Well, it’s been a wonderful month of reflection and celebration as we made our way through the fall holiday cycle, culminating with my son Ozi’s bar mitzvah. It was wonderful to be able to share that event with the community.
So for my first column back from my Tishre hiatus I turn it over to Ozi. He gave a wonderful d’var Torah as part of his bar mitzvah, and I wanted to share it with those who were not able to hear it. For me, the d’var Torah is the highlight of any bar or bat mitzvah ceremony since it is endlessly fascinating to hear what a 13-year-old thinks about this ancient text and how he or she meets it on their own terms. Ozi was no exception:
My Torah portion is Bereshit which is the story of creation, the first few humans, and the beginning of the story of Noah. In Bereshit, God creates the world by creating things and giving them his “seal of approval” by saying they are good. For those of you who do not know the story of creation which I assume most of you do, it goes like this; The Earth was chaos until on the first day God created light and darkness. On the second day God created the sky and water. On the third day God created land, seas, plants and trees. On the fourth day God created the sun the moon and the stars to light up the day and night. On the fifth day God created aquatic animals and birds and he blessed them and said for them to multiply and fill the earth. And finally on the sixth day God created domestic and wild animals all with different characteristics. And God made humans in Gods image and gave them power over all the animals and living things. On the seventh day God rested and blessed the seventh day. I don’t think that the story of creation should be taken literally but should be used as a source of wisdom and understanding.
Today I am going to talk about Adam and Eve, the first two humans on earth. They lived in the Garden of Eden, a place that would always have enough food and resources. Their job was to care for all living things in the garden. God told them that they could eat from any tree in the garden, except one, the tree of knowledge of good and evil.
Everything was fine until a serpent told Eve that she should eat from the tree of knowledge. Eve said to the serpent that God told them not to eat from it, and not to even touch it, or else they would die. The serpent said no you won’t die. The serpent said “God knows that when you do eat of it your eyes will be open and you will be like the gods knowing all things.”
Eve was convinced and she ate the fruit and gave some to Adam and “their eyes were opened.” God then punished them, and they had to leave the Garden of Eden. Now they had to work for what they needed, it wouldn’t be given to them for free.
We usually think of this as bad thing and if Adam and Eve had not eaten from the tree we would all be living in the Garden of Eden, where we would not have to worry about violence, food, shelter. Yes that would be a blessing, but it might also be a curse.
How would living in the Garden of Eden be considered a curse? One day I was watching a video on YouTube. This video was by the YouTube channel Vsauce. Vsauce is a channel that uploads videos that discusses interesting topics and ideas that may not be fully understood. Some examples are a video on “Who Owns the Moon” and another on “Why do we clap?” I advise you to check out his channel where there are many more interesting videos that will get you thinking. The video that was interesting to me that related to my Torah portion was called “Why do we get bored?” It talked about boredom and how boredom is actually not bad. Boredom is an uncomfortable time when nothing in the universe can entertain you. To get out of this feeling of boredom we create our own ideas. It speaks of how if life had a real value, we would never get bored because just existing would satisfy us. Boredom means that a human is greater than the entire universe because what exists is not enough.
I thought for a while about how this could relate to Bereshit. I looked back at the text and the story of Adam and Eve. I started thinking about the Garden of Eden and how everything you could ever need was there and there was never anything new. Then I thought, what if the Garden of Eden was a state of boredom, and Adam and Eve just didn’t know it. They never got bored because they were always satisfied.
The Torah says that the knowledge Adam and Eve got from eating from the tree of knowledge was good and evil, but maybe it was just the knowledge of their boredom. And that’s why they left the garden, because as the Torah says their “eyes were opened”. They realized everything was the same, repetitive, and boring. And the reason we create and have ideas is not because we WANT to have new things in our lives, it’s because we NEED new things in our lives. Without new things our lives become a Garden of Eden. Not in the way where everything is perfect, but in the way that there is nothing new. When Adam and Eve ate of the tree of knowledge, they understood that their lives were boring. And when they left the garden they were able to make new things. While we sometimes think that living in the garden is a blessing and leaving is a curse, maybe it is the other way around and that living in the garden was the curse and leaving was a blessing.
This often happens in my life when all my homework is done and no amount of television, books, or video games will entertain me so I just think. I think, what can I do that I have never done before, what can I do that will entertain me, excite me, make me not bored anymore. I do art projects, science experiments, cook, or just look through the many closets in our house that are packed with interesting stuff. Without boredom my life would be, uninteresting. All our lives would be uninteresting. That is why boredom is important.
So maybe the serpent was right all along. When Eve ate of the fruit he said humans would be like gods. And that is true. We have the ability to find new knowledge, to find all things. Not right away, but we are able to find things out.
And we are able to be like God because we too can create things. Just as the story talks of God creating the world, once we have the knowledge of our own boredom, then we can leave the Garden of Eden and create new things.