In the end, Adam chose not to listen to God. Not because he was a bad guy but because he mistakenly concluded that he could best fulfill his purpose by not listening to God. Adam figured like this—
“Since God created me with this vast potential and since He has placed before me only the minor task of tending garden and not eating saltines, it must be that what He really wants of me is to use my freedom to create an even greater mission for myself. In this way, I will become not only an emissary of God, I’ll become His partner. I’ll be joining with Him in creating the mission that will ultimately lead to the fulfillment of my purpose. So, just this once, I’m going to ignore God, create distance between the two of us, and then, having created this distance, I’ll have to really use all my ability to actualize the closeness He wants me to achieve. You see, since it will take much more effort to achieve this closeness by starting from further away, I’ll actually end up earning more of the pleasure that God created me for in the first place.”
So basically Adam thought he could outsmart God, and that was a big mistake.
The problem was Adam didn’t realize how much distance would actually be created by a seemingly small departure from God’s wishes. In fact, the distance that Adam created was disastrous, not only for himself but for the entire world. Adam ended up so far away from God that from that point forward the rules of the game would be radically altered. Adam became a different Adam and the world became a different world because of Adam’s blunder.
Looking back, Adam realized that his original state of being had been perfectly tuned by God to take into account both his free will, his great potential, the need for him to earn his achievements, and God’s desire that he make a choice that would result in the greatest possible closeness and pleasure. He also realized that just as when God created the world it was for us, so too, when He communicates, this is also for us—for our benefit, for our good, and ultimately for creating the pleasure of our closeness to Him. But there was no going back; the situation had changed, and changed for the worse. It was now the descendants of Adam who would inherit the wreckage he left behind. It was they who would now have before them the great task of undoing the damage and ultimately finding a way back to the achievement of God’s purpose for creation.
Easier Said Than Done
The damage inflicted on the world in general, and on humankind in particular, was devastating. When God said to Adam, “… the ground will be cursed because of you and for the rest of your life you will eat of it only through suffering. Thorns and thistles are what it will sprout for you and you will eat grasses from the field. Only by the sweat of your brow will you eat bread: And this is how it will be until you yourself return to the ground because you were originally made from the ground—you are dust—and to this dust will you return,” God was telling him that the essential nature of his relationship to the world, and the world’s relationship to him, had changed.
Remember when we discussed how man was created in the image of God and we saw the verse that said “And God formed the human from the dust of the earth and He breathed into his nostrils the soul of life”? Well, it was that fundamental balance between the body and the soul that Adam had now disturbed.
Prior to his mistake, though he had a body and a soul, Adam had the luxury of not having to be preoccupied with his physicality. His body was there, but its interests and drives and appetites weren’t constantly vying for his attention. All that changed. Now Adam would be constantly immersed in his own physicality and with the earthiness of the world he lived in. In a sense, when Adam became distanced from God, his soul became estranged from its source, God. And at the same time that his soul was losing touch with its source, his body was drawing closer to its source, the dust of the earth. It was this distortion of the essential balance of creation that would make it so difficult for future human beings to become and achieve all that God wanted for them.
From the very beginning of creation, God had the highest hopes for human beings, but the great freedom He had afforded them meant that events wouldn’t necessarily work out according to plan. But God doesn’t give up so easily.
* 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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