Parshat Bereshit: Genesis 1:1-6:3; Isaiah 42:5-43:10.
This parshah is fundamental. In it, we find: creation, the first man and woman, the first sin, the first repentance, the first murder, the first degeneration of society and much more. Perhaps the most perplexing event in it is the original sin.
God put Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden and gave them everything they needed. God spoke to them and requested only that they not eat from the fruit of one particular tree.
Yet, before their first day was over, they disobeyed God. Why? How can we understand this original error which impacted the world more than any other action in history?
One way to understand Adam and Eve’s mistake is to believe that they thought they knew a better way to serve God. They felt that by simply not eating a single species of fruit, in a place where God’s presence was palpable, was no big deal. They were capable of sacrificing so much more for God. They were willing and able to serve in a world shrouded in darkness, where it would be much more difficult to appreciate the importance of serving Him.
Adam and Eve knew that if they ate from the tree, it would be like turning off a celestial light switch, and God’s presence in the world would become more hidden through sin’s entrance into the world. But they were certain that they could still serve God in such a difficult world; they would be the knights in shining armor, riding through the darkness holding up the banner of godliness.
This was a colossal error. One that continues to challenge. The truth is that when a person thinks like that, he is using his ego and believing that he knows better than God. God had said that I will be at my best doing X, but I say I can do better by doing Y. Actually, we are at our best when we follow what He asks.
The challenge of Adam and Eve is still a challenge. We try to tell ourselves that God did not really mean that we should do what He asked of us in the Torah, or that if He would see the modern world, He would certainly cancel a number of the “outdated” mitzvot. We feel that we can decipher what He really wants of us, even if it is different from what He told us.
If we want to serve God and not ourselves, we have to trust that He does know best and realize that the best way to serve Him is to follow what He asks, not what we think He would have asked. If we do that, we will be able to bring the world back to the utopia that it was before sin arrived.
This article originally appeared in the JN on Oct. 12, 2017.