Monday, 12 October 2020

Parsha: B'reishit, "A New Perspective on Etz Hada'at"

In reviewing the Parshah with the Artscroll Ba'al Haturim Humash, I noticed a secondary aspect to Havvah's "sin" of eating from the "Eitz Hada'at".

The original take on Original Sin is that Adam exceeded his authority by telling Havvah not to touch the fruit. His credibility was sunk when the snake so easily debunked his Humra, that Havvah just had to give into temptation. Or did she? The Midrash adds [P. 1395] that Havvah slandered Adam in her mind "All that my teacher [Adam] instructed me is false".

We see that Hashem gave Adam a Mitzvah. Adam -acting as a "Rabbi" - violated "bal Tosif" by over-instructing Havvah. This excessive instruction enabled the Nahash to override the original Mitzvah, too.

What's the slander? After all, Havvah seems correct. She was, after all, misled by her Rabbi. This "slander" is a secondary aspect and highly instructive to any Talmid who finds a flaw in the instructions of his Rebbe. What happens when a Rabbi has apparently said something flawed, or, C"V, something definitely flawed.

How should we react?

Let me re-quote with emphasis: "ALL that my teacher instructed me is false"
This itself is jumping to a false conclusion. Making an error might impeach one's credibility. Furthermore, even while Adam was not infallible, it does not mean that all he said was false. So how should Havvah and/or our hypothetical Talmid should have reacted to a perceived flaw in instruction?
  1. A rationalist approach: "While there was a flaw in what my Rebbe said, not all that my teacher instructed me is false" 
  2. A believer's approach: "Despite a possible flaw in what my rebbe said, something, (I. E.some core principle) must be true even if he failed on some detail". 
Havvah could have reacted, saying, "wait a minute, Nahash! Just because I can touch this fruit - it doesn't mean I should go ahead and eat it!"

At any rate, this is not about berating Havvah. It's about teaching our hypothetical Talmid not to over-react and to throw out the baby with the bathwater. Yes, Adam erred on the side of caution, but this does not license one to throw caution to the wind.

Many years ago, when I took my driver's test, my instructor told me, "Rich, the speed limit on the course is 25 MPH. But go about 20 anyway".
I proceeded to go 15 MPH. My inspector was impatiently at his wit's end. Although he lectured me about being able to make quicker reactions, he did pass me. My caution, though annoying, was not fatal.
Now, if I had said to myself, "my instructor said 20, but the sign really says 25 - so I'll do better and go 30!" I might still be trying to pass my licensing exam to this day! ;-)

As you see, "fools rush in..." Adam might be faulted for over-compensating, but some level of trust - of emunat hachamim - is a must for Torah Observance


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