Virtuosity Savored

A blog by Adam J. Rosenbaum

Fear Without Loathing: Miketz 2017

Pre-Game Chatter: Does it ever bother you when athletes or entertainers thank God when they win a competition? Does it feel like they’re preaching at a moment that should otherwise be secular? Or do they teach us that God can be brought into any moment of our lives?

In our portion this Shabbat, Joseph, now royal vizier of Egypt, toys with his older brothers when they ask for food (not realizing they were speaking to Joseph), mentioning God either casually or intentionally:

The Pitch: “On the third day Joseph said to them, ‘Do this and you shall live, for I am a God-fearing man. If you are honest men, let one of you brothers be held in your place of detention, while the rest of you go and take home rations for your starving households; but you must bring me your youngest brother, that your words may be verified and that you may not die.’ And they did accordingly.” – Genesis 42:18-20

Swing #1: “Why should Joseph have boasted that he feared God? In order to instill the fear of the Lord into his brothers so that they might be led to repent. When he told them that he feared God, they were gripped by fear and soon cried out: ‘We are truly guilty concerning our brother.’” – MaHaRaM of Amshinov

Swing #2: “By declaring his fear of God – Joseph is almost surely not referring to the God of his ancestors; he is, as we learn in a moment, speaking to them in Egyptian and using a translator – Joseph indicates that he is moved by the demand not to abuse strangers, at least more than is absolutely necessary. He claims to be moved by a concern for the starving family members back home: perhaps only for Benjamin, perhaps also for Jacob, perhaps for the innocent women and children. … In addition, if Joseph is testing his brothers to see if they have changed since dry-gulching him, then a proper test demands that he replicate the circumstances. Testing whether one brother would sacrifice everyone isn’t really the same as testing whether nine brothers would – as they did before – sacrifice one.” – Leon R. Kass, The Beginning of Wisdom: Reading Genesis

Swing #3: “I am a God-fearing man, therefore I will not detain all of you seeing that your families are starving and I would be to blame for this. I will only detain one of you in order to put your claim to the test.” – Radak

Late-Inning Questions: Do our commentators seem to believe that Joseph’s mention of God is genuine? Does it seem like an extraneous detail in the story? Or, perhaps, is Joseph trying to hint to his brothers who he really is?

On-Deck at Emanu-El: Our annual Night of Giving provided almost 1,600 pounds of food for the Kosher Food Pantry. Thank you to everyone who donated and worked to make the program a success. What a perfect way to spread the light of Hanukkah to those in need!

The Big Inning at the End: The Miami Marlins are once again the laughingstock of baseball, once again trading many of their standout players for  underwhelming talent. This is at least the fourth “fire sale” in the team’s 25-year history. Is this any way to keep their fans engaged?

Shabbat Shalom and Happy Hanukkah!


Doubled Up: Vayeshev 2017

Pre-Game Chatter: Is it easy for you to adjust when your best-laid plans change at the last moment? Do you like to have a back-up plan in case of the unforeseen, or do you prefer to improvise when the moment calls for it?

The story of Tamar and Judah is filled with plans and assumptions that alter in unexpected ways, even when their twin sons are born:

The Pitch: “When the time came for her to give birth, there were twins in her womb! While she was in labor, one of them put out his hand, and the midwife tied a crimson thread on that hand, to signify: This one came out first. But just then he drew back his hand, and out came his brother; and she said, ‘What a breach you have made for yourself!’ So he was named Perez. Afterward his brother came out, on whose hand was the crimson thread; he was named Zerah.” – Genesis 38:27-30

Swing #1: “Like Jacob – himself a younger twin who inherits the birthright – Judah’s and Tamar’s twin son Perez, who emerges second from Tamar’s womb, becomes heir to the family line – as the ancestor of Boaz, who is the great-grandfather of David. And as in Jacob’s story, here too it is the women who set the stage for the family drama: the midwife identifies the older twin by tying a crimson thread on his hand as he emerges first from the womb; Tamar herself names the other twin Perez …” – Ellen Frankel, The Five Books of Miriam

Swing #2: “The whole inset of Genesis 38 then concludes with four verses devoted to Tamar’s giving birth to twin boys, her aspiration to become the mother male offspring realized twofold. Confirming the pattern of the whole story and of the larger cycle of tales, the twin who is about to be second-born somehow ‘bursts forth’ (parotz) first in the end, and he is Peretz, progenitor of Jesse from whom comes the house of David.” – Robert Alter, The Art of Biblical Narrative

Swing #3: “Zerah: Possibly connoting ‘red of dawn’ – connecting with the scarlet thread of Verse 28 (and possibly paralleling Esav, who was also known as Edom, the ‘Red One’).” – Everett Fox, The Five Books of Moses

Late-Inning Questions: Why do our commentators think the abrupt change in the birth order of Tamar’s sons is significant? Why are so many birth stories seen as harbingers of future fortune? Have the stories of your birth, or the birth of your children or other loved ones, taught you something about that person’s character?

