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Beit Midrash Torah Portion and Tanach Bereshit

TO SERVE AND PROTECT

Rabbi Stewart WeissTishrei 28 5777
160
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"TANSTAAFL:" There Ain’t No Such Thing As A Free Lunch. Surely you know that important principle of life, made famous by Robert Heinlein in his 1966 science fiction novel, "The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress."

This concept began at the dawn of time. While Hashem is a great & giving G-d, who created the world & everything in it for our benefit, it did not come condition-free. There was a qualifier attached: Man was placed in the Garden of Eden - & by extension, in the world at large - "L’Avda U’l’Shamra – To Serve & to Protect." (Note: this phrase is written on the side of every Chicago police car!).

The quid-pro-quo for receiving this wonderful treasure we call Earth is two-fold: We must serve Hashem & follow in His ways; and we must not only work the land (another interpretation of "L’Avda"), but also safeguard & protect it, as well as all those around us, from any harm.
Piety, devotion to G-d, communal responsibility, hard work & ecological awareness are the main mandates to Man which all wrapped up in this succinct, two-line command.

The tragic downfall of history’s "First Family," dramatically described in this week’s opening Sedra, stem from a failure to heed G-d’s warning. Adam & Chava do not follow Hashem’s instructions as to what may or may not be eaten; Kayin & Hevel argue over the land, & the end result is that Paradise Granted turns into Paradise Lost.

Where did it start to all break down?

In castigating Adam, G-d says (3:17): "Because you listened to the voice of your wife….." Presumably, this seemingly chauvinistic comment means that Adam’s sin was that he listened to Chava when she offered him the Etz Ha’Da’at, & did not object to her advances.

But hang on a second: Where do we see anywhere in the text that Chava spoke to Adam? Look for it; it’s simply not there!

Thomas Furst offers a brilliant idea: Where DO we see Chava speaking? It is when she converses with the snake, who convinces her that it’s absolutely OK to transgress G-d’s command. Says Hashem to Adam: "You listened to that conversation, you heard what Chava said, & yet you did nothing! You did not come to her rescue; you did not protect her from the snake’s evil counsel! For that, you must pay a heavy price."

The lesson should be clear to us: Be a good spouse, a good Jew, a good neighbor, citizen & person; and always protect all those around you from harm. That is the ticket back into Gan Eden.
Rabbi Stewart Weiss
Was ordained at the Hebrew Theological College in Skokie, Illinois, and led congregations in Chicago and Dallas prior to making Aliyah in 1992. He directs the Jewish Outreach Center in Ra'anana, helping to facilitate the spiritual absorption of new olim.
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