Derech Hashem – The Way of G-d 1:3:6
Indeed, Adam and Eve’s gross misjudgment caused a vast and central change in the cosmic reality. For while humankind was to have been comprised of a body and a soul with commiserate leanings toward either righteousness or wrongfulness; and whereas each person was to have been evenly drawn toward both, and given the ability to choose righteousness and align himself with the soul overall and achieve eternal perfection as we’d learned above, that changed when Adam and Eve sinned 1.
Their having chosen wrongfulness affected themselves, us, and the world to a frightening degree 2.
1 See Da’at Tevunot 40, 126, and 158 for an analysis of Adam and Eve’s status before and after their sin, and what would have happened had they not sinned.
2 Let’s not cluck our tongues at them, by the way, and be surprised at how “asinine” they must have been, for they are us. We, too, settle for something that seems to be good at the moment, but which clearly proves not to be that in the end. We accept that in ourselves, simply because we’re “merely human” and “imperfect”, as we put it. Yet, they too were merely human — in the manner in which we depicted it — and proved to be imperfect; and they too thought they were right. It would thus obviously do us well to step back the next time we’re faced with a moral choice.
Nonetheless, they erred, and as a consequence of it the original equibalance of good versus evil tipped toward the side of evil. And it became easier to err, and harder to rectify.
Evil took on a life of its own, it began to grow accustomed to the power it had attained, and has since become entrenched in the world. What would have seemed clearly wrong now seems de rigueur, normal, and just part of human nature. And it has therefore become much more difficult to choose to be good; much harder to abandon our faults and earn perfection.
And whereas once all humanity would have needed to do was to conquer its own tendency for wrong and go on from there, now it must work twice as hard as a consequence of Adam and Eve’s cosmic error. It must not only fight its own battles and win — it must also fight Adam and Eve’s (see 1:3:7 below). This is the crux of the human condition.
Rabbi Yaakov Feldman has translated and commented upon “The Gates of Repentance”, “The Path of the Just”, and “The Duties of the Heart” (Jason Aronson Publishers). His works are available in bookstores and in various locations on the Web.