On-Deck at Emanu-El: Join us for our Night of Giving on the first night of Hanukkah, Tuesday, December 12th, at 6pm. We’ll be gathering at Publix stores in West Ashley, Mt. Pleasant, and Summerville to light Hanukkah candles and then purchase items to donate to the Kosher Food Pantry.

The Big Inning at the End: Many people light hanukkiot (Hanukkah menorahs) with designs that have little to do with the holiday itself; sports-themed hanukkiot — with shapes of baseball bats and baseballs, for example — are especially popular. Does using these kinds of items take away from the meaning of the holiday, or is Hanukkah light-hearted enough that we should allow this kind of creativity?

Shabbat Shalom!

Sister Act: Vayishlakh 2017

Pre-Game Chatter: How far would you go to defend the honor of someone in your family? Would you go that far for someone not in your family?

In an effort to avenge the rape of their sister Dinah, Simeon and Levi massacre the tribe of Shechem. When Jacob criticizes them, Simeon and Levi are undeterred:

The Pitch: “But [Simeon and Levi] answered, ‘Should our sister be treated like a whore?’” – Genesis 34:31

Swing #1: “What offends me here – beyond the carnage … is the very invisibility, the inaudibility of Dinah. In the same book of Genesis in which matriarchs have such strong voices, Dinah is utterly denied any voice of her own whatsoever.” – Burton L. Visotzky, The Genesis of Ethics: How the Tormented Family of Genesis Leds Us to Moral Development

Swing #2: “‘Should our sister be treated as a whore?’ they ask defiantly. But they are also implying that Jacob himself had treated Dinah as a prostitute: by doing nothing, he had tacitly suggested that the rape of his daughter was acceptable to him.” – Karen Armstrong, In the Beginning: A New Interpretation of Genesis

Swing #3: “Simeon and Levi seem to have the last word here, but the recompense for their violence comes many years later. In his deathbed blessing of his sons, Jacob criticizes them, demotes them from the order of birthright, and condemns them to being scattered (Genesis 49:5-7). This comes true, as the tribes of Levi and Simeon became landless.” – Richard Elliott Friedman, Commentary on the Torah

Late-Inning Questions: To our commentators, which is a worse response to Dinah’s suffering: Jacob’s inaction, or Simeon and Levi’s overreaction? Which is worse in your opinion?

On-Deck at Emanu-El: We’re excited for another edition of Jews, Brews, and ’Ques on Sunday, December 3rd. This event is a fun and relaxing way to support the synagogue while eating scrumptious food prepared by teams from across Charleston. I’m also proud that we’re donating a portion of our proceeds to funds that benefit victims of recent hurricanes. Get your tickets before they disappear!

The Big Inning at the End: More and more men are being exposed for inappropriate sexual behavior, and the sports world certainly is no exception: Yesterday, Toronto Blue Jays announcer (and former major-league player) Gregg Zaun was fired after management received numerous complaints. It is a hopeful sign that more (although, unfortunately, not all) portions of our society are taking stands for the dignity of all people.

Shabbat Shalom!

The Strangest Dream?: Vayetze 2017

Pre-Game Chatter: When we try to convince others to agree with us, are there any intellectual methods that should be off-limits? What might they be?

Of all the characters in the Hebrew Bible, Jacob may be the best at manipulating (for good and bad reasons) others; in our portion this week, Jacob uses a dream that may or may not have happened:

The Pitch: “‘And in the dream an angel of God said to me, “Jacob!” “Here,” I answered. And he said, “Note well that all the he-goats which are mating with the flock are streaked, speckled, and mottled; for I have noted all that Laban has been doing to you. I am the God of Beth-el, where you anointed a pillar and where you made a vow to Me. Now, arise and leave this land and return to your native land.”’” – Genesis 31:11-13

Swing #1: “Perhaps Jacob is lying to his wives about God’s assistance as, earlier, he lied to his father, using an invented story about God to overcome their reluctance to leave home. Taking this dream as an honest report, however, it shows God active at the humblest level we have yet seen: as animal husbandry counselor. Why is God doing this? His allusion to Jacob’s vow and thereby to the demands made of him seems to contain the answer.” – Jack Miles, God: A Biography

