The other day, I overheard Susan reading a much-beloved children’s book to a young grandson. Over the years, between reading to our own children and now to the next generation, she has probably read this book and many others hundreds of times. With each reading, she gains pleasure from affirming a relationship with the child as well as seeing his or her reaction. But she isn’t getting deeper insights into well-loved Lapin family classics such as Henry’s Awful Mistake or But No Elephants. In these cases, repetition brings no deeper understanding.
However, rereading any portion of Scripture never fails to bring new additional understanding. Over the course of a year, we Jews read and study the Five Books of Moses, preferably reviewing each section more than once. Whether you are nine or ninety, new insights and understanding always await you.
For this reason, preparing Scrolling through Scripture Unit 1 for you has been a particular delight. I’d like to share one previously hidden discovery that newly popped off the page for me.
The Hebrew word A-R-TZ (or E-R-TZ) meaning earth appears in the first sentence of Genesis and reappears a number of times over the course of the six days of Creation. Yet, we see something different when we reach verse 25.
Most English translations say:
God made wild beasts of the earth to its kind and cattle of every kind, and all kinds of creeping things of the earth to its kind…
However, looking at the Hebrew reveals an inaccuracy.
ויעש אלקים את־חית הארץ למינה ואת־הבהמה למינה ואת כל־רמש האדמה למינהו…
Do you see that? Look at the bolded words. The English translation uses the same English word – earth – for two quite different Hebrew words. What makes this problem even more compelling is that the very next verse introduces us to man – Adam. Compare his name with the second word that is translated as earth.
ויאמר אלקים נעשה אדם …
And God said, “Let us make man…
|poorly translated as|
|←Hebrew reads right to left||←Hebrew reads right to left|
(*The final letter takes a different shape when at the end of a word but it is the same letter as the third letter in the left column.)
What is going on? In the short space available to me here, let me share one of the ideas I present in Scrolling through Scripture on this confusing wording. To do so I am going to abandon the poor translation of earth for the Hebrew ADaMaH and replace it with soil.
Both the word for ADaM (general mankind) and for soil share the same root as another word – the Hebrew word for the color red, ADoM. As westward expansion took place in America of the 1800s, one of the first things that pioneers evaluated was the quality of the soil. Was the soil of their new home fertile and full of promise or was it inhospitable? Red, loamy dirt was a happy discovery.
God created mankind as fertile soil. Verse 25 reminds us that we have options. We may choose to be “on the ground” like creeping animals or we can choose to use that same ground to plant, cultivate and harvest immeasurable crops. Just as a patch of soil that looks barren can contain hidden seeds that will feed, clothe and shelter untold numbers, each of us can fertilize our seeds and be a blessing to innumerable others. Whether we crouch on our soil or grow from our soil is always our decision.
FINAL SALE WEEK:
Are you ready to become more familiar
with the hidden depths of Hebrew?
or at least get to know the letters?