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Thought for the Day: Reading Chumash

My eldest once had a short philosophical discussion with a relative who was not frum.  Apparently the local reform rabbi (or her husband) had come up with a new "theory" about yitzi'as mitrayim.  Suffice it to say, the theory was somewhat lacking.  Rather than indicating all the problems, she simply asked, very sweetly, "Theory?  Interesting.  Did the rabbi do much research on this theory?"  "Oh, yes!  Lots!", answered the relative (now excited to have engaged my orthodox daughter in a discussion.  "Really?  Did the rabbi try reading the bible first?", asked my daughter just as sweetly and innocently.  The relative did not answer, but the environment was decided cooler that evening.

One of the incredible features of our Torah ha'k'dosha is that it can be read with just as much interest by a 5 year old barely beginning to be able to sound out the words and by a 70 year old sage who as rarely left the bais medrash.  In fact, as one gets older and more mature, the "bible stories" that were so interesting in kindergarten fill in with life and vitality that becomes more vibrant with each and every reading.  However -- and this is really important -- one actually does have to revisit those stories with more than just "davening up" (oh how I hate that expression) the parsha each week.

Start with the beginning.  The term "forbidden fruit" has entered even the English lexicon of well known idioms.  There was fruit of only one tree forbidden humanity, and the entire human race ate from that fruit.  Why?  Chava ate after an extensive philosophical debate with the snake.  Note, by the way, that the snake never lied to Chava nor so much as suggested that she should eat.  So why did she eat?  What about Adam?  The Torah simply says that Chava gave the fruit to Adam and he ate.  No discussion, no debate, no weighing of cost and benefit.  Just, "Hi, honey, anything for an erev Shabbos snack?"  "Sure!  I whipped up some forbidden fruit; take some."

And how about that snake?  First of all, why does he get so much blame?  Who told him that he wasn't allowed to talk to Chava about how amazing the fruit was?  And even if you are not thrilled with his obviously less than noble intentions; he's an animal!  Animals don't get reward and punishment; they have no free will.  (And how could he talk?  The only other animal that talked was Bilaam's donkey, and we have a mishna about that in Avos.  What's up with that?)

Aren't those interesting questions?  My wife hates discussions that end like this, so I promise, bli neder, to make it up to her soon.


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