Kingdom of Priests

Kingdom of Priests

Angels on Earth

posted by David Klinghoffer


Why did Adam choose to call himself “Adam”? Rabbi David Lapin has a fascinating new essay on this week’s Torah portion, Bereishit (Genesis 1:1-6:8), that deals with the question. You’ll recall from Genesis 2:19 that God brought all the animals before the first man and asked him what their names should be. Adam derived each name from that animal species’s essential, defining characteristic that set it apart from all the other animals. However, when it came time for Adam to name himself — drumroll, please — he selected “Adam” because it derives from the Hebrew word for earth, Adamah.
How did that distinguish him from the other creatures with their no less earthly origins, as the verse clearly says? In no way did the name Adam do so. But it wasn’t from the class of animals that Adam wanted to set himself apart. If that had been his intention, he could have called himself Mind, Intellect, Spirit, Speech — not Earth! Darwinism hadn’t been concocted yet, with its insinuating equation of man with beast, so there was no need to refute it. From whom or what, then, did Adam want to distinguish himself? From the class of angels, to which he really belonged
Writes Rabbi Lapin:

Adam sees humankind not as an evolved member of the animal species, but as an enhanced member of the angel species. He sees himself as a differentiated angel and it is his earthliness that differentiates him from other angels. His earthy component makes him unique among the angels. He is a spiritual force of Divine energy (like an angel) with an earthly connection and a physical form. Man can think and conceptualize like an angel but he can act like a human. He can grasp ideas that only angels can, but he can also create in ways that angels cannot. To Adam (and to Hashem) man is not a devolved angel but an enhanced one: “Man’s wisdom is greater than yours.”

Unlike angels, humans have an added component, an immense enhancement: Humans have a physical form that enables them to manifest the Divine on earth with their every thought, word and deed. Angels cannot do this. Humans can create ideas and innovate objects that transform lives. Angels cannot. Humans can inspire others, uplift them and teach them. Angels cannot. Coming from the perspective of the species of angel, Adam sees the fact that he, unlike other angels, is formed from earth as his single most important differentiator. He names himself Adam.

I have found adopting Adam’s philosophy to be personally transformational. Facing challenging situations I try to think of myself not as “only human” but as an angel with an earthly link. Angels have a shelichut, a mission. And so do each of us. Nothing can stand in the way of an angel fulfilling his shelichut. As such, hardly anything is beyond my capability if it is aligned with my shelichut.

Read the rest of the essay on Rabbi Lapin’s fantastic website, iAwaken
I thought this was beautiful and so uplifting and ennobling in comparison with the impoverished, secular, Darwinian alternative. In the Darwinian view, it makes no sense to speak of a person having a “mission” on earth, other than to eat, sleep, copulate, reproduce, and thereby spread his “selfish genes.” Why not just shoot yourself instead?
In this evolutionary picture of reality, you’re an animal, nothing more. You are fooling yourself if you behave differently from other beasts, pretending to be something you aren’t. Nowadays, we find many people tragically taking this lie to heart and acting, speaking, writing, and thinking on that basis. They are the fallen angels, I guess you could say. Pity on them.

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posted October 15, 2009 at 8:19 pm

What evidence is there for angels? There is tangible evidence in the fossil record that homo sapiens evolved from lower primates, but what evidence is there for the spirit realm? Is it not possible that the notion of a spirit realm is nothing more than a psychological delusion? Further, what evidence is there for the existence of Adam? How could the human race have surivived with its genetic diversity reduced to a single seminal donor?

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David Klinghoffer

posted October 15, 2009 at 8:34 pm

Dan, the great leap forward from our putative immediate ancestor to modern man in fact remains an enormous mystery. In any case, neither the Bible nor the midrashic tradition on which Rabbi Lapin bases his essay was intended as an introduction to anthropological science. The nature of the events being described *as they literally happened* is not really what’s being discussed.

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Ray Ingles

posted October 15, 2009 at 9:24 pm

You missed a step. Even if there were such a “mission”, someone has to decide such a mission has meaning to them:

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peppylady (Dora)

posted October 15, 2009 at 10:01 pm

Who know what kind of language Adam or Eve even spoke. Sooner or later they most figure out how to communicate.
Or anything about Adam or Eve genetic codes or DNA.
Let faces they had no one to show them the robes of life. So they had to figure it out on there own.
Like still today I bet the real made some whopper mistakes.

