Book of The Day

Apr 17, 2014

Everyone knows the story of Adam and Eve, of Cain and Abel. Yet perhaps we know these stories too well. After a while, we read them but don't really hear what they're telling us.

As a child, we might never have thought twice about a fantastical tale of forbidden apples, talking snakes and magical trees. But when we read these stories as adults, things get more puzzling.

Rabbi Fohrman suggests that a key to understanding these and many other stories in the Bible lies in God's enigmatic speech to Cain. In this speech, God alludes to humanity's potential for evil as a “beast that crouches at the door.” Strangely, though, the beast is not portrayed as the fearsome enemy we might assume it to be. Cain is encouraged to maintain a relationship with the beast, even as he is cautioned to beware its fearsome power.

What, really, is the nature of this “beast” — and how are we meant to relate to it? This question lies at the core of both stories and forms the thematic crux of Rabbi Fohrman's startlingly original exploration of them.

In order to get the most from this astounding book, read the two stories again, but this time ask yourself these questions:

If I were reading this for the first time, what about it would strike me as strange? What are the “big questions” that the Torah wants me to ask about this story?

Then open this book. You will gain an experience in the richness and depth of Torah, and a profound confrontation with concepts that define the core of what it means to be a person.

For these are not stories, but rather paths to a fuller, more meaningful life.

Rabbi David Fohrman, a graduate of Ner Israel Rabbinic College, is resident scholar at the Hoffberger Foundation for Torah Studies. He is an adjunct professor at the Johns Hopkins University, where he teaches Biblical Themes. He also teaches for Yeshivat Sha'alvim and Yeshiva University's Gruss Kollel in Jerusalem and has served as a writer and editor for ArtScroll's Schottenstein Edition of the Talmud. Rabbi Fohrman resides in Nof Ayalon, Israel, with his wife and children.