Bereishis – The Language of Temptation –By Ben

After a slew of high holidays (starting Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur, Succot, Hoshana Rabba, Shimini Azteres) the season finally ends with Simchat Torah. ISimchatTorahf you are unfamiliar with the holiday, it is a massive celebration where we finish the Torah then immediately start at the beginning. So with this new beginning,  I thought I’d start doing posts that follow or at least touch on something from each week’s parsha. This week: Bereishis

Quick Summary

The Torah starts out with the 7 days of creation. Then restarts the story from a slightly different perspective focusing on day 6 when man is created. We get the Adam and Eve story in the Garden of Eden eating from the Tree of Forbidden Knowledge. After their expulsion we jump to Cain slaying Abel and then some lineage/generations stuff leading up to just before the flood with Noah.

Notes

Creationism is probably the most hotly debated topic between religious and scientific communities. Doctor Gerald Schroeder using relativity, explains how the 7 days the Torah asserts for the age of the universe versus the 14 billion years science asserts  actually coincide and compliment one another.

Tactics of Temptation

The point of high drama in this Parsha is when the snake convinces Eve to eat from the Tree.   We’re going to see how the snake represents the voice of temptation that every person wrestles with. The below is from Bereishis 3:1-6.

Now the serpent was cunning, more than all the beasts … and it said to the woman,  “Did God indeed say, ‘You shall not eat of any of the trees of the garden?'” And the woman said to the serpent, “Of the fruit of the trees of the garden we may eat. But of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, God said, “You shall not eat of it, and you shall not touch it, lest you die.”

Step 1: The conversation.

“Did God indeed say, ‘You shall not eat of any of the trees of the garden?'” Why is the snake asking this? Does he really want to know the logistics of God’s commandments? Of course not.  What the snake is doing is innocuously starting a conversation. To the alcoholic, this is the decision to walk down the liquor aisle. To the person on their diet, this is browsing at Baskin Robins. There’s nothing wrong with looking, right?  If the yetzer hara (literally evil inclination) off the bat said  “Go drink 7 beers” or “Eat a whole pint of mint chocolate chip” no one would ever fall victim. But instead as the snake does above, a mere conversation starts the process.

And the serpent said to the woman, “You will surely not die. For God knows that on the day that you eat thereof, your eyes will be opened, and you will be like angels, knowing good and evil.”

Step 2: Not So Bad.

You will surely not die.” After the snake gets Eve talking, the first thing he says is that eating from the tree isn’t going to be the end of the world. Imagine you’re lying in bed and you definitely didn’t get enough sleep last night. You’ve got a test or meeting or whatever important thing applies to you. The alarm goes off. You have a decision, hit snooze or don’t hit snooze. The thought emerges, c’mon, what difference is 5 minutes going to make? It’s not going to kill you.

Step 3: It will be good for you.

“On the day that you eat thereof, your eyes will be opened…” The second lie of the yetzer hara tells you is that not only is it not going to kill you, it’s to your benefit. You’re so tired that 15 more minutes of sleep (because by now you’ve hit the snooze button for a 3rd time) will make you shaper, better. You’ll be in a better mood.

Step 4: You need it.

“…you will be like angels, knowing good and evil.” At this point the snake pulls out all the stops and flat out says Eve needs to eat from the tree. If she can’t know good from evil how can she possible do her task to work the garden? For our examples, the ante gets upped, If you don’t sleep more you’ll make mistakes and get fired/fail the test. If you don’t eat the ice cream now you’ll go crazy and quit the diet completely. If you don’t have a drink it’s the only thing that will be on your mind will be drink drink drink!

And the woman saw that the tree was good for food and that it was a delight to the eyes, and the tree was desirable to make one wise; so she took of its fruit, and she ate… 

Result: Perspective shift.

After this process, the effect of temptation on resolve is illustrated by Eve’s new perspective. She now saw that the tree was good for food. Simply put, instant gratification. There are plenty of times we are susceptible to our temptations. But because it is not immediately accessible we are able to abstain till we calm down. But for Eve it’s right in front of her. It was a delight to the eyes. She can see it, it’s real. And now that she’s been convinced it’s good for her,  she’s able to “feast her eyes” without hesitation.  Then finally, the tree was desirable to make one wise. This is none other than rationalization. A self justification to make it okay. “I’ve earned the piece of cake.” “I need this drink.” “What difference will it really make?”

devil angel

So what do you do? How does one overcome such struggles? Well it’s not easy. But as with many things, the first step is clarity. If you know you need to be up at 6 am, have that on your mind the night before bed. If you are trying to stick to a diet remind yourself of your goals regularly. Then from there, recognize when the conversation starts and work on beating it at the beginning, where it’s the easiest. Otherwise you’ll flirt with your temptation until it will be much much harder to overcome.

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