Chavarah- Jewish Community Learning

A blog of Jewish study and traditions. Notes from classes: Torah Study with Rabbi Marder, Toledot and Shabbaton as well as other details found of interest.

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Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Adam 1 and Adam 2 - duality explained

The following notes from Torah Study by Howard Selznick - wish I had been there - of course his research is very complete in how he does his notes... Seems like a fascinating session:

24 May 2008
• Two creation stories illustrate the duality of human nature.

  1. Rabbi Jack H. Bloom takes exception to translation of צלם as “image”; instead he prefers “model”, primarily because “image” connotes a replica of a corporeal object, i.e., an idol, which is antithetical to Jewish tradition. See his Jewish Relational Care A-Z. The Hayworth Press, 2006. Page 3. Subsequently, he realized that even “model” was not a proper translation because it, too, conveyed the idea of God’s corporeality. Consequently, the phrase אֱלׂהִים בְּצֶלֶם should not be translated but used as if it were English. See “Pursuing Tzelem Elohim. How I Ended up Where I Started. A Translator/Traitor’s Perilous Voyage.” From [received via email 1 May 08]
  2. Southgate, Troy. “Victor Dortheimer: The Swindling Survivor” at, accessed 28 May 2008. Original source appears to be 'A Schindler Survivor: The Story Behind the Documentary' by Ron Fisher, Carlton UK Television, 1997, p. 23

Cohen, Norman J. Self, Struggle & Change. Family Conflict Stories in Genesis and Their Healing Insighes for our Lives. Jewish Lights Publishing. 1995. Pages 21-23.

• An episode of Star Trek (Original Series) dealt with this duality. In episode No. 5 “The Enemy Within” , there is a transporter malfunction as Captain Kirk beams up from a planet. Two Kirks materialize, one “good” – passive and contemplative -- and one “evil” – aggressive and violent. Before Spock and McCoy figure out what happened, the evil Kirk runs amok on his ship, committing violent acts, including the attempted assault of Yeoman Janice Rand. The other Kirk seems good and honorable, but as time passes, he weakens and loses his ability to make decisions. Meanwhile, the "evil" half is dying. Neither Kirk can survive to command the Enterprise without his other half. Scotty eventually repairs the transporter and Spock convinces both Kirks to beam down the planet. One Kirk returns to the U.S.S. Enterprise whole and alive.
The story line is a sci-fi version of Jekyll and Hyde … It questions what the most important characteristics of a leader should be. Aggression is necessary, though courage is derived from the sensible side of Kirk.
As the story unfolds, we begin to see that both sides of Kirk need each other just as much as each other not just to function properly and morally but to function as a ship’s captain. Without his rough side ..., Kirk lacks any real sense of command and ability to keep order. However as Doctor McCoy states, without the good side of Kirk, he wouldn’t have his intelligence and moral judgment to rely on in difficult situations. Furthermore McCoy makes an interesting move in claiming that human courage may come from those things as when both confronted each other, the evil Kirk was scared but good Kirk wasn’t.

  1. “TheLonely Man of Faith”. Tradition. A Journal of Orthodox Jewish Thought. 7 (2), Summer 1965. Pages 5-67. Also at
  2. First aired 6 October 1966 (Stardate 1672.1)

• Ariel Bloch and Chana Bloch described Eden in terms of a memory of abundance and wholeness. The Song of Songs “locates” and recreates Eden in human love.
• Rabbi Elie Monk asks why did God create man? Rabbi Marder mentioned Psalm 89; however, a number of Psalms deal with Creation as a manifestation of God’s power and wisdom: 104, 24:1-2, 135:6-7, 74:12-17, and 89:10-13.
• Gen 2:21, “deep sleep” – unpredicted things happen when least expected. Creativity comes from sleep when thoughts bubble up from the unconscious. “Something mysterious and awe-inspiring is about to take place.”
• Gen 2:24, עַל-כֵּן , “hence” in JPS translation implies commentary. Other translations:

• Gen 2:22, צֵלָע , “side” or “rib”
◊ The same word also refers to the side of the Mishkan or side of a structure necessary for stability (shear wall?). There is the sense of something missing in “man”. Uniting man with another person help deal with the duality.
◊ God-Man-Woman: a love triangle? Maybe, but we serve God by serving other people. Halakhically, women are exempt from certain mitzvot, so some of the tension of the triangle is lessened.
◊ Sodium and chloride ions are chemically active and are drawn to each other as crystalline salt, just as humans need salt to survive.
• Gen 2:23 – the first wedding? One of the seven blessings during the Jewish marriage ceremony is based on this verse.

  1. Polish, Daniel F. Keeping Faith with the Psalms. Jewish Lights Publishing. 2004. Pages 20 ff.
  2. Hertz, page 9
  3. Alter, page 23
  4. Eskanazi, page 12; Holladay, page 307

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Please Fix what we broke!

Well I missed you all last week – but am sure that it was a good one with Rabbi Zweiback.

