Immortal Rebels: Freedom for the Individual in the Bible

Immortal Rebels: Freedom for the Individual in the Bible

Immortal Rebels: Freedom for the Individual in the Bible

Immortal Rebels: Freedom for the Individual in the Bible

Excerpt

No matter how familiar one may be with the contents of the Bible, it presents a challenge to the mind and imagination. "Turn it, and turn it again, for everything is in it," wrote Ben Bag Bag in the Ethics of the Fathers. Extracting new insights from the Bible is a never ending process, for it documents every facet of the life of man. Human problems are its subject, and the Pentateuch, especially Genesis, presents them through the family situations it describes.

Having read and studied the Pentateuch numerous times, along with Midrashic interpretations and elaborations of the events narrated in it, I have become increasingly aware of an obvious, yet unexplored, pattern throughout its first book. Genesis is devoted almost entirely to family relationships, presenting every conceivable aspect of sibling strife, and rebellion in the parent-child association. The individual vis-a-vis other individuals is its substance; the meaning of their conflicting inter-relationships is its essence. There are struggles between parents, brothers, half-brothers, twins, and sisters, each seeking to utilize his freedom to realize the self. Though it is an ancient book, Genesis contains insights into the human personality as penetrating as any being written today.

In the beginning, God created Adam and then Eve. Heeding the Lord's command to be fruitful and multiply, these two human beings created a new phenomenon -- the family. Already confronted by pain and the difficulties of earning a living by sweat and toil, they unsuspectingly initiated the new relationship. The family became a source of pleasure to them and an irritating perplexity.

Ever since this initial record of a family, the problems of parent-child and sibling relationships have interested man immensely. Few, if any, have not experienced problems either as child or parent. Underlying all human relationships is one basic question -- how to effect a meaningful rapport with one's fellow creatures with a minimum of distress. Man's constant quest of an appropriate response to this challenge leads him to maturity, and to the greatest possible happiness in life.

It is incumbent to assess both the individual and the group within which he lives. How does he affect the family? And how does the family . . .

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