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posted October 15, 2009 at 10:50 pm

Good thoughts, David. I did look at Rabbi Labin’s iAwaken website. Really, I must learn the Hebrew alphabet and language. As I vaguely recall, Adamah would mean “earth spirit (wind or breath)”. The “ah” being the sound of breath, and from God.
Fallen man is not that good, nor that bad, but the man ignoring God and gone to find himself will find a monster. Some folks still searching.

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Steve Shay

posted October 16, 2009 at 12:35 am

Some of these personal attacks posted here convince me that people indeed came from beasts, and some have not yet evolved.

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Your Name

posted October 16, 2009 at 8:16 am

I wish I understood Dan’s comment, “How could the human race have surivived with its genetic diversity reduced to a single seminal donor?” First, there would be /two/ seminal donors, of course. If we just name one of those donors from “Adam” to “Lucy” or “Ardi,” I think we’d have the same question.

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posted October 16, 2009 at 8:30 am

(That last “Your name” comment was from me, and the last sentence should say, “If we just /change/ the name of…”

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Alan Stillman

posted October 16, 2009 at 10:31 am

so why was Eve called (as it very clearly states in the Hebrew bible) Mother of ALL LIVING?

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posted October 16, 2009 at 2:17 pm

A seminal donor is the sperm donor. A seminal receptor is the receiver of the sperm. This would be one’s father and mother, respectively. When I say “one seminal donor”, that means, one sperm donor. Females, by definition, are not sperm donors.
A recent human ancestor is Homo neanderthalensis. It is not a great leap, nor does it remain a huge mystery to see Hommo sapiens’ evolutionary origins from this species.
Here are some science papers to get all readers of this blog caught up on where we stand with Neanderthal research and human evolution related to Neanderthals. We are fairly close to sequencing its genome (sure, its accuracy and completeness can be debated).$=relatedarticles&logdbfrom=pubmed$=relatedreviews&logdbfrom=pubmed
My questions still remain and I am waiting for anyone to answer them.
1. Is there any direct evidence for the existence of the man “Adam” (ie, a tomb, writings, fossil, artifacts, etc, etc attributed directly, and with evidence, to this purported Adam individual)
2. If Adam existed, did Adam evolve from Homo neanderthalensis or does he have some other origin – what is the evidence supporting such a conclusion?
3. If Homo sapiens originated from one seminal donor, this “Adam” individual, how does one account for the genetic diversity among humans? Alternatively, were there many seminal donors at the time of Adam, and what evidence would support this?
4. If there is no evidence for the existence of Adam and if the likelihood of such an individual seems highly improbable, what then can be used to account for Adam? Is he then a mythological figure like Aeneas, King Arthur, John Henry, and Beowulf? If he was of supernatural origins, yet persisted in physical form here on Earth – please answer question #1.
5. If Adam is a mythological figure, how can the Holy book containing his details be viewed literally? Further, since it would be mythology, why bother deeply studying it to draw factual insight about the world?
6. If Adam did exist and he was, in fact, the original and only seminal donor that begat all other Homo sapiens, how can this be reconciled with the fossil record and phylogentic data of Homo sapiens and ancestral primates?
7. If one cannot reasonably demonstrate the existence of Adam, how can one then draw accurate conclusions from the Holy book containing his accounts – OR, is it an a priori assumption that Adam existed, if so, please justify this a priori assumption.
I would appreciate it if anyone could succinctly answer these questions with evidence and data.

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Michael Peterson

posted October 16, 2009 at 4:41 pm

I, too, am a follower and admirer of Rabbi Lapin and much appreciate his (and other midrashic) insights as well. However, this one seems really to stretch to make a point (notwithstanding its good merits).
First, there is no warrant for concluding that Adam chose his own name. An interpretation more in tune with the Biblical Hebrew is to say that God simply referred to his creation as ‘of the earth’ or more simply, ‘mankind’. or man. Indeed, a strict reading of the text in the Biblical Hebrew can be accomplished without ever translating ‘adam’ as a proper name. Strictly speaking, the first proper name to appear in the Hebrew text is ‘Eve’ (3:20). In this verse, the author is careful to note that “the man named his woman ‘life'” (ayikh’ra ha’adahm shem eesh’to havah).
I, too, think that Rabbi Lapin’s lesson is beautiful and uplifting. But I attribute our ‘shelichut’ to arise from the divine image of God, not one of His angels.
Peace to you and yours,

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David Klinghoffer

posted October 16, 2009 at 4:54 pm

Michael, you raise a good question. Needs more study, hopefully over Shabbat.

