Wednesday, November 09, 2005

I've referred in the past to some interesting ideas of R. Gedalia Nadel. But his truly astonishing material is on Bereishis. To appreciate why this is astonishing, you have to understand that RGN was a talmid muvhak of the Hazon Ish and, at various times, was one of the heads of Kollel Hazon Ish and of the Vizhnitzer yeshiva in Benei Beraq. In short, we're talking serious frum.

RGN's general approach to Bereishis is that one should view the text as metaphorical precisely to the extent necessary to render it consistent with the best available scientific knowledge. Those who trust scientific research for determining the effectiveness of medical treatments, should be just as trusting of research in evolutionary biology and other areas which conflict with a literal reading of Bereishis.

Thus, for example, he explains that the names Adam and Eve refer simply to the human species. The story of Adam's creation from the earth and Eve's creation from Adam's rib are simply metaphors for evolutionary processes. The narrative refers also to particular humans who are simply referred to by the generic name Adam. In particular, the father of Kayin and Hevel is called Adam, as is the father of Sheis (Seth), but this latter is a different Adam. The traditional count of 5766 years begins from Adam, father of Sheis.

Interestingly, RGN believes that the Tree of Life and the Tree of Knowledge were actual trees. The Tree of Life was simply a tree that provided nutrients which allowed humans who consumed them to live for a very long time ("le-olam"). The Tree of Knowledge contained psychotropic matter (a more apt term would be "entheogens", which literally means "generating the God within") the effect of which was to turn Spock-like, purely rational, creatures into creatures in constant struggle with their emotions.

The Mabul, according to RGN, was confined to some area in the Middle East that had become particulary corrupt. (RGN notes that there is a dispute in Zevachim 113a whether the Mabul reached Eretz Yisrael, so clearly the view that it covered the whole world is not an exclusive one.) The animals on the Ark were only those indigenous to the affected region.

(One more really cute thing: RGN notes that the words "tze'etza" and "nin" which mean "descendant" are both written with repeated letter sequences (tzadi-alef-tzadi-alef and nun-nun) because they are defined recursively. Does this work for other examples?)


Anonymous Anonymous said...

What is the name of his sefer? Perhaps this is why sometimes the Torah refers to him as Adam and others as haAdam and why the Torah says that Hashem created him but gives the bracha of "pru urvu" to "vayevarech osom"

2:28 AM  
Blogger bar_kochba132 said...

Very refreshing. What does he say
about the geneologies of the very long-lived people that came after
Adam, Shet and Cain? I heard a theory that they represented not single individuals but rather tribes, although I am aware that Rishonim dealt with the question.

5:17 PM  
Anonymous Dave said...

This is something I've thought of often. I assume many of us experience a "suspension of disbelief" when it comes to reconciling our knowledge of the history of the world from science with that as described in the Torah. Everything from evolutionary evidence to the existence of Native Americans to the likelihood of 70 people becoming a nation in a short time doesn't cause us conflict in our faith, because we either don't think about those issues, or assume it's a metaphor. And that's fine.

But my question has always been - when do we stop relating to the Torah as metaphor? All of Sefer Bereishit? If there wasn't an Adam, was there a Noach? An Avraham?

I don't have any answers - but I would also be interested in reading this book to see if it helps.

6:57 PM  
Blogger Ben said...

The name of the book is "Betorato shel Rav Gedalia" and is available only directly from the editor, R. Yitzhak Sheilat of Maalei Adumim.

11:37 PM  
Blogger mnuez said...

I prefer a good satmerer. He's being far more honest and he's a lot less dangerous.

You know the one about the stone-aged native who saw a television for the first time and assumed that there must be little men in there making the whole thing run?

Ya, so the anthropologist takes him back to London, teaches him English, has him trained first in basic mathematics and then eventually in the complex sciences relating to Maxwell, electromagnetic forces, radio waves, vechulei, vechulei and finally he brings it all together for the former cave man explaining in great detail how a television works.

When he's finally done he asks the man whether he now understands. He does. He gets the whole thing and then looks around, leans forward and says in a whisper, "but there still must be a few little men in there just to make sure, right?"

If you don't get it, you don't get it and I'd prefer you not be able to quote Maxwell.

If you're interested in knowing the emes then you look at the entirety of the text. Is it more likely that the 5 Books of Moses were given word for word by God to Moses some 3300 years ago in the Sinai Desert or is it less likely than the alternative - that it was written by one or a bunch of humans in some similar manner to millions of other texts?

Are we going to look at it rationally or not? If we're going to judge it as we would any other supposed historical event or supposed "divine" text so as to ascertain its origins, then mutav. If we're not though, what they hell do I care if you think that there are a thousand little men inside the television set or just three? Get the thousand for the same price - take adam, chava and tha nachash for the same price.


(note: I'm not actually as angry in real life as I might seem to be here! :-) Bujt of course my point stands.)

12:59 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

True to form, a friend sent me a link yesterday from the Jerusalem Post stating that "Betorato shel Rav Gedalia" has been banned by a number of rabbanim or gedolim.

5:20 PM  
Anonymous SephardiLady said...

Banning original thought seems to be the name of the game.

1:18 AM  

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