(c) 2000 Dr Hendel; 1st appeared in Torah Forum (c) Project Genesis

Date: Tue, 22 Feb 2000 23:21:24 -0500 (EST)
From: Russell Hendel <  rhendel@mcs.drexel.edu>
Subject: Re: Genesis

<  <  I have always wondered how far we can dismiss G-d's word by rationalizing
the dismissal of the literal word. We thus reach for some allegorical or
Gnostic meaning to make G-d's word fit in with man's wisdom. Seems we make
man the definer of G-d. >  >

I have just presented a paper on this very topic at the 3rd International
conference on Torah and Science (Many Torah Forumists asked me for my 4
page copy of notes which again I will send by email to anyone who asks)

Briefly the answer to Pinchas' question "How can we interpret anything in
the Bible symbolically...isn't that making human reason the standard of
Biblical truth?" was set down in Rav Hirsch's criteria. I use Isa 11 as an
example---there are 3 features needed to justify symbolic interpretation
(a) the Bible states a main theme-that it is speaking about the Messianic
era (Isa 11:1) (b) the Bible after stating its main theme states a
collection of items that look absurd (to our minds) and have no
relationship to the main theme (the Bible mentions that 'lambs' will live
with 'wolves'--what has that to do with the messianic era?). (c) the items
mentioned after the main theme all have a clear symbolic meaning in the
Bible (that is animals in the Bible frequently refer to personality types
(eg Gen 49).

If these 3 features are present---(a)main theme (b) unrelated absurd items
(c) symbolic material---then we are justified in interpreting the chapter
symbolically (ie Part of the messianic era is that 'lamb type personalities
(like Jews)' will live together (lie down) with 'wolve type personalities'.)

In a similar manner I show how Eccl 12 has a main theme (a) sinning in
youth and paying in old age (Eccl 11:9--Eccl 12:1); (b) a collection of
unrelated themes (breaking of vases, beams etc), (c) symbolic
interpretations of these items. The result is that ALL commentators
interpret Eccl 12 as talking about the degeneration of the body in old age
(eg the 'beams breaking' refers to fragile 'bones' etc).

An excellent reference for the above is Rav Hirsch's fundamental essay
'Groundlines for a Jewish Symbolism' which is printed in Volume 3 of his
collected writing (available from Feldheim). Rav Hirsch asks all of
Pinchas' questions and answers them in a beautiful and fundamental 100 page

In my presentation I show how these symbolic ideas can be applied to Gen 1
which I suggest symbolically refers to the creation of prophecy.

Russell Jay Hendel; Phd ASA ; Math; Towson Univ
Moderator Rashi is Simple, http://www.shamash.org/rashi/