I did hear William Schneider speak at Brandeis University comparing the graduates from 1966 to those of 2008. Did you know that back in the 60’s we invented Rock & Roll and Drugs and even Sex? Well basically Schneider suggested that those of us who were a product of the 60’s may have broken a few things along the way and he charged the 2008 graduates to fix it! (a good speech that the parents related to, not as sure that the graduates did or not!)

Sound anything like our recent discussion in Torah Study? Maybe our purpose in being here here might just be to ‘fix’ the world again! Just as it was back in the beginning!

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Good & Evil - Ezer Knegdo - Ish & Isha

5/10 led by Cantor Lauren Bandman
Genesis 2:16 -

Thank you Cantor Bandman for leading an excellent discussion!

We pondered the translation of “Knowledge of Good and Evil”. Verifying as we do, in the Hebrew all words are present, “Knowledge”, “Good”, “Evil”.

Is this about morality or mortality?

Some comments from the group:

• recall the quote: “a little knowledge is a dangerous thing”
• ‘we become like judges and can distinguish right from wrong’ thus the beginning of responsibility
• • While throughout Torah God says, “who is like Me?”, in the creation story man is created in the “image of God”. . . Is it possible that God is alone?

And looking at the punctuation in the translation there is a question if it is a tree, or is it a tree of good and evil. Cantor Bandman clarified this a bit explaining the trope interpretation where ‘not to eat’ is separate from the ‘tree’ and separate from ‘good and evil’.

There was much commentary about man’s awareness and acceptance of mortality.

Evan Lurie recommended a book: "The Beginning of Wisdom" by Leon Cass that discusses creation and this portion from a different point of view:
He points out that every act of creation is an act of differentiation. (interesting concept) And mortality differentiates us from God.

The division of the six days detailed in Genesis into two parallel triads looks like this.

1. Light 4. lights (heavenly)

2. heaven* 5. fish and fowl

3(a) earth (dry land) 6(a) land animals

(b) including plants (b) including man*

*Not said to be "good"

Cantor Bandman was eager to point to verse 18 where the role of the ‘woman’ is introduced in a ‘good’ way. Everything was good up until the realization by God that man was alone. Alone was "not good". So God made woman to make it better!!!

This started a brief side tangent on whether it is good to be alone or not... But then back on track to discuss the role of women!
An EZER KNEGDO – a fitting helper, one to complement him, but also clearly created to stand on her own.

There is much discussion about how God made a ‘wife’ for Adam and the many ways this act can be viewed.

The general topic of whether there is one creation story where the first is general and second gives details OR is it two stories? Cantor Bandman noted that more scholars accept the ONE story version. However, we did point out the mythical legend of Lilith being the first woman which is somewhat popular in some mystical cultures.

We also briefly discussed the names for man and woman in the Hebrew and the differences in the roots but similar sounds of the words for Man (ISH) an Woman (ISHA). (Fodder for great midrash)

There are many excellent links for commentary when you put 'Ezer Knegdo' into Google... If you have time just go and explore!

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

The Tree of Life Lives

Genesis 2:9-15

Tree of Life and the Tree of all Knowledge

5/3 led by R. Marder

Tree of Life and the Tree of all Knowledge!
The image of the tree!
Image of the garden!

Samson Raphael Hirsch: “Our esthetic sense is a Divine gift.”

The Tree of Life can be found in mythological references which is evident as a possible source for the concept in other Biblical passages which refer to similar imagery as the mythological image.

The reference occurs several times in the Book of Proverbs.

‘Ashrei’ - which links happiness to wisdom. This sparked a discussion to explore ‘wisdom’, ‘Torah’, and ‘happiness’ and how they are defined and linked to each other.

The meaning of ‘Wisdom’ was discussed and it was pointed out that in Hebrew there are many more ‘types’ of wisdom than in English.

The discussion highlighted the evolution of the concept from the mythological tree of eternal life to the imagery of the Tree of Life as actually a reference to the Torah itself. And that in fact when looked at in the broader sense of the whole people, the Torah actually is a ‘Tree of Life’ keeping us alive for thousands of years through the generations.

(Side fact: The spindles that hold the Torah scroll are called Eytz Chayim – tree of life)

The historic significance of the quest for immortality has some connection to the reference to the ‘tree of life’ but it is not the same focus as that of the ancient kings. (found a book on this topic)

The overall focus of Torah is more on morality and the relationship between man and God rather than on the quest for immortality.

Rambam: “what is divine is our intellect” - an elitist point of view.

R. Marder: “It is a rich stew of different visions of what it is to be a Jew.”

The Tree of Life was in the middle of the garden.
An extended discussion of how this interpretation came about: the translation is based on the placement of the words and the focus on the words in context. This puts the tree in the MIDDLE of the garden! And then it is pointed out that when the tree IS in the middle that all have equal access to it and that all paths lead there.

There was further review of the geography described in reference to Eden and whether it was a definable place or not. Where the 4 rivers meet is seemingly not realistic.

- - -

Notes to note: (nice quotes from class)

Talmud: The purpose of learning is to teach it to others.

When people meet there should always be a word of Torah between you to assure that God is present.

Each person has his or her own Torah to pass along.

Teach in the name of your teacher and it keeps them alive.

Humans were put in this world to tend it and make it better.