Posted on March 23, 2011
by Stuart Glazer
I’m certain that nearly every Jew has heard the story of the Garden of Eden. Whether in glittering liveliness by a Hebrew school teacher, or in descriptive accuracy from a Chumash by a rabbi, nearly everyone has been told how the snake convinced Chava (Eve) to eat the forbidden fruit and how she then passed it right along to Adam. Then, as He always does when someone disobeys him, God becomes quite angry and punishes the three of them.
God may seem occasionally off base in later books of the Torah, but here He seems downright crazy! If God didn’t want Adam and Chava to eat this forbidden fruit, why did He place the tree of knowledge in the garden in the first place?
It reminds me of a contrast between the common child raising methods of today and those that were employed by Native American mothers. Energetic toddlers are likely to attempt any number of not exactly brilliant stunts, including touching a host stove, drinking foaming, green liquids, and trying to fly. The reaction of most mothers would involve physically removing the child from harm’s way. Native American mothers adopted a somewhat different approach. If a mother noticed her child attempt to play with the cooking fire, she would leave out a few hot rocks. When the curious toddler started towards the rocks, the mother would suggest not touching them because they were hot. The child would usually touch the rocks anyway, learning early in life that Mom is always right.
With Adam and Chava, God could see that they were going to eat from the tree and was perfectly capable of stopping them. But He didn’t. Instead, he allowed them to exercise their free will and then learn from the consequences.
As God created the world, each day he looked at his creation and saw that it was good (except for the second day). Hopefully we will also be able to look at the results of our actions and see that they are good. However, God will not stop us from carrying out our decisions. Rather it is our job to look ahead at the consequences and act accordingly.