This week's Parsha is Parashat Bereshit, the first parsha in the Torah. Bereshit in Hebrew translates to “In the beginning”, and the book is called “Genesis” in English. The Parsha tells us the well-known story of the world’s Creation by G-d in six days. G-d ends his creations on the seventh day and deems it a day of rest.
On the sixth day G-d created Adam and Eve. They are placed in the garden of Eden with one simple command: Not to eat from the tree of knowledge, However, a serpent convinced Eve to eat from the forbidden fruit and she shares it with Adam. Because of this action, they are punished by eventually returning to the soil that they came from in the form of death and that all earnings or benefits are obtained through hardship and struggle. They are also banished from the Garden of Eden.
I saw something interesting on the Chabad site regarding this particular story: commentators explain that the arguments of the serpent parallel the tactics our own selves to entice us to act wrongly. Through exploring the serpent’s arguments and actions, we’ll also gain a better understanding of the workings of the Yetzer Hara - our evil inclinations or negative motives and thoughts.
Let us see two examples: The Talmud points out that G‑d commanded Adam and Eve not to eat from the Tree of Knowledge. Yet, Eve told the serpent that G‑d had commanded them not to eat and not to touch the tree. Although G‑d commanded Adam not to eat from the tree, Adam rationalized that by not touching the tree, they would be prevented from eating from it. So when he repeated the command to Eve, he added that G‑d said not to touch it. Hearing Eve’s words, the serpent showed her that nothing would happen if she touched the tree—and so nothing would happen if she also ate from it. This, the Talmud explains, teaches us that whoever adds to the Torah ends up subtracting from it. By adding a prohibition to G‑d's prohibitions, Eve ended up eating from the forbidden fruit. So the message is - adding too many restrictions will inevitably lead to their violation.
A Chassidic explanation suggests that Adam and Eve knew that their life in the Garden was meant to be an ongoing expansion of divine consciousness. By suggesting to Eve that perhaps all the fruits were forbidden, the snake was trying to subtly plant in Eve’s mind the idea that perhaps G‑d was not letting them use every available means to make this His world. “If He has denied you this fruit, He may as well have denied you all fruit!”
Thus, the snake convinced Eve that he knew better than G‑d Himself how to accomplish G‑d's ends. This is another way the Yetzer Hara usually works. It does not (initially, at least) attempt to convince us to sin, for we as humans are logical thinkers and would refuse. It instead convinces us that transgressing G‑d's express will is a shortcut to accomplishing G‑d's true purpose. The message from this - it that not all means are Kosher, even if it's for the greater good.
Now that we know why Eve listened to the snake, we can be more aware of the wily tricks of our own cunning snake, and refuse to be drawn into temptation.
Hiram, Grade 11