ADAM or the Mystery of the Beginning

WIESEL, ELIE

ADAM or the Mystery of the Beginning Elie Wiesel n the beginning, man is alone. Alone as God is alone. As he opens his eyes he does not ask: Who am I? He asks: Who are you? In the beginning, man...

...The last question is proof...
...Perhaps that everybody can be seduced: woman by Satan and man by woman...
...He knew that sin was one subject sure to interest Eve...
...Adam found a way to defend himself...
...Another answer: To preclude man's taking himself too seriously...
...he rest we know...
...He probably did not realize where the fruit had come from...
...Eve had been an easy prey...
...In Jewish tradition it is just the opposite: man's past is linked to history's sacred origins...
...So glorious was he that the angels, dazzled by his perfection, confused him with his Creator and began to sing him their praises...
...He had no choice but to submit...
...Outside paradise, he became real...
...Then he seduced me into committing the one act I should not have committed...
...In those days the serpent walked and talked, he even talked quite well...
...In the third hour God selected the clay for Adam's body...
...her curiosity and her greed were stronger than she...
...What drove her to the serpent and why was it so important for her to touch the tree...
...Let us reread the text in the Book of Genesis: God instructs Adam and Eve not to eat of a certain fruit...
...even when he opposes God, he is but accomplishing His will which does not mitigate his punishment...
...But it isn't simple...
...That is the lesson learned or to be learned from his adventure...
...And then the serpent shoved her toward the tree...
...With hate...
...A frightening tale...
...Before man, time flowed, but it acquired its true dimension only as it penetrated man's consciousness...
...Here was Adam sleeping the sleep of the just and suddenly God steals one of his ribs...
...To rebel against this iniquity...
...Could she have been already then attracted and fascinated by death, by nothingness...
...They worked on fashioning their future, their own immortality...
...even mosquitoes preceded you in the order of creation...
...He was afraid to make a move, to utter a word...
...Neither husband nor wife could possibly know what it meant to die, yet they obeyed...
...To transmit...
...And so that one man could not taunt another, saying: My father was greater than yours...
...To communicate by deed and word...
...Perhaps He sought, through Adam, to continuously interrogate His creation...
...He knows where he is heading but not whence he comes...
...closed to weakness, to doubts...
...They claim the initiative came from the serpent himself...
...Unlike Eve, Adam did not have the feeling of violating the supreme commandment...
...Even the waters rejected the divine decree dividing them into upper and lower waters...
...Can we today identify with our first forebear...
...But then, of course, another source states the opposite...
...And you really believe this...
...Yet the Angels of Justice and Mercy pronounced themselves favorably: Let man be born and he will be just and merciful...
...The first nightmare in history...
...had he stayed home with his wife, the serpent would have had no chance of success...
...Not even in paradise...
...But it is given to man to begin again and he does so every time he chooses to defy death and side with the living...
...After the fall they began to work, to strive for a future marked by man...
...Yet he would like to know: the past intrigues him more than death...
...Another text tries to make us believe that it was Adam who chose Eve to be his wife...
...and whoever saves one human being, saves all mankind...
...As if to say: You could have prevented us from sinning...
...She was to help him by opposing him, by defying him...
...She therefore held no mystery, no attraction...
...He understood intuitively that God Himself receives His name from man illustrating the basic Jewish concept that while God is God and man is only His instrument, still God needs man to make Himself known, just as man needs God to acquire this knowledge...
...In the face of death they decided to fight by giving life, by conferring a meaning on life...
...If indeed there is an answer, I have been unable to find it in our legends...
...In those days Satan was not just anybody...
...In passing, let me say that it was not an apple but a citrus...
...that privilege is God's alone...
...Thus the first man beheld the image of the last of his descendants and their eyes met...
...Significantly, the tale of that tragedy is told by Eve not Adam in the apocryphal book named after them: Sefer Adam ve Hava...
...Lesson number three: she was wrong in committing not only herself but her absent husband as well...
...God had warned them firmly: transgression would result in death...
...God wished this marriage to take place so as to forestall Adam's being looked upon as a divinity, a god on earth just as the Creator is God in heaven...
...She already knew the price of disobeying God and yet she tricked Adam into becoming her accomplice...
...Humble yet arrogant, saint and sinner, strong and yet terribly weak...
...The Bible tells us that the couple was chased from paradise...
...After all, it was a matter of some concern to him...
...Would you know how to name them...
...And yet the Midrash attributes so many talents and virtues to Adam that it is difficult to understand how he did not fall victim to pride...
...No trace of foreboding or concern...
...The same comparison is drawn for Absalom's hair, Assa's legs and Zidkiyahu's eyes...
...That is his punishment...
...According to him, the further back one goes, the deeper one delves into the past, the more man emerges as a primitive creature dominated by obscure, irrational and deadly instincts...
