Facebook Post of Rabbi Perlin in the Time of Coronavirus (5/17/2020)
Sunday Post 5.17.20: The Lesson of the Apple
by Rabbi Amy R. Perlin, D.D.
Closing a book entitled, “Adam & Eve,” a father asks his son, “what does that story of Adam and Eve teach us?” And the boy answers, “Not to eat fruit.” The little boy in yesterday’s Family Circus cartoon, by Bil Keane, isn’t wrong. After laughing and cutting it out of the Washington Post, I pondered just what lessons this cartoon teaches us today, as we live through the greatest pandemic in a century.
We know that the metaphorical story of Adam and Eve is one of two creation stories that come at the beginning of the Torah to teach us lessons. What are those lessons for us today in 2020?
Obey the rules. God gave Adam and Eve specific instructions not to eat from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, “for as soon as you eat of it, you shall die.” (Genesis 2:17) Immortality came at a price and that price was ignorance. The story doesn’t come to teach us that all of life is a fall from the Garden of Eden. The story was given to us to teach us that not obeying the rules has severe consequences. The Torah then proceeds to be a book of rules and guidelines for the protection of society. Over and over again, we are reminded that disobeying the rules can have dire consequences. And over and over again, we are seeing that not having rules, or leaving it up to people who can be tempted to go against them, is not only a dangerous thing, but can have life-threatening consequences. Genesis 2 and 3 begin our Torah to teach us that every action, or inaction, has life-changing consequences.
Don’t let anyone keep you from knowledge. Not God. Not the government. Not a censored CDC. Without knowledge, we can’t make intelligent decisions for our own lives. We need to eat from the Tree to have our eyes opened. (Genesis 3:7) Knowledge is power. At that moment, when Eve chose to eat the apple and Adam joined her in that choice, we truly became human, with the divine power of reasoning. And Adam did what many have done after him – he blamed Eve. It is so easy to blame someone else for your mistakes. This early Genesis story also teaches us that the “blame game” is as old as time. I remember, as an older child hearing the real story, being angry that Adam blamed Eve. I still get angry when anyone chooses that option to get out of being a responsible human being.
Manipulation of the facts is a dangerous thing. Check the science. As much as the little boy wanted a reason to not eat fruit, the cartoon was created to remind us that this kind of reading of the facts is just childish. In a child’s mind, the facts of a story can always be used and manipulated to perpetuate the outcome you want. The science tells us that fruit is healthy for most people, under normal circumstances.
We live in a country where too many try to manipulate the facts, and even attempt to play God in trying to keep knowledge from us. We live in a country where the dangling apple is more important to some than a long life for all. In nations with testing and tracing and a respect of science, and where the leaders set a clear set of rules that the public obeys, all is going so much better than the county by county, gut-based and gutless response here in what is supposed to be the greatest country on earth. I am embarrassed and frustrated that this great nation has no clear rules for every citizen to obey, and all of our lives are being changed as a consequence.
I am a descendent of Eve. I want knowledge, and I want it now.