My portion Bereshit is about the creation of the world and Adam and Eve. In my drash, I will not try to argue that there is anything literal about it, but instead look at it as a story, and how some of the themes may relate to real life today. Not only that, but this portion leaves you with many questions and statements that could -and have been- interpreted in many different ways.
There are clearly two traditions in B'reishit. The first is a simple story of G-d's successive creation of light, ocean, dry land, animals, fish, and finally man. G-d is pleased with his creation and rests on the seventh day and sanctifies it to commemorate what he had done.
The second story is the story of Adam and Eve and their expulsion from the Garden of Eden. It contains some new complex and paradoxical elements and ones that need, or at least invite, some explanation. The first of these elements is that of purpose. Man has a specific job to do: Work the ground and protect the garden. Yet inexplicably, G-d makes man in his own image despite the very humble work he has to do. More than that, He gives man stewardship over the animals and regency over the Earth.
In the Eastern part of Eden, G-d plants a garden and places Adam in it. In the center of this garden are two delectable trees: the tree of life, and the tree of knowledge of good and evil. G-d explains to Adam that the garden is full of fruit for his nourishment, but forbids him to taste the fruit of the tree of knowledge saying that death will be the result.
G-d brings the animals to Adam one by one to see what he will name them and to see whether there is a helper appropriate for him, but none of the animals is quite right for the job. So he puts Adam into a deep sleep and creates Eve from some part of Adams body, then wakes Adam and presents Eve to him. Eve then meets the serpent who for reasons not explained, tries to convince Eve to disobey G-d's commandment. Eve succumbs to her inquisitive nature and natural human curiosity, perhaps even resentment towards arbitrary limitations. Eve for reasons also unexplained but probably a combination of her natural human curiosity and her fearlessness, and tastes of the apple. She gave Adam the apple to taste and he did also. Suddenly, they are ashamed of their nakedness, make aprons for themselves and hide from the sight of G-d in the forest. G-d is taking his walk in the garden when he notices that Adam and Eve are missing. He then calls out and Adam admits that he hid. G-d realizes what has happened, and asks Adam whether he has eaten the forbidden fruit. Adam admits but tries to blame it on Eve. G-d then turns to Eve and asks her why she disobeyed him. Eve says that the serpent fooled her into eating it.
Punishment is swift, the serpent He makes the enemy of man kind and forced to crawl on his belly and eat dust. To woman, he brings pain in childbirth and makes her subordinate to Adam. To Adam he brings sorrow and a difficult existence with hard labor. Then to deny him immortality, G-d expels Adam and his wife Eve from Eden so that they will not be able to eat the fruit from the tree of life also. G-d sent cherubs with flaming swords to drive them out of Eden and keep them from the tree of life. The story being told here is an explanation for why if man was created under such favorable circumstances with every possibility of immortality and leisure, he ended up living so wretchedly.
After reading this story, I was left very confused. If G-d doesn't make mistakes, why would he place the tree in the garden in the first place if He meant for Adam and Eve not to eat from it? Why did we have to break the one rule G-d made for us, in order to discover the knowledge of good and evil?
In our culture G-d is regarded as a divine being, all knowing, all powerful and all mighty. But if G-d doesn't make mistakes, why would he put the tree there in the first place. One way to look at it is, G-d does make mistakes, and he should have created humans as non curious beings, so that Eve wouldn't be tempted by her curiosity to eat from the tree of knowledge. Also, he should have never created Evil, such as the serpent, so that way there is no good and evil for Adam and Eve to discover. Why not just let them live in the lap of luxury, eating fruits from other trees, not having to work, and living in total bliss? Or G-d should have never created the tree of knowledge in the first place and we wouldn't have this problem to begin with. But instead G-d did make humans curious as we are, and did create Evil that Adam and Eve later discover, and did put the tree of knowledge in a place where it would tempt Adam and Eve. But instead of thinking of it as G-d making mistakes, I think of it as something G-d did intentionally. I think G-d wanted Adam and Eve to discover the tree and to have free will and the knowledge of good and evil.
By introducing the serpent to Eve, I think G-d wanted Eve to disobey. If He wanted mankind to be perfect, G-d could've made it that way but chose not to. Why would he want to create a people that has already learned all their lessons and has no desire to discover and question things and change their world? He didn't. He wanted human beings to thrive, to be happy to live good lives. But only after pain and hard lessons learned, could human beings truly be this way. Doesn't succeeding in life feel better when you worked hard to get there? If everything was handed to you, and served on a silver platter, I feel that it wouldn't be as enjoyable. Things don't always go right, so that when it does go your way you wont take the good times for granted and appreciate them when they're there. My Batmitzvah for an example. I was late to lessons, I almost always forgot to study, and for the most part was a terrible Hebrew student. I had to juggle school work, family life, and learning Hebrew, that was, up until a year or so ago, completely new to me.
At first I was dedicated, and showed up regularly to my tutor Efrat's house, studying hard in between lessons, and waking up at nine every Sunday, which for any teenager isn't easy. But then, as I started to care more about my social life than anything else, my grades, my Hebrew, and my attitude started to get worse. By then I was studying with my Torah teacher Judy Massarano and at first all was well. Though as time went on, just like everything else in my life, Hebrew and my Torah studies fell into the pattern of slacking off, waiting to the last minute, and simply not doing it. Right now I probably come across as any old teenager, who refuses to listen to anyone but themselves. Though I have to admit, I was a little bit of a troublemaker, most of my tension, sadness, and lack of motivation was tied to my problems at home.
My father was diagnosed with Parkinsons in 1992. For as long as I've been alive, my memories of him have included his tremors, his dyskinesia and his poor health. My earliest memory of him was him coming home after his deep brain stimulation, with a shaved head and stitches where the incision was. As I look at pictures, we are almost exactly identical, blonde curly hair, blue eyes, the same curved nose. But now his hair has grayed and thinned. His blue eyes, hidden beneath sadness. The same sadness that mine are also hidden under.
But if you sit down and talk to him, and you look below the surface, you no longer see a Parkinsons patient. You see a man, smart and ambitious, always striving to do the best for other people. You see a man, who has taught me to always put other people before myself. And that being pretty, or being popular isn't always the thing that matters the most. You see a man, that has taught me more things about life than any book, any lesson or any experience could ever teach me. You see the same man he always was. You see my dad.
In a way me and my dad relate to the story of Adam and Eve. My dad knows that by protecting me from the truth, and simply handing me everything I need, I will not be able to succeed in life. Though, like G-d, he challenges me to look deeper, to question the things around me, and to question myself. Like G-d wanted Adam and Eve to learn, I realized that life isn't always what you want it to be, and you have to work hard to be successful. By G-d punishing them, they then had to work and could finally appreciate things when they go right, because Adam and Eve would know that things didn't always work out. Life isn't one big present, the contents exactly what you always hoped for, the outside wrapped perfectly with a big ribbon tied at the top, kind of like the garden of Eden, perfect, everything Adam and Eve ever wanted. Instead it's more like a cardboard box labeled The Real World, the contents all jumbled up from being thrown around so much and not dealt with carefully.
Bereshit, literally meaning the beginning, is the beginning of the story. Like my life, though I have learned some, there is still so much for me to learn. Not only is this a story of creation of the Earth, but it is a story of the creation of human beings. Human beings and their feelings, their rights, their ability to question authority, these are all things that make them human as we understand humanity today. When G-d first created Adam and Eve, he did not create humans. I believe that only when G-d had them discover joy and sorrow, pain and happiness, and good and evil did they truly become human.