Shabbat Parashat Bereshit | 5768
The First MistakeHarav Yosef Carmel
Adam was created by Hashem and was put into the Garden of Eden to enjoy it and to serve his Maker. Unfortunately, he sinned by eating from the fruit of a forbidden tree and was, together with his wife, banished from the Garden. We, their offspring, are still paying the price for their sin. Our Rabbis tell us that a mitzva drags along another mitzva and a sin drags along a sin (Devarim Rabba 6). It is therefore worthwhile to see if eating the wrong fruit was the first mistake or whether it was caused by earlier missteps.
Adam was put into the Garden “to work it and to guard it” (Bereishit 2:15). In many contexts, these words are references to positive commandments and negative ones, respectively. And, indeed, the Torah continues that he was told “from all of the trees of the garden you shall surely eat, and from the tree of knowledge of right and wrong do not eat” (ibid.. 16-17). The latter p’sukim may illuminate what it meant to work and guard, from a religious perspective, i.e., a positive commandment to eat and a negative commandment not to eat from the tree of knowledge.
The next pasuk introduces the creation of Chava, who was apparently created after these events. From her discussion with the snake we learn that she was updated as to the regulations of her behavior, but not accurately. Much is said about the fact that she understood that there was a negative commandment against touching the tree, upon which there had been no commandment. Yet, we can also see something else. She did not know of a positive mitzva to partake in the eating of the other fruit. This is no simple matter. The Yerushalmi at the end of Kiddushin says that people will be held to task if they do not bother to experience the permitted enjoyments that Hashem provided us with.
Picking up on this point, the Meshech Chochma says that Chava’s lack of knowledge of the mitzva to eat deprived her of a fulfillment of mitzvot on an ongoing basis. For one who does an action that is a mitzva but is unaware that the mitzva even exists is not credited for it. Had she fulfilled the mitzvot, the rule that a mitzva drags along a mitzva would have strengthened her moral fiber. Instead, the snake found her vulnerable and exploited her weakness.
From the Meshech Chochma’s insight we can learn an important lesson. We should lead our lives with an awareness not merely of what we may not do but similarly of what we may do, as that which is permitted is often what Hashem wants us to do. Stressing the positive in the world, whether in the physical or spiritual realm, would benefit the religious person and also improve the impression that others have of his lifestyle.
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