The holidays of Tishrei with their emphasis on sin, repentance, reconciliation and then joy are behind us. It is time to get back to our "normal" routine and catch up on the many items on our agenda. From a practical point of view the New Year is really beginning and along with it the beginning of the weekly Torah cycle. It is most unfortunate that with all the catching up to do along with the short week (if that) that follows Simchat Torah, Parshat Beresheet is often not given the time and attention it so deserves. Creation, Paradise, Sin, Exile, Sin (again), death, lust, Sin, hope; these are the crucial messages of Parshat Bresheet. In the beginning we must address how these fundamental concepts relate to us as we go about our daily lives.
Unfortunately it does not take long for man to fail to heed the Divine command. Though G-d told him "you may definitely eat from every tree of the garden" man had to choose the one tree that was off limits - we have an aversion to listening to orders. Yet a close reading of the Biblical text shows it is not man's sin per se that causes G-d to punish man but rather man's actions in light of sin. Sinning is part and parcel of life; thus Kohelet tells us that "there is no man righteous in the land who does (only) good and does not sin". One can even gain atonement from grave sins with proper repentance. In fact the book of Amos has as its opening premise the notion punishment for sin is delayed until the sin is repeated so often that it becomes ingrained in our persona. So while Adam violated his one and only command the possibility still existed to avert divine wrath.
"G-d called to man and He said, Where are you" (3:9)? Man sins yet G-d calls out to him in order to engage him in dialogue. Perhaps man will understand that the question was a spiritual one not a physical one. Perhaps man would admit his wrong and grow from his mistake. Perhaps man will long to re-establish a relationship with G-d. Perhaps .but, " I heard your voice in the garden and I was afraid because I was naked, so I hid" (3:10). Man in typical fashion denies wrongdoing and tries to run away from the problems hoping they will go away on their own. This notion of running away in the midst of crisis so bothered our sages that they prescribed the reading of Yonah on Yom Kippur afternoon, demonstrating the futility of running away from our duties. While we recognize how silly it sounds when others try to flee G-d we have trouble recognizing when we ourselves are doing the running.
Yet G-d still leaves the room open for Teshuva . G-d directly confronts man but does not yet punish. "Did you eat from the tree which I commanded you not to eat?" (3:11). A simple yes would have sufficed. "The woman that you gave to be with me - she gave me what I ate from the tree." Okay I sinned but don't blame me, G-d, it's actually Your fault. Had you not created this women I would not have sinned. Besides the inherent chutzpa in talking to G-d like that, the implicit notion that man left on his own would not sin is highly questionable to say the least. Man is not yet ready to face the facts.
Man undoubtedly sins. In fact often it is a byproduct of doing that which is right - we need no better example than that of Moshe Rabbeinu . What makes the Divine image in each of us shine is our reaction to sin. Let us admit it, confront it and remove it. Shabbat Shalom!