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