Swing #2: “In the traditions about Jacob in the Book of Genesis, we have another component of the sanctity of Beth-el – the angel. This angel, who is designated as ‘The God of Beth-el,’ appears to Jacob in a dream in order to save him from Laban …  Thus the divine revelation of Beth-el was connected to what the Greeks called genius loci, an angel of the place.” – Israel Knohl, The Divine Symphony: The Bible’s Many Voices

Swing #3: “This reference to Jacob’s vow does not appear in the original account in which God tells Jacob to return home (Genesis 31:3). It is Jacob, in fact, who fills in this detail – he must pay off what he has promised – when he explains to his wives why he must return. The narrative thus suggests, most subtly, the workings of Jacob’s subconscious mind, the guilt that he feels at a profound ambivalence he senses in himself.” – Avivah Gottlieb Zornberg, The Beginning of Desire

Late-Inning Questions: To what extent do our commentators seem to believe Jacob is telling the truth? To what extent do they believe he is stretching it? Does the end (getting away from servitude in Laban’s household) justify the means? When, if ever, is it all right to stretch the truth to get out of a bad circumstance?

On-Deck at Emanu-El: We’re excited for another edition of Jews, Brews, and ’Ques on Sunday, December 3rd. This event is a fun and relaxing way to support the synagogue while eating scrumptious food prepared by teams from across Charleston. I’m also proud that we’re donating a portion of our proceeds to funds that benefit victims of recent hurricanes. Get your tickets before they disappear!

The Big Inning at the End: One of the wildest Thanksgiving stories of recent memory occurred in 2003, when Theo Epstein, then general manager of the Boston Red Sox, had to endure spending the holiday weekend in Curt Schilling’s home so he could convince the star pitcher to pitch for the Red Sox. What is your craziest Thanksgiving story?

Shabbat Shalom!

A Disastrous Meating: Toldot 2017

Pre-Game Chatter: What kind of “fuel” do you need to get through the day? Is there a kind of food you eat every day (or would if you could)? Do you require caffeinated beverages to be at your best, or do you try to do without? What happens to you if you try to operate without your favorite “fuel”?

The infamous scene of Isaac blessing his sons begins with Isaac asking Esau to provide him with his favorite meal:

The Pitch: “Take your gear, your quiver and bow, and go out into the open and hunt me some game. Then prepare a dish for me such as I like, and bring it to me to eat, so that I may give you my innermost blessing before I die.” – Genesis 27:3-4

Swing #1: “Jacob blessed all his sons before he died, not just his first-born. Why, then, did Isaac want to bless Esau only? Such was the decree from heaven. Had Isaac provided a separate blessing for Jacob, later generations would have argued that the Jewish people were worthy of these blessings only as long as they would be on the same high moral level as Jacob had been. Accordingly, the Lord ordained that Isaac should intend to to give the blessing to Esau alone. Then it would be understood that the blessing would be applicable to the Jewish people at all times, even when they would sink very low indeed, for they could never become more evil than Esau.” – Rabbi Isaac of Warka

Swing #2: “Esau, my son, I am not a youngster anymore. I do not know how long God will allow me to enjoy this life. But one thing I do know is how much you give to me: your selfless devotion and loyalty. Please, take your gear and hunt some game, and prepare it just the way I love. Bring it to me so we can eat together. Then I will give you my blessing. So often you have been my support, doing all that I have needed. It is now time for me to give to you that which you deserve as my first-born son: to reciprocate your affection and love.” – Norman J. Cohen, Voices From Genesis: Guiding Us Through the Stages of Life

Swing #3: “He asked for tasty dishes so that his son would earn the merit of fulfilling the commandment to honor his father. Having earned this merit, the blessing his father would bestow on him would take hold, be effective. Even though Isaac had no idea of the extent of his son’s wickedness, he did realize that he had not earned the blessing he was about to receive. This is why, when he blessed Jacob afterwards, he did not bother to ask him to do something first in order to qualify for his blessing. He knew that Jacob deserved it.” – Sforno

Late-Inning Questions: While Rabbi Isaac of Warka and Sforno claim that Isaac knew, deep-down, that Jacob deserved his father’s best blessings, Cohen indicates a true connection between Isaac and Esau. Which approach seems more plausible to you? How does your view of Isaac change depending on your answer?

