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October 24, 2003 - Image 64

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2003-10-24

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Torah Portion




Was There A Silver Lining
In The Exile From Eden?

Shabbat Bereshit:
Genesis 1:1-6:8;
I Samuel 20:18-42.


The serpent directly contradicts
God; and the first question asked by
the rabbis and by us is, "Who is cor-
rect and who is not?" The answer is
that God's statement is wrong and the
hapter three in the Book of
serpent is right! When the man and
Genesis is one of the best
the woman eat of the fruit they do not
known stories in our Bible
"deadly die on that day" and their eyes
and may be the most widely
are opened to the difference between
known in all of literature.
good and evil. And interest-
The setting is simple: a
ingly, nowhere does
beautiful garden, lush and
Scripture call this a "sin"!
peaceful. "The Lord God
Our rabbis wrote that eat-
planted a garden in Eden ...
ing the fruit from the Tree of
[with] every tree that was
Knowledge provided human-
pleasant to the sight and
ity with moral discrimina-
good for food, with the Tree
tion. We were able to tell the
of Life in the center of the
difference between right and
garden and also the Tree of
wrong, good and bad.
Knowledge of Good and
RABB I JOSEPH Indeed, it was not until we
Evil." (Genesis 2:8-9)
ate of that fruit that sin even
'And the Lord God com-
became a possibility!
Spe cial to the
manded the man, saying,
This raises an interesting
Jew ish News
`You may freely eat of every
dilemma: If the man and
tree of the Garden; but as for
woman had not eaten of the
the Tree of the Knowledge of Good
fruit, we would be no different than
and Evil you shall not eat from it, for
any other animal — existing and func-
on that day you will certainly die!'"
tioning through instinct. There would
(Genesis 2:16-17) And then comes the
be no sin and no atonement, no right
and no wrong.
Unfortunately, our reading of this
So, was it God's plan for us to live
story is colored by the theological
forever in the Garden, or to grow out
interpretation of the early Church,
of it? It all becomes quite confusing —
which proclaimed that because the
God tempts the man to be just like
first man and woman disobeyed the
God, as God tells him that he shoilld-
express commandment of God, ate of
n't be!
the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge and
And then God rejects the man and
were therefore banned forever from
woman after they achieve what we
the perfection of the Garden — so all
think is an admirable acquisition —
men and women born into this world
the ability to differentiate between
carry that original sin.
good and bad. Perhaps what is
But that's not how we read the
assumed to punishment is really the
story! What is it that God tells the
reward — and that exile from the
man about the Tree of Knowledge?
Garden is not damnation but is heav-
Byom ach - lecha mnzenu — "on the day en itself!
that you eat of it", mote yamute —
"you will deadly die." The force of the
warning resides "on.the day," and the
caution is very clear that eating of the
fruit will cause the man's immediate
Yet 12 verses later, the serpent says
What would we be like if Adam
to the woman, "If you eat of it you
and Eve had. never "eaten the
will not 'deadly die,' for God knows
fruit"? Though they did disobey
that in the day you eat of it your eyes
God, isn't it true that not until
will be opened and you will be as
they'd eaten the fruit did they
gods, knowing [the difference
know that disobedience was a
between] good and evil." (Genesis 3:4-
"bad" thing? Without the knowl-
edge of good and evil, how can
Joseph Klein is rabbi of Temple
humanity choose to do mitzvot?






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