“Creation: The Story of Begininngs” by Yonatan Grossman— Hidden Meanings

Grossman, Yonatan. “Creation: The Story of Beginnings”, Maggid, 2019.

Hidden Meanings

Amos Lassen

I always look forward to reading the Book of Genesis because there is so much think about especially in the first eleven chapters. In “Creation: The Story of Beginnings”, Jonathan Grossman shows us hidden meanings of the first eleven chapters by taking us through an insightful and creative literary analysis that brings together theology, psychology, and philosophy and from this we get a fresh and renewed understanding of the texts. extracting a fresh and refreshing understanding of the biblical text. Grossman draws his conclusions from the words of the sages and the great medieval commentators which he combines by using contemporary literary tools. We go back to the very beginning and we see  how human initiative goes hand in hand with both sin and progress.

When we consider what those early chapters contain—“the creation of physical reality, the beginning of humanity and man’s encounter with God, the first social interactions and the start of civilization”, we realize that these is a lot more here than we thought. The very idea of a promise of a perfect, utopian world is broken and we are taken into deep shame and disappointment with the beginning of sin. What is so fascinating is that at the same time, we get the ideas of all that is to come afterwards. 

We see that in order to truly study these chapters, we must look at theology, psychology, philosophy and religious experience. What we see is the story of a lost world due to the sins of humankind and a world rebuilt. We read of the beginning of being and the nature of humanity’s purpose in this world. We also read of conflict ad failure.

The first eleven chapters of Genesis are very different in style and design than the rest of the book. They are an independent unit using genealogy as a key component. Rabbi Grossman looks at how Genesis fits into the history of the Near East and then at the nature of God and human. In those first eleven chapters, we see that God is very active with the creation and the beginning of time. This was a complex process and through these elven chapters, we see it come into being. I must say that some of my questions about Genesis were answered but they were quickly replaced by more questions. I believe the attempt to answer questions is a catalyst for study and that it is perfectly fine to not get answers to every question. This is what we are left to strive for. My father once told me that when there are no more questions, it is time to leave this life.

“RABBI DR. JONATHAN GROSSMAN is an associate professor in the Department of Bible, Bar-Ilan University, and the Department of Bible, Herzog College, Alon Shevut. He earned his MA in Jewish Philosophy from the Hebrew University and his PhD in Bible from Bar-Ilan University, and has taught at Midreshet Migdal Oz. Among his previous books are Esther: The Outer Narrative and the Hidden Reading (2011), Ruth: Bridges and Boundaries (2015), Text and Subtext: On Exploring Biblical Narrative Design (2015), and Abram to Abraham: A Literary Analysis of the Abraham Narrative (2016).”

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