Saturday, October 25, 2014

What's Bothering Chavi: The Bereishit Edition

Yes, yes, I know that we just finished up the week of reading Noach and the flood narrative, but I'm still in last week for this newly anointed edition of ...

You see, I'm part of this amazing women's learning group every Saturday morning on Shabbat. There's roughly 6-8 of us who gather in a classroom and schmooze about our lives and families (occasionally while partaking of delicious home-baked goods and Trader Joe's chocolates) and talk about the weekly Torah portion. The aliyot (every weekly Torah portion is separated into seven different sections, or aliyot) are dished out to different women who do a bit of reading, studying, and then during our learning share their thoughts, ideas, and what's bothering them.

More often than not, there's a "What's Bothering Chavi?" that can't be explained, although I'm utterly elated when someone has an answer or idea to help me out.

This week, I was looking back at the first portion of the Torah, Bereishit. In this portion, after the creation narratives (of which there are two versions, by the way), Adam and Chava (or Eve if you prefer the English) eat of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil and are booted out of the Garden of Eden. After being clothed by HaShem in animal hide, they have relations and Chava gives birth to Cain and Hevel (or Abel if you prefer the English).

What happens next, most people will tell you is that Cain and Hevel present an offering to HaShem that isn't met with the jolliest of responses, and then Cain kills Hevel, HaShem is none too happy, Cain repents, and so on.

Now, what no one seems to discuss is the fact that Cain and Hevel presented an offering to HaShem.

Jigga wah?!

We're pretty early on in the story of mankind and all of a sudden these two guys have the wherewithal, knowledge, and impetus to make an offering. So what's bothering Chavi?

  • How did they know to make an offering?
  • Was HaShem expecting offerings at this point?
  • How did they know what to offer?
  • If there was little to no knowledge of offering specifics, how could HaShem be unhappy with what they brought? (After all, most of the commentaries I read discussed the offerings' qualities, not why or how they decided to make said offerings.)

So, do you have any thoughts? Ideas? A quick Google presents some Christians sites discussing the matter, suggesting that HaShem actually made the first offering (to Himself?) on behalf of Adam and Chava when he fashioned their clothing out of animal hide. But ... this just doesn't sit right with me. How often does HaShem say, "Oh, guys, it's all good, let me take care of that for you" ...?

Also, the detailed list of the who, what, when, where, why, and how of offerings came much later, so this early rendition of giving seems odd, out of place, and uncomfortable to me.

Ready? Set? Chuck your thoughts at me!