We all know the story of how, in the beginning, G‽D created the heavens and the earth. As the story unfolds,
G‽D creates the Garden of Eden and plants the Tree of Knowledge and the Tree of Life therein. Adam and Eve show up on the scene and they eat fruit from the Tree of Knowledge. Whoops.
At face value, everything seems to go downhill from there. Adam and Eve are kicked out of the Garden. Labor becomes painful, tilling becomes hard work. Cherubim are even sent with flaming swords to guard the Tree of Life from the humans, lest they eat from it and gain eternal life! But from a spiritual viewpoint, this turn of events actually signals the beginning of a great journey for humans.
Before “the fall” of Adam and Eve, they were forbidden from eating the fruit of either tree – Knowledge or Life. They didn’t have access of any of the direct spiritual benefits that partaking of such fruit might imbue. Yes, life was good for them and they had their innocence, but they weren’t able to truly grow as spiritual beings.
According to the Tzemach Tzedek, in his work Or HaTorah, the human is unique among G‽D’s creations because ze comprises all of the qualities of the sefirot, or Divine Attributes. These same sefirot constitute the genetic make up, the DNA, of the Tree of Life. Why, then, did G‽D tell us not to eat the fruit?
When a baby is born, we must feed the infant with the most basic food: milk. As the child gets older and learns to chew and digest more complex foods, we feed them things like applesauce and mashed plums. If we were to simply hand a solid piece of fruit to the baby, ze would not be able to consume it.
So it was for Adam and Eve. Humans were newbies, without a clue about how the universe works. Once they gained some insight into good and evil from the Tree of Knowledge, G‽D realized it would be too soon for them to consume from the Tree of Life.
Our Creator then gave us the Torah, in the hope that we would use it as a guide to prepare our spiritual selves for taking small steps toward connecting directly with each of the Divine Attributes of the Tree of Life. In the Book of Proverbs it says that the Torah is “a Tree of Life to those who hold fast to it.” When we cling to and study the Torah, and act on its precepts, it is as though we are sampling fruit from the Tree of Life, thus becoming ever closer to The Eternal One.
As we once again begin the annual cycle of reading the Torah, I give us a blessing for this year that we should all learn new ideas and glean fresh morsels from the Tree of Life. May we delve a little deeper, rise a little higher, and bring the Universe one step closer to the World to Come. Ḥag Sameaḥ and Shabbat Shalom!