I love Bereshit, the very beginning of the Torah. I love the sweeping story, the vast universal themes, the poetry and imagery. I love beginnings, even if there are two of them. At the same time. Genesis 1 and Genesis 2-3 give two different accounts of Creation, both of the world and humanity. It’s like a game of telephone that got started at the same time, and ended up at the same place, but was rigged and wired differently along the way.
So it is with Genesis 2-3; that of the beginning of human life on this earth. I don’t think there’s a better story than the one laid out for us about Adam and Chava, Adam and Eve. Drama, tension, exploration and adventure, consequences and communication…it’s all there, but there’s so much not written, so many gaps, so many questions and so many “maybes”.
There isn’t a whole lot of dialogue in this section of the Torah, and wouldn’t you have liked to have been a fly on that wall…er, tree? What went down there in the Garden? What did Adam really say to his wife when he got the word about eating from any tree in the Garden, except for the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Bad? So, the woman is standing by a tree, chatting with a serpent, and she says to it, “Of any tree in the Garden we may eat the fruit; but God said ‘Of the fruit of the tree in the middle of it do not eat, and do not touch it or you will die” (3:2) Where did she get that idea? God didn’t say anything like that to Adam, (“but of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Bad, you may not eat because at the moment you eat of it, you shall be doomed to die.” (2:17) Yet where else would she have gotten that extra piece of information?
Or maybe God talked to her, and added the extra instruction? If so, it seems she didn’t tell her husband, so why did she keep that information from him?
Or maybe she’d had a conversation with the snake before the one that’s recorded? Maybe the snake told her, and she’s just repeated back what it had said, as if to say, “Don’t you remember, you told me….”
Or maybe Adam did tell her…but why did he change God’s words? Maybe he didn’t understand the instructions himself. Maybe he cared about Eve so much and he worried so much about keeping her safe, that he set up extra precautions for her. Or maybe Adam just thought he knew better than God, knew better what another human being is capable of, so he knew to add the extra precaution?
Or, maybe God forgot?
Any one of these questions sets us into imagining all sorts of conversations, and each one is infused with our own experiences and personalities, voices and perspectives. And that’s only from one verse!
And so we begin again, at the beginning. Another year of questioning, imagining, diving into the depth of the stories. The beauty and frustration and challenge is that there are questions like this throughout the whole text, and they are waiting for you and me to find them.