...He offered her the desired fruit...
...Better yet: to arrange for God to kill Adam, then to abscond with Eve and her fortune, with the heiress and her inheritance...
...And so beautiful that the splendor of his heel outshone that of the sun...
...And a non-believer: I am the son of a non-believer...
...He who delves into it risks finding himself cut off from the present and remaining isolated and silenced forever...
...Why didn't she stop in time...
...His problems are ours, we are distressed over his fate, his tense, troubled, inexplicably threatened home...
...Guilt cannot be transmitted...
...Why was Eve created...
...They were in a situation of conflict, they were free human at last...
...it belongs to anyone who claims it as his own...
...he didn't need to, for the very source and cradle of his mind were occupied by God...
...He no longer radiated light...
...The moon objected to having to share its duties and privileges with the sun...
...As always, the Midrash tries to compensate for Biblical terseness and offers a portrait both elliptical and striking...
...He convinced Eve that that was precisely what God had sought to prevent with his prohibition...
...Nor is it the only one...
...His intuition proved right...
...Only later did he understand his error: suddenly he was aware of his body, his nakedness, his own vulnerability...
...he was king of the beasts...
...Finally, the serpent agreed, but on one condition: that she share the fruit with her husband...
...Thieves entered my house...
...Rabbinical tradition reduces this danger to a minimum, striving to link Adam to man to all men...
...No more...
...It wasn't my fault, not entirely, shS seems to have told her grandchildren, I couldn't have known that certain faces wear masks...
...he couldn't possibly lose...
...In fact, one text goes even further and suggests that she herself was a victim of injustice, and not guilty, not really, not entirely...
...In the apocryphal "The Testament of Henoch" we find the following tale...
...He altered the existing rules,*and thereafter Adam and Eve were no longer the same...
...Eve saw the Angel of Death but stayed alive...
...It is possible to live with death...
...And that therefore God is not one, but many...
...it is as though he were dying over and over again...
...she acknowledged that it would be unjust to make Adam share her punishment...
...Her excitement became unbearable...
...No man dies, says the Zohar, without seeing Adam and questioning him about his guilt...
...Rightly or wrongly, he assessed the woman as being more vulnerable, more gullible, more malleable than her husband...
...What were they...
...And you, Adam...
...1 , In other words, it is not given to man to begin...
...This may have been their chance to cry out against the incomprehensible laws of Him who wishes to be the Father and Judge of man...
...They insisted, they wept...
...He knew how to convince and get others to obey...
...He remained passive while the world simmered around him...
...The more she wanted to bite into the fruit, the more he discouraged her...
...And yet, instead of desisting and repenting, she chose to use the serpent's stratagems on her husband and draw him into the same deadly trap...
...In any case, Eve took the fruit and held it in her hand, admiring its beauty, reluctant to swallow too qufckly that which had cost her so dear...
...he was made to obey a will other than his own...
...God asked him...
...Another explanation suggests that injustice is inherent in man's fate...
...Not by his sin...
...Adam's real punishment...
...Since she would have to pay, she owed it to herself to drag Adam along...
...Adam named them all...
...No more...
...A stranger to the world and to himself, he no longer knew where to look, what signs to watch for...
...Nor was he to blame in any way...
...Every man should be Adam to all others...
...She pleaded with him, appealed to his feelings, reminded him of their friendship...
...But before we accuse the Midrash of anti-feminist tendencies, let us listen to another, more flattering, text: A king met Rabban Gamliel and told him: I don't know how to say this, but . . . your God yes, your God is nothing but a thief...
...Where are you...
...Eve remained apprehensive and did not move...
...So total was God's presence, he did not feel it...
...ise, intelligent, erudite, understanding, generous, he was endowed with a flawless soul...
...Nor did he think of it...
...How could he ever trust anyone again...
...Another, less radical, version recounts that while the angels were quarreling among themselves, God took advantage of their inattention and hastily created man...
...To disarm Satan and bring him back to reason, God decided to prove to him that Adam was the more intelligent of the two, and thus worthy of his success...
...true, the old grief was now deeper and all-pervasive but, never mind, the challenge lay in defeating oblivion, not pain...
...You see, he said nonchalantly, I touched it and I am alive...
...Surely it will burn me...
...But why did God take her from her future husband's rib...
...But then, why did Eve commit the irreparable...
...In the sixth hour He completed the body and made it stand up...
...No wonder Satan grew jealous...
...Thus the sum of our interrogations reflects the original question, which affected more than Adam, for it did not die with him...
...The Midrash, with lavish use of imagery, goes on to describe the events and their consequences in great detail...
...There was singing and dancing and joy in every sphere and celestial palace...
...Moreover, he was humble, shy, grateful...
...MESSENGERS OF GOD: BIBLICAL PORTRAITS AND LEGENDS by Elie Wiesel, translated from the French by Marion Wiesel, to be published this spring...