The Big Inning at the End: The razor-thin margin of Giancarlo Stanton’s win as National League Most Valuable Player indicates a broad acceptance of using advanced metrics to understand baseball. Traditionally, someone who would hit 59 home runs like Stanton did would have been a unanimous selection. The fact that the vote was so close shows that more people are accepting a more nuanced view of the game, which is a good thing. (Though I would’ve preferred Joey Votto, Stanton is a perfectly worthy winner.)

Shabbat Shalom!

Big Brother is Watching You: Chayei Sara 2017

Pre-Game Chatter: How do you know whether you can trust another person? Do you have the same “litmus test” that you apply to every person you meet? Or are your criteria for trusting someone dependent on circumstance and timing?

We learn from the story of Jacob that Laban, his father-in-law, is not trustworthy. But in this week’s portion, Laban, who also is Rebekah’s sister, is on his best behavior — or so it might appear:

The Pitch: “Now Rebekah had a brother whose name was Laban. Laban ran out to the man at the spring—when he saw the nose-ring and the bands on his sister’s arms, and when he heard his sister Rebekah say, ‘Thus the man spoke to me.’ He went up to the man, who was still standing beside the camels at the spring. ‘Come in, O blessed of the LORD,’ he said, ‘why do you remain outside, when I have made ready the house and a place for the camels?’” – Genesis 24:29-31

Swing #1: “Laban said to Eliezer: ‘I have even thrown out my own idols in order to get my hands on some money from your master in return for the hand of my sister Rebecca.’ This is the way of Laban and his ilk. For a few coins of gold, they are willing to give away even their gods.” – Rabbi Joseph Josel Hurwitz

Swing #2: “[Laban’s] hospitality indeed matches that of his sister, except that the impression is unmistakably conveyed that it was not entirely disinterested, that it was, in fact, motivated by greed. Scripture is here anticipating the character of Laban as it reveals itself later in his relations with Jacob. Otherwise, the conduct of the brother in our story is perfectly straightforward and honorable. But why should he have played such a dominant role? … This conspicuous place accorded to Laban can now be explained in the light of the Nuzi archives. It is clear that the institution of fratriarchy, or authority of a brother, existed in Hurrian society. It gave one brother jurisdiction over his brothers and sisters. … He must have been the fratriarch and, as such, was simply exercising his proper functions.” – Nahum Sarna, Understanding Genesis

Swing #3: “My brother Laban comes out after me because I have been gone so long. The dude asks if he can stay with us, and when my brother sees all the gold, he is more than happy to oblige. I love my brother but what was he thinking inviting this completely bonkers individual, who probably stole all this loot and is being chased down by a gang of murderous thugs, into our home? This is a … thing about men: They are easily distracted by shiny objects.” – Rebecca Dana, from Unscrolled: 54 Writers and Artists Wrestle With the Torah, edited by Roger Bennett

Late-Inning Questions: How does Laban’s hospitable greeting to Abraham’s servant compare to similar behavior by Abraham and Lot in previous chapters? Even though Laban does not trick Abraham’s servant, are there aspects of his behavior that hint at future mischief? Why does deceptive evil hurt so much more than “up-front” evil?

The Big Inning at the End: It’s always sad when anyone dies young, but sometimes  – fairly or unfairly – it can hit home more when it’s someone in the public eye with whom you have something in common. Roy Halladay is just a few months younger than me, and he and I both grew up in Denver. I never met him, but I followed his great pitching career with pride. Halladay died in a plane crash Tuesday. Condolences to his family and to all who knew and loved him.

Shabbat Shalom!

Salt and Ashes: Vayera 2017

Pre-Game Chatter: Have there been occasions in your life when it was not advisable to look back at the past? What would have happened if you did?

In this week’s Torah portion, the cities of Sodom and Amorah are destroyed, but while she is being rescued from her home, Lot’s wife famously does not follow an important warning:

The Pitch: “Lot’s wife looked back, and she thereupon turned into a pillar of salt.” – Genesis 19:26

Swing #1: “This last remark is as terse as it is unexpected. In urging their escape when they brought them outside, he (note the switch to singular) said, ‘Flee for your life! Do not gaze behind you! Do not stand still in all the plain! Flee to the hills lest you be destroyed’ (Genesis 19:17). In context we sense this is no more than an effective way of saying ‘Get out with all haste,’ an urging made necessary by Lot’s apparent reluctance to leave and allow the destruction to begin. And we must observe that it is most immediately addressed to Lot alone. Were the others supposed to overhear it? Did he share it with his wife and daughters? He, after all, is the cause of the delay and makes necessary the men’s urging them on.” – W. Lee Humphreys, The Character of God in the Book of Genesis: A Narrative Appraisal

