Blessing or Curse

Beresheet 5765 – Blessing Or Curse


by Rabbi Tony Eaton

With the words "B'Reisheet bara Elohim" we are introduced to God the Creator, whose creative work is accomplished by producing order from the midst of chaos. He accomplishes this by separating or creating distinction in the chaos. "and God separated the light from the darkness." (Gen 1:4b). God places value on this order He has produced, for He says; "It is good". God is pleased with His handiwork for in His creation of distinctions/separations He has ordered a blessing (Gen.1:28). Indeed this seems to be the very reason God has created; so that He can pour out His blessings on all things!

The distinctions God has ordered especially extends to the relationship between God and His creation, even man. In the distinction between ourselves and God is the greatest blessing of all. In that distinction God becomes our King, provider, and protector. But incredibly, He wants also that we should partner with Him in providing blessing to the whole creation.

To that end we have been made in the image (tselem) and likeness of God, Rashi comments on this portion, saying;

"in the mould made for him, for whereas everything else was created by God's word, man was created by His hand, as it is written; 'and Thou hast laid Thy hand upon me' (Ps.  139:5) . that mould was a reflection of the Creator".

So then we are to reflect the same qualities as our Creator. The same values like compassion, justice, kindness, and generosity. But in creating us in His image God has also given us the power of freedom of choice. Therein lies the rub. For where there is the power to choose, there is the possibility of a bad choice.

It isn't long before the moment of choice arrives for the first human pair. God has already given His instructions about the use of the Garden. Now, when those instructions are challenged by the serpent, Adam and Eve must choose. Will they trust God to care for them and look out for their best interest?, or must they take this matter into their own hands and usurp God's position as their King?

In a climactic moment of self-determination the choice is made to disregard God's command and eat of the tree of "the knowledge of good and evil". Of this tree Nachmanides says:

"(the tree) means desire: the partaking thereof would implant a desire for good or evil in the heart of man, whereas otherwise man would be naturally good."

This comment indicates the awakening of emotions and desires which were not previously evident in Adam and Eve. This however begs the question, from whence did the desire to eat from the tree arise?

Another way to look at this is that in order for man to truly reflect the image of the Creator it would have been necessary for him to have the knowledge of good and evil. God Himself says; "Behold, the man has become like one of Us, knowing good and evil." (Gen.3:22) One can deduce from this that in some way, as a result of eating from the tree, man is now more like God. The problem with this is not the knowledge itself, but how the knowledge was acquired. Rather than rely upon Him to prepare them for that knowledge, they took it upon themselves to assume His place, undermining the distinctions in the creation, and bringing curses rather than blessings upon themselves and the whole created order. That choice has disrupted all relationships from that time to this. By violating the distinction between themselves and their Creator, by assuming for themselves the right to disobey Him, all other relationships were cursed as well.

The first relationship destroyed is man's relationship to himself.  The Scripture says; "And he said, "I heard the sound of Thee in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid myself."(Gen 3:10).  The man who up until that time had no knowledge of his nakedness becomes aware that somehow he is inadequate in himself, and now feels the shame of his nakedness.  This disruption of our self-image continues to be the greatest problem of humanity, and the source of so much of human misery.

Then consider man's relationship to his Creator. Where once he felt free and easy in his relationship with God, walking with Him each day in the Garden, now he senses his inadequacy in the presence of God, feels the need to hide himself from God and clothe himself for shame.

Next man's relationship to the woman, at first what seems to be an equal partnership, will now be a struggle for control. Forever will women seek to take men's place, and men for their part will look to take advantage over women.

Then man's relationship to the very environment in which he lives is cursed as well. The Garden created especially for him will no longer be his home. The land he will be allowed to live on will not be the ideal environment in which he once dwelt. Instead he will struggle with the land to make his living until he dies and returns to the earth.

Despite the disruption of all of these relationships, and the hardship that man must now endure, God did not leave man with no hope, for even as He pronounced judgement on man for his disobedience, God extended man hope for the future. He promised man that there would come one who would redeem mankind and undo the curse brought on by the serpent's work, saying;

"And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel." (Gen.3:15)

Stephanie Escalnate