...And the celebrated Rebbe Shneur-Zalmen of Ladi comments: What...
...Instinctively she knew: He keeps His pledges, especially when it comes to punishment...
...It is possible to be dead and not know it...
...Born to affirm God's glory, Adam became the incarnation of His first defeat...
...In his hand, in his mouth, the fruit was like any other...
...Their children would die, never mind...
...And like the others, it later came true...
...the idea that her husband might survive and possibly marry another seemed intolerable to her...
...like Him, you shall have the power to create and destroy, to kill' and resurrect...
...But why wasn't Adam consulted first...
...Once he had been monolithic, whole...
...There are also those who say it was a bunch of grapes, while others maintain it was a fig...
...he obtained nothing of what he coveted and lost everything he could call his own...
...Everywhere and within himself...
...God reassured His servant: You, Moses, son of Amram, write that is your task and your role...
...be careful, do not destroy anything, for after you there will be no one to repair what you have undone...
...Whereas before he had stood proudly erect as he listened to God, he now tried to escape His voice...
...The fact was that while Eve and the serpent were acting out their scene, Adam was elsewhere...
...Thus ends Adam's story, and thus begins the story of mankind...
...His modesty was such that he accepted to play a secondary role in his own tragedy...
...One pictures his life as drab, devoid of expectation, of stimulation...
...True, he suffered whenever he looked at them...
...Remember...
...and to name things is to possess them...
...One Midrash has it that Adam gave him a book and that this book was the Torah...
...God we are told did away with the rebellious angels, destroying them by fire...
...Adam: the first living contradiction...
...Driven by a passion she could no longer control, she knowingly courted disaster...
...The bride and groom might have lived happily ever after, had it not been for the irruption on stage of a new character ushering in the second act...
...Whoever kills, kills Adam...
...Processions of angels and seraphim escorted him straight to paradise, where he still dwells...
...Then they became spiritual as well: he lost his powers over the animals...
...And the Angel of Peace added: In what way does he deserve to be given life...
...he had to fight the newcomer, he had to undermine his position...
...How can one ever be certain that the friend is not an imposter...
...Since she had to die, she would not die alone...
...Worse, for the first time he discovered the meaning of anguish and fear...
...Yet in her conversation with the serpent, Eve added something of her own to the prohibition: We were told not to eat from the tree and not even to touch it, for to do either would bring death upon us...
...In no time, Adam became the prototype of the weak, submissive husband whose passivity turns into an act of sheer survival...
...Having reached this point in the story, we must pause, for its setting is changing, Adam is about to leave his fairy tale to enter tragedy...
...After all, the first couple had to violate the divine commandment to allow mankind to evolve...
...Imagine what would have happened to the world if God, in the beginning, had created more than one man...
...One moment of life contains eternity, one moment of life is worth eternity...
...Their greatest sin was to have shunned their responsibilities...
...The mechanism had been set much earlier...
...First to God, then to his spouse...
...Adam: the prototype of perfect man...
...He expected that of the two, she would offer the least resistance...
...Born an adult, thrust into a prearranged universe, he was denied the possibility of escaping into childhood dreams or adolescent preoccupations...
...And since no tragedy seems convincing or even quite possible without a woman in the cast, both Bible and Talmud call upon Eve to enter the action...
...From time to time God invited him to join Him in His walks and showed him the visible and hidden beauties of nature: Look well, Adam, all this immensity was created for your sake alone...
...Only now the serpent was saying no, invoking all sorts of pretexts...
...nor shall I take her from his eyes, for then she might tend to be curious, too curious and greedy...
...Was there another...
...Nothing else mattered any more...
...his time had come to die...
...he man who emerges from the various texts and commentaries is appealing and we take him to our hearts...
...And yet, Adam is part of us to the extent that man recognizes that he is both point of departure and fulfillment...
...His life spanned nine hundred thirty years we can survey it in a matter of minutes...
...One text offers this cynical explanation: God created one single individual in order to prevent quarrels...
...One Midrashic text insinuates that God cheated...
...Some go as far as seeing in him the future Messiah...
...No sooner had Eve made the serpent's acquaintance than she was already telling him the story of the forbidden fruit...
...When she did not answer, he walked up to the tree and legend tells us the tree shouted with anger and put his arms around it...
...Adam frightens him...
...Caught in the treadmill, she ventured farther and farther...
...Eve: a remedy against solitude, the un-fathomed side of man...
...All the animals on earth were summoned to appear before Him...
...He believed in her and so had no thought of resisting, of stalling...
...The years went by...
...The sun went down...
...Adam and Eve had to defy God so that their descendants might sing His praises...
...His story in Genesis is contained in forty verses...
...Here again, something in this episode will almost certainly disturb the careful reader...
...In the tenth hour he transgressed...
...thus no one can claim that the world or Adam belongs to him alone...
