Thursday, February 7, 2019

#Me Too in the Bible: Eve

Image result for free image adam and eve
Introduction: “The story that begins the Bible, the first one that we learn in Sunday school, the founding story of man and woman upheld for thousands of years by Judeo-Christian religion, is actually the story of the first sexual assault of a woman. The woman’s name is Eve. And the perpetrator? God.

I want you to think about this. Here is a young, beautiful, intelligent, naked woman living in a state of Grace. She’s hungry, so she does the most natural thing in the world and eats a piece of fruit. For following her instincts, trusting herself, and nourishing her body, she is punished. Her punishment? She will never again feel safe in her nakedness. She will never again love her body. She will never again know her body as a place of sacred sovereignty.” - Rabbi Tamara Kolton, The Forward.
Goal:  Eve - never appears in the Bible after the opening chapters of Genesis, colored by post-biblical culture, represents sin, seduction and nature of woman.  Today, as shown, her story seems to be one with the #MeToo movement and is challenging at best for modern readers no matter what we do with it.  A careful review of the text, what is and isn’t there, and a review of the Rabbis’ views on Eve may give us further insight into how we should best understand “The Mother of All Life.”

Read Genesis 2-3 and consider: 
1.  No mention of sin here, not until Cain and Abel; Adam and Eve only disobey.
2.  She does not seem to seduce Adam but merely gives him fruit. 
3. The “Fall of Man” is a later Christian application of Plato’s idea (in the Phaedrus) of the fall of heavenly beings to earth in order to express the idea of departure from divine favor or grace.
4.  Gen. 2:9 – The Garden contained lots of food, Eve seems interested in wisdom, 3:6.
5.  Is Eve ashamed of her body as part of the punishment?
6.  Eve’s silence?  3:13

The Rabbis’ Views on Eve:
1. “In the first hour, Adam’s clay is heaped up. In the second, he becomes an inert mass. In the third, his limbs extend. In the fourth, he is infused with a soul. In the fifth, he stands on his feet. In the sixth, he gives names to all of creation. In the seventh, Eve becomes his mate, and in the eighth, “they ascended to the bed as two, and descended as four” (Cain and Abel were born). In the ninth, he was commanded not to eat of the tree, in the tenth, he went astray, in the eleventh, he was judged. And in the twelfth, he was expelled and departed.” (BT Sanhedrin 38b) - Does this timeline change anything for you?

2. Eve was created from Adam’s “side,” a word used favorably in the story (Ex. 26:20) of building the Tabernacle, (Gen. Rabbah 17).   Yet another midrash points out how other body parts might have given her negative traits which she developed anyway.  Elsewhere they are one creature formed at the same time and cut in half “male and female God created them.” (Gen. Rabbah 18) - What difference does it make how Eve was created?

3. Gen. 2:21, which states: “and closed up [va-yisgor] the flesh at that spot.” This teaches that when Eve was created, Satan was created with her (as is alluded by the letter samekh or sin). But the letter samekh appears in the before this, in Gen. 2:11, 13: “the one that winds through [ha-sovev]”; there it speaks of the creation of the rivers, here it is that of the human race.” (Gen. Rabbah 17:6). - What are the implications of this connection?

4.  All people compared to Sarah are like a monkey compared to a human, as Sarah was exceedingly beautiful; Sarah compared to Eve is like a monkey compared to a human; Eve compared to Adam is like a monkey compared to a human; and Adam compared to the Divine Presence is like a monkey compared to a human. (Bava Batra 58a) - Why emphasize Eve's beauty?

5. (Gen. 2:23): “This one at last is bone of my bones” is the source of later rabbinic legends about Lilith, Adam’s first wife who rebelled and became the mother of demons through nocturnal emissions and the cause of miscarriages. - What purpose does the story of a first, rebellious wife serve?

6.  And, so too, we found about the primeval snake who seduced Eve, for he placed his eyes on that which was unfit for him, as he wanted to marry Eve. Consequently, that which he desired was not given to him, and that which was in his possession was taken from him. The Holy One, Blessed be He, said: I initially said that the snake will be king over every domesticated animal and non-domesticated animal, but now he is cursed more than all the domesticated animals and all the non-domesticated animals of the field, as it is stated: “And the Lord God said unto the serpent: Because you have done this, you are cursed from among all cattle, and from among all beasts of the field; upon your belly shall you go, and dust shall you eat all the days of your life” (Gen 3:14).  I said that the snake will walk upright, but now he shall go on his belly; I said that his food will be the same as the food eaten by a person, but now he shall eat dust. The snake said: I will kill Adam and marry Eve, but now (Gen. 3:15): “I will put enmity between you and the woman and between your seed and her seed” (Sotah 9b) - Whose fault is it?

7.  But the fruit of the tree in the middle of the garden, God has said, "You shall neither eat of it nor touch it, or you will die!" (Gen. 3:3). Thus it is written, "Do not add onto God's words, or God will punish you, as you will be a liar" (Prov. 30:6). Rabbi Chiyya taught: That means that you must not make the fence more than the principal thing, lest it fall and destroy the plants. Thus, the Holy One, blessed be, has said, "But of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, you must not eat, for on the day you partake of it, you will surely die" (Gen. 2:17). Eve did not say this, but rather, "You shall neither eat of it nor touch it" (Gen. 3:3). When the serpent saw her exaggerating in this manner, he grabbed her and pushed her against the tree. "So, have you died?" he asked her. "Just as you were not stricken when you touched it, so will you not die when you eat from it." (Gen. R. 19) - How does this change Eve's role?

8. Satan riding on the serpent came to her, and she conceived; afterwards Adam came to her, and she conceived Abel, as it is said, "And Adam knew Eve his wife" (Gen. iv. 1). What is the meaning of "knew"? (He knew) that she had conceived. And she saw his likeness that it was not of the earthly beings, but of the heavenly beings, and she prophesied || and said: "I have gotten a man with the Lord" (Pirkei d’Rebbi Eliezer 21) - What, if anything, does this unusual story add to our understanding?

9. “Made clothing for the man.”  R. Isaac accordingly applied to this the proverb: “If you acted disgracefully, take a thread and sew” Every person has responsibility for his actions, and the consequences of immoral behavior are accompanied by physical exertion. The sin of Adam and Eve also brought physical labor to the world, for from then on man would have to toil in order to eat bread.  (Gen. R. 20) - Does this sound like a punishment or an origin story for how things are?

10.  Three decrees were issued against Eve: “harbeh,” “arbeh” (that are translated here together as “I will make most severe”), and “your pangs in childbearing”: “Harbeh”—it is painful for the woman at the beginning of her menstrual period; “arbeh”—the first intercourse is difficult for her; and “your pangs in childbearing”—throughout the first three months of pregnancy, a woman’s face is ugly and turns green (Avot de-Rabbi Nathan). - What does this description of the punishments of Eve do for us?

11. Righteous women were not included in the decree upon Eve, that is, the difficulties entailed in pregnancy and childbirth do not apply to them (BT Sotah 12a). - On the one hand, this may be implying Eve's punishments are not universal, on the other, it sounds a lot like victim-blaming?  What are we to do with this teaching in our tradition?

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