Parshas Bereshis - Understanding Adam's Sin
When Hashem rebukes Adam for his sin, He tells him, "...Because you listened to your wife and ate of the tree from which I commanded you not to eat, the earth will be cursed on your account..." (Bereshis 3:17) Why did Hashem not state the cause of Adam's punishment more directly by saying, "Because you disobeyed me..."? Why state in the indirect form, "Because you listened to your wife?" The sin was that Adam violated Hashem's command by eating of the tree, regardless of the third party (Chava) who coaxed him to sin. So why the indirect admonishment?
Adam's import and role are delineated in the first chapter of Bereshis (1:27-28): Adam was placed in the universe in the likeness of Hashem to lead, control and build; he was to populate, conquer and exert his full influence over the universe, being its physical leader and primary being in all ways. (Although Chava was originally biologically part of Adam [v. Rashi, from Medrash, on 1:27], her role was defined somewhat differently even from the start. [V. Bereshis 2:18 and Rashi on 1:29 and 2:22.])
With this in mind, we can easily see why Hashem admonished Adam for having "listened to your (his) wife" rather than phrasing the rebuke in terms of "not listening to Me" or "disobeying Me", for by heeding Chava's advice to sin, Adam compromised his role and his very mandate in the universe. Rather than being a leader at the charge of Hashem, Adam instantly became a follower and abandoned his charge. This is why he was chastised for having "listened to your (his) wife", as Adam's sin was not merely in violating Hashem's command not to eat of the tree; his sin reflected a large-scale abdication of his role and a perversion of his being. Listening to his helpmate (Chava) to sin rather than leading in Hashem's ways represented a total breakdown of Adam's purpose as it was intended.
We can now better understand the punishments meted out to Adam and Chava as a result of their aveira (sin). Adam demonstrated that he was incapable of properly leading and taking charge as a being reflective of Hashem's image, as he became a lame follower in sin at the very first opportunity. Thus, rather than being a master over the earth, Adam would have to struggle with it and live at its mercy, as it were, hoping that the earth would be fertile each season, as he would toil to bring forth its yield. So, too, Chava lost her unique role of mastery, for rather than having a controlling stature in procreation and bearing children, she was cursed with a subservient role in procreation and would endure suffering during childbirth, being stripped of any image of control and mastery in these endeavors. (V. Rashi, from Gemara, on Bereshis 2:16.)
On a broader level, we can clearly apply the lessons of Adam and Chava to our lives and behavior patterns. Like Adam and Chava, we are charged to represent Hashem in this world. When our acts become violative of Hashem's mitzvos, we pervert our very role and essence. Mitzvos are not just rules; they define our position and purpose in the world. Rather than viewing ourselves as being commanded to observe the Torah because we are Jews, we need to reevaluate the situation and consider that it is the reverse - that our obligation to keep the Torah is what defines us as Jews. The Torah not only regulates our lives; rather, it is the core of our purpose and the fulcrum of our existence.
Let us strive to elevate ourselves through proper adherence and attitude to Torah and mitzvos, and let us reclaim the divine role charged to Adam and Chava at the beginning.
- Journeys and Detours: The Interplay of Human Action and Divine Care