...Happy, content, he seems singularly uninteresting before his downfall...
...She was curious but distrustful...
...And they would have obeyed to the end had not the serpent intervened...
...In the eleventh hour he was judged by a seventy-one-member Sanhedrin...
...Perhaps God intended to begin His work with a question...
...Adam: the first being to have a name, to experience joy, surprise and agony...
...Finally, they were told the truth: Adam was to live no longer...
...Eve handed him the fruit and he bit into it...
...And to God's satisfaction, he was declared the winner...
...In the fifth hour He covered it with skin...
...He must have yearned for a measure of peace and silence...
...all the texts point to it...
...And in the twelfth hour of the sixth day he was found guilty and expelled from paradise...
...All these elements are indeed present in Adam's personality, the most complex and colorful in Jewish legend...
...Lesson number four: Adam should not have left his house...
...Had Adam and Eve opted for life and against knowledge, history would have ended with them...
...Clearly, she was ripe for seduction, though one may theorize that she considered the serpent an instrument rather than an accomplice and that she collaborated with him in order to establish her power...
...The moral of the story...
...The sun is rising...
...Every man must believe that his every deed involves all other men...
...If only I could be the victim of such robbers every night, said the king...
...His own wife had deceived him, perhaps even doomed him...
...More than the Messiah, Adam is present...
...nor must I take her from his ears, for she might tend to eavesdrop...
...And the text continues: Nonetheless, in spite of this precaution, men go on quarreling and killing one another...
...Then Adam, who was old and weak, fell sick...
...But then, why the punishment...
...One Midrashic text candidly admits that Eve was created more to serve God than Adam...
...Here again Adam differs from most other mythological figures...
...Other sources deny the angels' role in the conspiracy...
...Legend claims that this was precisely what Adam feared most...
...His every move concerns us, we share his fears, his disappointments...
...Here is what happened, according to legend...
...For the first time the couple faced a third presence...
...One morning Eve tells her husband: I had a nightmare...
...Since he had the whole universe to himself, he desired nothing, thought of nothing and nobody...
...Under his influence, Eve agreed to bite into the forbidden fruit, she even succeeded in turning her husband into an accomplice...
...In the hut they had built for themselves, the man and the woman began to repent...
...He was an influential angel, God's favorite, and he was seated at His right...
...And indeed, how could she have guessed that Satan was Satan and not a messenger of God...
...He was not convinced that it was a good idea to place man at the center of His universe...
...Also, so that a just man could not say: I am the son of a Just man...
...True, his destiny is unique, but that is true for every one of us...
...In this respect, Jewish legend differs from most secular concepts, which consider the human being a function of progress...
...Since the world was created for one human being, whoever kills one human being, kills all mankind...
...Expelled from paradise, he entered time...
...His role...
...He cast aside his humility and called God by His Name...
...They were not free, hence not responsible...
...Confronted with the serpent they had to and were able to choose...
...Surely he will provoke endless wars...
...Rabban Gamliel's daughter chose to answer the sovereign: Do you know what happened to me last night...
...he knew that no one can undo what has been done...
...She entered Adam's life and dominated it completely...
...Were there two "first men" at the beginning of history...
...Then and only then did the serpent relent...
...Therefore he pleaded with God never to reveal the true nature of his guilt...
...He aimed too high, a legend tells us, and he was punished...
...Whereupon the marriage was arranged: God officiated and the angels and seraphim took over both the technical and the artistic aspect of the ceremony...
...True, God did take a rib from him, but in exchange he gave him a beautiful woman who helped him when he needed help, served him when he needed to be served and was silent when he talked...
...Poor man: punished for nothing...
...From the moment she appeared, she took over center stage...
...He thus placed on Seth the responsibility of transmitting its teachings to his sons and their sons after them, to the end of all generations...
...Unbelievable but true: the very man God considered His masterpiece, His crowning achievement, turned into a pallid figure content to follow his wife and let her decide for him, for both...
...he accepted everything, himself included...
...He saw death everywhere...
...It is for him and because of him that God manifested Himself in creation, and it is because of him and through him that death entered into it as well...
...To keep alive the memory of his past, Adam had taken four plants from paradise as proof that his tales, his obsessions were more than dreams...
...A sign that my end is near, I shall lose consciousness in the dark...
...A gambler, and vain at that, he was easily persuaded to conspire against those humans, those potential rivals, who were eluding his authority...
...For the first time she genuinely, deeply understood that there was a direct, inescapable relationship between her person and death...
...Another question: Why did the Creator wait until the sixth day to give life to Adam why didn't he do it at the very start...
...Your Majesty...
...His grandchildren gathered around his sickbed: What is the matter with you, Grandfather...
...Never mind Schopenhauer, who called man a "crazy wild beast restrained only by civilization...
...What is your place in the world...
...Adam spoke and his grandchildren did not understand...
