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Kahn offers sexually frank Torah commentary

Donald H. Harrison

Echoes of Eden, Sefer Bereishit, by Rabbi Ari D. Kahn, “Echoes of Eden,” OU Press, 386 pages, ISBN 978-965-229-499-9.

By Donald H. Harrison

SAN DIEGO — This is an eye-opening commentary on the Book of Genesis (Bereshit) which probably should be recommended for adults only. The interpretations delve into some of the underlying sexual content of the Bible–content that may surprise more casual readers of Torah.

For example, some Talmudic scholars have suggested that the Serpent in the Garden of Eden originally was human in form and physically seduced Eve, impregnating her with Cain. When God punished Eve with painful childbirth, it was to teach her that relationships have consequences. The Serpent’s punishment was to be made into a snake, a wriggling phallic symbol in the dust.

Cain, perhaps acting under the influence of his Serpent father’s genes, murders his brother Abel. After Adam and Eve have another child, Seth, the world is populated with two kinds of humanoids–evil ones, whose ancestry dates back to Cain, and the descendants of Adam and Eve via Seth. Among the latter is Noah, whereas his wife, who is not named in the Bible, is (according to Talmudic genealogists) Na’amat, a descendant of Cain. In that humanity is descended from Noah and Na’amat, there exists some mixture of good and evil in all of us.

Some Talmudic scholars believe that sexual relations were forbidden on Noah’s Ark, but that among those who chose to ignore the prohibition were the dog, the raven and Noah’s son Ham.

When the raven was sent forth from the ark, it was because he was punished by Noah; whereas, when the dove was set forth, it was in fulfillment of a mitzvah.

On the commentaries proceed, through the stories of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Joseph — each seeking to explain behaviors that might otherwise have persisted as incomprehensible mysteries of the Bible.

For example, why did Abraham introduce his wife Sarah as his sister? One gets the idea from a simple reading of the Bible, that Abraham was afraid if it were known he was her husband, someone would kill him in order to sexually possess Sarah. But that gives us the sense that Abraham, in essence, was abandoning Sarah to the sexual desires of another–hardly the action of a brave patriarch.

To the contrary, suggests Rabbi Kahn drawing on Talmudic scholars. In the days of the Egyptian pharaohs, it was the perogative of a king to take possession of his sister. In saying that Sarah was his sister, Abraham was signalling that like Pharaoh, he was a king, and therefore Sarah was off limits. No such protection would have been extended to the wife of a mere traveler.

Echoes of Eden is the first of a five-part series Rabbi Kahn proposes to write covering each book of the Torah. If it were a movie. this volume probab ly would be rated R.

Harrison is editor of San Diego Jewish World. He may be contacted at [email protected]

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Copyright 2011 San Diego Jewish World

5 Responses to “Kahn offers sexually frank Torah commentary”

  1. Elisheva says:

    Have you ever read the Torah and understood what really happened? You reveal your own relentlessly obscure character and ignorance with such accusations. Unutterably simple and poor impression you give to yourself as a jew …? You throw out serious allegations and should be highly questionable in your capacity as your right to use “jewishworld”! because you seem completely ignorant of the Torah .

  2. freddiefox says:

    He is a journalist and just doing his job. Chill elisheva. What people need to understand is this commentary is by no means the pshat or simple trading of the text or the historical account. It is a drasha, based on mostly mirdrashim, which are creative rabbinic exegesis on how they intrepret the text. There is lots of that and many that disagree with others. He has just selectively hosen the sexual ones to make his book spicey.

  3. Elisheva says:

    Okay, freddiefox, I have taken the hint.
    Whatever … he distorts much of what Rabbi Kahn actually writes. But it is apparently so a journalist works … even if it hits a fellow Jew … a Jew Rabbi. Well … hope Mr.. Harrison can sleep well knowing what he has sown.

    • admin says:

      Elisheva — Would you care to say specifically what part of the review of Rabbi Kahn’s book you take issue with? It’s our policy to correct any factual errors, so please if you know of a specific error in the review, write back and we’ll check what you say against the actual text of the book and make whatever correction is necessary. Thanks and kol tov.

  4. Elisheva says:

    We both know very well that the review you give about a book is quite up to the understanding of the book in question. I do not question your opinion … just think that it is simplistic … but you have deleted from your frame of reference and experienced guide so.
    If you read the whole book “Echoes of Eden ‘, you will surely find a rich and dynamic personal gallery.

    Kol tov


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