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When the Tables are Turned

Rabbi Wagensberg
Parshas Bereishis
When the Tables are Turned

There are so many topics to speak about in Parshas Bereishis. For example, there is the Story of Creation, Gan Eden, Kayin and Hevel, etc. Today we are going to focus on Adam and Chava.

After Adam Harishon sinned with the Eitz Hada’as, he said, “The woman whom You gave to be with me, she gave me of the tree and I ate” (Parshas Bereishis, 3:12). Rashi (ibid) comments by saying, “Here he (Adam) denied the goodness (his wife, Chava).”

This Rashi is based on a Gemara in Meseches Avoda Zara (chap. 1, “Lifnei Eideihen”, pgs. 5a-b) which says that Moshe Rabbenu said to the Jewish people, “You are an ungrateful people who descend from an ungrateful person.”

The Jews were ungrateful when they complained that they were disgusted with the Manna and called it, “Insubstantial food” (Parshas Chukas, 21:5). The ungrateful person whom they descended from was Adam Harishon who blamed his wife for giving him the forbidden fruit of the Eitz Hada’as.

Rashi (ibid) says that Adam Harishon spoke in a disgraceful way by blaming the sin on God’s gift which was his wife, Chava.

All of these sources beg us to ask the following question. Yes, it is true that God had intended that Chava be a gift to Adam, as Hashem said, “It is not good that Man be alone, I will make for him a helper corresponding to him” (Parshas Bereishis, 2:18).

However, at the end of the day, it was Chava who gave Adam from the Eitz Hada’as. Adam spoke the truth when he said that Chava gave the fruit of the Eitz Hada’as to him. Therefore, the question is, “Why was Adam Harishon guilted by Chaza”l for what he said? Why did they call Adam an ungrateful person? All Adam did was state the facts. Facts do not care about your feelings. So, what was wrong with what Adam said?”

A second question is that we know that when Hashem says something, it exists forever. Hashem had promised that Chava would be a helper to Adam (Parshas Bereishis, 2:18). Whatever became of that guarantee? In the end, Chava caused Adam to stumble with the Eitz Hada’as. How was that a help to him?

A third question is that Hashem said that Chava would be an “Eizer K’Negdo” (a helper opposing him; Parshas Bereishis, 2:18). These two terms are self-contradictory. A helper is typically not an opponent, and an opponent is typically not a helper. So, what does helper opponent mean?

Rashi (ibid) based on the Gemara in Yevamos (chap. 6, “Haba Al Yevimto”, pg. 63a, Rebbi Elazar) answers this third question by saying that there is no contradiction whatsoever. “Eizer K’Negdo” means to say that if man is deserving, his wife will be a helper, but if man is not deserving, his wife will be an opponent to wage war against him.

The Shvilei Pinchas elaborates on this idea by saying that the Torah is revealing to us a fundamental teaching. That is, a wife will help her husband complete that which he sets out to do.

In other words, it all starts with man himself. If the husband decides to be a true Eved Hashem, it will affect his wife in such a way that she will be a helper who will assist him in achieving that goal.

However, if the husband decides that he is not interested in becoming a true Eved Hashem, then his wife will be affected by that decision and she will help him achieve that goal. Although she will help him ruin himself, in God’s eyes this is not called help but rather it is called opposing him because it is going to ruin him.

Once we have addressed question number three by showing that there is no contradiction in terms (Eizer K’Negdo), we will also be able to understand the answer to question number two which was, “Whatever happened to God’s promise that man’s wife would be a helper. If Chava wound up tearing Adam down by giving him from the Eitz Hada’as, that was not helping at all. It was ruining him.”

The Shvilei Pinchas says that the answer is that we must define what Hashem’s guarantee was. Hashem guaranteed that if man would be deserving, his wife would be a helper. God also guaranteed that if man would be undeserving, his wife would be his opponent. This guarantee exists until this very day.

If Adam Harishon would have stood his ground firmly, and if he would have made a concrete decision that he would not transgress God’s command, no matter what, then Chava would have assisted him by encouraging him not to listen to the arguments of the serpent. That would have made Chava an Eizer.

