The Primordial Criminal Mastermind

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Even though we have written about
the sin of Adam ha-Rishon [אדם הראשון, Primordial Man] previously (see “Daat,
Everywhere and not a Drop of Truth” and “The Sweetness of Silence”),
we are revisiting this topic because without a solid understanding of where we
came from and what happened at the beginning of our history, it is practically
impossible to understand history in general, our role in it, or even the
purpose of our lives.

Let’s start with a few simple
questions. Where was Adam when the Nachash ha-Kadmoni [נחש הקדמוני,
Primordial Serpent] was seducing Adam’s wife? How did she end up in such a
vulnerable situation? Why did Adam eat from the fruit of the tree of which he
was explicitly told not to eat? Did he eat it because his wife offered it to
him? Did he eat it bedi’eved [בדיעבד, after the fact] or was it planned l’chatchila
from the outset]? What was Adam really thinking?

We know that everything Hashem
does, He does for our good, but not just for our good in a generic sense, but
for our best possible good. This truth is hinted at in Bereshit 1:31: וַיַּרְא אֱלֹקִים אֶת־כׇּל־אֲשֶׁר עָשָׂה וְהִנֵּה־טוֹב מְאֹד (And G-d saw all that He made, and behold,
it was very good). We
also know that the intellect Adam was created with was beyond our
comprehension. Describing his greatness, R’ Yehudah said in the name of Rav (Chagigah
): אָדָם הָרִאשׁוֹן מִסּוֹף הָעוֹלָם וְעַד סוֹפוֹ
הָיָה (Adam ha-Rishon
reached from one end of the world to its other end). And R’ Elazar said (Chagigah
): אָדָם הָרִאשׁוֹן מִן הָאָרֶץ עַד לָרָקִיעַ (Adam ha-Rishon reached from the
earth to the sky). These statements are not describing Adam’s physical size
(because he wasn’t physical yet), but rather his spiritual stature.
Nevertheless, Hashem told Adam (Bereshit 2:17): וּמֵעֵץ
הַדַּעַת טוֹב וָרָע לֹא תֹאכַל מִמֶּנּוּ כִּי בְּיוֹם אֲכׇלְךָ מִמֶּנּוּ מוֹת
תָּמוּת (And from the Tree of
the Knowledge of Good and Bad, you are not to eat from it, because in the day
that you eat from it, you will surely die). Even though everything Hashem
created was very good, Hashem seems to have withheld something of that very
from Adam. We have to acknowledge that this seems rather
perplexing. Adam thought it was very puzzling as well, “Why would G-d create
something which is very good and yet withhold it from me?” Instead of
bringing his question to Hashem, he used his tremendous intellect to work out a
sophisticated answer to the question. This was his big mistake. Let us explain.

Being the pinnacle of Hashem’s
creation, Adam understood what is now commonly taught in the Kabbalah, that
there are two components (facets or lights) to Hashem’s keter [כתר, crown].
The deepest one, which is well beyond our grasp, is referred to as Atik
[עתיק יומין, Ancient of Days]. It emerges from the Infinite and can be
thought of as that aspect of Hashem’s keter which defines His Supernal
Delight, i.e. what creation is all about. But a delight without a plan of
action will never come to fruition. Hence, Atik Yomin is clothed in an
external aspect of Hashem’s keter known as Arich Anpin [אריך אנפין,
Long Countenance]. Arich Anpin can be thought of as that aspect of
Hashem’s keter which defines His Supernal Will or Desire.

Adam would also have known that
the command not to eat from the tree originated from Arich Anpin, the
outer aspect of keter, i.e. the Will of Hashem. The question that Adam
was trying to answer was: What was the real Delight of Hashem? Was Hashem’s
Supernal Delight that he not eat (as the light of Arich Anpin explicitly
told him) or rather, was he supposed to use his G-d-given intellectual skills
to deduce that what Hashem really wanted, from the deeper level of Atik
, was that he eat from the tree? In other words, perhaps Hashem wanted
Adam to violate the expressed Will of Hashem in order to fulfill His deeper
unspoken Delight. But if so, why would Hashem have an unspoken Desire
apparently directly opposite of His spoken Will? Adam ha-Rishon would
have also known another very important truth expressed many years later by R’
Abahu (Berachot 34b): מָקוֹם שֶׁבַּעֲלֵי תְשׁוּבָה
עוֹמְדִין צַדִּיקִים גְּמוּרִים אֵינָם עוֹמְדִין (The place where masters of repentance [baalei teshuvah] stand, completely righteous people [tzaddikim] can’t stand).

Piecing all this together, Adam
could have concluded the following: If Hashem wants me to receive the greatest
possible good (which He does) and for that reason He created everything, and
the standing achieved by someone who sins and then repents is higher than the
standing of someone who never sinned at all, then does it not follow that His
real inner desire is that I sin and then repent? Obviously, He won’t command me
to violate His expressed Will. He wants me to figure that out myself!”

By relying solely on his
intellect, his rational mind, his finite logic, without talking with Hashem,
Adam found himself contemplating a terrible crime, a crime so awful that, if he
was wrong, would propel the entire world into a downward spiral from which it
would be exceptionally difficult to rectify. Yet, even as great as his
intellect was, i.e., that he could see from one end of the world to its other
end, it was still very limited compared to the Infinite. Adam made the
same mistake that we have been making ever since—thinking that nothing is
beyond our intellectual and logical grasp. This was Adam’s big mistake.

