Thursday, May 21, 2009

Review of lesson three:

Thank you for joining us for our third lesson of Biblical Reflections: Finding Yourself in the Book of Genesis. Here’s a quick recap:

A. The Downfall and Cover-Up

The forbidden fruit opened the eyes of Adam and Eve to the experience of the external and the physical. As a result, they felt ashamed, a consequence of the soul’s discomfort with the body’s potential to pursue its own desires. To alleviate these unpleasant feelings, Adam and Eve wove “aprons” from fig leaves to cover their nakedness.

But clothing can serve other purposes besides merely covering up what we do not want to reveal. Clothing can also serve to adorn and to beautify. Through their instinctive covering of their bodies, Adam and Eve showed sensitivity to their weakness and a desire to rectify their sin. So G-d crafted form them fitted shirts from fine animal skins as a symbol of their restored worthiness.

B. Consequences

Through their error, Adam and Eve set into motion irrevocable changes in the nature of their interaction with the world and with each other. While these changes are often perceived primarily as punishments, they are also the natural consequences of eating from the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge.

Adam, for example, was forced to start working the land and foraging. Due to the sin, the world became coarser, for good and evil became mixed and intertwined. Although humans were given the task of elevating the G-dly sparks within creation, the sparks within edible vegetation were now harder to reach and purify. If humans would extract food from the land too easily, they would become arrogant and self-indulgent. Therefore, the land now needed to be tilled and cultivated. The challenges in earning a livelihood and bringing for the earth’s produce would induce feelings of humility, thereby making people more sensitive to G-d and more suited for purging the evil that was introduced through the sin.

Eve’s punishment, difficulty in childbirth, was also a consequence of the world’s transformation. Birth marks the marriage between body and soul. Now that body and soul became less synchronized, birth also became a more strenuous and painful process. The relationship between husband and wife complicated. Man and woman previously functioned in union, but after the sin, they lost their natural balance.

The serpent’s curse consisted of being forced to crawl on its belly and eat dust. Since the serpent had attempted to hijack spirituality for its own purposes, it was condemned to live devoid of the need to turn to G-d.

C. G-d’s Perspective

It is a mistake to surmise that the sin set the world off course. Both good and evil are divine creations, and both are imbued with a deeply rooted divine essence. Evil opposes divine will, but only because G-d wills it to do so. Kabbalah gives the analogy of a king who asks a woman to attempt to seduce his son in order to test the strength of son’s character. Just as the woman’s actions are conducted in the service of the king, Satan does his work in order to fulfill G-d’s plan.

Sin contains a hidden goodness that is normally inaccessible, shackled behind unbreakably hard shells of evil. However, a person who sins and repents is able to release these hidden sparks of goodness, for sometimes the sin is itself the impetus to turn away from evil and come close to G-d.

Eve recognized this hidden benefit of evil, though she grossly underestimated the power of evil to swallow goodness in its wake. Women light Shabbat candles as a means of rectifying Eve’s sin, transforming darkness into light.

Next week, we’ll examine the next generation, Cain and Abel, the two sons of Adam and Eve. Each coped with the expulsion from Eden quite differently, and they found themselves locked in a gruesome battle. We’ll evaluate the two conflicting worldviews and their underlying lessons.

No comments:

Post a Comment