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The articles in this issue have been divided up into the following categories







On the occasion of the 30th Anniversary of The Scribe, we reprint selected articles from previous issues.

In the Footsteps of Adam

by Naim Dangoor
Published in THE SCRIBE Issue 55, October 92

The Jewish calendar, Anno Mundi, is supposed to begin from the creation of the world, but it is absurd to pretend any longer that the world was created merely 5753 years ago, and that it will come to a sudden end in the year 6000. New definite evidence of the Creation has just been discovered by astronomers. It shows that the Big Bang which created the Universe took place at least 15 billion years ago, and that the Universe will finally collapse into nothing in about 20 billion years’ time (so much for eternal life!)

In the adjoining article, Rabbi Maller dates the Jewish year from when Adam left the Garden of Eden which makes a lot of sense, as it marks the start of our civilisation and the beginning of history. The period before Adam’s departure from the Garden can cover all the millennia of prehistory. It changes our time scale from the ridiculous to the sublime - Anno Mundi becomes Anno Adam.

Although the Bible begins with the fascinating account of the creation of the Universe and the creation of Time, I have always maintained that the Book of Genesis is essentially the story of our civilisation, with Adam as the hero of that story.

Who was this Adam, where did he come from, where did he go, what did he do and where was the Garden of Eden? Rabbi Maller focuses his attention mainly on what happened in Mesopotamia, but the story begins much earlier.

The retreat of the last Ice Age climate took place some 9000 years ago starting, obviously, in equatorial Africa, and that is where Adam lived. Up until then people subsisted mainly by hunting, but as this became less and less rewarding Adam was inspired to move with his tribe eastward to southern Arabia, which was then uninhabitated and was lush with virgin forests and fruit gardens. The Red Sea was still a lake.

"And the Lord God planted a garden eastward in Eden, and there he put the man whom he had formed". (Gen. 2.8).

Because the weather was not warm enough, it hadn’t started to rain yet – the gardens were watered by mist as Genesis tells us.

Where was the Garden of Eden - Gannat Adam, in Arabic? In Aden, of course, in southern Arabia. Adam spoke a version of ancient Arabic, and is reputed to be buried in Hejaz.

Adam discovers the wild wheat

It was in the Garden of Aden that Adam discovered the wild wheat - an event which was, by definition, the start of our civilisation, as men began to lead a settled life in agricultural communities. In keeping with ancient tradition, the historical Adam was honoured by naming him as the First Man (Adam ha-Rishon). Adam left the Garden to look for watered land suitable for growing the nourishing grain, which takes only a few weeks to grow.

"Therefore the Lord God sent him from the Garden of Eden, to till the ground... In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread..." (Gen. 3:23, 19).

The circumstances that led to the "expulsion" of mankind from the Garden, from a life of ease as gatherers of food to a life of toil as tillers of the ground, made of Adam a persona non grata and of our new condition as the "Fall" from God’s grace. This attitude is further confirmed by the story of Cain and Abel in which God looks favourably on Abel, the hunter and gatherer, and disapprovingly on Cain, the farmer. Cain’s murder of Abel represents the traumatic transition to a new life-style, and the triumph of agriculture over hunting.

"And Cain went out from the presence of the Lord and dwelt in the land of Nod, on the east of Aden". (Gene, 4:16).

It is interesting to note here that one of the opinions in the Talmud mentions wheat as being the forbidden fruit that Adam ate in the Garden. The aphrodisiac quality of wild wheat promoted Adam’s eating of the Forbidden Fruit being associated with the dawn of sexual awareness.

As the earth’s climate continued to warm up, the wades of southern Arabia soon became dry and civilisation had to move northwards to Canaan and Mesopotamia, where the first settled communities were located at the foothills of Kurdistan. Adam’s son Seth is reputedly buried in Mosul.

The Deluge

Then at the time of Noah, 1656 years from Adam, the rains came - forty days and forty nights - which also caused the melting of the ice on the Turkish mountains, which brought about the Deluge in Mesopotamia. Historians often argue whether the Bible borrowed the story of the Flood from Babylonian accounts or vice versa. It was neither. The Flood story was common to the peoples of the Near East.

After the Flood, God said to Noah, "Every moving thing that liveth shall be meat for you; even as the green herb have I given you all things". (Gen. 9:3). Bible scholars are puzzled why the generation of Adam was only allowed to eat fruit and herbs, while after the Flood animal flesh was allowed. In the early days of agriculture all animals were still wild and meat was hard to come by. The place of Noah in the march of civilisation is that he domesticated animals. This is graphically illustrated by the story of the Ark and the zoo that went into it.

Noah, who distinguished between clean and unclean animals, is likewise honoured by naming him and his family as the sole survivors of the Flood.

Adam, the founder of Monotheism

Adam has an even greater claim to fame. He was a great leader and a prophet. He is honoured as such in Islam; but, alas, not in Judaism. The story of his encounter with God demonstrates his belief in the One Supreme Creator. We may infer that Adam started monotheism, and that movement became widespread by the time his grandson Enos was born. "Then began men to call upon the name of the Lord". (Gen. 4:26).

The story of the tree of knowledge of good and evil likewise demonstrates that Adam believed in Free Will - man’s freedom to choose, and that he was not an automaton in the hands of destiny. Adam believed too that man was created in God’s image and having many of His attributes - holiness, wisdom, love, compassion.