...Thus Satan couldn't but resent the intruder who was succeeding too easily and too quickly...
...God had given Adam and Eve full freedom to roam through paradise, doing whatever they liked, eating whatever appealed to them, with one exception: they were not to taste the fruit from the Tree of Knowledge...
...Whoever kills, kills Adam's vision, kills in Adam's name...
...One text claims that his wish was granted...
...They loved him...
...We would find it easier to accept such a reaction from Adam...
...God chose not to whisper the answer when He asked: And Me, Adam, what name will you give Me...
...Evil and cursed, mythical yet real...
...Could he have taken another...
...No, he would not...
...Adam was no longer the same...
...As if to underline the allegorical dimension of the main character, the Midrash inserts him into the condensed time associated with classical theatre...
...We see and hear only her...
...God asked Satan...
...The couple had a third son, Seth...
...that the full story of what took place under the Tree would never be told...
...The secret of creation may be dwelled upon only when one is alone as Adam was alone...
...strange character, the serpent...
...When He created man, God gave him a secret and that secret was not how to begin but how to begin again...
...Never mind Darwin and his theory of evolution...
...And so God introduced Eve, and Adam found her to his liking...
...God told him: No longer will you reign over the animals...
...One source describes him as having two faces, thus stressing his ambivalence, not to say ambiguity...
...Perhaps God was simply unwilling to risk a refusal...
...But Eve, how could she possibly disregard God's will and submit to the will of a serpent...
...No wonder God had His doubts about the project...
...Such is the essence of Jewish tradition...
...There would have been no punishment, no death, no struggle for survival, no nothing, no nobody...
...At first, these were merely physical: Adam's body grew smaller and smaller...
...And as we all know, exaggeration leads to digression, which in turn leads straight to transgression...
...As soon as they saw him, they fell silent...
...With the arrival of the serpent, the action changes course...
...There was no way out of the present, no refuge in fantasy...
...The game was up: God would keep His promise and strike...
...She knew now that her husband was innocent and she was not...
...So be it, only now we shall do so freely, consciously, even deliberately...
...and added chaos, the abyss and darkness, without which no work of art is possible...
...The plot thickens and the reader is caught up in the growing excitement...
...We said it earlier: Adam was a weakling...
...No matter...
...One source assures us he was the angels' emissary...
...And as they tear themselves away from the living, they in turn are watching him...
...For Adam was indeed bored in paradise...
...In the fourth hour He gave it shape...
...Expelled from paradise, Adam and Eve did not give in to resignation...
...The question evidently did not trouble Adam, but seems to have preoccupied the Midrash, which offers the following explanation...
...You who are so intelligent, so perceptive, you actually believe that it is enough to touch the tree to die...
...He had to contend with all our inhibitions, manias and complexes, with one exception: the Oedipus complex, thank heaven...
...The philosopher named some basic elements in nature: fire, wind, dust...
...On his deathbed every man turns to Adam with the reproach: It is because of your sin that I must die...
...he was their hope...
...Incapable of wrongdoing, of thinking ill...
...And, adds the Midrash' with caustic humor, despite these precautions, woman has all the faults God tried to prevent...
...Adam thus bequeathed us his death his death and not his sin...
...he Midrash advances the following hypothesis: Eve was tempted by the promise of power...
...He understood that though man is doomed from the start, he can and must act freely when planning his future...
...God is omniscient, yet every man is responsible for his own freedom...
...What Eve did not understand was that she would find in the forbidden fruit not death but the idea and the sensation of death...
...In vain...
...Could that be the reason why Adam and Eve sinned with such lack of constraint...
...Before man, things were there, yet did not really exist...
...To illustrate Samson's strength, the Midrash compares it to that of Adam...
...This is a question God asks of every man, always: Where are you...
...Unlike most mythological figures, he does not strike the reader as a leader of man, a giant who dictates his law...
...He demanded nothing, sought no glory...
...And when he listened to his own heart, he found it empty of joy and desire...
...For Adam's sake, of course...
...One text says he was asleep...
...He could have thrown away the plants, instead he guarded them jealously...
...No divine attribute seems as enviable as solitude...
...under his gaze, they began to be...
...Yet it was, for her and for us, the beginning of the end...
...And he wasn't even Jewish...
...they had concluded that man would represent too formidable a challenge unless he could be made to stray and sin...
...he spared no means...
...One prepared his meals, another tasted his wines...
...They built a house on the ruins of their shattered existence...
...No cloud, no shadow to mar his serenity...
...He had the courage to get up and begin anew...
...She suddenly realized that life and death are not two separate domains...
...He fell in love with Eve and planned to kill Adam and marry his widow...
...As for those who will refuse to understand or who will deliberately misinterpret My thoughts and yours, let that be their problem...
...No memory preceded his own...
...Despite his fall, Adam died undaunted...
