In addition to everything that Adam was aware of, there was something else that was crystal clear to him that only complicated matters. Adam knew the answer to the following question:
“… If God created me for the purpose of achieving the pleasure of closeness to Him, why didn’t He just make us close in the first place?”
The answer that Adam knew was –
“… If God would have just given me ultimate pleasure as a freebie, then I would never have been able to truly enjoy it. Just the opposite, I would feel lessened by the fact that I was given something for nothing. Isn’t it true, after all, that we enjoy things far more when we work to achieve them than when they are just handed to us on a silver platter?”
Think of one of those wrinkled dollar bills stuck to the wall of a store with old yellowed pieces of Scotch tape. Now imagine that this store is quite a successful business and that there are two people working behind the counter. One of them is the old man who started the business fifty-five years ago, and the other is his grandson who has only been there for a couple of years. No matter how big a paycheck the grandson may be taking home, he can’t possibly get the same sense of pleasure and satisfaction out of opening up the store in the morning and seeing that old dollar bill that his grandfather gets. His grandfather sees much more than a dollar bill hanging on that wall. He sees years of effort, of ups and downs; he sees the first time his son came to the store with him, he sees the success of building something that could provide a comfortable living for his family, and now he sees a third generation coming into the business. What’s the difference between the grandfather and the grandson? One worked for everything he has, and the other didn’t.
The awareness of this something-for-nothing-just-isn’t-as-pleasurable-principle, only complicated the issue for Adam. Let’s listen in again on his thoughts:
… Okay, so not only am I a helplessly contingent being who God created for the purpose of achieving the pleasure of actual being – by being attached to Him – but He wants me to earn that pleasure because if I don’t earn it I won’t be able to fully enjoy it. Then what does He do? He gives me all this unbelievable ability and potential, couples that with free will, gives me this gorgeous garden to live in, and then tells me … ‘by the way, no saltines …’ The only conclusion I can come to is that somehow the key to my fulfilling the purpose of my existence lies in God’s wanting me to keep away from crackers …
Adam Was Right
The key to Adam’s fulfilling the purpose of his creation (and thereby the purpose of all creation) did lie in God’s prohibition. And once again, this only heightened Adam’s sense of being confronted with a terrible dilemma. Just listen to the poor guy:
“If I listen to what God tells me to do, if I use all my ability and the potential inherent in my freedom to do exactly what God wants me to do instead of doing what I might want to do, aren’t I really squandering my great potential? I mean, if all God wants is a robot to carry out His wishes in this world, why did He have to create just the opposite? Why did He have to create such a talented and independent guy like me when all He wanted was a robot? However, if I do go ahead and play the part of the submissive robot and do whatever God wants me to do – regardless of what I myself may or may not want – then won’t I actually be attaching myself to Him by being His surrogate, so to speak? In other words, if God wants something to happen and He asks me to be the one to make sure it happens, then aren’t I in effect becoming an extension of God Himself? Aren’t I becoming as attached to God as one could possibly become? In that case, I finally would achieve the actual being that I so desperately long for and the pleasure for which God created me. Must be – I shouldn’t go anywhere near that tree.”
But something was still bothering Adam.
“There’s just one problem with all this. It seems that no matter what I choose, I lose. If I choose to listen to God and thereby become attached to Him but become a robot in the process, haven’t I destroyed what God wanted to make in the first place – a free and independent human being? In other words, it just doesn’t seem right that the price for fulfilling my human potential is the undoing of that potential, namely, the undoing of my freedom. How could it be that in order to achieve my purpose I have to destroy my essence? But if I don’t listen to God and instead go off and do my own thing, then that too will only lead me away from my purpose because not only will I not be an emissary of God, but I’ll be ignoring Him altogether. What I will be doing is saying to God, ‘Thanks for this wonderful existence (dependent though it may be) and thanks for the great potential and the freedom to use it, and – so long, I’m off to explore and enjoy the world, and do it my way.'”
* In speaking about the first human beings, Adam and Eve, I will be referring to them collectively as Adam, or Man. This is not meant to slight Eve or any other women who have come since; it’s just a simpler way of doing things. Adam, in our context, means the original, prototypical human being. In truth, the nature of the first human beings is a very deep subject that is dealt with at length in the classical texts and is beyond the scope of this book.
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Shimon Apisdorf is an award-winning author whose books have been read by hundreds of thousands of people around the world. He has gained a world-wide reputation for his ability to extract the essence of classical Jewish wisdom and show how it can be relevant to issues facing the mind, heart and soul in today’s world. Shimon grew up in Cleveland, Ohio, and studied at the University of Cincinnati, Telshe Yeshiva of Cleveland and the Aish HaTorah College of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem. He currently resides with his wife, Miriam, and their children in Baltimore. The Apisdorfs enjoy taking long walks, listening to the music of Sam Glaser and going to Orioles games.
Shimon can be reached at [email protected]
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