I want to continue the thoughts that I had last week: why do we read the Torah from the beginning through the end, and why do we immediately start again? We read Bereshit, the beginning Parashah of the Torah, this week, and reading Bereshit provides us with some answers.
Bereshit, among other things, is the story of the creation of the first man and woman. As a part of that story, the woman heeds the serpent’s advice and eats a fruit from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Bad, the one tree that God specifically declared forbidden. The woman shared the fruit with the man, and they realized they were naked and were embarrassed. God ejects the man and the woman from the Garden, but, in my opinion, ejection was worth the price, because the man and woman became self-aware.
What relevance does the story of Adam and Eve have to today’s America? There are two women currently trying to obtain two of the highest positions in the United States. One, Kamala Harris, is the vice-presidential nominee. The other, Amy Coney Barrett, has been nominated to the United States Supreme Court. Harris is a proponent of a woman’s right to choose (to have an abortion), and Barrett has been nominated specifically in the hope she will vote to overrule Roe v. Wade. Harris is a defender of the Affordable Care Act, and Barrett has been nominated specifically in the hope she will vote to the rule the Affordable Care Act unconstitutional. Harris is an environmentalist, and today (Thursday) Barrett called climate change “a very contentious matter of public debate.”
In the context of Harris and Barrett, we can look to Eve as a strong woman, driven by curiosity and rejecting normative behavior. I have long thought that, had Eve not taken the bite of the fruit, Adam and Eve would still be in the Garden. We would not have created musical compositions, great works of literature and art, great works of architecture, great works of science.
Harris and Barrett owe their aspirations to Eve’s taking a bite out of that fruit. Next year, when we read Bereshit again, we will have a new context. And that’s why we read the Torah annually.