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December 2, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Defending the Right to a Jewish State

Heather Hale: Compliment your kids without giving them big heads

Megan Shauri: 10 ways you are ruining your own happiness

Carolyn Bigda: 8 Best Dividend Stocks for 2015

Kiplinger's Personal Finance editors: 7 Things You Didn't Know About Paying Off Student Loans

Samantha Olson: The Crucial Mistake 55% Of Parents Are Making At Their Baby's Bedtime

Densie Well, Ph.D., R.D. Open your eyes to yellow vegetables

The Kosher Gourmet by Megan Gordon With its colorful cache of purples and oranges and reds, COLLARD GREEN SLAW is a marvelous mood booster --- not to mention just downright delish
April 18, 2014

Rabbi Yonason Goldson: Clarifying one of the greatest philosophical conundrums in theology

Caroline B. Glick: The disappearance of US will

Megan Wallgren: 10 things I've learned from my teenagers

Lizette Borreli: Green Tea Boosts Brain Power, May Help Treat Dementia

John Ericson: Trying hard to be 'positive' but never succeeding? Blame Your Brain

The Kosher Gourmet by Julie Rothman Almondy, flourless torta del re (Italian king's cake), has royal roots, is simple to make, . . . but devour it because it's simply delicious

April 14, 2014

Rabbi Dr Naftali Brawer: Passover frees us from the tyranny of time

Greg Crosby: Passing Over Religion

Eric Schulzke: First degree: How America really recovered from a murder epidemic

Georgia Lee: When love is not enough: Teaching your kids about the realities of adult relationships

Cameron Huddleston: Freebies for Your Lawn and Garden

Gordon Pape: How you can tell if your financial adviser is setting you up for potential ruin

Dana Dovey: Up to 500,000 people die each year from hepatitis C-related liver disease. New Treatment Has Over 90% Success Rate

Justin Caba: Eating Watermelon Can Help Control High Blood Pressure

The Kosher Gourmet by Joshua E. London and Lou Marmon Don't dare pass over these Pesach picks for Manischewitz!

April 11, 2014

Rabbi Hillel Goldberg: Silence is much more than golden

Caroline B. Glick: Forgetting freedom at Passover

Susan Swann: How to value a child for who he is, not just what he does

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Financial Tasks You Should Tackle Right Now

Sandra Block and Lisa Gerstner: How to Profit From Your Passion

Susan Scutti: A Simple Blood Test Might Soon Diagnose Cancer

Chris Weller: Have A Slow Metabolism? Let Science Speed It Up For You

The Kosher Gourmet by Diane Rossen Worthington Whitefish Terrine: A French take on gefilte fish

April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review Oct. 15, 2004 / 30 Tishrei, 5765

Serpents of desire: Good and evil in the Garden of Eden

By Rabbi David Fohrman


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Adam, Eve and the Serpent are familiar to us from childhood, yet the meaning of their story seems maddeningly elusive. For example, why did the Divine prohibit our eating of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil? Did He really not want mankind to be able to distinguish right from wrong? Starting this week, a new series that will take us back to the Eden story, revealing progressively deeper layers of meaning.

This series is meant to be interactive. Feel free to e-mail the author, who will reply.



http://www.jewishworldreview.com | Paradoxically enough, a big problem in studying the Bible is that its stories are so familiar to us.


No matter where you grew up, no matter what level of education you've had, you've come across the story of Adam and Eve tens, if not hundreds, of times. We've heard the story in school, and we've learned it at home. We drink "Adam and Eve" apple juice, and see Adam and Eve icons on shampoo bottles. We know that story, we assure ourselves. Indeed, we know the story too well for our own good.


When we know a story "too well", we become easy prey to a syndrome I like to call "The Lullaby Effect". The lullaby effect retards our ability to ask — even to see — the really important questions that the Bible begs us to ask of it. The "Lullaby Effect" anesthetizes us through the stupefying effects of familiarity. Here's how it works:


When was the last time you bothered thinking about the words of the lullabies you sing to your children. Stop for a moment and think — really think — about what their words actually mean. For starters, try that perennial favorite of ours, "Rock-a-bye baby on the treetop". Imagine your child was actually paying attention to the words you were singing: "....when the bough breaks, the cradle will fall, and down will come baby, baby and all...".


Now, you can certainly get a kid to sleep by singing this. But if your sweet child was actually listening to what you were singing, she'd be in for a rude awakening. Lots of questions, I imagine, would quickly come to mind. If we bothered listening, they would come to our mind, too:


"Exactly how far off the ground was the cradle when it fell?"


"Did anyone call 911?"


"Who put the cradle on the bough in the first place?" "Was the parent trying to get rid of the child?" "Are you trying to get rid of me?"


But no one asks these questions. Few of us are even remotely disturbed by the violence that gushes from us when we sing our children to sleep. Why? Because we've simply stopped listening to the words. We have heard them too many times. We heard them as children before we even knew what they meant; and now, even as adults, they fail to shock us.


Biblical stories are a lot like lullabies in that way. Almost every major Biblical story has its "elephant in the room" — some major problem, or a series of them, that cries out to be addressed. "Why would G-d tell Abraham to take his son and kill him, only to retract at the last moment and say He didn't really mean it?". What, exactly, did G-d have against the building of a Tower in the Land of Babel? Why would G-d bother bargaining with Pharaoh to let the Jews go, only to harden his heart once the Egyptian monarch finally agreed? But the stories are too familiar to us. We've heard about them so many times, they've become part of our cultural fabric. We soak in the stories through osmosis, the way we unthinkingly develop accents that reflect the place in which we grew up. We fail to see the problems anymore.

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In this column, I'd like to challenge us to change that. I want to ask you to come along with me on a journey; an adventure in Biblical text in which we read these stories that we thought we knew with fresh eyes, and ask the questions that any intelligent reader would ask about them.


If this idea makes you nervous, relax. We needn't fear these questions, for they are not really problems; they are opportunities. They are windows that the text gives us to begin to perceive its deeper meaning. Sure, you can keep the window closed and pretend it isn't there. But if you don't open it, the treasure that lays beyond — a richer, three dimensional understanding of Chumash, not to mention an entire world of Chazal and Medrash — will remain sealed off to you forever.


So here's the deal:


We've just started the cycle of Torah portions anew. Oftentimes, we don't give the first Bible portion the attention it deserves. It tends to get swept away in the flood of Simchas Torah celebrations — all the more so this year, when Simchas Torah fell out on Friday. Let's take a deep breath, and look at Bereishis — the beginning of the Torah — more carefully. If you would, crack open a Bible to the story of Adam, Eve and the Serpent in the Garden of Eden. Yes, I know: You know the story already — ever since sixth grade, you've had this image in your mind of the snake wound around the tree, offering Eve an apple. But that's precisely the point. You need to forget all that. You need to erase those images and read the story anew. You need to break the lullaby syndrome.


Read the story slowly and carefully. Just the text; no commentaries. And as you do, ask yourself these questions: If I was reading this for the first time, what about it would strike me as strange? What are the "big questions" that the Torah wants me to ask about this story? What are the elephants in the room?


You've got a week to think about it. I'll meet you right back here and we'll compare notes.


See you then.

Every weekday JewishWorldReview.com publishes inspirational articles. Sign up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.

JWR contributor Rabbi David Fohrman directs the Hoffberger Foundation for Torah Studies, and is an adjunct professor at the Johns Hopkins University, where he teaches Biblical Themes. He has also authored several volumes of the ArtScroll Talmud.

To comment or ask a question, please click here.

Have some time in the car? Try one of Rabbi Fohrman's tape sets on Biblical Themes. You can find them at http://www.jewishexplorations.com.






© 2004, Rabbi David Fohrman