Bereishit, our extraordinary parsha of our Creation Myth, is the basis for many philosophical principles and psychological foundations that our tradition relies upon. There is no doubt that the Torah posits free-will as a pillar that makes moral striving within our reach. And yet, the first human being, Adam, is not able to exercise his free will to choose to adhere to the first request of G-d not to eat from the Tree of Knowledge. It would appear that just appealing to a human being’s ability to do the right thing by exercising one’s free will, seems insufficient. Quite often, the more often we exhort a person to ‘do good’, s/he does the opposite. This insight is important if we wish to educate the character of others effectively. Just telling another to ‘do good’ will not work. We must inspire them with images of spirituality, which reach their souls, if we want them to ‘do the good.’ Because of the Yetzer Hara, the Yetzer Tov will fail as often as it will succeed. As the Torah says, ‘Yetzer lev Adam Ra B’Niurav. (The inclinations of the human heart are evil from youth” (Bereishit, 8:21). However, the Torah also says, ‘Halo Im Tativ Se’eit'( If you lift yourself up, you will succeed” (Bereishit, 4:7). You must ‘lift up’, BE UPLIFTED, in order to succeed.
We might wonder what was wrong with eating from the Tree of Knowledge in the first place. Our Sages suggest that there was nothing inherently wrong in eating from the Tree of Knowledge, the seeking of knowledge is honorable. However, the mistake was eating from the Tree before the Sabbath, before living through a spiritually inspirational experience that would make the search for knowledge a search in enhancing the glory of G-d. Thus, G-d wanted Adam to wait before eating from the tree. Our Sages suggest that the difference in Adam’s consciousness after he ate from the Tree is that his bodily consciousness, the desire to bring pleasure to the body, transformed the state of truth from absolutes to subjective pursuit of pleasure. Thus, it was important for him to retain the inspirational image of the Sabbath to ward off pursuits of pleasure that did not lead to the enhancement of the Glory of G-d. If indeed Adam would have eaten from the Tree of Life first, then knowledge from the Tree of Knowledge would have led to greater awareness of G-d, but eating from the Tree of Knowledge first, led to subjectivity, knowledge disconnected from the Primordial Light, and different kinds of disparate truths (rather than a unified perception of the Presence of G-d in all) emerged. It became a narrow search for truth leading to many insights through art and science, but not to the unified perception of the Presence of G-d in all.
Let us be blessed in our AJRCA education, and in our homes to imbibe from the Tree of Life this Shabbat that brings inspiration and the will to uplift our world with the gifts we have received.