From the Desk - The Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil - Part III
Shalom Friends! All is moving in full swing here at Congregation Beth Ora! Last Shabbat, we enjoyed a beautiful participatory service in honour of the international Shabbat Project. After the service, Jackie Harroch gave an inspiring and insightful talk on the meaning of Shabbat and Rabbi Heshy Benshimon taught us a beautiful song. We look forward to similar programs to enhance our Shabbat program and create a beautiful community atmosphere at our services and Kiddushes. On Sunday, Carly took members of our Bat Mitzvah group and their families to a tour around Papermans to learn about the importance of honouring our dead and comforting those who are mourning. This follows a number of other excellent Bat Mitzvah group sessions in which the girls have volunteered at MADA and enjoyed sessions learning about Israel and about prayer and the soul.
On Tuesday evening, our Rise Together men’s learning group met to learn about the Jewish approach to developing patience. The Rise Together learning sessions – there are currently three groups running at Beth Ora – follow on from the Rise Together Project which we ran across the city last May. The theme of the project is self-improvement through Jewish wisdom. We currently have 119 people from Montreal, Israel, South Africa, America, England and Hong Kong receiving our daily whatsapps and many young families receiving our weekly parenting emails. Look out for our poster coming out soon, advertising all the Rise Together groups at Beth Ora.
I’ll leave you with one date for your calendar. One of the fascinating but troubling stories of the Book of Genesis is Jacob’s deceiving Isaac in order to gain something called a birthright which Isaac had planned to give to Esau. Many of us are troubled by this – is tricking one’s father a good thing to do?? We’ll be taking on that question at the Shabbat Kiddush on November 30th. Hope you can join us! Wishing you all Shabbat Shalom, Rabbi Anthony and Carly Knopf Dovid, Rachelli, Yehuda and Avrami
What’s the Deal with…the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, Part III The final question Barry Vininsky asked me to address about the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil is why did G-d make the tree in the first place if he did not want anyone to eat from it. Let’s outline some of the answers given by our commentators: You will remember that Rabbi Yitzchak Abarbanel associates the tree with sexual desire. According to Abarbanel, seeing and touching the tree provided a proper amount of sexual desire which was positive. Had Adam and Eve not eaten from the tree, they would have enjoyed its benefits without its negatives. You will remember that Rabbi David Zvi Hoffmann understood that eating from the Tree instilled in mankind the universal concepts of right and wrong. As we explained, Rabbi Hoffmann believes that learning these concepts from the tree was not the ideal. The ideal was to receive moral training directly from Hashem. If that is so, why did Hashem create a tree which would provide a route to the knowledge that Adam and Eve were supposed to get directly from Hashem? Rabbi Hoffmann explains that the tree was necessary in order that humans would have free will. Hashem gave humans the choice to obey or disregard His commandments, to follow Hashem or to be their own guides. As such, Hashem’s first directive was a test to see which path Adam and Eve would take. If they passed and chose Hashem as their teacher, they would attain the immortality granted by the Tree of Life. But if they failed and ate from the tree, they would actually need the tree in order to learn the most basic concepts of morality. As such, according to Rabbi Hoffmann, the tree served simultaneously as a test and as a partial cure for failure. Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch suggests that the prohibition was a test in self-control. The tree and the prohibition to eat from it was to test whether Adam and Eve could control their desires and follow Hashem’s will. Hashem presented them with a tree which was pleasing to the eyes, palate and intellect and thus appeared to be good. Yet, the fact that Hashem prohibited it defined the fruit as bad. The question was: Would they recognize that morality is determined by Hashem’s will alone or would they decide for themselves what was good and what was bad?