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In this issue

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

The World’s First Murder: A Closer Look at Cain and Abel — Can desire be divorced from need?

By Rabbi David Fohrman


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To sophisticated moderns, the Bible can sometimes seem like a collection of fairy tales. No longer.

Combining a careful reading of the text with ancient rabbinic analysis, the author takes us behind the scenes in Scripture, revealing a startling tapestry of meaning in stories that many have written-off as fiction.

As before, he has designed the series to be interactive. You are encouraged to pose questions and offer comments. Try to stump the rabbi — he'll respond!

The tenth in a series

http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | I have a favor to ask of you. It is an unusual request, but I have my reasons. Trust me.


The request is this:


If you are going to read this article, you need to promise me that you'll read the whole thing, all the way to the end. If you can't make that commitment, I am going to ask you to stop right here.


I make this unusual request because what I am about to discuss is both theologically explosive and easily misunderstood. It concerns the Bible's view of masculinity and femininity and the relationship between them. Many have seen the Bible as a tome written by men seeking to safeguard their patriarchal power, and seeking to keep the women in their lives subjugated and docile. I do not myself share this view. But if someone with that agenda wanted to find grist for the mill, he would need look no further than the two verses to which I am about to direct your attention.


It is easy to overlook just how astonishing these two verses are. Each verse on its own seems fairly innocuous. But when you put them together, they are positively combustible.


In reality, I think the verses provide only an excuse, not real evidence, for the charge that the Bible bashes women. But that's why I need you to keep reading past the middle of this article. If you are going to let me show you the explosive part, you owe it to me, and to yourself, to think carefully about what the words really mean. When I've had my say, take some time to think about it, and then you can make up your own mind.


OK, so we have a deal?


If you're with me this far, I'll assume we do.

A FEARSOME ANALOGY

I mentioned to you last week that there is one final, parallel to the world of Eden tucked away in the Cain story. It makes its appearance within the lines of G-d's speech to Cain. Part of this speech has been said before, back in Eden, not thirty verses earlier. Can you find what I am talking about?


Listen to the words of G-d's speech to Cain carefully. As you do, ask yourself, where have I heard these words before?


Why are you angry and why has your face fallen? Is it not the case that if you do well — lift up! And if you do not do well — sin lies crouching at the door, its desire is unto you, yet you can rule over it (4:6-7).


The telltale words are the very last ones: Its desire is unto you, yet you can rule over it. This concluding phrase is lifted almost verbatim from something G-d said earlier, just after man and his wife ate from the Tree of Knowledge. The original words are troubling enough on their own. But when you take into account their re-appearance in the Cain story, they become downright fearsome.


The first time these words appear, G-d is speaking to Eve. After telling her that she will experience pain in childbirth, He concludes by saying to her:


…your desire will be to your husband, yet he can rule over you (3:16).


You hear the resemblance? G-d says to Eve that her desire will be to her husband, yet he can rule over her. That's bad enough for us modern types. But then He says to Cain, thirty verses later, that the Evil Inclination's desire is to Cain, yet Cain can rule over it.


Well, that just takes the cake, doesn't it? I mean, the Bible seems to be suggesting some sort of analogy here. And it's a profoundly disturbing analogy, at that. Those of you who ook the SATs to get into college are no doubt familiar with these kinds of analogies. If you add it up, it sounds like Cain is analogous to Adam, and Eve is analogous to — make sure you are sitting down for this — Cain's Evil Inclination.


It seems too horrible to believe.

WHEN IT'S TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE…

An old adage says that when something seems too good to be true, it usually is. In this case, I think the converse is so as well: When something seems too horrible to believe, it usually is exactly that — not-to-be-believed.


In this vein, I think some healthy skepticism is in order here. Is it really conceivable that the Bible considers Eve, or womankind, tantamount to "sin", the anthropomorphic title given by the verse to Cain's Evil Inclination? Is the Bible viewing femininity as some evil force threatening to overtake the masculine; something he must keep at bay lest it devour him?


Again, it seems too horrible to believe. But what, then, is the Bible trying to say to us with its not-so-subtle link between one phrase and the other?


OK, just in case you were wondering, this is the part where you're not supposed to stop reading. The fact is that we've committed a subtle, but understandable, logical error in interpreting the analogy. In general, analogies are notoriously easy to misinterpret — that, after all, is why they put them on the SATs — and this analogy is no exception. Let's step back, take a deep breath, and try again:


Let's say I tell you that whales desperately need plankton and that cars desperately need gasoline. Both these statements are true, and we might say that an analogy exists between them. But, bear with me here, it does not follow from this that whales are basically the same as cars, or that plankton is pretty much identical to gasoline. Marine biologists would be pretty offended by that conclusion. Rather, what follows is that the relationship between whales and plankton bears similarity to the relationship between cars and gasoline. In each case, the latter provides the fuel that makes the former go.


