B'reishis - Literal or Symbolic

Mordechai Perlman (aw004@freenet.toronto.on.ca)
Wed, 15 Jan 1997 13:25:20 -0500 (EST)

Some discussion has been flying back and forth on the forum as to
whether the events of B'reishis (specifically what went on in Gan Eden at
that time) are meant literally or symbolically. Unfortunately, it has
developed into something less than comfortable.
I submit that both are correct. In fact, Rav Nachman Cohen has
written a volume entitled "Rabbi Yehudah and Rabbi Nechemya" which
actually contains most of those Tannaic sages' disputes in Aggada. Among
the disputes are the events of Adam and Chava in Gan Eden. Rebbi Y'hudo
holds that many of the events are to be taken symbolically, such as
eating from the Forbidden Tree. Rebbi Nechemya understands it
literally. Rebbi Y'hudo understands it Kabbalistically. He understands
the Forbidden tree as a reference to sexual relations which Adam and
Chava were not to engage in until Shabbos had arrived. Rebbi Y'hudo
holds that Adam was created with perfect intelligence and hence Kayin is
certainly deserving of great punishment for killing Hevel. Rebbi
Nechemya holds that Adam was created with normal human intelligence and
therefore Kayin was not to blame for killing Hevel because there was no
way, outside of experience, that he could know that what he did would
actually kill Hevel. And so on. I recommend the book to the both of our
disputants.

Mordechai Perlman