Some of you have experienced the joyous questions my son asks and to which I have no answers. To remind you, we have so far encountered:

Which came first, dinosaurs or Adam and Eve?

Is God made of atoms?

Today I was asked who the third person on our planet was. “You mean ever?” “I mean, after the first two.” “Adam and Eve?” “Yes.” “The third person was Cain, their son.” “But was there a girl?” “I don’t know, I think so.” “Because, even if there was a girl, was she Cain’s sister?” “I don’t know, son.” “No, seriously Dad, if you only have one woman and one man, and then they have a son, how did other people get here? Did God make other people?” “It doesn’t say so in the Torah, son, so I don’t know.”

Massive look of disappointment at his father who can’t answer the question behind the question.

Any ideas?

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  • The days of Adam after he fathered Seth were 800 years; and he had other sons and daughters. (Gen 5:4)

  • The Torah’s info is contradictory; Cain fears to get killed in exile, which suggests it was assumed other people were living in other places.

    I’d be quite frank about it and say it as it is, i.e. there are stories in the Torah with which people tried to explain the world they lived in. There are two stories of creation, both stress a different aspect, but the consensus of both is that god created this world in its entirety. Make it a game, have your son explain a somewhat “complex” matter as he would to a younger child to make him get an idea of that sometimes people explain matters in simple terms if they are too elusive or complicated for them to grasp. As an initial reply, I suggest the time-proved question, “What do you think how it happened?”

  • (I don’t know how old your son is, but I suppose you’d like to spare him the notion of incest and the lame excuse of genetic purity and perfection.)

  • The bible doesn’t exclude God from having made other men and women at the same time as Adam and Eve (either pre- or post-lapsarian); only theirs was a story worth concentrating on.

    Actually, a number of commentaries tackle this question as well. Crack open the books!

  • *If* you believe in evolution and that the Torah isn’t a precise historical account, then tell him. I think it is ridicules that schools teach all Torah (and worse yet, midrash) as historical fact and then later on tell students that it isn’t quite that way.

  • Incest and genetic defects are not on the table.

    We haven’t had a discussion about the veracity of the Torah. I think he has some doubts because this question was not as innocent as his earlier ones. In fact, while the earlier questions about dinosaurs and whether God is made of atoms were genuinely inquisitive and sought to understand something challenging, in this instance I had the impression he was questioning the entire story.

    Yehuda, I hear ya, but the story in the Torah is about Adam and Eve as the very first human beings. There’s no mention of anybody else at the beginning in Genesis 1 and in chapter 2, you also don’t really get the impression there is anybody else. I like your explanation and it may be the one I give him, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s skeptical.

  • You can bet that GOD didn’t make more than two people as all are descended from these two.

    I understand Sarah to be a half-sister of Abraham, Gen 20:11-12 and incest to only become incest with Lev 18:6-18.

  • Middle, I’d always start by finding out what his thoughts are and then take it from there. I’ve repeatedly seen kids come up with pretty clever answers by themselves.

  • I asked the exact same question to my Rabbi when we first learned this in elementary school. His answer was that God had created others after Adam and Eve. Makes sense to me.

  • themiddle, I’m betting it’s a bet you’ve already made, whether you realize it or not, although given the tenor of this post I’m also betting that your chips are on one team or another!

  • Middle’s son shows again how right Nabokov was when he had one of his characters say, curiosity is insubordination in its purest form.

    I think froylein’s right. Maybe now, maybe in a question or two down the road, you’ve got to articulate how Scripture should be read and understood. It sounds like you want a quick and easy, literal answer now to put off just this discussion.

    But that pesky kid of yours is probably onto you already.

    (Perhaps, however, God anticipated just these kinds of parenting moments when He created Playstation.)

  • Satmar has got summer camps, Tom. Not unusually, unmarried men (bochurim) are sent there even if they should be in their ripe early twenties already – keeps them out of trouble and costs the parents an arm and a leg.

  • The traditional answer is that Cain was born with a twin girl, and Abel was born at the same time as two other girsl (triplets). According to one telling of the story, Cain and Abel were actually fighting over who would marry the ‘extra’ girl. Cain claimed the right as the first-born, and Abel claimed the right b/c she was born with him. So yes, incest.

  • adam and eve were the 1st people created by g_d but that does not mean they were the only people created this way otherwise we would all be short or have an extra chromosone if you know what i mean