The story of the Creation in seven days also demonstrates that Adam and his followers observed the Sabbath as a weekly day of rest, a "back to nature" interlude, when we did not have to work, to cook, to build houses, to weave clothes. A taste of the -good old days", of the bliss of the Garden of Aden of the past, and of the utopian Gan Eden of the future.

Technology points to a life of ease, free of toil and of disease, of simplified food intake and improved human waste, which now pollutes us and our environment!

The rise of idolatry

After the Flood, despots in the mould of Saddam arose, who drank of the violent waters of the Tigris and who promoted the worship of idols and of themselves. But Monotheism survived in pockets in Western Arabia and in Canaan. The Bible abounds with such references. "Noah walked with God. "Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord". "Noah built an altar unto the Lord". (Gen. 6:9, 8; 8:20).

Abraham, a direct descendant of Noah, journeyed from Ur to Canaan where he met Melchizedek, king of Salem (Jerusalem) and priest of the Most High God; the Patriarchs’ encounters with various missionaries of God; Moses’s father-in-law was most probably a believer in God; at Jericho, Joshua met a stranger with a drawn sword who told him, "... as a captain of the host of the Lord am I now come". (Jos. 5:14).

It is wrong therefore to attribute the start of Monotheism to Abraham.

Rehabilitating Adam

It is time to rehabilitate Adam and honour him not only as the father of our agricultural civilisation but also as the founder of Monotheism. When I was eight years old I asked my late grandfather Hakham Ezra Dangoor, if our Patriarch Abraham - Abraham Abinu - had observed the Sabbath. I was told that Abraham had kept the Commandments by "inspiration". In fact, Abraham kept many Commandments by traditions handed down from previous God-fearing ancestors.

Brothers in Adam

Judaism, Christianity and Islam each committed the mistake of trying to obliterate and supersede its predecessors, claiming to have a monopoly of the Truth. In fact, we are all brothers in Adam, who have to recognise and respect each other as equals.


The present Jewish calendar is lunisolar ~ the months being reckoned according to the moon and the years according to the sun. According to tradition, quoted in the name of Hai Gaon of Babylon (d. 1038), the present extremely accurate Jewish calendar was introduced by Hillel II in 358-59 CE. In the Biblical period the reckoning was from the time of the Exodus; then from the erection of Solomon’s Temple, or the beginning of the reign of Kings; then from the Babylonian captivity. In Talmudic and post-Talmudic times, calculation was from the start of the Sellucid era in 312 BCE. Only when the centre of Jewish life moved from Baghdad to Europe did the calculation become Anno Mundi.

Attempts at reforming the calendar and making it symmetrical have repeatedly failed because it would tamper with the 7-day sequence and result in a roving Sabbath.


Dating the Jewish Calendar
by Rabbi Alien S. Maller

Rabbi of Temple Akiba, Calver City, California
Condensed from an article in Dor le Dor,
Spring 1992
Published in Jerusalem by the
Jewish Bible Quarterly

The Christian calendar starts from the birth of Jesus. The Moslem calendar begins with the flight of Mohammed from Mecca to Medina. By analogy, one might expect that the Jewish calendar would start either from the birth of Abraham (the first Hebrew) or from the Exodus out of Egypt (the birth of the Israelite nation). Yet the rabbis in the second century who made up the current Jewish calendar chose Adam as their starting point.

The first Adam represents the beginning of civilised mankind. The exit of Adam from the Garden of Eden symbolises the transition of mankind from a Stone Age state of hunters and gatherers, to the more advanced Bronze Age society of farmers and city dwellers.

When did this take place? The most famous attempt to calculate "the beginning" was that of Irish Bishop James Usher who sets the date for the departure from the Garden of Eden in the year 4004 BCE. The current Jewish calendar is based on the calculation of Rabbi Yosi-ben-Halafta in his second century book, Seder Olam Rabba, by adding the lifespans in Genesis and Exodus. According to him, Adam exited the Garden of Eden and became civilised 3760 BCE (5753 years ago).

There is another way to estimate when mankind became civilised. According to archaeologists, this fundamental development in human evolution first took place in the Tigris-Euphrates valley almost 6000 years ago. The earliest writing discovered so far comes from the Mesopotamian city of Uruk (Erech, Gen. 10: 10) and dates to about 5500 years ago.

By beginning the Jewish calendar with Adam, the rabbis equated human history with urban civilisation and writing. Indeed, all written references to political events in the archaeological records can be dated by the Jewish calendar. The first dynasty in Egypt arose in the 7th century of the Jewish calendar. The first stone pyramid was built in the 10th century of the Jewish calendar and the great King Sargon of Akkad (2371-2316 BCE) lived in the 14th century of the Jewish calendar. Abraham was not born until the 20th century.

While homo sapiens has been evolving for tens of thousands of years, civilised mankind only begins about 58 centuries ago. The Jewish calendar is the oldest in the world. The closest to it is the Mayan calendar, only 26 years behind.**

Nalm Dangoor adds: Considering the Hebrew calendar to start, not from the creation of the Universe, but from the beginning of recorded history, changes our time scale from the ridiculous to the sublime.

The invention of the Hebrew alphabet by Abraham or by his tribe has had a more far-reaching effect on civilisation than the introduction of earlier, crude forms of writing.


Other selected articles from previous issues :

Abraham, Father of the Middle East
Iranian Jewry Celebrates Cyrus
The Cellar Club
The Arabs Will Never Make Peace with Reality

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