I would be interested to know what the general Jewish attitude to this is, especially as these books have been taken on by Christianity, but are originally the scriptures of the Jewish people.
"Dude, you're not really
going to speak for all Jews, are you?" my partner asked. "Remember that time you tried to speak for all gay people and Elton John almost punched you in the mouth?"
So I've got to be careful. There are a lot of Jews out there in the world, and they're all Jewish in different ways. I'm closest to a Conservative Jew: I observe Shabbat (sundown Friday to sundown Saturday); I attend services on Saturday; I keep kosher in my home. I'm also gay -- which is why I say "closest." Reform synagogues are usually open and affirming about homosexuality. I've been going to my synagogue for so long, though -- since I was a child, really -- that they've been very welcoming to me.
It's also helpful that my partner's a Jew as well. G-d forbid I should have started dating a goyim
. I don't think my synagogue would have been nearly as forgiving. My brother married a blonde stick shiksa
is a derogatory name for a non-Jewish woman) who's a doctor, and my mom still
thinks she's not good enough. "Ess gezunah heit
," my mom says to her at dinner ("Eat in good health
"). Then, when Kimberly leaves to use the restroom, mom says, "She's puking it up. Maybe I should just serve her all her meals in the toilet. Save her time."
And I've gone waaaaaay
off point here.
To start off, keep in mind that when I talk about Judaism, I'm talking about my
understanding of Judaism -- and I'm certainly not a rabbi. Some Jews will agree with what I'm telling you; some may not. Judaism, more than anything else, is a religion about questions and debates. We're actually encouraged to grapple with the text; to wrestle, like Jacob, with G-d.
Both Jews and Christians believe in a Messiah. Christians believe he was here already, in flesh and blood; Jews are still waiting. While both religions believe in a Messiah, both religions have wildly different ideas of what he is here to do.
For Christians, the Christ was the Messiah -- and he came to die to redeem man of his sinful ways. The Christian Messiah is a sacrificial lamb; G-d has a chance to reenact the Abraham/Isaac story, only this time there's no one to tell G-d to stop. And I actually misrepresented Jesus at the beginning of this paragraph: it isn't his death, so much, that redeems the world. It's his resurrection that heralds the promise of an end to sin.
The Jews had (at the time of Jesus), and still have, a very different idea of what the Messiah will do. In Judaic folklore and in rabbinic teaching, the Messiah will come as a powerful warrior to rescue the Jeews and to overthrow all of our enemies. Our Messiah isn't meek like your Christ. He's armored for battle and will set about creating the New Jerusalem.
Another way to think of it? Christian Messiah = Lamb. Jewish Messiah = Arnold Schwartzeneger (without that pesky Austrian business).
You say that 'The Genesis story for Jews isn't about blame or sin', yet the very story is about Adam and Eve disobeying God and being forced to suffer as a consequence - and mankind suffering henceforth for the same reason.
You're begging the question here a bit. You've assumed that Genesis is about "original sin." For Jews, Genesis is a personal "just so" story. Christians see the Genesis story as the beginning of their separation from G-d. They're cast from the garden and from G-d's sight (there's an interesting Christian idea that G-d is blinded to Adam and Eve after they eat of the fruit, since G-d -- whom we've thought of as omniscient -- asks, "Where are you?" after Adam and Eve have hidden themselves. A Jewish reading of this passage, however, is not so mystical. G-d asks, "Where are you?" not because he can't see them, but because, like a parent, he's playing along in hopes that they'll reveal themselves and their transgression to him, rather than having to suss it out on his own. Parents usually would rather a child came to them and said, "I did something," than for a parent to have to come along and say, "Look at what you've done!").
Jews don't see the Eden episode as anything terrible. My Nana Golda says, "With my allergies? You'd want I should spend eternity in a facockta
garden? Veh is mir
!" And her friend Angela says, "And where would I get a bagel and a schmear in this Eden?"
Since Jews aren't trying to be redeemed in G-d's eyes (we are
his chosen people), we don't see the huge spiritual significance that Christians see in the Garden story. "We were in a garden, then we were out of the garden. We were slaves, then we weren't. We were in the desert, then we weren't in the desert. We were in Poland, then, oy gevalt
, the tsurris
we saw." Life, for Jews, was never 100% lovely -- but that's always been fine for us. We've always perservered.
I agree with you completely that Genesis is a history of a people. It's just that, like with most stories told, some untruth creeps in. It's not bad, this untruth. It can make an awesome story. In the case of the Adam and Eve episode, for Jews it simply answered those questions of "Why does childbirth hurt so much if it's supposed to be so helpful to the world?" And "If we were in a frickin' garden
why can't I get my crops to grow so much?" It's nothing to do with redemption or original sin or the fall. As far as Jews are concerned, both Adam and
Eve are equally culpable. We don't villify Eve over Adam. And in some synagogues, it's taught that it was good
what Eve did -- since she showed her own personality and a willingness to seek for knowledge no matter what the cost.
I hope I was more helpful than long-winded -- though looking back over this, I think I was only mostly long-winded.