But since Adam himself began to entertain the possibility of partaking from the Eitz Hada’as (claiming that it’s educational, and I’ll be like God), Chava was transformed from an Eizer into a K’Negdo who facilitated in tearing her husband down by serving him from the Eitz Hada’as.

However, Adam Harishon did not take responsibility for the sin the way that he was supposed to. This will lead us to answer the first question.

The first question was, “Why was Adam called ungrateful? All he did was state the facts?”

The Shvilei Pinchas says that Adam was considered to be ungrateful because Chava was a Divine gift, but she was a “gift on condition.” Meaning, Chava was a gift with strings attached. Meaning, whether or not Chava would be helpful to Adam or become an opponent to Adam, depended on Adam.

Adam could have appreciated this gift. When Chava served him the fruit of the Eitz Hada’as, Adam could have said to himself, “If my wife is already feeding me forbidden food, it must be a sign that I am not deserving. It must be a sign that I have not made a concrete conviction to serve Hashem properly. This gift is for my own benefit because it keeps me in check.”

But instead of Adam admitting to his participation in the sin, he blamed his wife completely. This demonstrates to us that Adam did not appreciate the gift that Hashem had provided for him, and it shows us that Adam did not appreciate the unique mechanism which God had implanted into this gift. Therefore, Adam was labeled an ungrateful person.

Speaking about Hakaras Hatov, the first commandment of the Aseres Hadibros says, “I Am Hashem your God Who has taken you out of the Land of Egypt” (Parshas Yisro, 20:2).

Rashi (ibid) cites the Mechilta which explains this verse by saying, “Bringing you out alone [from Mitzrayim] is sufficient reason that you should serve Me.” This means to say that our service to God should stem from a deep sense of gratitude for all that Hashem has done for us.

When a person appreciates all of the things that Hashem has done for him and when a person realizes all of the things that He continues to do for him, he begins to feel indebted to Him. Such a person feels that he owes Him. Therefore, the least he can do is serve Him.

However, if a person does not appreciate all that Hashem has done and continues to do for him, he is likely to transgress every prohibition in the Torah. This is because an ungrateful person like that could argue, “What has Hashem ever done for me? What has He done for me lately? I owe Him nothing! I’ll do what I want to do!”

Now, when Adam Harishon sinned with the Eitz Hada’as, he demonstrated a lack of Hakaras Hatov, as we already mentioned above. According to Rebbi Yehuda (Meseches Berachos, chap. 6, “Keitzad Mevarchim”, pg. 40a) the fruit of the Eitz Hada’as was wheat. So, it turns out that when Adam Harishon partook of that wheat, he was ungrateful.

Therefore, after every time we eat bread, which is made from wheat, we have a very long prayer that we must say which is called Birchas Hamazon. In the first bracha of bentching it says about God that He is the One, “Who nourishes the entire world in His goodness, with grace, with kindness, and with mercy, He gives nourishment to all flesh, for His kindness is eternal.”

The Shvilei Pinchas says that one of the reasons why we have such a long prayer thanking Hashem after partaking from bread is in order to be “metaken” the sin of Adam Harishon. When Adam sinned with wheat (bread), he was ungrateful. Therefore, ever time that we have bread, we become super grateful. Bentching is one way in which we are trying to reverse the sin of Adam Harishon.

Practically speaking, let us try an exercise which will help us become even more grateful. Let us write up a gratitude list of the things that we are grateful for. Each day, let us look at this list and say out loud, “Thank you Hashem for such and such.”

We can also keep those items in mind when saying the Modim (we thank you) bracha in the Shmoneh Esrei.

Additionally, if there are people in our lives that we are grateful for, let’s tell them just how grateful we are to have them in our lives. Let’s not wait until it’s too late. Although a person can always say at someone’s grave, “You meant so much to me,” it is very different when you say that to a living person.

Words of appreciation to a living person can lift him up so much that we cannot even fathom or measure its effect. Not only does it do wonders for the other fellow, but it also has such an affect on us because we learn to become even more appreciative.

So, may we all be blessed with the willingness and awareness to be Makir Tov a little bit more to the people in our lives and to Hashem, thus rectifying the first sin of man that we collectively participated in since we were all part of Adam Harishon at that time, and may we subsequently deserve that Hashem return us to Paradise when He will recreate the whole world over again from the Bereishis – from the beginning.

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