Bereishit 5758

by Ari Blinder

Parshat Bereshit is a section of the Torah we all know from our days at Sunday school. G-d created the world in six days and rested on the seventh. Adam and Eve were tossed out of the Garden of Eden after they ate the forbidden apple. Cain kills Abel and then, hopelessly, tries to hide from G-d. The Parshah ends with a prelude to the story of Noah and the flood.

We know these stories so well, yet we often fail to look closer to gain a more profound meaning. For my D’var Torah I want to look at the story of Adam, Eve, and the apple again.

The apple came from Ha’eitz hada’at tov v’rah (The Tree of Knowledge of Good and Bad). G-d had warned Adam and Eve not to eat from it saying that “on the day you eat of it, you shall surely die” (Bereshit 2:17). Of course they did not die immediately, but after eating the apple they became mortal beings.

Also it says that after eating the apple “the eyes of both of them were opened and they realized they were naked” (3:7). The apple gave them both mortality and a release from innocense.

The part of the story that most people forget is one of the most interesting. G-d had planted another tree in the center of the Garden of Eden named Ha’eitz Chaim (The Tree of Life). After Adam and Eve ate the apple, G-d banished them from the garden fearing that they might also eat from the Tree of Life and regain immortality (3:22).

The Torah is analogized to a Tree of Life at the end of every torah service: “It is a tree of life for those who grasp it, and its supporters are praiseworthy” (Proverbs 3:18). Therefore, through the study of Torah, we acheive something very similar to eating from the Tree of Life. We don’t become immortal, but we learn the challenges of being mortal. Adam and Eve lost their innocense, but gained the ability to accumulate knowledge. G-d exclaimed, after Adam and Eve had eaten the apple, “Behold Man has become like the Unique One among us, knowing good and bad”(Bereshit 3:22). Through the study of Torah, Man can become even closer to G-d.

Keep this simple lesson in mind when studying Torah throughout the coming year.

Bereishit 5763

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.

Bereishit 5770

by Becky Schisler

October 17, 2009/29 Tishrei 5770

Bereishit, God created the heavens and the earth.

We’re all familiar with the story of creation. We are taught that God created the world in six days & darkness and light the first day, then the heavens, the land and sea, the sun, moon, and stars, animals, humans, and finally, on the 7th day, the Sabbath.

Initially, he created man as a lone being, but deciding that solitude is not good, took a “side” from the man, formed a woman, and married the two. These, as we all know, are Adam and Eve.

The parshah includes Adam and Eve’s partaking of the Tree of Knowledge and subsequent banishment from the Garden of Eden, which leads to a decree that man will experience death, and that all gain will come only through struggle and hardship. The parshah goes on to relate the story of Cain and Abel, and ends with the first mention of Noah, the only “righteous man in a corrupt world.”

As I was reading the parshah this past week, I noticed one reoccurring theme: the difference between humans and animals. Namely, we have intuition, intelligence, and the ability to appreciate God; animals have none of these things. We also have souls – we received the “divine kiss” from God when he breathed life into Adam. Animals did not. All of this reminded me of an incident that happened recently when I was teaching Sunday School for fifth graders at my synagogue.

The curriculum for this particular day must have been pulled right from Bereishit. I was teaching the class the difference between animals and humans, and that the life of a human is more important because our tradition teaches that animals don’t have souls. But when a child insists that his pet dog has a soul, how can I argue? Why would I want to? To me, that’s not what Judaism is about – teaching children that the lives of their animals are of minuscule importance in comparison to ours.

We then got into a discussion about what a soul is. I explained the best I could, spoke of something eternal, of ruach, the light of God inside of you, something that never dies. But how can I teach them something I’m not entirely sure of myself? One little boy offered the analogy that God is like a pizza pie, and a slice of that pizza is inside every one of us.

I liked that a lot. Sometimes, probably more often than we realize, we’re the ones who learn from those we teach.

Just something to think about this week.

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