Where does our Free Will come from?
Speaking about what happened in the garden of Eden, I ask the following question, what was the punishment for the transgression of eating from the Tree of Knowledge? Is it what many think? There is a link between Adam´s disobedience and our ability to have Free Will.
In a brief summary, let´s look at what happens in Chapter 2-3 in the book of Bereshit (Genesis). God places man in the garden of Eden (Gan Eden), and also brings forth all types of trees that are good to eat. Included is the placement of the Tree of Life in the middle of the garden, and the Tree of Knowledge of good and bad.
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God says to man that he can eat freely from any of the trees in the garden except for the Tree of Knowledge, with the reason being that the day he eats from it, he shall surely die.
After creating all the land beasts and all types of birds in the sky, God creates woman so that man will not be alone, and to be his helper. The snake takes no time in convincing woman that she will not die from eating of the prohibited tree, but that her eyes will be opened and she will be like the divine beings that know “טֹ֥וב וָרָֽע”, good and bad.
And so she ate from the tree thinking that it was a good source of wisdom, and she offered the fruit to man, and he ate of it as well. When god realized what they have done, he punishes the three protagonists of this story: first the snake, then woman and finally man. But the punishment was not kicking them out of the garden of Eden, if that is what some may think.
The snake is basically made to be hated by everyone and to have to move around on its belly forever. Woman is punished with painful childbearing and an eternal desire for man as well as always being dependent on him. And God says to man that the earth will be cursed because of him, and that he will have to work hard his whole life to eat from the land.
Here it is clear that they were not kicked out for having eaten from the Tree of Knowledge. They have each received their respective punishment and for the time they being they remain in Gan Eden.
God then clothes them so that they may cover themselves, and thinks the situation over. He starts to ask himself what would happen if man decides to eat from the Tree of Life? And because of this fear that he could eat from the Tree of Life, and so live eternally, He kicks man out of the garden in order to work the land from which he was taken.
I ask, why didn´t God forbid man from eating of the Tree of Life before this moment? He had told him from the beginning that he could eat from any of the trees except the Tree of Knowledge. So why did God wait until this moment to kick them out of the garden? And why the fear of eating from the Tree of Life?
When they ate from the Tree of Knowledge, they became conscious of the consequences of choosing one thing or another. They felt embarrassed about being nude and for having transgressed. Now is when man acquired the ability of Free Will, something that is closely linked to the definitions of “good” and “bad”.
Although our subjective definitions of these words don´t come anywhere close to what is “טֹ֥וב וָרָֽע”, (good and bad) in God´s Creation, we have the free will to choose between one and the other. We should be glad that we have this ability and should not desire to return to the automatic state that implies “being like the angels”, and having our paths set without being able to vary them. In our world, we are free to make all kinds of decisions. The key is being conscious of what we do and take 100% responsibility of the consequences. Baruch Hashem that at any given moment we are able make correct decisions based on our laws and morality in the modern world.
Shabat Shalom ~~~~~~~~ Deborah y Ahuvah
Read the September 2015 newsletter from the European Union for Progressive Judaism.
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Lee Torah from Around the World #293: Parashat Bereshit (Genesis 1:1-6:8)
WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BE CREATED IN THE IMAGE OF GOD?
By Rabbi Ferenc Raj, PhD, Rabbi Emeritus, Congregation Beth El, Berkeley, CA, USA & Founding Rabbi, Congregation Bet Orim, Budapest, Hungary
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