...Either Adam and Eve would become closer to one another than ever before or drift apart...
...Is that to say that without help Adam would have failed the test...
...nor from his mouth, for she would not stop chattering...
...From there he watches his descendants leaving one world for the other...
...Too late to turn back, too late to erase what she had seen and experienced...
...Lesson number two: one must choose one's conversation partners with care and not talk to just anyone and surely not about theology...
...Needless to say, she immediately tried to eclipse her only partner and succeeded...
...In other words, she claimed to have fallen into Satan's trap because she could not have known that someone who looked like a friend could in fact be the enemy of mankind, bent on its corruption and eventual destruction...
...That is also why the clay from which he was fashioned was gathered from every corner of the universe...
...we know there were precedents...
...As long as he lived, even far from paradise, even far from God, victory belonged not to death but to him...
...neither her dignity, her woman's pride, her fear, her security, nor her loyalty to her God, who was present, or to her husband, who was not...
...The first contact with death...
...asked the sage...
...she could not refrain from disclosing that which, after all, concerned only herself and her husband...
...They were not the first to rebel...
...To safeguard...
...Unknown forces beset and chained him down...
...Nor was the serpent fooled...
...Adam rose to the challenge...
...Never were the two so united...
...I am sick...
...Well, said the sage's daughter, that is precisely what happened to Adam...
...From the forthcoming book...
...You did not...
...Embodying man's eternal quest for meaning, justice and truth, Adam remains the contemporary and the companion of all men, of all generations...
...she was to enrich his life and lead him to discover desire, ambition and remorse...
...And God had to admonish him: Tell me, man, you who are hiding do you really believe the house can hide from its builder...
...God didn't know where Adam was hiding...
...each one had its own preoccupations...
...Adam placed the blame on Eve, and Eve placed it on the serpent...
...Eve bore Adam two sons, Cain and Abel...
...To give us a lesson in equality and teach us that no man is superior to another...
...After the fall he was a broken man...
...the first man to live both his life and his death...
...Suddenly they discovered a purpose to their existence: to perfect the world which until then had been no more than created...
...He is obsessed more by Adam than by the Messiah...
...One Midrash tells us that when He made His decision, God disregarded the advice of two of His angels whose common sense led them to urge prudence...
...Solitary men are distrusted everywhere, even in heaven...
...And man's history could begin at last...
...Whatever the serpent's motivation may have been, one fact remains: his first target was Eve...
...The supreme example...
...Wouldn't you like to try it...
...In the eighth hour Adam was ushered into paradise...
...He was content...
...Once he had bitten into the forbidden fruit, Adam turned into a tragic figure...
...Then, unable to bear it any longer, Eve romantic even in misfortune turned to her husband with a suggestion that is to her credit: Since I am the one responsible for our shared suffering, since I am the one who made you go astray, kill me and surely God will let you reenter paradise...
...Perhaps this was not unusual, perhaps his wife's constant chatter had finally irritated him...
...He was convinced that it was written all over him: the beasts and animals he once had tamed now looked at him in a different way...
...According to Jewish tradition, creation did not end with man, it began with him...
...he submitted and kept silent...
...He could not say no to her...
...First she bit into the skin, careful not to eat the inside...
...Why do Scriptures offer us two different versions of Adam's birth...
...Once he had been at peace with the world...
...Thus he justifies the ancient plan of the most ancient of men, Adam, to whom we are bound both by the anguish that oppressed him and the defiance that elevated him above the paradise we shall never enter...
...What exactly does that mean, to be sick? I feel pain...
...We do not inherit the sins of our fathers, even though we may be made to endure their punishment...
...piece...
...The serpent knew just how to manipulate her...
...The Bible devotes no more than a chapter and a half to his life: a few facts, a few encounters with God, the adventure with Eve, exile...
...every man is responsible for his own death...
...Paraphrasing the Talmudic injunction, one could say: No man may study the secrets of creation except to restore his oneness to the man who incarnates the beginning of man...
...and his fear resists the most glowing of hopes...
...Adam is impulsive like fire, fickle like the wind and as unpredictable as those romantic characters, bearers of turmoil and eternal remorse, whom only God could console and only God refuses to console...
...And also that it is not by giving death to another that death can be defeated...
...asked the serpent, looking surprised...
...The Midrash says they were punished not so much for having sinned as for having invented excuses and alibis...
...Answer: When a king invites a guest, he first prepares a palace for him and only then asks him to come...
...She opted for the serpent's clever arguments over God's dry commandment...
...Like God, Adam was surrounded by angels acting as servants...
...He suffered and his grandchildren could not know...
...nor from his hand, for she might turn into a meddler...
...When God decided to create man, the earth simply refused to yield her clay...
...Wanting to assure Adam's victory, He asked the questions in such a way that Adam could guess the answers...
...His game simply became more sophisticated...