Swing #2: “We tend to interpret verse 26 to mean that God had turned Lot’s wife into a pillar of salt as a punishment, but what if she herself radically chose to become … a pillar, both of memorial and of direction? Memorial of what and direction to whom? Lot’s wife was a pillar to her daughters. Perhaps the most powerful message she could send to them, given her circumstances, was in her turning around, stopping, and setting herself up as such a unique memorial. As we fill in the silences, her message to them could have been, ‘This is where I come from, the only world I know. Remember that this too is a part of your heritage and will always be a part of who you are. Use the lessons it has taught you and build from them.’” – Rabbi Cynthia A. Culpeper, from The Women’s Torah Commentary, edited by Rabbi Elyse Goldstein

Swing #3: “Wisdom rescued a righteous man when the ungodly were perishing; he escaped the fire that descended on the Five Cities. Evidence of their wickedness still remains: a continually smoking wasteland, plants bearing fruit that does not ripen, and a pillar of salt standing as a monument to an unbelieving soul. For because they passed wisdom by, they not only were hindered from recognizing the good, but also left for mankind a reminder of their folly, so that their failures could never go unnoticed.” – Wisdom of Solomon

Late-Inning Questions: To our commentators, what does Lot’s wife’s punishment represent? A warning to listen to instructions? A warning to communicate instructions effectively? A memorial to a darker time? How should we regard Lot’s wife — an unfortunate victim, or a brave woman willing to defy what others tell her?

The Big Inning at the End: As I said on Facebook a couple of days ago: Congrats to the Astros and the city of Houston on a well-deserved World Series win. Thrilled to see another title drought disappear. Can’t wait ‘til next year …

Shabbat Shalom!

Secret Servant: Lekh Lekha 2017

Pre-Game Chatter: How easy will it be for you to leave your legacy in the hands of others? What do you need to teach them about you and your values?

In this week’s Torah portion, God promises Abraham numerous blessings for him and his descendents – but Abraham fears there will be no one to receive those blessings:

The Pitch: “But Abram said, ‘O Lord GOD, what can You give me, seeing that I shall die childless, and the one in charge of my household is Dammesek Eliezer!’” – Genesis 15:2

Swing #1: “According to Rashi’s interpretation, this was Abraham’s way of pointing out a serious shortcoming in Eliezer. Every great teacher in Israel has an approach of his own. Thus Abraham’s way was that of loving-kindness; Isaac’s device was ‘the fear of the Lord’ and Jacob taught ‘truth’ as the supreme principle. But Eliezer could only pass on to others the instruction he himself had received from his master and teacher, Abraham. Therefore Abraham said to the Lord: ‘Eliezer has devised no original teachings. He can do no more than pass on what he has learned from me. That I can do myself. What good, then, would Eliezer be to me? If he has no teachings of his own to give, how could he take my place?’” – MaHaRaM of Piltz

Swing #2: “For all his commitment to duty, Eliezer is an ambivalent figure, hard to pin down. First of all, we should not see him as any kind of lowly step’n’fetchit slave of modern imagining. In the ancient Near East, a servant need not be servile. He could own property, even a large estate including other slaves. To be a servant was no mark of shame.” – David Klinghoffer, The Discovery of God: Abraham and the Birth of Monotheism

Swing #3: “At first [Abraham] complained, ‘What [good] is my reward, since I have no children, and I am going about as a vagrant and a wanderer in a foreign land, as alone as a ‘cactus in the desert’ (Jeremiah 17:6). No one comes and goes in my house except for Eliezer, [who is] a foreigner whom I procured from Damascus, [and is] not from my father’s family nor [even] from my [home] land.” – Ramban

Late-Inning Questions: According to our commentators, what are the pros and cons of Eliezer being the beneficiary of Abraham’s blessings? Does Abraham seem to think of Eliezer as part of his family? To what extent can we include non-blood-relatives into our families?

The Big Inning at the End: On Wednesday night, during Game 2 of the 2017 World Series, Jewish ballplayers combined to hit a single, double, and home run. One commentator on Twitter proclaimed that we were a triple away from a “Minyan Cycle.”

Shabbat Shalom!

A Shem By Any Other Name …: Noah 2017

Pre-Game Chatter: How difficult is it for a parent to treat multiple children equally? Is it realistic to make different rules for different kids? Or are there some standards that we should expect of all our children?

