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
Unfortunately, my legs have been giving me a lot of trouble lately and I am unable to walk unaided. Is there any way I can walk outdoors using a walker or a cane, or is that an issue of carrying on Shabbat?
The Aish Rabbi Replies:
First of all, I wish you a speedy recovery.
Regarding the issue of carrying out of doors, there is an interesting relevant principle. If a person cannot walk at all without a cane (or walker), the cane is considered as a limb of his body – as a third leg. If so, using it outside is not considered carrying and is permitted.
However, if you can get around a bit without a cane – i.e., you walk around the house without it – then even if you do need it outside the cane cannot be considered a part of you, and you would not be permitted to carry it outside (Shulchan Aruch 301:17; see also The Shabbos Home by ArtScroll Mesorah Publications, Ch. 9 Note 26).
(Note that if your neighborhood has an eruv, then carrying would be permitted outdoors altogether. The same is true for a fenced-in backyard.)
It sounds from the way you described your situation that you would be permitted to use the cane outside. If God willing your legs improve, you would have to stop.
I was recently at the springtime Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington D.C. I was astounded by the beauty of it all. It made me think I should praise God in some way for the beauty He created in this world. Is there an appropriate prayer to say on such an occasion?
The Aish Rabbi Replies:
Yes, as a matter of fact. The Sages (Talmud – Brachot Ch. 9) instituted blessings to be recited upon observing many of the world’s wonders – majestic mountains, great rivers, astronomical events, exotic animals, beautiful people, great scholars. (A few rules can be found here.) We can and must see God’s handiwork in His entire creation. God most certainly leaves signposts of His existence throughout the natural world. We ought to take note of them when we see them.
The Sages likewise instituted a special blessing to be recited upon seeing blossoming fruit trees in the spring. It should ideally be said in the Hebrew month of Nissan – the month when the springtime Passover holiday falls. However, it can be said anytime in the spring. If you didn’t say the blessing when the trees first flowered, you can do so even after – so long as the fruit hasn’t yet ripened (Shulchan Aruch 226:1, Mishnah Berurah 4).
Here is the text of the blessing in both Hebrew (transliterated) and English:
Baruch atta Adonai Elohainu melech ha’olam, she’lo chisar ba’olamo davar, u’vara vo b’riyot tovot v’ilanot tovim, l’hanot bahem benei adam.
Blessed are You, Hashem our God, who did not cause a lack of anything in His world, and who created beautiful creations and beautiful trees to cause man pleasure through them.
I should add that the end of the blessing – “to cause man pleasure” – should not be taken to mean that we view the world selfishly – as if we are to exploit it for our own pleasure. Rather, we turn our praise into gratitude: Not only did God create a beautiful world. He allowed us to enjoy it too.