Weekly Torah Commentary — Beresheit/ Genesis October 17, 2014

Genesis 1:1 – 6:8

In less than a single 24 hour day, humanity fell from grace to disgrace, from innocent utopia to banishment; from sheltered existence to the harsh grind of reality.

Genesis 2: 16-17 And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”

Notice that this commandment was addressed to ‘the man’, to Adam. Eve (Chavah in Hebrew) had not yet been created. Therefore, it was Adam who had to have related God’s command to Eve about the tree of knowledge of good and evil.

Now notice what God said: ‘…you shall not eat…” God did not say ‘you shall not touch…’ However, it’s not far fetched to assume that touching it would greatly increase the likelihood of plucking it from the tree and eating it!

Genesis 3:1-5  Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.'” But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

There were two trees in the Garden of Eden that stood apart from the rest of the trees, shrubs, plants and herbs: the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil and the Tree of Life.

There was no prohibition against eating from the Tree of Life nor from any other form of vegetation in that garden paradise.  God is Life, the Author and Giver of Life.  The Torah is also called the Tree of Life.  To feed on the Words and Wisdom of God on a daily basis is to enjoy true Life.  That was the menu God gave to Adam and Eve in the Garden and it would have yielded an eternal, perfect life.

The one thing – the ONE SIMPLE restriction – forbade them to eat of the knowledge of good and evil.  You would think that in a perfect and abundant atmosphere such as they were in, it would be a simple thing to avoid just one tree!

But something much bigger was at stake.

Knowledge, like many things in life, can be wonderful; and it can also be deadly.  Great knowledge can lead to great pride and arrogance which destroys a relationship with God; and indeed, often with others as well.

To “know” God and to “know” His Word is first and foremost a matter of the heart and the spirit.  Intellectual knowledge, represented in the Garden of Eden by the Tree of the knowledge of good and evil, is a poor substitute for ‘knowing’ Him, the Holy One of Israel, the Almighty, Everlasting One; the One Whose will has always been to dwell among His people.

Don’t misunderstand me; I am not anti-intellectual; university degrees are filed in my desk drawer.

But I am very much against knowledge for knowledge’s sake rather than for the purpose of deepening a personal, vibrant and growing relationship with Avinu Malkeinu, our Father, our King.

At Sinai, it was not a university that the God of Israel established; but a community of people whose destiny was to become a living sanctuary, a breathing Temple of His presence in this earth through an ever growing relationship with Him.

When Eve took that first bite and then enticed Adam to follow her example, intellectual reasoning based on appearance had its first devastating conflict with a loving Father Whose desire was intimate relationship: the fruit of the Tree of LIFE.

In Tune with Torah this week = As we begin a new cycle of studying God’s Torah, let us set our intent correctly.  Let each week’s reading and commentary be as fruit plucked from the Tree of Life creating in our souls a deeper hunger for God’s presence and a deeper passion to order our lives according to His ways.

Shabbat Shalom


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