Like all subsequent master
criminals, he was prepared to act out his exceptionalism. But just in case he
was wrong, he needed a scapegoat—a dupe, a gullible victim. And for that, he
turned to his wife. He orchestrated a situation where the Nachash ha-Kadmoni
was able to have direct access to her. And where was he? It doesn’t matter where
he was. What matters is that he deliberately made himself scarce in order to
leave her open to attack. And that’s exactly what happened. She was seduced,
i.e. completely fooled, by the Nachash. She ate and then gave some to Adam who
also ate (Bereshit 3:1-6). But he was not fooled. He knew exactly what
he was doing (or so he thought), and everything was going according to his
plan—but not for long. As it is written in the next verse (3:7): וַתִּפָּקַחְנָה עֵינֵי שְׁנֵיהֶם וַיֵּדְעוּ כִּי עֵירֻמִּם הֵם (And the eyes of both of them were opened
and they knew that they were naked). Not naked physically (for they weren’t
physical yet), but naked spiritually. They were given one commandment to
observe and they failed. As a result, they had nothing to their credit, no merit whatsoever. They were naked in the truest sense of the word.

But Adam had his backup plan. He
had someone to blame. He had his scapegoat. So when questioned about what he
done, he neatly replied (3:12): הָאִשָּׁה אֲשֶׁר
נָתַתָּה עִמָּדִי הִוא נָתְנָה־לִּי מִן־הָעֵץ וָאֹכֵל (The woman [wife] that You gave to me, she gave to me from the
tree and I ate). Not only did he blame his wife, he blamed G-d as well. Not
even a shred of remorse or personal responsibility. But when she was asked to
explain her actions, she responded (3:13): הַנָּחָשׁ
הִשִּׁיאַנִי וָאֹכֵל (The
Nachash seduced me and I ate). At least she told the truth. She had, in fact,
been deceived (and this fact would partly mitigate her guilt).

In describing Adam’s conduct after
the crime, R’ Meir said (Eruvin 18b): אָדָם
הָרִאשׁוֹן חָסִיד גָּדוֹל הָיָה כֵּיוָן שֶׁרָאָה שֶׁנִּקְנְסָה מִיתָה עַל יָדוֹ
יָשַׁב בְּתַעֲנִית מֵאָה שְׁלֹשִׁים שָׁנָה וּפֵירַשׁ מִן הָאִשָּׁה מֵאָה
שְׁלֹשִׁים שָׁנָה וְהֶעֱלָה זִרְזֵי תְּאֵנִים עַל בְּשָׂרוֹ מֵאָה שְׁלֹשִׁים
שָׁנָה (Adam ha-Rishon
was very pious—when he saw that death was imposed because of what he did, he
fasted [during the daylight hours] for 130 years, he separated from his wife
for 130 years, and he girded himself with belts made of fig leaves for 130
years). Are we to be impressed with his response? Was this teshuvah or
just depression? Yeshaya wrote (58:5): הֲכָזֶה יִהְיֶה צוֹם אֶבְחָרֵהוּ יוֹם
עַנּוֹת אָדָם נַפְשׁוֹ הֲלָכֹף כְּאַגְמֹן רֹאשׁוֹ וְשַׂק וָאֵפֶר יַצִּיעַ
הֲלָזֶה תִּקְרָא־צוֹם וְיוֹם רָצוֹן לַייָ (Is this the kind of fast that I desire? A day of when a person
starves himself? Is it about bowing the head like a bulrush and lying around in
sackcloth and ashes? Do you call that a fast, a day of seeking favor from
Hashem?). Adam’s behavior doesn’t sound like teshuvah, does it? But
we don’t have to guess. Did R’ Meir say that Adam did teshuvah? No, he just said that he was very pious.
Do we read that he cried out to Hashem from the bottom of his heart like King
Chizkiyahu did (Melachim Bet
)? Do we read that he sang
to Hashem thanking Him for His loving kindness and His mercy for giving him an
opportunity to fix the damage that he caused? He may have been very pious, but
he seems to have missed the boat for 130 years.

Understanding a little bit about
the root of the criminal mind—for Adam was the primordial criminal
mastermind—it would be shortsighted of us to stop here because when Adam sinned
his soul shattered into billions of pieces. And we are those fragments, those holy
sparks. Adam ha-Rishon is not some abstract historical or mystical
figure. He is us: he is you, he is me. Therefore, as our Sages of blessed
memory said (Eruvin 13b): נוֹחַ לוֹ לְאָדָם
שֶׁלֹּא נִבְרָא יוֹתֵר מִשֶּׁנִּבְרָא עַכְשָׁיו שֶׁנִּבְרָא יְפַשְׁפֵּשׁ
בְּמַעֲשָׂיו וְאָמְרִי לַהּ יְמַשְׁמֵשׁ בְּמַעֲשָׂיו. (It would have been preferable had man not been created than
to have been created, but now that he has been created, he should examine his
actions. Some say, he should scrutinize his actions).

Since Hashem gives us everything
we need, and since most of us don’t live for 130 years, we must be able to do teshuvah
on this sin in less time than it took Adam. Simplicity is the path of life, not
intellectual sophistication. Human logic is just not good enough.

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