"Bereishis" is the First Installment of Rabbi Shmuley's Continuing Weekly Torah 5775 Parsha Series
In this week's Torah Reading -- Bereishis -- we reembark on the annual cycle, returning to the very beginning of the Bible, Genesis. Our story begins with the world's creation in its seven wondrous days, but soon devolves into the story of Adam and Eve, their sin, and the descent of their world from a Garden of Eden into its harsher, darker form.
For the world's holiest book, it feels like a pretty pessimistic way to kick off.
To take it further: At the start of Genesis, there are three central characters -- Adam, Eve, and G-d who created them. However, by the end of its first chapters, all three seem to be frustrated and dissatisfied. In a certain light, they seem entirely tragic.
The Torah tells us why. All three of them had essential needs, needs that became dominant. In the end, though, none would feel their needs satisfied.
Let's begin with Eve.
She is clearly unhappy. The biggest proof: she's seduceable. Happy women are never prone to seduction. Eve's lack of fulfillment makes sense, too. Eve was the first woman, but in so being there was one critical need that would always elude her. You see, while her husband could love her, cherish her, and prize her-- he could never choose her. And ultimately that being chosen is what a woman most wants. After all, it's not love alone that compels a woman to spend the rest of her life with someone. If that were the case, women would never leave home, where they're showered with unconditional love from their parents. But they do leave home, because they don't just want to be loved, they want to be chosen. And choseness is the one gift that your parents can never give you. To Eve, Adam loved her because she was all there was. There was nothing in his love that could make her feel special and unique.
In her brokenness, she seeks distractions. Seeing that she'll never attain her core needs, she seeks to forget them, searching for fulfillment elsewhere, the forbidden fruit, much the way many people do in consumerism. In her case, it would be a fruit that would have serious consequences.
Likewise, Adam feels empty. Like any man, his essential need is to be essential -- to fill some vital role. Men spend their lives proving their usefulness, usually through productivity. Men find validation through what they do. They prove their worth through indispensable function. But in the Garden of Eden, there was nothing he was needed for. Food was provided, clothing wasn't needed, and there was no danger from which to protect. He felt redundant, and for a man few things are more painful.
As a result, when his wife said to him, "I need you to eat this fruit," he does it immediately.
Then there is G-d, and he too has an essential need. He does not ask Adam and Eve to love him, fear him, or offer him sacrifices (all of that would come later). All he asked was that they follow his one wish, and not eat from the Tree of Knowledge. In short, G-d demands obedience.
G-d's message to humanity is this: I realize that you might sometimes feel depressed and lonely. But you still can't commit adultery. No forbidden fruit. There is a law. It is my law, the moral law, and you must obey it.
I recognize that you claim that you are humiliated at Israeli military checkpoints (and they respond that they are necessary to stop terrorism). But you still can't blow up buses. There is a law, Do not murder.
As simple as it may have been, Adam and Eve failed to follow G-d's one directive. They failed to live up to G-d's one need, to be obeyed. Thus, G-d too was left in frustration, banishing them from the Garden of Eden.
This all seems bleak, yet there is a very important message within it. The true sin of Adam and Eve involved more than just eating a fruit. It had also to do with their motives. Adam and Eve, as we've mentioned, both felt broken and unfulfilled in their lives. However, beyond causing them to sin, their sense of pain also stood as its legitimization. Their waywardness was excused by their wounds .
Today, this logic is a flaw that we see in many religious extremists. They feel their faith has been put down and humiliated. They feel a sense of national pain. However, they allow that sense of pain to supersede the law. They will murder and terrorize all in the name of their faith. In their eyes, the grim conditions set upon them are a sturdy justification. However, what G-d tells us in Genesis is that nothing abrogates the law. Not even the greatest pain. G-d's law is final, and never stands to question.
When he says, "Thou shalt not steal" it means even in Victor Hugo's dramatization of a hungry man who feels absolutely justified in stealing bread. The law must be upheld. It is the truth and remains so always.
No matter what the situation, the laws and values that G-d bestowed upon mankind must be his eternal guide and code.
Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, "America's Rabbi," is founder of This World: The Values Network, the foremost organization influencing politics, media, and the culture with Jewish values. The international best-selling author of 30 books, he has just published Kosher Lust: Love is Not the Answer. This is part of regular series on the weekly Torah reading. Follow him on Twitter @RabbiShmuley.