And G-d commanded the human, saying: “Of
every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but of the
Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, you shall not eat
of it; for on the day that you eat of it you shall surely
die.” … And the serpent said to the woman: “You
shall not surely die. For G-d knows that on the day you
eat of it, then your eyes shall be opened, and you shall
be as gods, knowing good and evil.” And the woman
saw that the tree was good to eat, and desirable to the
eyes, and a tree that was attractive as a means to gain
intelligence. She took of its fruit, and ate it and also
gave some to her husband and he ate it. Both their eyes
were opened, and they realized that they were naked; they
sewed together fig leaves, and made themselves loincloths.
And they heard the voice of G-d walking in the garden in
the breeze of the day; and the man and his wife hid themselves
from the presence of G-d amongst the trees of the garden
– this week’s Torah portion (Genesis 2:16-17; 3:4-8)
Evil, and freedom of choice, existed before
Adam ate from the Tree of Knowledge. But then evil was something
external from the person, and the two domains were completely
separate. Man's mission in life was to “work and protect
the Garden” – to cultivate the good and keep
out the bad. By eating from the Tree, man gained intimate
knowledge (daat) of evil, ingesting it into himself and
– man being a microcosm of creation – into his
world. From that point on the two realms were confused,
there being no evil without good and no good without evil.
The task of man became the “work of refinement”
(avodat habirrurim) – the grueling battle to distinguish
and separate good from evil and evil from good. All of history
is the story of this difficult battle – Rabbi Schneur
Zalman (Torah Ohr 5c-d)
The most popular story ever told – eating the forbidden
fruit from the Tree of Knowledge – is also the most
life altering event in history.
The Bible tells us that “both their eyes were opened”
after eating from the fruit. Aren’t open eyes a good
thing? Why should awareness be considered a sin?
So let us analyze for a moment this thing called “consciousness.”
At first glance consciousness would seem to be the ideal
state. Indeed, the prevalent view is that consciousness
defines human superiority over all other creatures: Our
ability to be conscious of ourselves and others.
But upon further thought doesn’t consciousness suggest
that we are disconnected from the thing we are conscious
of? The mere fact that we are conscious and aware of ourselves
distinct from our experiences and from others indicates
that we are separate from the real experience.
The natural universe (unless upset by man), for instance,
is seamlessly connected to its purpose. Observe the remarkable
symmetry of the natural order; each cell, each animal, each
component part of a complex mosaic that complements each
other and never wavers from its course. Animal are never
bored (“animal bliss”). But neither are vegetables
or minerals. Humans, on the other hand are conscious of
themselves, and thus disconnected from their purpose. Who
you are is not necessarily reflected in what you do and
vice versa, unlike the natural order where every iota is
accounted for and lives up to its raison d’être. Resultantly,
we suffer from all the maladies – neuroses –
of consciousness: anxiety, fear, insecurity, loneliness
and aimlessness. The list goes on.
Consciousness, then, is actually a state of disconnect
– a misalignment between being and the essence of
Think of it this way: Is there any difference between consciousness
Think of what it means to be alive. What does it feel like
to just exist, to be? What does life feel like? If
you can feel life it is a sign that something is wrong.
Health has no sensation. Pain, illness – when things
go wrong – then we feel something. When we are healthy,
breathing normally, regular heartbeat, we do not feel sensation.
We just are.
Life means to be, to exist. Being has no sensations. It
can experience a sensation, but on its own it just is.
As soon as you feel you exist, you cease to truly exist.
The more we are aware of ourselves the less we actually
Simply put: We are at our best when we are least aware
of ourselves. The truest experience is when you feel completely
immersed in the experience, to the extent in which one cannot
distinguish between you and the experience. When you are
“in the zone,” you have become one with
the experience, a seamless channel for a higher force working
through you. You are not detached from it. Imagine if all
your life activities were driven by your inner vision.
Before Adam and Eve ate from the Tree of Knowledge of Good
and Evil they were seamless beings: Transparent vehicles
of their soul’s mission. Symmetry existed between
spirit and matter, between form and function, between soul
and body and between being and purpose. The first man and
woman were seamless beings who were connected to their purpose.
They therefore felt no consciousness about their own nakedness
and sexuality (just like a newborn child).
