Rabbi Herschel Shachter
Rabbi Hershel Schachter

The Light of Torah

In the tefillos of Rosh Hashonah we assume that Adam ha'rishon was created on the first of Tishrei. That day at that time was a Friday which today is impossible; according to the calendar that we use, Rosh Hashonah can never fall out on a Friday. Even though that day was the sixth day of creation, we refer to Rosh Hashonah as ze ha'yom techilas ma'asecha - the beginning of the creation of the world, because the first five days were pre-historic since there was no human being there to notice anything.

In the tefillos of Rosh Hashonah we mention that on this day of Rosh Hashonah we should all recall what happened on that very first Rosh Hashonah. The midrash tells us, commenting on the posuk in Tehillim, "Hashem ori v'yishi" that "ori" is a reference to Rosh Hashonah and "yishi" is a reference to Yom Hakipurim. On that very day that Hashem created Adam ha'rishon, he granted him illumination by instructing him to observe the basic mitzvot that apply to all of mankind. The Talmud (Bava Metzia 83b) comments that the possuk in Borchi Nafshi, "Toshes choshech vihi layla" is a reference to olam ha'zeh. Many issues in this world are very unclear just like in the middle of dark night; there are mitzvos that people think are really aveiros and there are aveiros that people consider to be mitzvos (see the hakdama of Mesilas Yesharim). Without illumination granted by Hashem through the laws of the Torah, we will remain "in the dark". Rosh Hashonah for Adam ha'rishon was his day of kabbolas haTorah.

According to the tradition recorded in the midrash, Adam ha'rishon sinned on that very same first day that he was created. He was judged and punished on the same day and Hashem notified him that just as I have judged you on this day, so too will I judge your descendants in all future generations on this day. The fact that Rosh Hashonah is the yom ha'din is never mentioned in Tanach but is an oral tradition from Adam ha'rishon (D'rashas HaRamban L'Rosh Hashana).

The story of the "original sin" does not really play a significant role in Jewish theology. It was recorded in the Torah, however, to teach us certain aspects about sin that are relevant to all of us today.

  1. According to one midrash [1], if Adam ha'rishon would have waited until leil Shabbos, he would have been permitted to eat the fruits of the eitz ha'daas. He could not even contain himself for a few hours. We all have to train ourselves to realize that it is not that essential to have instant gratification. Hashem created us all to enjoy the world [2] but it is not that absolutely necessary to have pleasure all the time. The Jewish farmer plants a tree and he does not eat of its fruits until a few years go by. The shochet slaughters an animal but he does not eat of the meat until he first checks the lungs[3]. It is not that terrible to postpone a bit having pleasure from the world.
  2. The reason Adam and Chava could not control themselves and sinned by eating from the eitz ha'daas is because the fruit seemed so delicious and appealing. When we read the pessukim in parshas Beraishis, the Torah gives the exact same description with respect to all the trees in Gan Eden. They were all delicious and appeared very appealing. But we always have the attitude that the grass is greener on the other side. We always think that "stolen waters are sweeter". To the reshaim, who have violated aveiros, the yetzer ho'rah appears like a strand of hair (Sukkah 52a). They realize that they did not get any more pleasure from doing the avairos than they would have had doing the mitzvot. To the tzaddikim who never violated the avairos, the yetzer ho'rah appears as if it were a gigantic mountain. They conjure up in their mind an image of what tremendous pleasures one would certainly receive if he were to violate the avairos [4]. But the truth of the matter is that any forbidden pleasure has a parallel in the realm of heter (Chulin 109b). One can enjoy olam ha'zeh by keeping mitzvot to the same extent that the reshaim enjoy doing aveiros.
  3. When Hashem confronted Adam ha'rishon and told him that he would be punished for having sinned, He says "ki sho'mata l'kol ish'techa". The midrash understands that expression to mean that Chava coaxed her husband to eat along with her from the forbidden fruit by crying in front of him. Very often we sin because we give in to social pressure.

On Rosh Ha'shonah and all year long we should take to heart the details of the original sin and realize that it simply does not make sense to violate the mitzvot of the Torah.

[1] Quoted by the Ramban in his sefer Milchamos Hashem at the begining of Maseches Chulin

[2] See Mesilas Yesharim regarding perishus

[3] As stated in the aforementioned medrash

[4] This explanation is offered by the Beis Halevi

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