I want to know about the concept of "sin" due to Adam and Eve eating from the Tree of Knowledge. The Christian concept of sin revolves around the fall of the man and the "original sin." Does Judaism view it the same way?
The Aish Rabbi Replies:
Adam and Eve were punished according to their actions. In other words, God laid down the conditions for Adam and Eve to live in the garden, provided they would not eat from the Tree of Knowledge. However, if they were to eat from that tree they would be punished by experiencing death. (If they had not eaten from the tree, they would have remained immortal.)
This sets down the basic principle in Judaism of Reward and Punishment. Basic to this is that every person has the choice of doing good or bad. When a person chooses "good" – as defined by God – he is able to draw close to God. In other words, every individual has a chance to "gain salvation" through his own actions.
My understanding of Christianity, however, is that the Original Sin has infected all of mankind to the point where individuals are incapable of achieving salvation through their own initiative. Man is "totally depraved" and therefore his only hope of salvation is through the cross.
This belief is contrary to the teachings of Judaism. From the Torah perspective, an individual does not need to rely on anyone else to atone for them. In Judaism, sins can be "erased" altogether by sincere repentance and a firm resolution never to repeat the mistakes.
For more on this, read "Their Hollow Inheritances" by Michael Drazin – www.drazin.com
Today in Jewish History
Yahrtzeit of Moses in 1273 BCE (Jewish year 2488), on the same day of his birth 120 years earlier. (Consequently, "May you live to 120" has become a common Jewish blessing.) Moses was born in Egypt at a time when Pharaoh had decreed that all Jewish baby boys be drowned in the Nile River. His mother set him afloat in a reed basket, where he was -- most ironically -- discovered by Pharaoh's daughter and brought to Pharaoh's palace to be raised. When Moses matured, his heart turned to aid the Jewish people; he killed an Egyptian who was beating a Jew, and he fled to Midian where he married and had two sons. God spoke to Moses at the Burning Bush, instructing him to return to Egypt and persuade Pharaoh to "let My people go." Moses led the Jews through the ten plagues, the Exodus, and the splitting of the Red Sea. Seven weeks later, the Jews arrived at Mount Sinai and received the Torah, the only time in human history that an entire nation experienced Divine revelation. Over the next 40 years, Moses led the Jews through wanderings in the desert, and supervised construction of the Tabernacle. Moses died before being allowed to enter the promised Land of Israel. He is regarded as the greatest prophet of all time.
Today in Growing Each Day
[Just before Moses' death] God said to him, "This is the Land that I promised to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob" (Deuteronomy 34:4).
The Midrash says that Moses pleaded to live long enough to be able to enter the Promised Land. He surrendered his soul only after God instructed him to enter Heaven and inform the Patriarchs that the Israelites had come to their Land and that God had indeed fulfilled His promise to give the Land of Israel to their descendants. To fulfill God's will was dearer to Moses than his craving to enter the Land.
It is only natural to cling to life, and the thought of leaving this world is depressing. However, if a person develops the attitude that he lives only in order to fulfill God's will, then life and death are no longer polar opposites, because he lives to do the will of God, and when that will requires that he leave this world, he will be equally obedient.
The seventh day of Adar is the anniversary of Moses' death. He wanted to enter the Promised Land so that he could fulfill the commandments and thereby have a new opportunity to fulfill the Divine wish. He surrendered his soul willingly when he was told that there was a special commandment for him to perform, one that could only be achieved after leaving this earth.
We refer to Moses as Rabbeinu, our teacher. He not only taught us didactically, but by means of everything he did in his life - and by his death, as well.
Today I shall...
try to dedicate my life to fulfilling the will of God, so that even when that will contradicts my personal desires, I can accept it with serenity.
With stories and insights,
Rabbi Twerski's new book Twerski on Machzor makes Rosh Hashanah prayers more meaningful. Click here to order...