thinking about it.  Let me know any thoughts/ reactions.  I haven’t access just now to the JPS commentary, but I’m guessing it JPS didn’t make much of this similarity or they could have translated them to reflect it, e.g. using ‘rule over ‘twice and not ‘be ..master’ the 2nd time.

or thoughts about anything else in the parshah…