Philip Pullman

Dust — Afar — עָפָר (Part II)

This is a continuation of The Golden Compass — Dust

I am pleased to say I could find no relationship between the Jewish concept of dust and Philip Pullman’s Dust. First, more on Philip Pullman’s Dust: it seems that there is some similarity between Pullman’s Dust and Buddhism’s dust. And Pullman will be producing a new book called ‘The Book of Dust’.

And now, back to Breishit for some thoughts on dust or afar(עָפָר):

Rav Frand has a post on the simile of dust :

The blessing of “k’afar ha’Aretz” represents the history of the Jews. Everybody tramples over the dust of the earth, but in the end the dust of the earth always remains on top. That same dust ultimately covers those who trample it.

One can read about Adam being made of clay, which is originally made of dust but then formed to become man in this post on Parshat Breishit:

Man was formed of the dust of every place on earth, and then kneaded into clay—whereas dust is diverse, yet uniform, clay is united.

Balashon has a post on the etymology of the word ‘Africa’, the source of which may be the word ‘afar’.

There is a Jewish concept called ‘avak lashon hara’, or the dust of evil language, but this uses the term avak and not afar. Avak lashon hara generally refers to traces of talk that may incite lashon hara, such as saying excessive praise.

Finally, on this Kol Torah post on Parshat VaYechi, Doniel Sherman explains how “For you are dust and to dust shall you return” refers to burial, in reference to Yaakov’s burial.

The Golden Compass – Dust

The Golden CompassThe Golden Compass, a new movie based on Philip Pullman’s novel, is creating controversy in the Catholic and Christian Right communities. I can’t say I blame them; having read the entire trilogy, his books are quite anti-Church.

That said, I am enamored of his books for the same reason that I adore the Narnia Chronicles (which Philip Pullman disdained). Not only are they great adventure, but the books make you think. About theology. About God. Or god, if you must. About where do we come from, and who is authority. One Conservative rabbi had a comment on how the books encourage b’chirah hafsheet, free choice.

One of the concepts I found intriguing was: Dust. I pulled out my handy-dandy JPS Tanakh and found dust in two pesukim in Chapter 2 of Breishit. What is the Hebrew for dust? I thought “afar” and my husband said “adamah”. It turns out the Hebrew is (Breishit 2:7):
עָפָר מִן-הָאֲדָמָה
afar min ha’adamah
dust from the earth

Then later(Breishit 3:19):
כִּי-עָפָר אַתָּה, וְאֶל-עָפָר תָּשׁוּב
kee afar ata, v’el afar tashuv
For dust you are, and to dust you shall return.

And just as the movie ended abruptly, I will end here abruptly.
To be continued (when I find some interesting insight to the word ‘afar’)…

Read Part II on Jewish Themes of Dust here