It’s Rosh Hashanah, happy birthday Adam and Eve.
The first man and woman were born on this most mighty and unique day. G-d created a multitude of life forms, but on this day, we celebrate the most powerful creation of them all – that of human kind.
In the beginning of Genesis, we are told of two stories of how Adam and Eve came into being.
In the first version, they were created simultaneously, as one, back to back. In this space they could have a “back to back” relationship. Then we are told Adam and Eve were created one after the other, first Adam, and then Eve. In this form, they were able to turn towards one another, and have a “face to face” relationship.
What does a “back to back” relationship look like?
Rabbi Dov Ber Pinson notes, a back to back relationship does not leave room for choice (1).
You move to the right, and I move along with you. You move backwards, I am your shadow. You move forward and I just follow.
Now contrast this to a face to face relationship.
As our backs are no longer connected, we face each other as individuals, not as an attached unit. We have freedom of movement. We can move, or we can stay stationary. We can follow or we can lead. We can engage or we can withdraw. Our choices are our own. Our choices are what determine our next move.
Before Adam and Eve’s birthday, the world was working back to back. G-d’s creations, before that of man, followed the laws of nature, as they still do. Nature was and is dictated by cycles. The elements, stars, and vegetation, did not and do not have free choice or agency. They flow, shine, sway, bloom, and wither according to G-ds design.
Animals may have strong wills, but as Rabbi Tzvi Freedman notes, like all beings in nature, they do not have free will (2). They may be more or less aggressive but they are not able to transcend their core character through free choice. They remain back to back in their exchanges, in their ties.
It was only with the birth of Adam and Eve, that free choice was introduced to the world.
Two separate people choosing to engage rather than doing so by instinct or force. Two entities who could walk away from one another…. or not. Two backs no longer aligned, where thoughts had a space in which to breathe and discriminate between.
Humanity now was being tasked to take an active role in creation through its choices. Human beings were asked to be co-creators and not merely creations.
Co-creators? When we think of this term, perhaps, we think of work projects or visionary ideas, or an innovative recipe.
In this context we are speaking about something more cosmic. Here we speak about being co-creators, with G-d, of the entire universe. That’s a role that sounds powerful and empowering – and it is.
On Rosh Hashanah we have an opportunity to evaluate ourselves as co-creators of this magnificent world. G-d made us autonomous, with the power of self-determination. He didn’t want humans to face his “back” he wanted a genuine “face to face” relationship. He wanted us to choose Him, even when we could choose otherwise.
He gave us the ability to initiate. Are our actions productive or counterproductive? Are they sincere, intentional, focused?
What are we creating with our actions?
He gave us the ability to think. Are we immersed in a positive mindset or a mindset that stymies our happiness and growth? What thoughts do we reject and what thoughts do we accept? Are our thoughts sabotaging or endorsing?
What are we creating with our thoughts?
He gave us the ability to communicate. Do we speak to Him, pondering our life? Do we ask for guidance? Do we ask for compassion? Do we use our speech, as a remedy, shield, or sword?
What are we creating with our words?
He gave us free choice. Do we live life like the plant and animal kingdom, as back to back creations? Or do we live life as Adam and Eve – as a face to face co-creator with G-d, partnering to fix the world.
- Rav Dov Ber Pinson, “Rosh Hashannah: Why do we Exist? Can we answer this question”, 2013
2.Tzvi Freeman,” Free Will in Judaism, How much Choice do we really have?”- Chabad.org, 2018