After Noah’s son Ham embarrasses his father (by seeing his father in an indecent state, then telling his brothers instead of covering his father up), Noah declares that the difference between his sons should be pronounced and eternal:

The Pitch: “[Noah] said, ‘Cursed be Canaan; The lowest of slaves shall he be to his brothers.’ And he said, ‘Blessed be the LORD, The God of Shem; let Canaan be a slave to them. May God enlarge Japheth, and let him dwell in the tents of Shem; and let Canaan be a slave to them.’” – Genesis 9:25-27

Swing #1: “Noah curses Ham, proclaiming that Ham’s descendants (the Canaanites) will be slaves to his brothers’ descendants. This is just the first of many Bible stories about children disappointing their parents and parents embarrassing their children.” – David Plotz, Good Book

Swing #2: “[It is] a rabbinic commonplace to project back to the time of the patriarchs the practice of the Torah’s commandments in general and the commandment to study Torah in particular. … [one such verse] that specifically used the term ‘tent’ in such a way as to imply ‘study-house’ [is] Genesis 9:27.” – James L. Kugel, In Potiphar’s House: The Interpretive Life of Biblical Texts

Swing #3: “[This story] explains the negative attitude of ancient Israel toward the Canaanites: while it was Ham who violated his father, the narrative condemns his son Canaan for Ham’s act.” – Joan E. Cook, Genesis

Late-Inning Questions: Is Noah’s reaction against Ham over the top? Or can we be sympathetic to Noah for feeling violated? As our society rightfully becomes more aware of those who suffer emotional and physical abuse, how can we advocate for these victims with sensitivity rather than salaciousness?

The Big Inning at the End: I guess I can’t expect my team to win it all every year. Congratulations to the Los Angeles Dodgers for winning the National League pennant. But the Cubs will be ready to take back the title in 2018.

Shabbat Shalom!

Sent to the Showers: Bereshit 2017

Pre-Game Chatter: Do you think there is such a place as Paradise? When you picture it, what does it look like? Does it resemble a garden as described in the second chapter of Genesis? If not, how is your picture different?

As we reset our study of the Torah, we return to the story of Creation and humanity’s first generations, which initially takes place in the Garden of Eden – but not for long:

The Pitch: “So the LORD God banished him from the garden of Eden, to till the soil from which he was taken. He drove the man out, and stationed east of the garden of Eden the cherubim and the fiery ever-turning sword, to guard the way to the tree of life.” – Genesis 3:23-24

Swing #1: “The Cherubim on the Ark of the Covenant ‘spread out their wings on high, screening the Ark cover with their wings.’ To this, the Sages comment: ‘The Cherubim had the form of a child’s face.’ If a child is trained properly he may grow up to be like the Cherubim who guarded the Holy Ark. But if he does not receive the proper training, he will become like the Cherubim at the east of the Garden of Eden, who were angels  of destruction.” – Rabbi Moshe Mordecai Epstein

Swing #2: “The fact is that our primordial ancestors had to be separated from the Divine presence, just as the male and female were separated in the Creation story, before they could be bonded together into an even more meaningful, lasting unity. The primal human being enjoyed unity at the outset of the Garden experience – a harmony between many sides, male/female, Divine/human and good/evil. Yet, true wholeness requires the struggle between the disparate elements. True covenant between God and the human being cannot be sealed in the paradisial setting of the Garden of our infancy, but must come as a result of our experience in the world outside of Eden. To appreciate the very essence of oneness requires the experiencing of fragmentation, isolation, and loneliness.” – Norman J. Cohen, Self, Struggle & Change: Family Conflict in Genesis and Their Healing Insights for Our Lives

Swing #3: “In his anxiety at the travails of consciousness, [man] may snatch compulsively at the Tree of Life. God wishes, instead, that he work through his new condition, coming to repentance by way of arousal. God banishes Adam and Eve from the Garden, not as a punishment, but to bar them from specious remedies. Their way must be forward and outward; each must struggle with a new map of desire, a new self-knowledge and isolation, if they are ever to bridge the chasms that now divide them.” – Avivah Gottlieb Zornberg, The Murmuring Deep

Late-Inning Questions: Do you think God intends to banish Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden from the very beginning? Or do you think they surprise (and disappoint) God by succumbing to the snake’s trickery? Should we aspire to returning to a life in Paradise? Or does the story of Adam and Eve teach us why people aren’t meant to live there in the first place?

The Big Inning at the End: I’m not going to say anything for fear of jinxing my Cubs …

Hag Sameach, and soon enough, Shabbat Shalom!