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Rabbi Herschel Schachter
Remembering the Beginning
In the tefillos for Rosh Hashana we mention
that "today is the anniversary of the beginning of the world." This refers to
the sixth day of creation, when Adam was formed. It is the anniversary
of the first day of the history of mankind. The first five days of creation are
considered "prehistoric", since there were no human beings around at that time.
In the tefillos we also emphasize that on this day of
Rosh Hashana we commemorate what happened so many centuries ago on that
first day of human history.
On Pesach we commemorate the historical events
connected with yetzias Mitzrayim and are mindful of the lessons we
learned from those events. On Shavuos we commemorate Ma'amad Har
Sinai and all that it implies. So too on Rosh Hashana we commemorate
the creation of Adam, and all that occurred on the first day of creation which is
relevant for us today. This includes:
- The Torah relates that man was created "btzelem Elokim"
and the mishna points out that because of His love for man, G-d made
Adam aware of this.
This concept of tzelem Elokim implies that man has tremendous
potential to be original, creative, and to accomplish much in both a
physical and a spiritual sense.
- The medrash relates that G-d showed Adam all the
beautiful trees in Gan Eden and warned him that if he sins he will
be ruining G-d's beautiful world!
- On that same day that man was created, G-d revealed
Himself to him and communicated with him, commanding him regarding the "Noachite
mitzvos" which are binding throughout all generations, and regarding
not eating from the eitz hada'as, which was only intended as a hora'as
sha'ah. Some philosophers who were not present to witness this
communication find it logically impossible to conceive of such
communication between the Infinite G-d and the finite human being. But our
religion considers this one of the basic principles of faith, that however
He accomplished it, G-d did reveal Himself to man and communicate with
him, and will again reveal Himself to man in the future.
- The Torah tells us that G-d did not cause the rain to fall
until after Adam was on the scene to pray for the rain.
Not only do we believe that G-d can communicate with man, but we also
believe that man has the power of tefillah and can communicate with
G-d. From day number one we already started to pray.
- Chava sinned with the eitz hada'as because she
fooled herself into believing the words of the nochosh, that she
"will become as great as G-d Himself." Many individuals are led to sin
because they fool themselves into believing that they are someone other
than who they really are; they join groups of people where they don't
really fit in. To fool others is a serious sin; to fool oneself is a
- The Torah describes all the trees in Gan Eden
as being extremely delicious and pleasant looking. And yet, the nochosh
convinced Chava to sin with the forbidden fruit because it was so pleasant
looking and delicious. Why would Chava be tempted to take part of the
forbidden fruit when all the trees where equally appealing? That is human
nature. We always imagine that "the stolen waters are sweeter," and the
grass is greener on the other side. The real truth is that one can enjoy
life just as much by keeping the Torah as by violating it.
- The medrash interprets the Torah as to be telling
us that Adam also ate from the forbidden fruit because Chava pressured him
by her crying. Many people sin due to social pressures. People must do
what is really correct and disregard what is politically correct. This
indeed takes a lot of courage!
- When G-d confronted Adam and questioned him regarding his
sin, Adam responded (according to the medrash) "yes, I've eaten
from the forbidden tree, and I will continue to eat!" Everyone who sins
tends to rationalize his actions. Before sinning man can properly
distinguish between right and wrong. But after sinning, the "tov vara"
become confused. Man finds it hard to admit that he did anything wrong.
These fundamental principles, and
many others, are called to mind on Rosh Hashana when we commemorate that
first day of the history of mankind.
See Ramabam's commentary to Avos 3:14
See Mesilas Yesharim, Chapter 1
See Rashi to Breishis 2:5
See Yemei Zikaron, by Rav Yoseh Dov Soloveitchik, page 208