When you start looking at the origins of the idea of a replacement child, you find some extremely interesting information. It doesn’t all exactly pertain to the story of my memoir, Replacement Child, but the underlying notion of the child born to replace another, who then lives in the shadow the first child, is a theme that has deep resonance for me.
Just recently, I was clued in to a reference in the Torah to possibly the very first replacement child by my diligent stepson, Rami Schwartzer, who is now studying to be a rabbi at the Jewish Theological Seminary of America.
Here’s what Rami shared with me, that I found to be a fascinating new perspective:
I was reading through a Torah commentary on last week’s Torah portion, Noah, and the author of this commentary referred to Noah as the “Dark Residue.” The Torah recounts the 10 generations from Adam to Noah, beginning with Adam and Eve’s little known 3rd son, Seth. This author, Avivah Gottlieb Zornberg, refers to Seth as a replacement child. He was born after the death of Abel, and forever bore the mark of the tragedy that was Abel’s murder. Interestingly, the Torah chose to make SETH the ancestor of our biblical heroes, not Cain. Why? You might say because Cain was a murderer. Zornberg says it was because people needed to remember what happened. Noah’s generation was one of wickedness (hence, the flood), and Noah himself was witness to that wickedness. He and his lineage are the “dark residue” of the tragedy recorded only briefly in the beginning of genesis, and carried by the lineage of Seth, our first ever replacement child. This offers a unique perspective of replacement child as “dark residue.” It really illustrates the experience of the child whereas other literature might only express the experience of the parents (who, in this case, are silent in the Torah narrative).
Here’s a link to that section of Zornberg’s book, The Murmuring Deep: Reflections on the Biblical Unconscious: