Rabbi Miriam's Blog
In the beginning of God’s creation, God created a perfect world, day by day, until God reached the pinnacle of His creations, “Na’aseh Addam B’tzalmenu kidmutenu, let us (plural form) make Man in our image and in our form.”
Interpreters were puzzled about the plural form of, “let us.” Most of them note that God got the heavenly angels to join Him in the creation of Man. But the angels who usually run in joy to fulfill God’s commandments, this time where not only reluctant, but actually said, “Why, should we create Man, after all, He is not going to fulfill God’s commandments.” Other interpreters said similarly that the heavenly angels resisted creating Man because he will have free will that would be based on his knowledge and understanding, and mostly not God’s will and commandments (Mitzvot). However, according to Midrash, when God completed creating Man, it was in such perfect form that the angels were no longer reluctant but rather sang praises to God for His creation. Then, shortly after creation something went very wrong…
This past Sunday, I joined a group of people celebrating the success of
certain individuals in a San Fernando recovery house. It was a very emotional
morning for me. One by one these ex-drug users, ex-robbers, ex-thieves, and even an ex-accidental killer, came on stage to receive appreciation awards for their current accomplishments. They were all successful for several months and some for years in resisting their temptations by committing themselves to an “unsoiled” future. One by one they shared a bit of their personal story. It was very painful to me to hear their dreadful and sad narratives. One ex-felon said that he was so grateful for his life now, that he knows that, “even the angels are jealous of me.” This sentence was carved on my heart.
Maimonides reveals in his commentary to us, about the nature of the
first Man before his wrong-doing. He did all that he was supposed to do as part of his innate character, just as the heavenly angles do the will of God without any deviations. He was given one commandment, not to eat from Etz Ha’da’at (the Tree of Knowledge). Why? He answered, because, the fruit of this tree would put into a person the desire to choose tov (good) or ra (evil).
So biblical commentators questioned, if the first Man was basically a
free will being, how was there free will before the knowledge of, and the desire
for ra (evil) existed? Rav Haim of Volozhin (1749-1821 Poland, Talmudist and
Ethicist) explains that the first Man did indeed have the ability of choosing
between good and evil, however, he was the embodiment of unsullied purity and holiness without any internal leaning toward evil. Any desire toward evil came from an external source (the snake). Today, we hear our desires for evil in first person, “I really want to do that…” The desires for good then speaks to us in a second person, “You know that you really shouldn’t…” The “I” is the want to do evil. At times, the relentless mutiny within each of us is so very hard to resist, that if we do not have a support system, we at times, cannot resist doing evil to ourselves and others around us.
What kind of support system do “I” have when I want to do evil? How is it possible that I want to cause others or myself destruction? Do I blame everything on the “snake” or an external source for my wrong doings? This week we begin the yearly cycle of Torah reading, “In the beginning”… Starting again… a new year, perhaps we need to ask ourselves an important question.
Let each of us check into our soul and try to answer, “Whom do I support?” and “Who supports me? Do I have the same names on both lists? Why? Is the list of names the same as last year’s list? Why?"
No matter how you answer these questions, I hope and pray that your life of being supported and supporting others would be such that, as the ex-drug user and dealer said, even the angels would be jealous of you.
Ahavat Torah of West Los Angeles
About Rabbi Miriam
Rabbi Miriam E. Hamrell MHL, M.Ed., has served as our religious and spiritual leader at Ahavat Torah Congregation and helped it grow since it was founded in 2003.