The two trees in the middle of the Garden of Eden is the introduction to the Bible’s central concern with how human beings (Adam) should live their lives morally and spiritually. Adam (Homo Sapiens) and Eve the ‘mother of all who live (morally) (Genesis 3:20) are the two archetypes of human beings, who were created to be in the ‘Image of God’. (Genesis 1:26)
Thus, it is of vital importance, especially on Mothers Day, that we understand the two trees in the Garden of Eden allegory correctly.
Was Adam’s first sin in the Garden of Eden: disobedience, rebellion, ungratefulness, and lechery; or something entirely different? A surprising answer is offered by a Polish Hassidic Rabbi, Mordecai Yosef Leiner, (1801-1854) who started the Izhbitza-Radzyn Hassidic dynasty in 1839.
Rabbi Leiner states in his Torah commentary (Mei HaShiloach) that the mistake the archetypal Adam made, which led to his sin, did not come from his bad impulse, but came from his good intention; and his great desire to be good.
When Adam was restricted from eating from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, he became very apprehensive and agitated because he thought: “God only prohibited me because God knows I am deficient.”
This extreme kind of self accusation perfectionism is not a good state of mind to enable humanity to live good and holy lives.
This state of mind would make it impossible to even think that human beings could actually be partners with God in a Holy Covenant.
This is original sin guilt; a psychology the Torah and the Talmud reject.
Then Adam remembered that God had said, “It is not good for mankind to live alone, I will make a help mate for all males” (ezer kenegdo).” (Genesis 2:18)
Adam thought that when God created Eve from his side, putting her by his side to be his (ezer kenegdo) helper, it meant that he should always follow her advice; similar to what God told Abraham: “according to all that Sarah tells you, you shall do”. (Gen. 21:12)
Thus, when Adam says to God. “The woman You put at my side; she gave it to me and I did eat it” (Genesis 3:12) he is not trying to escape his own personal responsibility by scapegoating Eve, and ultimately God, for giving Eve to him. This irresponsibility would indeed have been a primary sin.
Rather, Adam was only saying that he really thought he was supposed to eat because of Eve’s advice, for God had actually put Eve by his side to be his partner. This was an error of piety but not a primary sin, since most of the time a husband should do as his wife advices.
But, Rabbi Mordecai Yosef Leiner is not merely using this argument as a way of mitigating the severity of Adam’s mistake. Rather, he is trying to rework the whole scene in the Garden of Eden.
This teaching should be read in light of Rabbi Leiner’s comment on Genesis 2:16-17, that in the future, when Adam’s sin is finally rectified, we will read Gen. 2:16-17 as follows: “From all the trees of the garden you may certainly eat, including the Tree of Knowledge of Good; but of the Bad you shall not eat.”
That is, Adam was permitted to eat of the good that was in the tree, and was only prohibited from the bad. And in fact, according to Rabbi Leiner, Adam did only eat of the good knowledge. Adam’s experience of sin, was only in his overly self-critical perfectionist mind; in his own perspective.
The sin was actually as thin as a garlic skin, and no more says Rabbi Leiner.
Thus, human nature is basically good. Most people do not consciously seek to harm other people or themselves. Yet we also are often selfish, mean, jealous, narrow minded and short sighted. This is our human free will challenge.
And this is why most humans, the descendants of Adam and Eve, need God’s assistance to always do the right thing, and all humans always need God’s assistance to do what is holy and good.
This is also why all men need the Torah of kindness that come from our Mothers and Wives. (Proverbs 1:8, 6:20, and 31:26)
So on this Mothers Day, if you have been blessed with a wonderful Mother and/or Wife; let us thank God for Mothers and Wives and follow the Talmud’s advice:
“Love your wife as you love yourself—and honor her even more.” (Yebamot 62b) and “Be careful to honor your wife: for blessing enters the home only because of your wife” (Baba Mezi’a 59a)