...In the seventh hour He breathed a soul into it...
...The Talmud tells us that no man resembles another, yet all men, in every age, resemble Adam: every man recognizes himself in him...
...Adam belongs to all men and to each to the same degree...
...I saw Cain kill his brother...
...Others call him the luminary, the "candle of the world...
...And Eve a woman to the end could not resist the urge...
...Objects, images, feelings, words, impulses everything revolved around his obsession with death...
...But then we have the right to ask the question: Why such a split, such an explosion of the self, which inevitably must lead to endless conflicts and contradictions...
...they meet in man not in God...
...To evoke Adam is to evoke the awesome mystery of the beginning, which we are forbidden to do, at least in public...
...And He allowed Adam to see it in its totality, to the very last generation: their judges and their kings, their sages and their thieves, their profiteers and their prophets...
...Adam refused, of course...
...no longer will you walk erect or run...
...But...
...Condemned to imitate him, we are as he was, we behave according to his example...
...Pain, what is that . . . ? The gap between the generations had become wide enough to be apparent...
...To correct this injustice, God gave him...
...She could not help herself...
...In the second hour He consulted the angels who opposed the project and the Torah which approved...
...we all have the same forebear...
...Adam's fate is no longer his own...
...Once he obtained a first concession from the woman...
...Our wishes are rooted in his and so are our sorrows...
...And so powerful that the wild beasts trembled in his presence...
...All human dialogue is ambiguous...
...I thought he was an angel, he seemed so pure...
...Something was bound to happen...
...If you taste from the tree, the serpent had told her, you shall be like God, who- ate from the same tree before creating the world...
...How could Adam have suspected his wife of wishing his death...
...He was pushed and was helpless to resist...
...Nobody received as much and nobody lost it as quickly or as brutally...
...dam's fall, just or not, constitutes the most dramatic chapter of his long life...
...Eve's mistake was to enter into a dialogue with the serpent in the first place...
...to make another promise...
...One part of him yearned for God, the other for escape from God...
...At any rate, faced with a fait accompli, Adam declared himself pleased and ready to comply...
...they took all my silver and in its place they left me gold...
...He was so tall that his body spanned the earth from one end to the other...
...What has not been said about Adam...
...Surely he will be a liar...
...namely, that it was possible to touch the tree with impunity, he knew she would want to continue, to push ahead and test God by testing herself...
...So, for the joy of blessing the chosen, God consented to let Himself be afflicted with the wicked...
...nothing bores a perfect man more than excessive praise...
...Adam's life is presented there as a tragedy in three acts, with the entire universe as stage and setting...
...He was intoxicated with God, brimming over with God, joined to God in God: no need for him to seek God, to serve Him, understand Him, woo Him...
...Before carrying out His project, God thought to Himself: I shall not take her from Adam's head, for then she might carry her head too high, flaunting her arrogance and pride...
...Never since has a wedding been performed with such pomp or in the presence of such distinguished guests...
...Or are we to understand that even in the early days of his solitude Adam was already two as though to warn us that while man aspires to oneness, he will never attain it...
...A philosopher once taunted Rabban Gamliel: Your God is indeed a great artist, His Adam was a master-Copyright © 1976 by Elie Wiesel...
...God was amused by his imagination and forgave him his whims and escapades...
...What does Adam represent for us, today...
...There is but one difference: we have a past, whereas he had none...
...The Midrash thus shows us Eve in a new light: lucid and penitent...
...Evidently Moses mistrusted the close relationship that had existed between God and Adam...
...Everything belonged to him except his will...
...It is a subject which transcends language and understanding...
...Some sources refer to him as Hasid...
...The concept of original sin is alien to Jewish tradition...
...from now on you will crawl in the dust...
...We would like to help him...
...A superfluous warning, for Adam had no thought of destroying or even of changing anything...
...that no one can change the past...
...To forget would have solved nothing...
...Is it conceivable that Eve could have hesitated even one second between the voice of the Creator of the Universe and that of the serpent, albeit a serpent on an extraordinary mission...
...Another, more charitable, assures us he was walking with God, who was showing him the world and teaching him to tame nature...
...Then she nibbled on a small piece the effect was instantaneous: she discovered that she was mortal...
...Only Eve and Seth shared in his sorrow...
...if he grew vain or arrogant, he could be asked what are you boasting about...
...Whenever a mortal reminds him of his transgression, he replies: I have committed only one sin you have committed many...
...We learn all this from Talmudic literature...
...Toward the end of her life Eve gathered her children and her children's children around her: When I was young I met Satan in paradise...
...A divine reflection, the first man was more righteous, more accomplished than the most "evolved" of his descendants would ever be...
...Ein dorshim maase breshit bishnayim, says the Talmud...
...but you must admit that He had excellent ingredients at His disposal...
...To tell the tale, omitting nothing, forgetting nothing...
