A day in the life of Adam and Eve
By: Chandrea Serebro
Many a love song has been written about the power of one moment or just one day. Lives changed, worlds created, destinies dashed. The archetypal creation story, with its elements of love, lost and found, betrayal, disappointment, and doom – Adam and Eve, the birth parents of humankind – has all the ingredients needed for a smash hit. And for Adam and Eve, this one day is none other than Rosh Hashanah, the birthday of the world. Rosh Hashanah is the day that all the action happened, starting with the birth of Adam and Eve. It’s their birthday, but this is just the start. Adam and Eve also got married on this day, consummating the wedding on this day, and it is also the day that they sinned, leading to their being booted out of Gan Eden. It is also the day that they do Teshuva. Everything happens so quickly, it is a life story taking place in a moment of time that is essentially eternal. And this one moment has overarching meaning for us too – there is so much that we learn from a day in the life of Adam and Eve.
“If we look to Adam and Eve, and we identify the trajectory of the sin, and if we look at that in terms of their relationship with Hashem and relationships in general, there is much we can learn,” says Rabbanit Toby Einhorn, specialist dating and marriage coach, whose passion is to help singles and couples from around the globe strengthen their marriages and relationships.
The way the cookie crumbles in a marriage is as quick as the denouement of Adam and Eve on one day, Rosh Hashanah. “Under the Chuppah, we break the glass to remind us how, in one moment, everything can be shattered to smithereens,” says Toby. But the symbolism of it being Rosh Hashanah teaches us that we can repair all the things that have been broken just as quickly, by doing teshuva. “What is more, you can turn it into an opportunity – a crisis-tunity, as one of my mentors, Hedy Schleifer, internationally-revered master relationship builder, calls it. The beauty of Judaism is that we believe that a person can repent. And the beauty of teshuva is that it is not just merely about erasing the sin, but more about elevating it, making it as if you actually did a positive action in G-d’s eyes.” If we look at how this relates to a marriage, it becomes crucial to how we view marital harmony and shalom bayit. When there is a fight or a disconnect, or even just a time when spouses are not on the same channel, if there is real, compassionate, and meaningful teshuva, the relationship can emerge elevated, having attained a higher level than it was on before. “The relationship has gotten stronger because it has gone through a crisis, and it has come out the other side, changed and grown. And hopefully, each side has learnt from the process. There’s a new resilience in the relationship now: We fought, and we came out of it, and we find ourselves stronger and more in sync than we were before the fight.”
Let’s look at Adam and Eve. Just like in all relationships, and significantly marriage, there were unspoken and some explicitly spoken rules that defined the relationship itself. Adam and Eve were given boundaries by G-d that they needed to abide by, and the iconic Tree of Knowledge was the ultimate boundary. Adam and Eve had the run of Gan Eden for the most part, yet all it took was one, small, forbidden fruit to entice them to sin.
“The first part of their unravelling is the sin itself. “Adam and Eve strayed from the relationship, from the connection to G-d. The second step is hiding from their actions and their roles in the sin. Absurdly, Adam and Eve tried to hide from G-d in Gan Eden. And the third part is to blame. Hashem asks them for an explanation, and Adam blames Eve, who in turn blames the snake. The trajectory of the sin begins at the moment of the sin itself, straying from the good path, and moves downhill fast from there. “Relationships are like this too. Too often, in our marriage and other relationships, we stray from the relationship goals, we stray from the written and unwritten rules, and we stray from the connection. And then, often, we hide. We avoid the problem, we can’t face up to our actions or our feelings or our shortcomings or those of our partner, and so we pretend that it doesn’t exist. Or, we go into blaming mode, and we blame the other rather than taking personal responsibility for the part that we played in the problem.” We are all the direct family of Adam and Eve and find ourselves on the same trajectory that they did when they sinned. But how can we come back from this?
The same way that Adam and Eve did. When they were kicked out of the Garden of Eden, the Midrash says that they sat inside the river of Gan Eden, the only place where they could be close to Gan Eden whilst not being in Gan Eden, and they cried, and they did teshuva. They went through the whole gamut of what makes for real teshuva, and they emerged, somewhat worse for the wear, but as man and wife, stepping into the world to do the will of G-d.
Charata, regret, vidui ba’peh, confession, and kabbala al ha’atid, not doing it again.
The first step to real teshuva is a sincere resolution not to repeat a sin. Adam and Eve felt bad about what happened, they regretted their actions, confessed their wrongful actions, and expressed that regret, and they affirmed a commitment not to do it again. “We see here that the main way to do real teshuva is to take personal responsibility.” Hashem does not forgive the sins that are between man and man. If you sin against G-d, you can ask Him directly, but before you can talk to G-d about the things that you have done against your fellow man, bein adam lechavero, you have to first achieve forgiveness from him. And the chaver, or fellow man, of prime importance, is your spouse. “When we are even about to begin thinking about Elul, the High Holy days, and about doing teshuva and making up with people we may have hurt throughout the year, the very first person we need to think about is our spouse. I always say that if we want to find out about the true character of a person, we should look at what his family thinks about him. Not his co-workers or colleagues, or his friends. The people closest to him. How does he live with them? Does he live in peace and harmony with them? Does he live in love with them?”
Elul, the time leading up to the High Holy days and the holidays themselves, is a time to think back to all of the fights and problems we had during the year and reflect on them to see where there may have been a disconnect. Where did we stray from the relationship and the connection? And then, we need to come out of hiding. “We need to bring the problem out of hiding and acknowledge that something is not in alignment within the partnership. We must find a way to take full responsibility for our part in the disconnect – even if we had only a small part to play in the reason for the disconnect, and whether or not the partner takes full responsibility for their part. We need to do that for ourselves, and our relationship with Hashem.” Once we have done the hard work of acknowledging first to ourselves that there is a problem, that we have played a role, and then expressed this to our partner and confessed to our misjudgements and wrongdoings, we see that as soon as we start taking this full responsibility for our part, in the hope that our partner will see their part too, and together then we can work our way to moving forward.”
Rosh Hashanah is the time of the great reset. Together, we resolve not to sin again. To be better. For ourselves, and each other. And although Adam and Eve never entered a state of Gan Eden again, nor did the world ever go back to life before sin, we know that we have the power to create our Gardens of Eden. We see how it is possible for us, in any relationship, to go about perfecting our many imperfections as best as we can to find a true and meaningful connection.
Rabbanit Toby Einhorn is no stranger to the South African Jewish community after she and her husband both served the community previously – her as Head of Adult Education of the Union of Orthodox Synagogues in CT and Rabbi Einhorn as the head Shaliach of Bnei Akiva, Head of the Kollel Torah Mitzion and the Jewish schools in Cape Town.