1: The Biblical stories of Adam and Eve and Cain and Abel.
As with many poems by Dan Pagis, an understanding of certain Biblical allusions can be helpful in interpreting “Written in Pencil.” These passages from Genesis tell the story of Adam and Eve, the first (Biblical) human beings, and of their sons Cain and Abel, the first murderer and murder victim.
Suggested Activity: Read the passages with students. Discuss the following questions: Who were Adam and Eve and what, according to the Bible, is their relationship to every human being? Who were Cain and Abel and what is the importance of their story? Why do you think that the Bible begins with these stories? What lessons do the stories offer?
Source: Genesis 1:27-28, Genesis 2: 18-25, Genesis 4: 1-16, trans. Jewish Publication Society, 1917. Source Sheet compiled by Alexis Aaeng using sefaria.org, 2017.