And so it is with our analogy. When the Bible uses similar language in these two verses, it does not follow that Cain is like Adam, nor does it follow that Eve is like Cain's Evil Inclination. Rather, what follows is that the relationship between Adam and Eve — or more broadly, between man and woman — is analogous on some level to the relationship that Cain is asked to develop with his Evil Inclination. And while this might not seem any better than the previous alternative, just hang in there. We're just beginning to see what's going on.

THE FOUR PRIMAL DESIRES

Over a thousand years ago, the rabbis of the Midrash noticed the analogy we have been wrestling with, and they had something quite intriguing to say about it.


They observed that the word which the Bible uses for desire in each of our two verses is the Hebrew term teshukah. While this fact may seem unremarkable in and of itself, they noticed that this word reappears in Scripture a number of times. They traced these various appearances — beyond Eve and Cain, the word reappears in connection with rain and with G-d Himself — and formulated what they saw was a pattern. Here is what they had to say:


There are four [basic] 'teshukos' in the world. The teshukah of Eve for Adam, the teshukah of the Evil Inclination for Cain, the teshukah of rain for land, and the teshukah of the Master of the Universe for humanity (Bereishis Rabbah, 20:7).


Again, they cite verses (which I have not reproduced here) to substantiate each one of these conclusions. But look at these four statements carefully. What are the rabbis really saying here?


It seems to me that they are defining the word teshukah — and they are making a sweeping, almost radical, statement in the process. Look carefully at the four examples they give — the desire of Eve for Adam, of the Evil Inclination for Cain, of rain for land, and of G-d for humanity — and see if you can isolate a common denominator between them.


While you are musing about that, you might notice that some of the "desires" which the verse speaks about don't sound much like desires at all. Let's look, for example, at the last two: The desire of rain for land, and the desire of the Almighty for humanity. If you were given the words "rain" and "land", and someone asked you which of these two "desires" the other, what would you say?


I would say "land". Land needs rain to nourish its crops; rain doesn't need land at all. And the same holds for "G-d" and "humanity". A basic tenet of theology states that G-d is a perfect Being, and that He has no needs at all. So if we are thinking about G-d and humans — if anything, it would be humanity that desires G-d. Why do the sages have it the other way around?

WHEN DESIRE IS DIVORCED FROM NEED

I would argue to you that the sages are defining teshukah as something entirely different from what we normally think of when we use the word "desire". When you and I normally talk about desire, we associate desire with "need". Think about the synonyms we use for desire. When we desire a new car, we say "I need a new car" or "I want a new car". The words "need" and "want" are both connected to the idea of "lack". When I am wanting or needful, I am missing something; when I get it, that hole in my life is filled, and my want or need is satisfied. Usually, when we talk about desire, we are really talking about getting my needs fulfilled.


The question I want you to think about is this: Is that the only kind of desire there is in this world — or, perhaps, is "desire" a larger concept than this? Is there such think as a desire that is not based on a sense of need, that doesn't come from some kind of lack that I have? If all my needs and lacks were taken care of, would that be it — or could I still have some sense of desire?


I think the sages are answering that question with a resounding yes. Yes, it is possible to desire something even when you don't need anything. Rain doesn't need land a whit — but somehow, it still "desires" land. G-d doesn't need people a whit either, but somehow, He still desires them. The sages are arguing, I think, that teshukah is a code name for this special kind of desire. And it is this very kind of desire, this teshukah, that the feminine has for the masculine. And that the Evil Inclination, whatever that is, has for Cain.


What, exactly, is the essential nature of teshukah? How do we make sense of a desire that is divorced from need? And how does this shed light on the other two primal teshukahs that exist in the world — the "desire" of the feminine for the masculine and the "desire" of the Evil Inclination for Cain?


We'll talk about that when we come back next week.


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Rabbi David Fohrman teaches Biblical Themes at the Johns Hopkins University, and directs the Hoffberger Foundation for Torah Studies. His intriguing talks on a wide array of Biblical themes are available on tape and CD at jewishexplorations.com


Previously:

Cain and the kitten
The keys to the heavenly cookie jar
Thomas Edison and the glassblower
What kind of 'with'?
Living the dream of Eve
Blood on the ground
Echoes of Eden
The enigmatic genius of Cain
A Closer Look at Cain and Abel
Sure, the Bible is holy, but does it really mean anything?


© 2005, Rabbi David Fohrman