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Michael Peterson

posted October 16, 2009 at 5:01 pm

Dan wrote
>My questions still remain and I am waiting
>for anyone to answer them.
Let me give it a try…
>1. Is there any direct evidence for
>the existence of …”Adam”
AFIK, no physical evidence exists, whatsoever, proving the existence of a single human named Adam as the progenitor of all mankind. Not that it’s relevant to your question but research into the sequences of mitochondrial DNA suggest that all of humankind now living on earth (but not all who have ever lived) came from a single woman who lived about 750,000 years ago. This progenitor babe has been named by researchers as, you guessed it, “Eve”.
>4. If there is no evidence for the existence of Adam
>and if the likelihood of such an individual seems
>highly improbable, what then can be used to account
>for Adam?
The First and Second creation stories are likely stories or parables designed to reveal deeper underlying truths about God’s creative activity. Not scientific truths, but metaphysical truths, i.e., truths not reachable via empirical reflection.
>5. If Adam is a mythological figure, how
>can the Holy book containing his details
>be viewed literally?
Much of the Bible is poetry, song, fables, as well as history. Biblical scholars are trained to distinguish between each of these modes.
>5. (cont’d) Further, since it would be mythology, why bother
>deeply studying it to draw factual insight about the world?
One does not study metaphysics (e.g., the Bible, Plato’s Republic, or Kant) to derive ‘factual’ insights. Material reality is the realm of science. Science has no concept of good or evil, right or wrong, just or unjust and can not provide moral or ethical guidance. Such concepts are within the realm of theology and philosophy.
Let me give you an example: Recall the fable of the “Boy Who Cried Wolf”. Whether this story really happened is irrelevant to the moral teaching that those who lie lose their credibility. Thus, we study “myths” and “fables” in order to divine the moral and ethical truths around which we order our lives.
>I would appreciate it if anyone could succinctly
>answer these questions with evidence and data.
I certainly hope I was succinct enough for you.

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posted October 16, 2009 at 5:18 pm

Thank you. Seems reasonable to me.
If ancient religious texts are didactic, metaphorical, and instructive, I’m curious why some people view these ancient writings as literal. Further, it might be in the interest of religious people to clearly draw such distinctions, as I suspect you seem to. It seems to me that a number of religious people extend their holy books to literal truths of the natural world and thus, are at odds with the fact of evolution, yet offer no evidence. These are rhetorical musings on my part.
take care

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posted October 20, 2009 at 2:09 am

Alan Stillman asks: “why was Eve called (as it very clearly states in the Hebrew bible) Mother of ALL LIVING?”
Do you mean to include, say, cockroaches, among “all the living”? If so, then either the Bible should’ve chosen a different expression, or you’re asking too much from the text. What exactly is your question, Alan?
Dan, meanwhile confidently thinks he knows that Homo neanderthalensis is an ancestor of homo sapiens: “A recent human ancestor is Homo neanderthalensis. It is not a great leap, nor does it remain a huge mystery to see Homo sapiens’ evolutionary origins from this species.”
A little humility is in order. The jury is out whether Homo neanderthalensis is an ancestor. Things keep changing in the field. (Like Ian Tattersall’s recent surprising (and new) claim about the Sima de los Huesos fossils).
“Despite much data, there is no unanimity over how to define Homo sapiens in the fossil record.
Paradoxically, our own species, Homo sapiens, is one of the most poorly defined species of hominids. The recent human fossil record has a confusing pattern of variation, with numerous vaguely defined taxa (e.g., “archaic” H. sapiens, “modern” H. sapiens, Homo heidelbergensis, Homo helmei, Homo rhodesiensis), most of which are not widely accepted. ” —
See also: Ian Tattersall and Jeffrey H. Schwartz, “Evolution of the Genus Homo,” Annual Review of Earth and Planetary Sciences., Vol. 37: 67-92 (Volume publication date May 2009). There’s controversy and confusion from the very first sentence.

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