All that changed when they ate from the Tree that fateful
Friday morning 5767 years ago. The first man and woman became
detached from their own essence. Now there was and “I”
and a “you,” a creature and a Creator, a means
and an ends. Which is only one step away from the means
becoming an end to itself.
“I think therefore I am” is a post-Eden phenomenon consciousness.
The pre-Eden state of mind is one that sounds more like
this: “I am therefore I think.” Or even better: “I am therefore
By eating from the Tree of Knowledge they lost their innocence.
When their “eyes were opened” a life of duality
began. Every experience now consists of the experience itself
and how we experience the experience, how we feel
and sense the experience.
And duality is a small, quantitative step away from duplicity.
As a result of this newfound Tree of Knowledge awareness
– caused by the disconnect form the source and purpose
– the course of history was changed (not to mention
the birth of the garment industry). Man was banished from
the garden; life became difficult and all of life’s
gifts and benefits would not come easily: The pain of child-birth,
the tension around relationships and intimacy, the hard
work to earn a living and all the challenges in the workplace
(“by the sweat of your brow shall you eat bread”),
and finally – death itself (“for dust you are,
and to dust shall you return”).
Just like a business cannot function without a mission
and a machine cannot run if its not being used for what
its engineer intended, we too cannot function smoothly (if
at all) if we are living dichotomies. When you are disconnected
from your inner calling – and your sense of self is
separate from your sense of purpose – your love, your
work, your children, your dreams everything you cherish
and aspire to, will suffer from the dissonance.
As soon as we taste “good and evil” – and become aware
of ourselves – we begin to die. We have tasted the taste
of death. And all of our life activities – even the most
beautiful and joyous – are fraught with challenges due to
the dissymmetry between the ends and the means.
Once we become separate from our missions self awareness
is a “healthy” state in order to grow and reclaim
our innocence. But this awareness is “healthy”
only relative to the unhealthy world of duality. After our
outer selves are disconnected from our inner selves awareness
is a necessary step to return. But the ultimate experience
is when we achieve a unity with our inner voice that does
not even require a state of awareness. We need not open
our eyes, because we just feel the experience in every fiber
of our beings.
This is why we cover our eyes when we say the Shema and
declare the Divine Unity that is inherent in all of existence.
When we are living in a dual universe we must keep “our
eyes open.” It a dark world (in which the blind often
lead the blind) it wouldn’t be very wise to close
our eyes. But when we are immersed in the most intimate
experiences of our lives, when we connect in prayer or in
love, when we throw ourselves totally into serving a higher
cause, we can have our eyes closed.
Each of us, on a microcosmic level, undergoes a similar
transition from a pre-Eden consciousness to a post-Eden
one – reflected in our journey from childhood to adulthood.
Observe a young child and you will get a sense of unself-conscious
behavior. Even though some like to feel that adult life
is superior to naïve, vulnerable children, the fact remains
that we always remain drawn to the beauty and innocence
– the enchantment – of our own childhood. Whether
it is called “Rosebud” or another name, many
thinkers posit that every one of us is on some way in search
for the lost innocence of our young years.
But once our “eyes have been opened” and we have lost our
innocence we must keep them open, and allow that awareness
to help return us to the pure, seamless world of essence.
And that is an unprecedented achievement –
the purpose for which the entire duality was allowed to
manifest in the first place – that in world of tense
duality, with our eyes fully open (and without the luxury
of escaping into “animal bliss”), we learn to
reconnect to the inherent unity where we can close our eyes
and be at peace.
As we read this week about the birth of self-consciousness,
may our awareness of our own awareness serve as wake-up
call to help us regain our innocence and reach beyond awareness
– living a life of complete seamless immersion in
the purpose of our lives.
* * *
To discover the mission of your life requires awareness,
determination and commitment to do so. Here are links to
a series of articles on How to Find Your Personal Mission Statement:
Mission Statement Part II
We also have a special offer for a new 3-part CD series,
by Rabbi Simon Jacobson – Your Personal Mission Statement:
Part 1: The Mission Begins
Part 2: How to Discover Your Mission
Part 3: Finding Your True Self
Order now and get 20% off (offer expires 11/2/06)
here to order securely online. To get your 20%
discount simply enter the coupon code MS67 at the end of
the checkout process.
* * *
Question for the week: Please share
your suggestions how we can reclaim our innocence? How we
can enter the “zone,” and connect our innermost
feelings with our outermost lives?
a question for future weeks.