Judaism - sacred stories including parables

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The Jewish people have always used stories in order to convey principles they wanted to impart.

The Jews have retained a number of stories concerning the beginnings of the world and of humanity. Some of these stories have been borrowed and adapted from other peoples in the Near East, and given a distinctive Jewish colouring.

In two separate stories, the Jewish people described Creation. The first told of a vast abyss of chaotic waters into which Yahweh (Jewish name for God) had brought order; he had fashioned a light-filled earth on which human beings could live. The he adorned the earth with vegetation, animals, and finally the pinnacle of all creation - the human person. The first human was both male and female.

The second story was of a different type. It began not with watery chaos but with a desert, barren and trackless. Creation took place when Yahweh introduced water to the desert, so making clay.

The Yahweh fashioned a human being, Adam, from the clay. The lone human being was set up to review all the animals that God has also fashioned from the earth, but in none of them did he find a soul mate. So God caused a sleep to come over Adam, and a rib was removed from him and was fashioned into a woman.

This story is a beautiful image of what human beings should be - perfect and fulfilled. The Jews, however knew that people were not like that, so they handed on a series of other myths which explained why life was not so perfect as the creation stories would maintain.

The first of these 'sin stories' was of Adam and Eve in the Garden. They had been forbidden to eat the fruit of one of the...