I’m normally quite secular in my blog posts–an attempt at universality perhaps. But as I spend a significant portion of my time these days reading translations of the Torah, and thinking about how I want to convert there is no reason for me not to share. I am nowhere near an authority–heck, I’m not even a Jew yet–but I don’t pretend to be an expert; just a person with a translation and a curious mind.
Often folks turn to Genesis in attempts to talk about animals, God, and humanity. Some turn to descriptions of Gan Eden to point out that in the original plan Adam and Havva did not eat animals. Others turn to Cain and Abel as a defense of Hashem’s preference for flesh and blood sacrifice.
But as I was rereading recently, I found myself drawn to Genesis 3:21. From the Everett Fox translation:
Now YHWH, God, made Adam and his wife coats of skins and clothed them.
This is an important moment–Havva is cursed with birthpains and enmity with serpents, and Adam is told he must labor for bread. They are being kicked out of the garden. They are going to die. Yet, even after cursing, them Hashem cares for them, and provides for them clothing of animal skin.
I read this act as a sign of Hashem’s care for people. Even after, or maybe especially because of, meting out consequences for their act, Hashem shows care. A lesson in ethics.
But what does it mean that this first showing of how to act ethically was also the first act of death. Not only has God cursed humanity to eventually die, Hashem has killed animals to cover the humans. What does it mean that God is the first to slaughter an animal–and that this act is one of the first lesson in ethics?
Perhaps it is a way of promoting care of humans, despite their faults, even before animals.
But also it means that even in Eden there was death. For Hashem performed this act even before sending out Adam and Havva into the world, at this point there was no more Eden. It takes death to live in this world.