Eve, Revisited by Jill Hammer

About six months ago I was hired to write a curriculum for a Jewish organization on biblical women in ancient and contemporary midrash.  Midrash—the ancient process of creative interpretation of sacred text that began two thousand years ago and continues to this day—has been one of my fields of expertise, and women in midrash is a particular specialty.  I knew the first lesson I wrote would be on Eve (Chava in Hebrew), the first woman of Genesis.  Yet as I began to write lessons, I started with Sarah and Hagar, then proceeded to Rebekah and Lot’s wife, Rachel and Leah, even Asnat (Joseph’s wife) and Naamah (Noah’s wife).  It became clear over the months that I was avoiding Eve.  Whenever I began to think about beginning “her” lesson, I grew anxious and immediately began to think of something else. Only when I had already written six of my ten lessons did I finally, reluctantly, begin to research ancient legends and modern feminist poems on the first foremother of the Bible.

Why was I avoiding Eve?  In part, because she seemed like such a huge topic.  Generations of Jews (and, of course, Christians) have had a great deal to say about Eve, her creation, the fruit of knowledge, the serpent, Eve’s relationship with Adam, and more.  How would I encapsulate it all?   And then there was Lilith, Eve’s alter ego, and all of the legends about her.  Choosing a handful of midrashim out of this vast corpus seemed impossible.  Plus, there was a whole literature about the relationship between Eve and ancient Near Eastern myth I wanted to allude to—Eve as a kind of human version of the Goddess with her Tree.  How to choose what to put in and what to leave out? Continue reading “Eve, Revisited by Jill Hammer”

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