Torah Portion

Bereshit

בראשית

Genesis 1:1-6:8
Isaiah 42:5–43:10

Why Did Cain Kill Abel?

Why Did Cain Kill Abel?

God rejects Cain’s sacrifice while accepting Abel’s, then in the next scene, Cain kills his brother. Does this mean that Cain killed Abel out of jealousy, or could other factors have been present? Ancient interpreters explore many possible motivations, from the simple to the bizarre.

Dr. Rabbi
David J. Zucker
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Did God Originally Intend the World to Be Vegetarian?

Did God Originally Intend the World to Be Vegetarian?

After the flood, God permits humans to eat animals, whereas in Genesis 1, humans are told to eat plants. Interpreters have understood this to mean that vegetarianism was God’s original plan for humanity. Gersonides found the claim that God changed His mind scandalous, but this is more about countering Christian claims than the simple meaning of the text.

Prof. Rabbi
Marty Lockshin
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The Torah Begins with Creation to Defend Israel’s Right to the Land?

The Torah Begins with Creation to Defend Israel’s Right to the Land?

The theme of a divine creator’s right to assign territory to his people is pervasive in the Bible and ancient Near Eastern literature. Perhaps the rabbinic midrash which suggests that the Torah begins with creation to defend Israel against the accusation they stole the land of Canaan were onto something.

Prof.
Jason Radine
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Demigods and the Birth of Noah

Demigods and the Birth of Noah

The Sons of Elohim sleeping with women and producing demigods (Gen 6:1-4) is sandwiched between the birth of Noah and the flood. This juxtaposition of passages prompted 1 Enoch and Genesis Apocryphon to question whether Lamech was Noah's father or whether Noah was a demigod.

Dr. Rabbi
Samuel Z. Glaser
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The Genesis of Time

The Genesis of Time

The simple meaning of Genesis 1–2:4 is that God created the world out of primordial elements. And yet, one important new initiative was the construction of time, embracing the day, the month, the year, and the week. The week, however, does not depend on a cosmic phenomenon but served to introduce the concept of a people holy to a creator God.

Prof.
Jack M. Sasson
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Feminist Biblical Interpretation: History and Goals

Feminist Biblical Interpretation: History and Goals

Feminist biblical interpretation is more than simply paying attention to texts about women. It is also a means of achieving a more accurate understanding of life in ancient Israel and of the composition of the Bible.

Dr.
Sarah Shectman
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Creation from Primordial Matter: Did Rashi Read Plato’s Timaeus?

Creation from Primordial Matter: Did Rashi Read Plato’s Timaeus?

Rashi interprets the opening verses of the creation story as describing God’s use of primordial substances to form the world. This idea appears in various forms in rabbinic literature but some of Rashi’s particular notions are only found in Plato’s Timaeus. Could this be one of Rashi’s sources?

Prof.
Warren Zev Harvey
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The Gender of God

The Gender of God

What is the gender of the God of creation? Of YHWH in general?

Prof.
Marc Zvi Brettler
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The Benei Elohim, the Watchers, and the Origins of Evil

The Benei Elohim, the Watchers, and the Origins of Evil

According to the non-biblical book of Enoch, Genesis 6 tells of angels who bring sin to humanity, causing the Flood as well as sin and disease in the present.

Dr.
Miryam Brand
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God Abandons the Garden of Eden and Dwells with the Cherubim

God Abandons the Garden of Eden and Dwells with the Cherubim

Four Aramaic targumim (ancient translations) have God, and not just cherubim, taking up residence east of the garden. This is based on a slightly different vocalization of the Hebrew text, which is likely a more original reading than our current biblical text (MT).[1]

Dr.
Raanan Eichler
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The Evolution of Civilization: The Biblical Story

The Evolution of Civilization: The Biblical Story

Reading Cain’s murder of Abel and the account of Cain’s descendants as a metaphor for the trajectory of human development and the change in patterns of human behavior.

Dr. Rabbi
Samuel Z. Glaser
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The Making of Adam

The Making of Adam

Understanding the Midrash in Light of Plato and the Pseudepigrapha

Dr.
Malka Zeiger Simkovich
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Cain's (Im)Penitent Response to his Punishment

Cain's (Im)Penitent Response to his Punishment

Eight possible meanings of Cain’s response and what this tells us about his character as presented in the Torah

Dr. Rabbi
Eliezer Finkelman
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Reintroducing the Myth of the Fallen Angels into Judaism

Reintroducing the Myth of the Fallen Angels into Judaism

Literature and art are replete with images of angels descending to earth and joining humanity. One source for this image is a terse account in Genesis describing fallen angels, which is expanded upon in Second Temple literature. This interpretive tradition is suppressed in the classic rabbinic literature only to resurface again in the late narrative midrash, Pirqe de-Rabbi Eliezer.

Prof.
Rachel Adelman
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The Exposition of the Garden of Eden Story

The Exposition of the Garden of Eden Story

The Garden of Eden story includes a lengthy introductory exposition (vv. 2:4b-3:1a), whose seemingly tangential details contrast the utopia of Eden with the dystopia of the real world.

Prof.
Yairah Amit
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Gender Equality at Creation

Gender Equality at Creation

A methodologically rigorous reading of the account of the Woman's creation reveals a fundamentally egalitarian view of the sexes that is both nuanced and psychologically sensitive.

Dr.
Raanan Eichler
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Did God Bless Shabbat?

Did God Bless Shabbat?

“And the Lord Blessed the Seventh Day and Consecrated It” (Genesis 2:3). Can time be blessed?

Dr. Rabbi
David Frankel
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Why Are there Demigods in a Monotheistic Torah?

Why Are there Demigods in a Monotheistic Torah?

Genesis 6 presents a narrative about divine beings who come to earth and have offspring with humans. What is a story which sounds like a pagan myth doing in the Torah?

Prof.
Benjamin D. Sommer
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In the Beginning There Is the Question

In the Beginning There Is the Question

The bridge that enables the annual traversal from the ending of the Torah back to its beginning is the anticipation of new questions.

Prof.
James A. Diamond
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My Encounter with the Firmament

My Encounter with the Firmament

The Torah describes God’s fashioning the firmament (רקיע) on the second day of creation. This piece of the universe, however, doesn’t actually exist—a problem obfuscated in my yeshiva education.

Oren Fass M.D.
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Bereshit

בראשית

Genesis 1:1-6:8

וַיִּבְרָא אֱלֹהִים אֶת־הָאָדָם בְּצַלְמוֹ בְּצֶלֶם אֱלֹהִים בָּרָא אֹתוֹ זָכָר וּנְקֵבָה בָּרָא אֹתָם׃

בראשית א:כז

And God created man in His image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.

Gen 1:27

Genesis

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