- Posted by Elaine Zecher
- On June 18, 2021
- 0 Comments
Original sin is really not a Jewish idea. The story of the Garden of Eden and the events that Genesis details in the first chapters of the Bible is about the beginning of responsibility, of our human capacity to make choices regarding good and bad. It started with the two trees in the middle of the garden: the tree of life and the tree of knowledge of good and bad.
The Eternal God took the man and placed him in the garden of Eden, to till it and tend it. And the Eternal God commanded the man, saying, “Of every tree of the garden you are free to eat; but as for the tree of knowledge of good and bad, you must not eat of it; for as soon as you eat of it, you shall die.” (Genesis 2:15-17)
As we know, the snake told Eve to eat of it and Eve then gave the fruit to Adam. When God asked the specific question of whether they had eaten of the forbidden fruit, the response was immediate. Adam blamed Eve and Eve blamed the serpent. No one took responsibility. As a result, they could not remain in this place of perfection. Banished, they would need to make their way in the world to pursue and gain understanding of right from wrong. Instead of a weight to bear, the banishment from the garden of Eden became an opportunity of the perpetual possibility to grow in understanding of our own responsibility to distinguish right from wrong.
We are in a profound moment of accountability with the recognition of Juneteenth as our 11th national holiday. The Emancipation Proclamation set in motion the obligation to end slavery along with its intended and unintended consequences. June 19, 1865 may have been the day when slaves in Galveston, Texas finally learned of their freedom two years after Abraham Lincoln signed into law that a person could not own another human being, the horrendous impact of slavery had been baked into the fabric of society. Racism and oppression of Black people took other forms from Jim Crow segregation to voting rights suppression to violent persecution. It has been said that slavery is the original sin in this country.
I believe this to be true and I also believe that Judaism’s understanding of what happened in the Garden of Eden can help us move forward.
Our tradition teaches us not to look away but rather to face our imperfections and to discover a better path forward. We may not, as Pirkei Avot teaches, obligated to finish the task but we cannot ignore it either. We are perched at an inflection point of how to proceed. Juneteenth is a collective reminder each year of our responsibility as a nation to overcome cruelty, overt and covert, explicit and implicit, intentional and unintentional and to chase after the true end to slavery even as we celebrate a momentous occasion.
This year, as Shabbat and Juneteenth coincide, let us use the power of remembrance to elevate our awareness and mindfulness of our human capacity for goodness and knowledge of what is good, right, and just.
- Tonight, we will share our first Qabbalat Shabbat at 6:00 p.m. in the garden. Register HERE to join us in person. For an online experience, we can pray together HERE on the Temple Israel website, or HERE on Zoom, or even HERE on TI’s Facebook page. Or, just find it all on the website www.tisrael.org/TogetherWithTI.
- Tot Rock Shabbat gathers HERE at 5:00 p.m.
- Torah Study will begin at 9:00 a.m. To join the conversation interactively, access Zoom HERE. You can also watch HERE on Temple Israel’s website or HERE on TI’s Facebook page.
- Register here for Thank Goodness It’s Shabbat in person at 9:00 a.m.
- Join the Clergy for Havdalah at 8:00 p.m. HERE.