Welcome to a new year of Torah learning. We completed the Hebrew year of 5777 and have now embarked on the year 5778 on the Hebrew calendar which means we start over at the very beginning of the Bible, the first book, Genesis or Bresheit in Hebrew.
Torah reading this week = Genesis 1:1 – 6:8
Haftorah reading this week = Isaiah 42:4 – 43:10
Adam and Eve – the first human beings created by God and placed in a magnificent garden with everything they could ever desire and then some. There was no lack of food and as the earth was perfect then, everything would have had the most exquisite taste and texture.
Yet as we know so well, they sinned and humanity has felt the results ever since. Normally we describe their sin as disobedience for after all, God had clearly told them not to eat of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. The serpent came along, tempted Eve, she ate and then gave some to Adam and he ate as well.
But let’s take a closer look for a moment, shall we? Yes, of course, they disobeyed the direct command of God. But why? Was it really just about an attractive, perhaps fragrant, fruit? Really?
Now the serpent was more crafty than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said to the woman, ‘Indeed, has God said, ‘You shall not eat from any tree of the garden?’ The woman said to the serpent, ‘From the fruit of the trees of the garden we may eat; but from the fruit of the tree which is in the middle of the garden, God has said, ‘You shall not eat from it or touch it, or you will die.’ The serpent said to the woman, ‘You surely will not die! For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.’ Genesis 3: 1-5
Look at that again carefully and think with me. Adam and Eve had everything in that garden that they could ever want, desire or imagine. It was an absolutely perfect place.
Yet the serpent – devious as he was – tempted Eve with the ONE thing that she and Adam did not have and never could have. Look at it again.
The serpent said to the woman, ‘You surely will not die! For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened and you will be like God...’
Do you see it? The serpent went after the only thing he could use to stir up jealousy and envy in Eve. The one thing that she and Adam could never be: equal to God.
We shouldn’t be surprised for do we not read in Isaiah that this same serpent who was once a magnificent cherub in the heavens thought in his heart: ‘I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God, and I will sit on the mount of assembly in the recesses of the north. I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.’ Isaiah 14:13-14
Satan’s attempt to become equal with God was his eternal downfall. Seeing the sweet fellowship that Adam and Eve enjoyed with God as they walked together in the cool of the evening, that serpent was jealous, insanely jealous. He therefore decided to tempt them with the very sin that had caused his own expulsion from the heavens.
But it was a lie – a dastardly, heinous lie – and resulted in their expulsion from the Garden, just as he was cast out of the heavens. Yet have we not continued through the generations to repeat Eve’s regrettable sin? In various ways, we have all sought in one way or another to be ‘our own god’. Does that sound harsh? Well, it is a bit yet it’s the truth. Every time you or I have violated God’s commandments, what we are doing is choosing our own will and way instead of His which is exactly what Eve did and persuaded Adam to do as well.
It’s not politically correct nowadays to talk about ‘sin’. People don’t like to hear that. However, sin is still sin whether you talk about it or not. Whatever the specific action or behavior involved, in one way or another, sin happens when I choose to be ‘my own god’ in opposition to the ways and the Word of the Almighty God of the Universe, our Heavenly Father.
In Tune with Torah this week = as we begin a new year of study in Torah, our very first lesson is this: God is God and we are not! He created you, knew you even before you were in your mother’s womb (Psalm 139), has a perfect plan for your life (Jeremiah 29) and loves you with an unconditional love. The only rational response to such love is to embrace His Word and His ways, to repent when we miss it, pick ourselves up and go on to do better the next time. I dare say that the devil is not our biggest enemy; our stubborn self-will is.