I didn't send the Erev Shabbos email on Erev Shabbos because most people were keeping yom tov as per the custom in chutz la-aretz. I am told that there are still quite a few Jews left in chutz la-aretz. This week, for the duration of a number of weeks, I will be one of those Jews..... I hope to see you there, with a smile. And if you daven on my side of the mechitza - a hug as well. Anyway - it is never too late and Motzei Shabbos Bereishis is still in good time to send a Bereishis thought.
Before the sin of Adam and Chava the world was supposed to be one of giving, generosity, love and caring. After the sin, life is about destroying and competing. We can only be happy when we have something that other people don't have [who really appreciates the warmth of the sun when everybody has it]. We go for jobs and try to beat out other people, we participate in sports or root for teams when all of the pleasure is in beating the opponent. We spend much time trying to cover our own backs and will often shy away from doing things for others when it comes at our expense [even though we don't like to admit it]. The rich do all they can to protect their beloved money. If all of the religious Jews would give just 10 percent of their earnings to tzdaka all of the yeshivos would be out of the red and in the black [isn't it interesting that most yeshivas are in the "black" but just in apparel but not in the bank...]. The poor and indigent compete and strive to convince the more wealthy to share with them. Yeshivos compete with each other for students. I remember when I attempted to start a yeshiva. I naively thought that other yeshivot would send me students in order to help get me started. I quickly learned that I was persona non-grata and just some unwanted competition. The cliche of "It's a dog eat dog world" has never been as true as it is today.
Countries try to swallow each other up alive, war never ceases from the earth. Worms eat away at trees. Success is built upon the downfall of the other. People only feel the exhilaration of being alive when faced with death. Most of life's pleasures come from opposites, contradictions - סתירות. We rarely feel great to be alive without considering the alternative of death. We are happy to be married because being single is so lonely. We appreciate our children most when we consider the plight of the barren and childless. We enjoy our sight when we see or think of a blind person. Just to appreciate good without considering the negative is so hard for us. Life is a "theory of relativity" of sorts. Everything is relative to other people and situations.
This all originates in the eating of the עץ הדעת טוב ורע. The tree of the knowledge of good and evil places our perspective on life in the realm of contrasts. Something is evil because it is not good and other things are good because they are not evil. The excitement of life comes from the possibility of it's contrast - death. That is why the punishment for eating from the tree was .... death. From now on all of life is going to be measured in terms of opposites. We can only have life if we also have death. כי ביום אכלך ממנו מות תמות.
To fix the sin is to appreciate life as essentially and inherently good - regardless of whether the eventuality of death exists. To eat from the eitz ha-chaim is to learn Torah [which is eitz chaim la-machazikim bah] and put ourselves in a world where there is no death [see the end of maseches ksubos אור תורה מחייהו] and all that exists is blissful pleasure from a world of pure unadulterated life with no death and no disease. To fix the sin is to eliminate competition. It is not me against you. We are not battling for the same marbles or toys. It is about bringing the world to a place where all exists is good.
May we merit to fix the sin with a renewed commitment to latch on to the eitz hachaim and enjoy the bracha of וחי לעולם - a beautiful life of purity that never ends.
[Based partially on the sefer Mei Marom Vol. 5 parshas bereishis from Rav Yaakov Moshe Charlap ztz"l. May I suggest that you purchase and learn the Rov's sefarim as it might well transform your life as it has mine].