Hadrash Ve-Haiyun
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by Efraim Levine

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Hadrash Ve-Haiyan


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Adam knew his wife again, and she bore him a son and named him Sheis, because: “Hashem has provided me another child in place of Hevel, for Kayin had killed him.” (Bereishis 4:25)

In the fourth blessing of the shemona esrei prayer we recite “You graciously endow Adam with da’as and teach Enosh, binah.” In this phrase we encounter two different titles for man and two different terms for wisdom. The commentators explain the word Adam relative to Enosh connotes a positive reference to man whereas Enosh connotes the weakness, frailty and mortality of man.

Similarly, the word da’as generally refers to the basic building blocks of understanding whereas the word binah represents a higher level of understanding. Chazal explain this refers specifically to the insight that is gained when one compares one thing to another.

We may note that it would seem proper to match the weaker title for man with the simpler term for understanding and the stronger term for man with the deeper level of understanding. In other words, it would seem that the phrase should properly read “you graciously endow Enosh with da’as and teach Adam, binah? Why are the terms and titles reversed?  

In order to answer this question we must understand the difference between the words Adam and Enosh. The most fundamental difference between the two is that Adam does not have a plural whereas the Enosh does, namely An’osh’im.

Rav Zadok HaKohen explains the word Adam comes from the word ad’am’eh which means “to be similar.” Man is called Adam to convey “ad’am’eh la’el’yon,” I will be similar to the most High, i.e., Hashem.  Man’s name reminds him that his goal in life is to emulate the characteristics and attributes of Hashem. This interpretation explains why the word Adam has no plural. Just as Hashem is One, likewise when man emulates Hashem he achieves a similar uniqueness of being one.

In contrast the word Enosh does have the plural An’osh’im. The singular word Enosh connotes an individual man’s willingness and desire to join others and work together as a team. Indeed, this is man’s weakness. An individual can accomplish very little, it is only through a group or community that magnificent things are achieved and accomplished.  

We may now understand why Sheis named his son Enosh. Originally, Adam’s two sons Kayin and Hevel were not willing to live with each other. From our perspective it is difficult to understand how Kayin could kill Hevel when they were the only people in the world besides their parents and twin sisters. Was the whole word not large enough for both of them to share? The answer is that both Kayin and Hevel strove to fulfill their mission of being created as an Adam. They strove to be similar to Hashem. Just as Hashem is One above likewise they considered themselves one below. However, two kings cannot share the same crown.  Kayin and Hevel thus could not coexist. One had to go. After the death of Hevel, Chava gave birth to Sheis. The posuk tells us that he was to be the replacement of Hevel. What was the purpose of a replacement? Just as Kayin and Hevel could not coexist, it would just be a matter of time before Kayin and Sheis try to kill each other.

In answer to this question the posuk says: “And as for Sheis to him also a son was born and he named him Enosh” (Bereishis 4:26). Enosh connotes man’s willingness and desire to coexist with others. An Enosh has the plural An’osh’im. Sheis acknowledged that to prevent the tragedy of Kayin and Hevel from reoccurring he was to abandon the focus of being an Adam. Man’s new mission was to be an Enosh. Man needs to live in peace togehter with his brother.

This idea further explains why precisely now there was a proliferation of idolatry. The posuk goes on to say “Then, they began to call in the name of Hashem” (Bereishis 4:26). Rashi explains this posuk to mean that at the time of Enosh the proliferation of idolatry began. At this point the focus of man was on the need to work together and build the world. They abandoned the concept of Adam which represented the idea of being similar to Hashem. They acknowledged that on earth there are many men who could coexist peacefully. They began to think that perhaps in heaven there are also many gods that coexist.

We may return to our question as to why we match the term binah with Enosh. The commentators explain the da’as represents the basic building blocks of wisdom. Binah represents a deeper form of understanding. Binah requires one to combine multiple pieces of information and compare them one to another.

One important example of binah is what the Mishna (Avos 6:6) lists in its forty-eight ways with which the Torah is acquired as pilpul hatalmidim, sharp discussion with students. Here, one gains insight through debate and dialogue with another, similar to the understanding one gains by comparing one thing to another. We may now understand that binah, which can only be accomplished through engaging one’s fellow man relates to the word Enosh which also connotes man’s willingness to work together with his fellow man.


© Efraim Levine 5760/2000 - 5764/2003