...Traps were laid for him and he fell into them...
...a future, the longest in the history of mankind...
...He looked into the future and saw that there were among Adam's descendants innumerable sinners thirsting for crime and blood...
...To use the experience that had been theirs...
...Without outside help...
...We are linked to Adam only by his memory, which becomes our own, and by his death, which foreshadows our own...
...Every one of us yearns to recapture some lost paradise, every one of us bears the mark of some violated, stolen innocence...
...The ideal mold...
...What are you doing with your life . . . ? Still, the Midrash believes that Adam, shamed by his sin, was actually trying to hide...
...Obviously, it was all Eve's fault: she talked too much...
...Indeed, it was love at first sight...
...Man is creation's guest of honor...
...In the beginning, man oriented himself solely in relation to God and all of creation denned itself in relation to man...
...The poorest of men possesses memories torn from yesterday's world, longings, vantage points not Adam...
...Our features bear his imprint and so do our gestures...
...Man is trapped...
...The most wretched, the most destitute of mortals comes from somewhere not Adam...
...Though defeated by God, he did not wallow in self-denial...
...that it was possible for her to see the angel and not succumb...
...The tale, told in the first person, is as poignant as it is convincing...
...Without Eve, Adam would have been a man but not human...
...No, God decided, I shall take her from the most chaste part of Adam's body his rib...
...And He created him in His image . .. So much so that, according to Rabbi Shmuel Bar-Nahman, centuries later while Moses was transcribing the Torah, he stopped at this passage and questioned God: Master of the Universe, aren't You concerned that with these words You may give comfort to the miscreants and mislead the innocent and the naive...
...What was he doing while his wife arranged and rearranged his universe and changed his destiny...
...If it is true that God created man in His image, will it not be said then that God has an image...
...between the demand of heaven and the promises of woman, man may well hesitate or else not hesitate at all...
...Listen to the Midrash: It was in the first hour of the sixth day that God conceived the project of creating man...
...One part of him remained in paradise while the other continued to dream of it with nostalgia...
...she had been preceded by Lilith, mother of demons, but Adam didn't love her, couldn't love her, for he had been present at her creation...
...Midrashic literature contains magnificent and detailed descriptions of his funeral...
...A Midrash: Why did God create one man and not more...
...Lesson number one: fiction is dangerous business...
...Rejected by God, he drew closer to Eve...
...for seven days and seven nights they mourned the death of their innocence...
...Not content to live with the vestiges of the past, Adam and Eve planned their future...
...How can one ever be sure of the authenticity of any prophet claiming to transmit the divine word...
...That is what he was told repeatedly...
...all one needs to do is turn one's back on the living...
...Fear, black and biting fear, was his only companion...
...rather, from now on your fate will be lowlier than theirs...
...As for me, I'd rather think that Adam fell asleep not because of God but because of the angels...
...Yes, Eve was not the first woman in creation...
...Said the Angel of Truth: What good is it to create man...
...He dies with and in every dying man, and together with every mortal he awaits the coming of the Messiah, who will abolish death...
...And so that every man would feel responsible for the entire world...
...He built no empires, nor did he erect any temples...
...He gossiped, intrigued, plotted...
...But they were turned away and their request refused...
...But Adam must see men, his progeny, die...
...Yet man alone was punished severely...
...All our passions and sorrows, all our failings, Adam already knew...
...Even before she tasted the forbidden fruit, she was guilty of exaggerating the facts...
...If Good always had the appearance of good and Evil could always be recognized, life would be simpler indeed...
...He felt lost, his home was broken, life was against him...
...Who were his enemies, where were they lying in wait for him...
...where was Adam all that time...
...In the ninth hour he heard the divine commandment forbidding him to eat from the Tree of Knowledge...
...Yet He also foresaw that, side by side with them, there would be saints and Just Men...
...The Midrash stresses that Eve behaved like a jealous woman...
...They went and knocked on the gate to paradise, seeking assistance, pleading for an herb potent enough to cure all ailments...
...Perhaps because his rebellion alone had been conceived and willed by God...
...No one asked him anything...
...His indifference to the world extended to his own person...
...Born at the age of forty, his tragedy lasts only one day...
...Go ahead, you may, nothing will happen to you...
...She had to eat this fruit no matter what the cost...
...nor from his neck, for she might be stiff-necked and insolent...
...nor from his heart, for she would be sick with jealousy...
...God responded by making him fall asleep and the frightened angels recognized their error...
...Therefore, in the beginning, there was neither the word, nor love, but the question which has come to bear God's seal, linking man both to his origins and to his end...
...Immediately, without a question...
...the first creature to discover both the attraction and danger of secrets and knowledge...
...His face was shining and he sang the praises of the Almighty...
...Reprinted by permission of Random House, Inc...

Vol. 1 • March 1976 • No. 8


 
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