B’reishit (In the beginning)

B'rieshitGenesis 1:1 to 6:8

In the world God created was a Garden of Eden in which a Tree of All Knowledge was planted. When the fruit of this tree was eaten, was the result a punishment or reward?

And now we go back to the beginning…. In six days God created the universe, our solar system, Earth, and all that lives on Earth.

Then Torah presents a second creation story with more details regarding mankind’s first days. “God planted a garden in Eden, setting the man there whom God had formed. Then, out of he soil, God grew trees alluring to the eye and good for fruit and in he middle of the garden, the Tree of Life and the Tree of All knowledge…. So God took the man, placing him in the Garden of Eden to work it and keep it. God then commanded the man, saying, ‘You may eat all you like of every tree in the garden – but of the Tree of All knowledge you may not eat, for the moment you eat of it you shall be doomed to die” (Gen. 2:8-17)

God created a partner for man… a woman. Both are to live in Eden and, as the above states, both work and keep the garden. All they would ever need is provided. The text states that they were naked. This could signify that they had no need or desire for material objects…. All they needed was provided and they were satisfied.

Then, they disobeyed God’s single commandment – Do not eat of the Tree of All Knowledge. The women took some of the fruit and ate it; then, she gave it to the man… and he also ate it. “Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and, realizing that they were naked, they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves skirts.” (Gen. 3:87)

God was angered and as punishment to woman God said: “I am doubling and redoubling your toil and your pregnancies / with anguish shall you bear children, / yet your desire shall be for your man,/ and he shall rule over you.”

“Now to the man, God said, ‘Because you hearkened to your wife and ate of the tree about which I commanded you saying, ‘Do not eat of it,’ the soil is now cursed on your account. Only through anguish shall you eat of it, as long as you shall live. It shall sprout thorns and thistles for you, when you would eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your brow shall you eat bread, till you return to the earth – that earth you were taken from; / for dust you are, / and to dust you shall return.” (Gen. 3:15-19)

Most interpretations of this story is that the women and man are being punished for eating of the forbidden fruit. But, maybe they are being rewarded by being sent out of the Garden of Eden. (I call them man and women because Eve didn’t get her name until they were out of the Garden of Eden. And Adam is referred to as Man in most of the story.)

In the garden all their needs were fulfilled. All they had to do was keep and maintain the garden. There were no real challenges. There were no desires for material objects. And the text hints at the idea that there were very limited emotions between the man and woman.

Once outside the garden, life becomes harder. But, man – and woman – have challenges to overcome. They have been given desires. They want material objects. They want each other. The text above tells us that the woman shall have “desire” for her man. Mankind can now create … not just tend the world. Mankind has been promoted to become a partner with God. They not only tend the world around them; but, by seeing both the good and evil in the world, they have the opportunity to improve the world.

One contemporary example of this is in the text itself…. Women are give the role of childbearing. Until recently, women spent most of their adult life bearing children to help support the family. As the text states: “God was angered and as punishment to woman God said: “ your desire shall be for your man,/ and he shall rule over you.” In the modern world, this has changed to a great extent. The needs of the household have been lessened. The man does not have to rule over the women. Now women can choose their own lifestyles. Mankind has created a new relationship between the sexes.

Comparing a life where everything is provided… including eternal life from the Tree of Life…. But, without the challenges of our world … the joys of achieving success … the bonds that grow out of mutual help given to others. I think I would choose our world.

For this reason, this author sees the “punishments” for eating from the Tree of All Knowledge as a reward or a promotion. Mankind has the power to see the good and evil in the world as God sees it. Then, mankind has the choice of choosing Life and improving the world in which he or she resides. This choice was not available in the Garden of Eden.

Maybe the Tree of All Knowledge was a test for mankind. Were they ready to make their own decisions? Were they ready to be full partners to God in creating a better world?

Earl Sabes

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